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Archbishop-designate Banach to serve in Papua New Guinea

Posted By April 18, 2013 | 1:09 pm | Local
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By Tanya Connor

Local Catholics rejoiced this week that Pope Francis has named U.S. Archbishop-designate Michael W. Banach, a Vatican diplomat from Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester, to be apostolic nuncio to Papua New Guinea.

The appointment, which the Vatican announced Tuesday, came just two months after Pope Benedict XVI named him a Vatican ambassador with the rank of archbishop.
“We’re really humbled that he’s been chosen to be an archbishop and to serve the universal Church,” said his mother, Jane Banach, of Our Lady of Czestochowa. She said she and her husband, Wallace, and their other son, David, are proud of him.
They’re looking forward to attending his episcopal ordination
April 27 in St. Peter’s Basilica, and it would be nice if they could meet Pope Francis while there, she said.
“We were there for Michael’s diaconate ordination and we were able to meet John Paul II,” she said.
She said it is nice her son is celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. May 12 – Mother’s Day – at Our Lady of Czestochowa.
“All his sacraments were received there” except for ordination, she said. Her parents and her husband’s parents, who came over from Poland, were married there.
Father Thaddeus X. Stachura, Our Lady of Czestochowa’s pastor, who was away this week, taught him in religious education class.
“I have such a deep joy that he’s able to continue to serve the Church using his skills and talents,” said Our Lady of Czestochowa parishioner Sandra Kucharski. “Because of the universality of the Church, he’s not just ours; he belongs to the Diocese and to the whole Church. But I think our joy might be just a little deeper and our thrill just a little higher because he is one of our own.”
She said she thought archbishop is the highest level in the Church to which a son of the Diocese has been raised.
“I’m excited,” Archbishop-designate Banach told The Catholic Free Press by telephone Wednesday. He said much of that excitement comes from the fact that he’ll be able to get back to more pastoral ministry.
He’s been serving as the Vatican’s representative to several international agencies based in Vienna, which he said was intellectually stimulating but didn’t give him contacts with the local Church.
As nuncio he will represent the pope and work to strengthen bonds between him and the bishops, he said. He’ll visit the dioceses, get to know the bishops and priests and have some contact with people in the pew, he said.
More than 800 languages are spoken there, he said.
“English English would be spoken in the cities,” he said of the language of Great Britain. “The common language is Pigeon English. Then the tribes have their own languages.”
“Priests from Poland go there as missionaries,” said Father Ryszard Polek, Our Lady of Czestochowa’s associate pastor. “We have many missionaries from Poland because we still have many vocations. From my diocese – Tarnow – we have 200 priests outside Poland, as missionaries all over the world. So Bishop Michael Banach will serve as a missionary.
“He will appreciate more the visits (from home) now in his new assignment. He will be all alone there – completely different culture.
“I think this is a great mission, difficult, challenging, but … he will participate in Jesus’ last order to his disciples: ‘Go to the whole world.’”
Archbishop-designate Banach said Papua New Guinea would be considered mission territory and that Capuchins from the Pittsburgh Province have a mission there. He said the country is predominantly Christian: about half Catholic and half Anglican, with some Protestants, especially Lutherans.
The archbishop-designate said he’s never been to that part of the world and doesn’t think he knows anyone in the country.
“For us as priests, I think it makes it easier because, no matter where we go, we find something of the Church,” he said. “People recognize the role of the priest. You enter into that immediately. I think it’s different from the civil diplomats.”
The archbishop-designate said he will probably go to Papua New Guinea in midsummer, after spending about a month in the Worcester Diocese and being briefed in Rome.
He received preparation for ordination through a week-long retreat he just completed with a Jesuit, reflecting on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and joining services at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland, he said.
“I wanted to go to Czestochowa for personal reasons – the Marian component is a big part of my spirituality,” he said. The other big part is Jesuit spirituality, he said.
“He’s a holy priest; he’s close to God; he’s a Marian priest,” said Miss Kucharski. “Mary will intercede for him and God will give him all the graces he needs to do his job well.”
“We’re all just thrilled for Michael,” said his cousin Elaine Kilinski, of Our Lady of Czestochowa. “He has our prayers and our good wishes.”
“They really pray for him here,” Father Polek said of members of Our Lady of Czestochowa. He said that after it was announced that Msgr. Banach was named an archbishop, Father Stachura preached about him: “he will need God’s blessing and strength, he’s one of us, chosen to represent the whole Church as a nuncio.”
This is Archbishop-designate Banach’s first placement as nuncio. He said it is unique in the life of the Church for two popes to be involved in an appointment.
When Pope Benedict XVI made the appointment, an agreement between the Holy See and the government of Papua New Guinea was still pending, he said. So, though he knew the plan was to send him there, it was Pope Francis who confirmed the agreement and made the announcement.
The 50-year-old has served in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1994. Born in Worcester Nov. 19, 1962, he was ordained to the priesthood July 2, 1988, for the Diocese of Worcester.
After earning his degree in canon law, he entered the Vatican diplomatic corps and served at Vatican embassies in Bolivia and Nigeria before moving to the Secretariat of State, where he served in the section for relations with states.
In Vienna, he served as the Vatican’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; the U.N. Industrial Development Organization; and the local United Nations office.
On Feb. 22, a week before he stepped down, Pope Benedict XVI named him an apostolic nuncio, which carries with it the title of archbishop. The appointment includes being assigned the titular see of Memphis, an ancient see in Egypt that was suppressed.

 

Carol Glatz, of Catholic News Service, contributed to this report.