The event offered a deservedly positive assessment the self-sacrificing work of missionaries, monks and nuns among the Croatian members of the Catholic Church scattered around the world.

On the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Pastoral Directorate for Croats Abroad the Archdiocesan Pastoral Institute in Zagreb hosted a symposium on the 25th and 26th of April. The busy event programme assessed the achievements of this Catholic network stretching from Australia to North and South America, the south of Africa and the missions in Europe where, admittedly outside of the institutional framework, priests have accompanied their people from the middle of the second millennium, and with greater frequency as modern migration to the Americas has developed over the past 150 years. Twenty-five leading lecturers took part in the event to shed light on the multilayered reality that our migrants are faced with in their new homes, focusing on the characteristics of the contemporary mobility that is seeing young and educated people from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina move abroad, primarily in search of employment, who known foreign languages and who (do not) gather for Catholic Sunday masses in the foreign mega-cities they live in. What this demands of priests is erudition in their work in the dispersed models of migration of corporate imperialism. This phenomenon was brilliantly explained at the gathering by professor Pero Aračić PhD, who spoke of the purpose of Croatian pastoral activity abroad in the future.

These Croatian priests and nuns, whom we met in Zagreb, deserve Croatia’s highest decorations for their contribution to preserving religious and national identity, and in affirming Croatian culture and its language in some two hundred multilingual, multicultural and poly-confessional milieus, from the north pole to the south pole. In Canada, the United States of America and Germany there is still a good level of attendance at celebrations of the Catholic Eucharist in the Croatian language, but the third and fourth generation descendants of people who left Croatia to move to New Zealand or South America, for example, attend religious instruction in the languages of the domicile country. In short, from the time of Gutenberg to generation Y the Catholic Church has borne in mind the new societal and cultural circumstances of a globalised world, where the development of digital means of communication have taken the prime position. The Catholic Church among Croatians is graced by continuity in comprehending the lot of people on the move, carefully listening out the challenges faced by migrants and offering hope of a better tomorrow.

On the other hand, the Croatian administrative structure, especially in the course of the twentieth century, has been plagued by discontinuity, alternating between motherly compassion and a stepmother’s disregard for its own migrants, and it cannot as such pride itself on any particular success. Admittedly, the quarter century of work of the diplomatic network of modern, independent Croatia, the national government and of the State Office for Croats Abroad, in collaboration with the Croatian Heritage Foundation, have made an effort to better serve the people in all fields of human endeavour, organising a diverse offer of education and culture, from supplementary Croatian language instruction in twenty countries to the many CHF events, culture workshops and social programmes. The event showed that the results achieved by the Catholic Church are impressive, both in terms of membership numbers and in the social and artistic achievements of Croatian Catholics in the diaspora communities, in spite of the turbulences. The Catholic Church wants the state to assume responsibility for the material aspects of care for the emigrant culture organisations.

Significantly, in the frame of this symposium on the pastoral guidance of Croatians in the diaspora communities, there was talk of the role of Internet social media in the pastoral guidance of migrants. Priest Ljubomir Šimunović, the head of the Croatian Catholic Mission in London, and Sandro Baričević, a public relations expert with an international pedigree, shared their experiences in the field. The two offered an evaluation of a three-year concrete communication strategy implemented by the mission in London, applying a number of qualitative and quantitative methods, including in-depth interviews, questionnaires, an analysis of the content of messages and a numerical summary of the fantastic number of visits to the mission’s Facebook pages. An assessment of the awareness impact of the virtual messages of the mission in London reveals focus groups, the importance of direct meetings and changes in the type of support provided to members of the Church and in the work of priests of generation Y, and of overall pastoral work. Friar Šimunović also edits the excellent bilingual magazine Most / The Bridge, which for a decade has contributed to the growth of our community in the United Kingdom and creates a link between Croatian and British culture. Encouraged by the positive experience, friar Ljubomir Šimunović launched a Facebook profile for Croatian Catholics in Ireland, which has contributed not only to gathering Croatians and in establishing a mission in Dublin, but has also become the point of reference for the growing Croatian community in Ireland. From the Facebook profile friar Šimunović sent out an invitation for the first Catholic mass in Croatian in the Dublin archdiocese, staged to the delight of members of the Catholic Church on the 17th of April 2017, on Easter Monday at St. Finbarr’s Church in the city of Cork, which is as of recently home to the second largest Croatian community in Ireland. This first mass in the mother tongue was celebrated in Cork by priest Josip Levaković, the head of the Croatian Catholic Mission in Dublin, established this summer.

The mediation of social networks in evangelisation was initially championed by the former pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church Benedict XVI, opening the Facebook profile of the Vatican and the portal, and appearing on YouTube at the start of the twenty-first century. Last year, on the 19th of March, Roman pontiff Francis opened his own profile on Instagram under the Latin version of his name Franciscus – sharing his optimism with generation Y.

By: Vesna Kukavica; Photography: Marija Belošević


Photo captions

1 – A multimedia presentation of the work of the Croatian Catholic Mission in London by friar LJ. Šimunović and S. Baričević
2 – The head of the Pastoral Directorate for Croats Abroad Tomislav Markić PhD, the head of the Croatian Catholic Mission in London friar Ljubomir Šimunović and public relations expert Sandro Baričević