Farewell Mgr Kukla

Mgr Tadeusz Kukla

Mgr Tadeusz Kukla

Mgr Tadeusz Kukla officially retired as Rector of the Polish Catholic Mission to England and Wales yesterday, after eight years in the role. Prior to that he was Chaplain to the Polish student community in England for more than 25 years – supporting his flock through some dramatic times – from the clampdown on the Solidarity movement, the election of Pope John Paul II, the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the arrival of Poland in the EU.

Born on 22 February 1940, Tadeusz Kukla  attended school and seminary in Tarnow.  He was ordained priest in 1964 by the Bishop of Tarnow, Jerzy Ablewicz. For the first two years he worked in two parishes in his home diocese. Then in 1966 he was sent to study in Paris, and then Munich and Munster, where he engaged  in pastoral work among the Poles in Germany.

Mgr Kukla first came to England in 1974 on a pilgrimage to Walsingham. Bishop Wladyslaw Rubin appointed him as chaplain to Polish students in London.
The beginnings were not easy. Fr Kukla began his work in a rented room in a dormitory in the Cromwell Road. He proved to be an energetic and caring priest and established a lively chaplaincy.

Fr Kukla served as academic chaplain for more than 25 years. During this time he earned a reputation  as a sociable kind and deeply spiritual man, with a great  understanding of young Poles.
His Chaplaincy became a meeting place not just for students, but for all young Poles  arriving in London.
Marie Blachut  wrote in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Niedezielna  in 2002: “It was not an ordinary parish with a church and established buildings. In some sense it was a symbol of the Church of Christ on earth – with the parishioners "still on the road" – in transit. Some  were here for a long time. Some just passing through. Msgr Kukla  offered a refuge and pastoral care to them all.
Fr Tadeusz was always available to his parishioners, and gave all types of assistance  - spiritual support, financial help, advice, a listening ear and above all celebrating Mass and the Sacraments."
Fr Tadeusz  orgainsed many social evenings  and meetings – visits by celebrities and trips to the movies.  Marie wrote: "Fr Tadeusz loved being around people and people loved  being around him. He was like a good father who can listen, strengthen and sustain.”
The student community were very sad to see Mgr Kukla leave them. Moving on to the national role as rector of the Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales - balancing the  different needs of the older Polish migrants who came here during World War Two;  with those of the next two waves of migrants has been a very complex and demanding responsibility.
When he began his job as rector, Mgr Kukla referred to the parable of the workers in the vineyard as a model for the priorities of the Polish Catholic Mission. While the commitment to the Polish community was important,  he pointed out that the most important thing was for “each of us  to cling to God's Commandments, guarding a life of prayer, especially the Mass each Sunday; to try to live in sanctifying grace. This is important because only in this way we are truly Catholic."
The influx of huge waves of Poles who, after the Polish accession to the European Union in Britain seeking a better life, has revived Polish parishes, stimulated them to a deeper religious life, and led to the establishment of new institutions of pastoral care across the UK.

Mgr Kukla was responsible for creating a new parish centre, organising Polish Masses  each week in churches around the country, and bringing Polish priests, mainly from the diocese of Tarnow, to serve the rapidly expanding Polish congregations.

At the same time as this intense pastoral activity, Fr Kukla also helped reorganise a the Polish Catholic Mission Trust. During his time as Rector he organised several major Masses and events.
On July 4, 2003 Mgr Kukla organised a solemn  Mass celebrated in Westminster Cathedral to mark the 60th anniversary of the death of General Wladyslaw Sikorski.

On 18 October 2003,  the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II  was marked with a special Mass in Westminster Cathedral presided over by Fr. Bishop Ryszard Karpinski, a delegate of the Polish Episcopal Conference for Pastoral Emigration.
On 11 April 2005, the Polish community gathered together  to mourn the death of Pope John Paul II and prayed for his soul in a solemn Mass. in the Brompton Oratory, presided over by Mgr Kukla, accompanied by more than 70 Polish priests.

On the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, 2 May 2005, Mass was celebrated in the Brompton Oratory, lead by Polish Primate Jozef Glemp, and on 13 October 2007, Poles gathered in Westminster Cathedral to celebrate the memory of General Wladyslaw Anders in a Mass concelebrated by Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, Bishop Field and Fr Archbishop Stephen Jolly.
The 90th anniversary of Polish independence was celebrated in Westminster Cathedral in November 2008. The main celebrant was Cardinal Jozef Glemp, with Archbishop Stephen Happy and numerous priests. After Mass, there  was a procession to Trafalgar Square where thousands of  Poles gathered to hear speeches and sing Polish songs. Fr Kukla carried out major improvements to the church, church halls and presbytery in Devonia Road. He leaves knowing that he used his time well, carrying the love of thousands of people whose lives he touched throughout his ministry.

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