What is Parafiada?

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Parafiada –

integral education of people in three fields: physical, cultural and spiritual after the Greek triad: the stadium, the theatre and the temple

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The name “parafiada”

This word sounds in Polish similar to „olimpiada” (Olympiad) and refers both to the ancient and modern tradition of the Olympic Games. At the same time it contains the word „parafia” (parish), which stresses the Christian origin of the idea. In Polish the term has become a proper name untranslatable into foreign languages.

The idea of Parafiada

Parafiada is an educational project for children and young people that was initiated in 1988 by Fr Joseph Joniec, a Piarist, who died unexpectedly in 2010 in the Smolensk air-crash near Katyn. It is based on the principle originating from ancient Greece, i.e. on the triad: the stadium – the theatre – the temple and should be understood in this sense when we speak about the „parafiada triad.” Being a student of classical studies Fr Joniec drew it from ancient Greek culture but as the motto he chose the sentence from the most famous 18th century Polish Piarist Stanislas Konarski who used to say: „Make every effort to form the heart with virtues, the brain with studies and the body with physical exercises.” This is why the project contains sporting, intellectual and formative activities thus producing the key to integral education of young people in the above-mentioned three ways. Thanks to this every participant, and especially a young man, develops not only in physical but also in intellectual and spiritual spheres. All the undertaken initiatives and activities refer to the values combined with sport, culture and faith.

St. Joseph Calasanz Parafiada Association

All the purposes and aims of this project are brought into effect by the St. Joseph Calasanz Parafiada Association that came into being in 1992. It is an organization the activity of which is addressed to children and young people, to educators and parents. Since its very beginning the Association has been taking active part in the creation and realization of numerous initiatives in the sporting, intellectual and religious fields, thus taking care of integral development of the youngest generation. Its additional aim is to help develop integral growth in the poorest children whose parents struggle with the conditions of life in the economic, social and other spheres.

The Centre of the Association is situated in Warsaw and is organized by the Piarist Comunity od Warsaw-Siekierki. There the Piarists run a school and a Sanctuary of Our Lady, Teacher of Youth. All these works bear witness to the Piarist presence in Warsaw in the first place but also in the whole Province of Polan.

One of the Piarists, at present Father Thomas Olczak, is President of the Association delegated chiefly to manage this work. Besides him, there are seven laymen acting in the Association and during a year there are also about 150 volunteers engaged as helpers.

In spite of its diversity all activities undertaken by the Association concentrate above all on accompanying the children and young people in the process of integral growth. Due to this the Association developed slowly, first as a Piarist centre, then it comprised the whole country and now it includes several countries. The creation and realization of various initiatives takes place at schools on all levels of education, in various sport clubs, in community and cultural centres, in parishes run not only by Piarists but also by other congregations or by diocesan priests.

In this way the Association co-operates both with institutions of formal and informal education in Poland and in Europe, most of all with East European countries. At present the Association co-operates with nearly 3000 partners from parishes, schools, clubs, community and cultural centres.

Central event

The International Children and Youth Parafiada is an event that has been organized annually for 30 years, first in Cracow and then in Warsaw. It is the biggest meeting of sporting, cultural and religious character in Europe. Every year from 1000 to 2000 young people with their teachers, educators and coaches take part in the event. In this way a „parafiada movememnt” has been created that makes it possible for young people to prepare for the competition the whole year within the framework of the central events of the International Parafiada in Polish local societies and other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. The primary aim of this event is the promotion of integral education and the formation of children and young people in three dimensions: physical, intellectual and spiritual. The event enables young people to get to know one another and exchange experiences with persons and groups from Poland and abroad.

In the past few years the International Parafiada has taken place in Warsaw during one of the last weeks of July. In its course boys and girls came here from Europe , Asia and Africa; most of them came from Poland but many participants came from Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and a few groups, although less numerous, came from Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Kenya, the Republic of Uzbekistan and others.

