no. 3   july - september 2006

The Elian Volunteers Witnessing to the Faith

This is the story of the Volunteers of the Prophet Elijah, a group based in the Carmelite church in Krakow, Poland. We asked three members of the group to tell their story and that of the group. Each story is a little different yet each speaks of the same basic experience of coming to discover something about themselves and others in the experience, one grounded very much in Carmelite imagery and spirituality.

It all began on Easter morning in 2005.

Sitting with the family around the table, we watched the program from the Vatican and were waiting for the popeís traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing. On the television screen was the pope, so ill that he could not even say a word and could only manage to raise his hand in a gesture of blessing. It was there that we understood that our pope had begun his final journey.

Some days passed and we found ourselves together in a crowd in Krakow, this time in tears and praying for our pope who was dead. Then I understood the great lesson he had taught us to the very end. I understood that in the world today the old and the sick do not represent anything of value. How many times have we ourselves, as Catholics, discussed if this old, sick man should not resign as head of the Church. Old age in the mentality of today is not respected even if it sometimes causes people to have pity for the person.

That is when I decided that I had to dedicate a little of my time to the elderly and sick people. My friends had talked about the Carmelite Volunteers of the Prophet Elijah, founded by Carmelite priest Stanislaw Wysocki. I made an appointment to see Fr. Stanislaw and immediately began the training course.

Once a week I go to the hospital to help whoever needs assistance, to feed the disabled, to speak with them or simply to go to be with them. Thanks to this work in the volunteer group, I discovered another side of life: old age and loneliness which we youth too often ignore. Our presence next to these people helps them to live their illness, their loneliness, and their slow decline with some dignity.

I invite any young people to try to live, at least in some format, this type of experience.

Aleksandra Gulka - Elian Volunteers
Krakow, Poland

The group "The Volunteers of the Prophet Elijah" was started four years ago in the monastery of the Carmelites in Krakow, Poland. The founder was Fr Stanislaw Wysocki who, working in the hospital as a chaplain, began to invite the young people to go to visit the sick who were often abandoned there. So it began with a couple of people and today we number almost 100 young people who dedicate a little bit of their time to those in need.

At the beginning, we visited only one hospital where we would go to visit the sick who never had visitors. Then we began looking around for clothes for the homeless who were recovering in the hospital, organizing for them some fun activities on holidays, like concerts, shows, and many other little helps to pass the time.

Today we are various groups working in two hospitals and in two orphanages as well as some who visit shut-ins in their houses. The patron of our group is the Prophet Elijah who inspires our ministry and, as prophet venerated by the great faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, is for us a symbol that people from other religions can be a part of our group. That which counts is only that the person be willing to help their neighbor.

Before beginning our service, we attend formation courses which prepare us a little for what we will see in the work. At the end of every course the new volunteers receive another valuable aid: everyone is re-enrolled in the Scapular of Mary that recalls two truths: the first is that we are all under her protection and the second is that in our lives we must show that we are her children, not only with prayer but, above all, with works.

In imitation of the Prophet Elijah, each one offers that which he or she can. A large number of us are students at the university but we do not worry about age. What is important and what interests us is that the person opens their heart to their neighbor.

Marcin Kowalczyk - Elian Volunteers
Krakow, Poland

Two years ago, I came to know about the Volunteers of the Prophet Elijah. At the beginning I was a little afraid to join this group of young people because they seemed to close to each other, like a real family. But immediately I was accepted and now I feel like one of them.

As my volunteer site, I chose a hospital for the elderly because even as a little child I always wanted to help sick people but in the hospital, the suffering and the death was not something I was able to deal with easily and on occasion I was ready to leave it behind. Then little by little, getting to know the other members of the group, also the Italians with their director, Fr. Carmelo, I began to feel a part of a big family and I have continued my journey.

Today I am proud to be one of the volunteers. Our director, Fr. Stanislaw Wysocky, the other volunteers, and the sick people have become a part of me. They are part of my family.

The sickness and suffering that we deal with has made me value who I am and who I want to be. Today I understand the words of Jesus: to offer oneís own life for their friends" is somehow realized when I dedicate a bit of my time to my neighbor. Every day I learn something and every day I realize that it is not easy to be a good volunteer, a daughter of Elijah. At those times, the words of Fr. Stanislaw always come into my mind "Donít forget that the other person is a book for you from which you can learn."

Very important and of great help are the training courses and the various conferences organized by Fr. Stanislaw. Thanks to these gatherings I am aware that every time becomes a richer experience and there is always something new to learn.

I would like very much to be able to say, like our patron the Prophet Elijah, "Zelo zelatus sum Ö"

Katarzyna Szuba - Elian Volunteers
Krakow, Poland