Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 110 (Suppl.), August 2009
Mr. Gyözö Balogh
Transition: Let me begin with those aspects that are attractive for young Gypsies of our churches’ life.
I. The most important thing in the Gypsies’ life is the family and the community. It gives an opportunity for us to join them in our churches because if we create friendly and warm circumstances, they would be able to adapt our traditions and other interesting values.
The other important thing in their life is the music. We like to celebrate and sing in small groups every time, and not just for fun, but we have already translated the Hungarian Greek Catholic Liturgy into gypsy language. Now we can take part on liturgy with guitar and sing the religious songs in own language. We believe that it is important to keep our language and our traditions. Let me share with you my personal experience. My grandfather had no possibility to learn Gypsy language in his childhood. Last year he started to learn this language because in his opinion: “a Gypsy man cannot allow himself to die without knowing his own language.” This thing represents to us how important it is for every Gypsy to keep the tradition and habits.
Marian Cult is in a central place in the Gypsies’ heart. I have been in many Gypsies’ houses and I saw there Marian icons, rosaries and holy statues. We can make a statement that there is no atheist among Gypsies. In our family we regularly pray before and after meals. Every child receives the Holy communion if they have finished the preparation for that. My point of view is that priests are responsible for the church and the community. It is their job to keep the community together and the Gypsy pastoral care is a big challenge for young priests. Furthermore, possibilities of making testimony can be attractive for young Gypsies. One year ago, my elder cousin’s son died, and since they have been going to church. They think that this is the best way to pray for the 13 year old Vilmos.
Transition: Next to the motivations, there are many disadvantages in the pastoral care of this nation.
I. It sometimes happens that the receiving community is not open enough to adopt new members. There is another problem in Gypsy’s temperament. It is hard to make them sit during long ceremonies calmly and patiently because they are too active, and according to their culture they want to get everything at once and they do not like to wait for anything. Unfortunately, there is another problem. They do not know exactly our ceremony. That is why they cannot follow the liturgy. Often it happens that Gypsies go to church but they don’t know when they should make cross or kneel or simply sing the correct holy text. Let me share with you a personal experience. In our village, there are several Gypsies who do not go to church all year but only at Christmas and Easter. I see it sadly that they could not show what they really feel. They just sit in the church silently and pray in their own way; in this case they cannot join the community adoration.
Transition: That is the reason why I think it is important to start the pastoral care from the beginning because in this way we can help them to take part in the life of Catholic Church.
I. Nowadays, the most important thing is that our Catholic Church has so many helpful priests, who can take their time to lead, help and cultivate the personal scholarships. I would like to mention my community’s priest, who is a very hard working man and he is that person who can give advice to every Gypsy who turns to him, and he helps them and they can learn from him.