The competitions are divided into 29 branches, such as light athletics: races, shot-put and long jump as well as table tennis, badminton, shooting sport, swimming, biathlon and group games, such as football, volleyball and basketball. The winners receive medals, diplomas, cups and prizes. Competition in the Parafiada is an opportunity to taste victory and defeat thanks to which young people mature.

Girls and boys can participate in a number of contests: artistic, musical, theatrical and general knowledge. The fact that the International Parafiada takes place in Warsaw makes it possible for the young people to visit the Old City, the castle, the cathedral, the Parliament and many other interesting places – among them a good number of museums. In the evenings the participants gather together to listen to concerts, see plays at the theatres and just to meet well-known people, which is usually quite interesting for young people.

It is quite evident that there are also many opportunities to form their faith. There is always a main topic of particular homilies and talks in the course of daily prayers. Many young people who take part in the competitions or contests while going to the stadium or the hall often take the opportunity and spend a few minutes on praying in a tent where they can adore the Most Sacred Sacrament. Everybody can choose a formative workshop for themselves. These international meetings show that the language of God’s children is love and there is no other one. The young people can share their opinions and also experience the universality of the Catholic Church. It is the fruit of common prayer, sometimes said in different languages at the same time.

Numerous programmes

The Parafiada Association organizes and co-ordinates numerous programmes throughout the year, among others summer and winter camps. Their main object is to offer the young people a worthwhile programme that includes sport and promotes a healthy lifestyle, cultural occupations that will enable them to discover their artistic talents and evoke their inner interest that will form them as integral persons in every respect.

Many institutions throughout Poland take advantage of the possibility of organizing a series of regional programmes. The assumption of this project is expressed by the motto: „Exercise forms the intellect, the heart and the body.” All events follow the pattern set by the International Parafiada, which means that they put into effect the programme of integral education for young people in the three dimensions: physical, intellectual and spiritual according to the Greek triad: the stadium, the theatre and the temple. Such regional events are also organized outside Poland sc. in 2019: 20 in Lithuania, 7 in Latvia and 11 in Belarus and Ukraine.

The Association runs the programme „Katyn … save from oblivion.” Its aim is to remember and honour the Polish heroes killed, ie cruelly murdered, in 1940 by the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Inner Affairs. The authors of this project have planned to plant almost 22000 oak trees, called the Remembrance Oaks. Each oak commemorates one victim of the Katyn crime.

Since its very beginning the Association has been providing opportunities for forming new relationships among young people and for their exchange. Every year from 600 to 900 foreign boys and girls take part in the International Parafiada. Workshops are organized for the leaders from Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus. The Association also co-operates with the European Voluntary Service (EVS). At the beginning as volunteers of the delegating organizations they worked in Bulgaria, Macedonia and the Czech Republic. Then after they had obtained permission, the Association, as the host organization, received volunteers from Germany, Ukraine, Ramania and Latvia.

For some time the Association co-operated with the Centro Sportivo Italiano. The animators of that Centre conducted a series of workshops for volunteers engaged in the work for the Parafiada.

The Association has set up the project „Sport teaches and connects all nations” (EYES 2004) within the programme proclaimed by the European Parliament and the European Union Council on the occasion of the European Year of Education through Sport. This project involves educational and preventive activities for the benefit of children and young people from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Some of the prizes

The St. Joseph Calasanz Parafiada Association is considered to be a public utilities organization and therefore it was singled out in a contest for the best social initiative PRO PUBLICO BONO in the category of „Educational Initiatives.” The Association also won the prize of the Polish Episcopate TOTUS in the category of „Promotion of man, charity and tutorial-educational work.”

Summary and invitation

Many people engaged in various events and projects of the Association, in their activities take advantage of the 400 years-long tradition of formal and informal education practised by the Pious Schools. The inspiration for educating young people who need help is the person and the work of St. Joseph Calasanz. The Parafiada as a youth movement springs in a special way from the Piarist and Calasanzian experience of the Province od Polan. After more than 30 years of its history the Parafiada still urges that a new reality should be created by means of integral education of young people in the three spheres: physical, intellectual and spiritual after the Greek triad: the stadium, the theatre and the temple.