Outreach in Serbia

The South East of Europe is made up of a mosaic of different peoples. In Serbia, a country where the majority of the population is Christian Orthodox, there are some Catholic villages particularly near the border with Hungary, where Serbs and people of Magyar origin live together, and also gypsy and Ruthenian minorities.

Fr Jozsef Nagy got to know the spirituality of unity in 1978. When he was entrusted with the parishes of Szenta and Gornji Breg (on the border with Hungary) he began his ministry trying to put the Gospel into practice and helping others to do the same.

This is his witness: “After the fall of communism and during the Balkan wars, all the factories in the area closed and there was widespread unemployment and an economic crisis. More and more people found themselves living in poverty. Many children began fainting at school due to malnutrition – some hadn’t eaten in two or three days! Initially the teachers would bring some food from home, but then they didn’t have anything to eat as well, so the town council turned to me. In this way the Caritas group took off. It started with providing hot meals for 50 children but soon the number doubled. Then, adults were added as well.

For the past twenty years a communal kitchen has been providing a hot meal for 520 people from Monday to Friday. We take the meals to three schools for the needy children there, to an old people’s day care centre and to whoever is sick and alone. This kitchen maintains itself solely on ‘providence’: God intervenes by way of the generosity of many. Of course there are many difficulties. A number of times we were on the brink of closing, but the face of Jesus forsaken who cries out in these people, always gives us new courage to continue, believing in the love of God.”

The people who are involved in this evangelical experience develop spiritually more and more. They communicate their experiences, sharing joys and difficulties. Jozsef Varga, a married permanent deacon, who has four children, tells us: “Our group, we realize, is involved in many activities in both of the parishes, taking with us the spirit of unity. We experience this particularly when we manage to reach a unanimous decision. Some of us are on the Pastoral Council, others are catechists or working in the Parish office. Others look after the church building, the cemetery and do other charitable works. One of us is a driver; another looks after the provisions for the communal kitchen. Still others help distribute the meals.”

Eva is a nurse and is responsible for the home care of about 100 old and sick people: “I try to organize the work”, she tells us, “keeping alive the relationships both with my colleagues and the sick people, and the Word of Life is a great help in this. There are many people to visit and there is never enough time. Often I am tempted to rush things. But I discover that for these people it is important to be listened to. The knowledge that I have a community behind me keeps me going and gives me courage.”

Fr Nagy concludes: “These experiences help us experience the power that the parish community can have when we try continuously to renew ourselves and the parish by living mutual love. We see that when Jesus is present it is he who shines his light into our peripheries.”

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