BeLiFS Becoming Literate in Faith Setting

Faith Settings

Introduction to the Faith: Catholicism


Description of Faith

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest denomination of Christianity in the world and it has been a predominant religion in Poland since its King, Mieszko I, was christened in 966.


Roman Catholics believe that there is one eternal God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The central figure of Catholicism is God the Son, Jesus Christ who was born of Virgin Mary as a result of the immaculate conception through the power of the Holy Spirit. During his life on earth, Jesus Christ founded the church, preached and performed miracles. Jesus Christ died a sacrificial death for the sins of mankind and after his crucifixion he was resurrected and ascended to Heaven. The words of Jesus ‘this is my body and my blood’ form a basis of the belief in the Eucharist, which is at the centre of Catholic faith. During the Eucharist, or the celebration of the Mass, bread and wine consecrated by the priest become transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. By taking Holy Communion members of the congregation and God become one.


Sacred scriptures read by Roman Catholics are contained in the Bible with its Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, believed to be written by Prophet Moses, God is depicted as the one who created the world and who guides its history. There are many themes in the Old Testament such as good and evil, salvation, redemption, judgement, obedience and disobedience or faithfulness. Roman Catholics follow Jesus’ example and teachings as described in the four Gospels of the New Testament which has left an indelible mark on Christian literature, art and music.


Roman Catholics believe that when Jesus established the Church he placed Peter at the head of his 12 Apostles (messengers) responsible for teaching the faith. The same hierarchy exists today with the Pope (the successor to St Peter) as Church leader and Archbishops/Bishops (the successors of the Apostles) as the heads of archdioceses/ dioceses (districts) which are divided into parishes headed by priests.


The Polish Roman Catholic Diocese of England and Wales is known under the name of Polish Catholic Mission and it is headed by a Rektor (, 2010). In London there are 12 Polish Roman Catholic churches working closely with clergy and Catholic institutions in Poland.


Faith Group and Community in the Country

The Polish Community Centre Croydon-Crystal Palace at 6 Oliver Grove in South Norwood, South East London, was set up by former Polish World War II soldiers and their families in the 1950s. It reflects Victorian and modern architectural characteristics of its surrounding area. Two elegant Victorian two-storey houses are homes of the Polish Saturday School and the priests of the parish and they back on to the low, modern buildings of the community hall and the chapel, which are linked together. Oliver Grove, together with other roads nearby, was part of a private estate built between 1860 and 1870 and the two houses which now belong to the Polish parish were built at that time.


The beginnings of the community can be traced back to the early 1950s when the first parish priest, Father Gajecki, and 300 families of Polish World War II veterans began organising themselves as a community. Polish school classes took place first in private homes and later on hired premises of neighbouring English Catholic schools. Meetings of such groups as Scouts and Cubs, Altar Ministers, Parents Association, etc. were also held in private homes.


In 1963 a Polish couple, Mr and Mrs Brzeski, who owned the house at 6 Oliver Grove, donated it to the parish. The Polish school moved into its premises and was named after a great 16th century patriot, Grand Marshal Jan Chodkiewicz. In 1966 the school house was extended to create a parish hall where, thanks to an enormous physical and financial effort of the whole community, Poles could now organise their performances, cultural events and social gatherings. In 1983 the Polish community bought a house and land at 8 Oliver Grove and soon afterwards building of the Church of Merciful Jesus started. It was completed and consecrated in 1985. In 1992 Father Alexander, an experienced priest and missionary arrived in the parish and is leading it to this day.


After accession of Poland to the European Union in May 2004, Poles became the largest community by foreign nationality in the UK and second largest by country of birth after India (ONS 2011) The thriving Polish community in Oliver Grove has also visibly expanded. New members have joined the older generations and they continue to work and develop their skills and talents in social, cultural and artistic groups such as adult and children folk dance group Karolinka, Adult choir Ave Verum, the Parish Monthly Without a Title , Scouts and Cubs, Parent and Toddler Group, the Seniors Group , Ladies’ Association, Parents Association, The Altar Ministers Group, the Flower Arranging Group and others.


The Polish Community Centre in Oliver Grove maintains close links with clergy and Catholic and educational institutions in Poland. For example, priests from Poland are often invited to conduct series of talks, sermons and prayers (spiritual retreats).


The Saturday school celebrated its 60th Anniversary 2011 and has now a record number of 250 pupils aged 4 to 18 on the roll. They are taught by 14 teachers in 12 classes. Lessons on Polish language, culture, history and religion take place in the morning from 9.30 to 1 p.m. and many children stay on for extra-curricular activities afterwards. The Saturday school is a church school where all children are taught religion half an hour every Saturday and where children are regularly taken through the parish hall into the chapel to attend Mass or to have religion lessons. This is why this particular Polish school has been selected as an interesting place for a research study on children’s faith literacy.


Bibliography (2010). Idą zmiany w Polskiej Misji Katolickiej w Anglii i Walii. Retrieved from wydarzenia/temat_dnia/x26294/ida-zmiany-w-polskiej-misji-katolickiej-w-anglii-i-walii


ONS. (2011). Polish people in the UK: Half a million Polish-born residents. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved from