Fr Andrzej Halemba – (born on 19 November 1954 in Chełm Śląski, Poland) a Polish Catholic Presbyter, Fidei Donum missionary priest, translator of the New Testament and author of Mambwe↔English, former Director of the Missionary Formation Centre in Warsaw and Secretary the Polish Episcopate Commission for Missions; Polish Bishops’ Conference Delegate for Missionary Affairs; founder of the Missionary Museum in Brzęczkowice, Poland. Since 2006, he has been working for the international organisation “Aid to the Church in Need International” (ACN Intl.), located in Germany. In 2006-2010 he was responsible for providing help to the Church in English and Portuguese-speaking African countries. From 2010 he has been responsible for helping the Church in 23 countries in the Middle East.
Youth and vocation to priesthood
He was born on November 19, 1954 in Chełm Śląski, son of Eric Halemba and Maria née Ryszka. He has two brothers Bernard and Venantius. He attended elementary school in his hometown, and in 1969 he began his education at the Tadeusz Kościuszko High School in Mysłowice. His interests lay in philosophy and anthropology. After passing his final exams in 1973, he joined the Higher Silesian Seminary in Cracow. In 1981 he obtained a master’s degree in Theology at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, where. On April 3, 1980, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Herbert Bednorz in the cathedral of Katowice. He worked with great commitment for the Children of Mary, a group which supports missionaries, when he was a vicar in the parish of St Peter and Paul in Świętochłowice. At that time, he was already very eager to go on missions.
Missionary vocation and work in Zambia
A meeting with Hyacinthe Thiandoum, the Senegalese Cardinal from Dakar, that took place in 1979, during the first pilgrimage of John Paul II to Poland, had a significant impact on Halemba’s decision to become a missionary. The young seminarian was fascinated by the Cardinal’s directness, openness and great sense of humour. After language preparation over several months, he went to Zambia in 1983, where he served for 12 years in the diocese of Mbala (now Kasama), in the Mambwe Mission “Fidei Donum” as a missionary (1983-1993 et 2004-2005).
Fr Halemba’s Missionary service of was not confined to pastoral activities alone, but also covered many other areas. Medical treatment was one of the services he provided, despite very limited resources. He had to struggle with difficulties such as malnutrition, a malaria epidemic, lack of antibiotics and vaccines, high perinatal mortality – with the nearest hospital about 80 km away, it was not always possible to bring the patient there on time.
To overcome the obstacles in saving every human life, the missionaries and the local people have undertaken the construction of a charitable hospital in Mambwe, at the periphery of the diocese and country. Thanks to the administrative assistance of Bishop Adolf Fürstenberg, the financial support of benefactors and the commitment of the local people who contributed with their labour, the hospital in Mambwe was finished in two years. Fr Halemba contributed also to the creation of the first kindergarten and the first high school in the Mambwe Mission.
Translations for the Evangelization
The Mambwe people were the first of 72 local tribes to accept Catholic missionaries. First, White Fathers stopped in Mambwe Mwela, and bought 200 slaves from Arabs who transported them by the old “slave road”, connecting the North Province with the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, as described by Stevenson. This is also where the first Christian settlement and school were established.
However, until that time, the Mambwe people did not have a good translation of the New Testament in their mother tongue. They were reluctant to use the existing Protestant translation from the late nineteenth century with numerous borrowings derived from Swahili, outdated linguistic forms, and lots of grammatical inconsistencies. Therefore, a new, more understandable translation was needed, especially for the younger generation. Fr Halemba, assisted by a group of local consultants, took up the challenge and translated the New Testament into the language of the Mambwe people in just two years. Polish missionaries from Fidei Donum printed it out as a gift on the occasion of the jubilee of the centenary of the Catholic Church in Zambia in 1991.
In 1994, he published the Mambwe-English dictionary, on which he has worked for ten years (1984-1994); it contains 17,500 entries and is the most extensive existing dictionary of the Bantu language in Zambia. In 2007, he released two important publications: the English-Mambwe Dictionary, based on the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and containing 21,300 entries, as well as a grammar of the Mambwe language. In addition, Fr Halemba edited and published the work of the African missionary, White Father Marcel Petitclair, the Roman Missal in the Mambwe language. In 2009, Fr Halemba contributed to the publication of the Bible for children in Mambwe: “God speaks to His Children“, and compiled and completed a three-volume liturgical guide for catechists (“Mambwe Liturgical Lectionaries A, B and C”), also initiated by Fr Marcel Petitclair M. Afr.
During the years 1993–1994, he studied missiology at the former Academy of Catholic Theology (now Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University) in Warsaw, and concluded his studies with a Licentiate of Theology thesis entitled “Some aspects of inculturation of the Mambwe people in the light of the exhortation of Paul VI, Africae terrarum“. In 2004, he obtained a doctoral degree in theological sciences with his thesis entitled “Religious and ethical values in the proverbs of the Mambwe, Zambia”. In 2005, he published folk tales and proverbs of the Mambwe people in English and Mambwe. These have contributed to saving many aspects of the Mambwean tradition from oblivion. Currently two publications are in the pipeline: the second volume of African folk tales (English-Mambwe) and “History and customs of the Mambwe people (Zambia)”.
Work for Missions
In 1996, he became the director of the Missionary Formation Centre in Warsaw and the secretary of the Polish Episcopate Commission for Missions, and in 1999 he was additionally nominated as Polish Bishops’ Conference Delegate for Missionary Affairs. At that time, he organized many activities and competitions, among others competitions for children, such as “My school friend from Africa” and “Mission Olympics“. His mandate to serve at the Polish Episcopate Commission for Missions and Missionary Formation Centre finished in 2003.
