My name is Rafał Cycoń, I am 28 years old. For the last two years I volunteered to help Polish Piarists in a lot of their activities. I respect and deeply care about their mission. Last year I had the opportunity to visit Joseph Calasanz’s birthplace, Peralta de la Sal, with other members of DAP – the Polish Piarist academic pastoral group. I had the honor to be among the Polish Province representatives during the European Piarist Synod of the Youth.

My memories of the Synod are truly heartwarming – so many good things have happened, so many wonderful people gathered together, such tremendous amount of positivity, energy and faith was accumulated in one place. I really feared that the Synod might turn into a form of holidays – c’mon, after all it was summer and we were in Spain 🙂 But fortunately people were like “We want to work! We’re going to put in all our energy into the Synod, we don’t need much of the free time!”. Due to many discussions and workshops the free time turned out to actually be very helpful to recharge our batteries and bond together, but our work-oriented attitude was just great.

The Synod started with Father General’s speech, with which I was really impressed. His accurate insights and understanding of youth’s and Order’s challenges – it shows just how engaged he was in his mission. It was motivating, empowering and insightful. I remember thinking “Piarists, you have a worthy leader”.

Piarists gave us a lot of freedom on what to say, and thus left space for the Holy Spirit to speak through us. I was asked to be part of a panel consisting of members of various provinces. One of the questions was about what do the children ask for of Piarists nowadays. I found this question to be deep and important, so I was thinking for many days about it… and I completely had no clue how to answer. Just a few hours before the panel I thought “ok, I have no idea what to say, I’ll leave it to the Holy Spirit, hopefully He will tell me”, and so I asked for His guidance during my prayers. And I believe He did answer them. We heard Father General’s speech, we heard many testimonies, we visited a Piarist school for troubled children where I saw how much unconditional love is needed for kids being raised there – and just how difficult it is. And then it had immediately occurred to me that clearly what children need of Piarists is their patience, courage, and sacrifice. Patience, to always be there for children, even when they make you angry or when you’re exhausted – they need you. Courage, to approach them even in their darkest problems, to overcome all barriers in bringing them closer to God. Sacrifice, as children need your guidance, your time, your very presence, and you cannot fully give it to them if you do not sacrifice yourself for their cause.

Throughout the Synod we were introduced to several Piarists’ activities that I didn’t know about before. The Calasanz mission is carried out in many places and in numerous ways throughout the world. There is clearly a lot of work to do to help the poorest, the troubled and youth lost with their faith, and clearly not enough workers are out there. One of the biggest challenges of the Piarist Order is to think about how to recruit new Piarists and how to invite and encourage laymen to help.

As for us, the youth, we found how important it is to search and look for our vocation. To ask God “what do you want me to do?” and listen carefully, no matter how long it takes until He responds. All of the young people should understand and know in their hearts that we’re a part of the Church, and if we want it to change we ourselves should be that change, and we should be living that change.

A drawing one of Spanish girls made after the panel 🙂

There are many good fruits of the Synod that I observe now, and surely many more that are yet to reveal themselves. On the European level, we noticed we should be meeting and sharing our experiences more often, which in itself is a testimony of the value of the Synod. On the Polish Province level, we are about to start the Calasanz Movement in Poland, and are extremely excited about it due to many positive opinions about the Movement that we heard during the Synod. And as for me, I have tons of awesome memories, but most important was a very deep and emotional conversation with one of Synod’s participants. She helped me to get out of the biggest problem I was struggling with in my personal life. It was so unreal that I’m sure that God guided us to meet each other and talk about our lives back then.

A connection was formed between people from different countries – we prayed together, we worked together, we had fun together. It was so awesome to listen to heart moving and deeply religious music from all over the continent. All of it was in the name of Jesus. I’m still wearing the With You+ armband that Hungarians gave us, as it reminds me of the Synod experience everyday 🙂

As summarized by my friend Kasia, who was also a Polish Province representative – what unites us is far greater than differences between us, and we can speak in unison in all the different languages. Our work alongside the Piarists continues, with a broader vision and even more enthusiasm than before. God bless you, and may the Holy Spirit guide us all, as He did during the Synod!

Rafał Cycoń, (Provincia Polonia, Varsovia, Polonia)