Arrival in Poland for OLAC2022 By Gerard Bennett
An early morning start! The alarm went off at 4:55am and even in the few moments of grogginess that is part of the waking up process, I was aware that, ‘today is the day.’ Almost eighteen months ago, Fr Oliver invited me to be one of the representatives of the Oblate lay people from Ireland and Great Britain at the European gathering of Oblate lay people to be held in Kokotek, Poland. Back then it seemed a long time ago but now the airport beckoned for the flight to Katowice, where our team would be collected and brought to the Oblate Youth Centre in Kokotek. More about that anon.
So, who is in our team? From Ireland, we have Padraigín Clancy, Angel Agito, and Sr Lumay, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. Both Angel and Lumay work with Frs Eduardo and Michael in Darndale. Pádraigín, of course, works in St Michaels in Inchicore and me, well I’m part of the Lourdes pilgrimage team. From England we have Kirk Jacob, a member of the Partners in Mission team from London and Marilyn from Birmingham. And of course, we have with us the leader of the Oblates in Britain and Ireland, Oliver Barry OMI.
Very few people like going through airports these days! Today was not a lot different. Marilyn reported huge crowds in Birmingham, and Dublin was no different. But having braved the queues for security, and the general milling about of people all heading to different destinations, our flight was called, we were onboard, and we were on our way.
The hospitality of our Polish welcome party in the airport was warm from the moment we walked out of the baggage hall, and we knew we were in good hands. We had an interesting tour of the carpark at Katowice Airport while our driver tried to find the exit. Oliver and I learned our first Polish word -Wyjście – and that leaving the car park required us looking for and following any sign with that word on it!!! (You can guess the word!). Mind you, check with Kirk the next time you see him about his immigration experience! They immigration staff had listened well to Boris Johnson when he said that he had achieved “getting Brexit done” and that UK passport that Kirk pushed through to the Officer didn’t cut any ice! A quick rerouting from the “EU Passports” line to the end of the “Non-EU” line required much patience and he had a lot to offer up in that time!
The centre in Kokotek is very modern, quite new, and the welcome on our arrival was wonderful. Soon, we had our room keys and found our way to very comfortable rooms, looking out on a forest and a lake beyond. The full group from Ireland and Great Britain met up, some meeting each other for the very first time – although we weren’t total strangers – and then to dinner.
We’ve been welcomed, fed, and now there is a little social time. However, with an early morning start, many of us are tired and maybe it is time to call it a day. Tomorrow we begin the work. Watch out for tomorrow’s report.
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