On 2 April 2005, at 9.37 p.m. Italian time, John Paul II went to the house of the Father. Ten years later we remember the Polish Pope, who has already been declared a saint, and his link with the Salesian charism that he encountered while still a young man. In his book “Gift and Mystery” he confided, “I believe that in the process of formation of my vocation the Salesian environment played an important role.”
In 1938, Karol Wojtyla moved with his father from Wadowice to Krakow, settling in 10 Tyniecka Street in the district of Dębniki. The Salesian church of St. Stanislaus Kostka became his parish church. He attended it in the years 1938-1944, as a student of the Jagiellonian University, as a worker in the Solvay stone quarries and as a cleric in the clandestine seminary. Before the image of Mary Help of Christians, in the chapel dedicated to her, Karol Wojtyla prayed often, as he matured in his decision to devote himself to the service of the Lord and his Church. “In front of this picture I prayed and I grew strong in my priestly vocation,” he said in 1972.
In February 1940 in the Salesian parish he got to know Jan Tyranowski, now a Servant of God, who was involved in religious meetings of young people promoted by the Salesians. Tyranowski became a key figure for him. After the arrest and deportation to Auschwitz of the Parish Priest Fr Jan Swierc and other Salesians – now all candidates for beatification – Tyranowski became responsible for the pastoral care of the young men of the parish. He started the “circles of the Living Rosary” which Karol Wojtyla joined. The future Pope later described Tyranowski as “an educator-theologian, and an apostle of God’s greatness and beauty.”
His years at Dębniki shaped the life of Karol Wojtyla. It was in the church in Dębniki, on 3 November 1946, a few days after his first Mass in the Crypt of Saint Leonard in Wawel, that he celebrated Mass for the first time in the presence of his neighbours and friends.
Certainly, the event that strongly emphasized his close ties with the Salesians, was his visit to Poland in 2002. On 17 August he stopped twice in the Salesian parish, first outside 10 Tyniecka Strret and then in front of the church in Dębniki, where the historic picture of Mary Help of Christians can be seen. There he confessed publicly: “I always remember the Salesians who were deported from this parish to the concentration camp. Most of them did not return. I will remember them forever! I also remember the ‘Living Rosary’, Jan Tyranowski. All this binds me to Dębniki and to this church. With all my heart, I bless you, Salesians, Pastors, and all the parishioners of Dębniki, I bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Source: Info ANS