30 August 2016
Father Szulczynski visits with a patient at a clinic in Tbilisi. (photo: Molly Corso)
When she profiled the Rev. Witold Szulczynski a few years ago, writer Molly Corso described him as “probably the only Roman Catholic priest to have ever built a Georgian Orthodox Church.” At the time, Father Szulczynski was doing remarkable work in partnership with CNEWA, through his ministry with Caritas Georgia:
As general director of Caritas Georgia — an international Catholic humanitarian organization — Father Szulczynski has undertaken countless social and economic projects serving Georgia’s needy of all creeds.
Originally from Poland, he has dedicated the last 17 years of his life to Georgia’s poor, Catholic and Orthodox alike. Approximately 80 percent of the country’s 4.7 million people belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church. Only a small fraction are Roman Catholic.
“The Lord is one. On the cross, he gave his life for the Orthodox, the Catholics, the Baptists — for everyone,” explains the priest.
Father Szulczynski and Caritas Georgia have their work cut out for them. More than a third of Georgian’s live below the poverty line.
“Every person that we help, it doesn’t matter whom, is a child of God and that is most important,” says the priest.
However, Father Szulczynski also stresses that his and his agency’s mission is not simply to fill bellies; it is also to elevate souls.
“[A] person — whether a child or a 70-year-old grandmother — needs more than just a piece of bread, or a table and mattress,” he says. “They are human souls and they need something more.”
For Father Szulczynski, building an Orthodox church for Georgia’s needy is essential to helping them bear witness to God’s love.
Growing up in a devoutly Catholic family in Poland, Father Szulczynski remembers receiving the call to priesthood early in life. Surrounded by uncles who were priests, he had plenty of role models.
“I always thought that becoming a priest meant serving the people,” he says. For him, the call was synonymous with helping those in need. As a young man he even defined it as “a symbol of love from the Lord to man.”
Writing in CNEWA’s magazine in 2000, Father Szulczynski noted:
“Those carrying out Christian service should have eyes to see and ears to hear and empathy for human suffering, as well as knowledge of how that suffering can be healed. For Christians, and especially those members of Caritas Georgia, charity is always an available service.”
That spirit inspires us in our work throughout the world. If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering in Eastern Europe, visit this giving page to learn how you can help.