During his pastoral and missionary journeys, he has collected many souvenirs such as objects for everyday use, works of art (mainly African, but also Indian and Papuan) and objects of worship. With his multitudinous collection, he founded the Cardinal August Hlond Missionary Museum. It was opened on January 12, 2004 in the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows in Brzęczkowice. Through his work he contributed to the popularisation of the missions and raising awareness of the missionary character of the Church and the awakening of missionary vocations. He returns to Zambia every year and organises the annual meeting of Polish missionaries in Lusaka for years, as well as the Mambwe Cultural Contest – a festival of the traditional language: oratory art, narration of folk tales, poetry, song and dance.
Aid to the Church in Need International / Kirche in Not
Currently, Fr Halemba works in the international organization “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN Intl.) located in Königstein im Taunus (Germany). From 2006 to 2010, he was responsible for helping English and Portuguese-speaking African countries. From 2010 he has been responsible for helping the Church in the Middle East (the Holy Land, i.e. Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea) and in the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates). He co-operates with the “Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches” (R.O.A.C.O.) in fame of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, a committee which unites funding agencies from various countries around the world for the sake of providing better assistance to Christians.
During the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, he hurried to the rescue of the Church affected by war and persecution, especially in Iraq and Syria. He is the author of the “Return to the Roots“ program (Marshall Plan for the Nineveh Plains), which obtained international financial support and enabled the reconstruction of private homes and the infrastructure of the Church in Iraq. Thanks to this initiative, nearly half of the expelled Christian families could return to their homes. Similarly, in Syria, his charitable and ecumenical actions have helped Christians to survive the worst and keep their hope alive (Candles for peace in Syria, Rosary for Peace, Console my People – Peregrination of Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians). His practical ecumenism has led to more effective local cooperation and the strengthening of the Christian community. All of these humanitarian actions, diplomatic activities and advocacy for peace have helped to maintain the presence of Christians in their native lands, the cradle of Christian faith in the Middle East.
In the framework of his activities, Fr Halemba has promoted several information websites (primarily “Nineveh Reconstruction Committee” and “Christians of Syria“). He is also the creator of the “ACNaid”, an advanced digital system for project management and auditing. As a scientist, Fr Halemba conducts research documenting the persecution and genocide of Christians in the Middle East, as well as sociological and ethnographic research. The missionary ministry of Fr Halemba resulted in the creation of “Our way to God” a series of Bible catechesis, based on the tradition of the Church, intended for Arabic-speaking baptism candidates. This vademecum for the catechumen, authored by Fr Michel Sakr and Fr Antoine Assaf, was published in the form of a book, audio-book, website page and as an internet application, and it has also been translated in bilingual versions (Arabic-English, Arabic-French, Arabic-German, and, in preparation: Arabic-Italian and Arabic-Spanish versions).
Decorations and Distinctions
- 2015 – honorific title of Archimandrite (granted by S.E. Issam John Darwish, Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Zahle and Forzol in Lebanon).
- 2019 – honourable distinction in the Inside the Vatican magazine (for 10 people, who through their words and life, are witnesses to the hope that God exists and comes to save His people, granted every year by the Inside the Vatican magazine which aims to give insight into world affairs and the heart of the Church).
- 2019 – Golden Cross of Merit awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland (for activities for people in need of help and support).
- 2019 – Gold Medal of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (in recognition of support for, cooperation and development of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw).
- 2019 – Award “Pro Redemptione” (in recognition of his work for the persecuted and needy Christians, awarded by the quarterly “Homo Dei” to priests serving abroad).
- Andrzej Halemba (2005). Religious and ethical values in the proverbs of the Mambwe people, Zambia PART I. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 83-7232-627-4.
- Andrzej Halemba (2005). Religious and ethical values in the proverbs of the Mambwe people, Zambia PART II. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 83-7232-628-2.
- Andrzej Halemba (2011). Amapepo pa Wanda wakwe Leza na manda akulu. Mwaka A. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 978-83-7232-985-1.
- Andrzej Halemba (2011). Amapepo pa Wanda wakwe Leza na manda akulu. Mwaka B. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 978-83-7232-990-5.
- Andrzej Halemba (2011). Amapepo pa Wanda wakwe Leza na manda akulu. Mwaka C. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 978-83-7232-991-2.
- Andrzej Halemba (2011). Umulungu Utakatifu Uwanda ukulu wlpasaka Myaka A,B,C. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 978-83-7232-996-7.
- Andrzej Halemba (2007). English-Mambwe Dictionary and Mambwe Grammar. Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 978-83-7232756-7.
- Andrzej Halemba (2006). Amapepo ya Cîta ca Minsa, Mu Cimambwe (Zambia). Mysłowice-Brzęczkowice: [mps].
- Andrzej Halemba (2005). Mambwe Folk-tales (English version). Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 83-7232-625-8.
- Andrzej Halemba (2005). Mambwe Folk-tales (Mambwe version). Warsaw: Oficyna Wydawniczo-Poligraficzna “Adam”. ISBN 83-7232-626-6.
- Halemba Andrzej, Różański Jarosław (eds) (2003). Wybrane problemy szkolnictwa w Afryce Subsaharyjskiej. Warszawa: Komisja Episkopatu Polski ds. Misji. ISBN 83-7232-421-2.
- Halemba Andrzej, Różański Jarosław (eds) (2003). Historia i znaczenie przekładu Nowego Testamentu na język Mambwe, w: J. Różański – A. Halemba, Między przekładem biblijnym a teologią afrykańską,. Warszawa: Komisja Episkopatu Polski ds. Misji. ISBN 83-7232-420-4.
- Andrzej Halemba (ed. & transl.) (1997). Kościół misyjny, Podstawowe stadium misjologii (original: Following Christ in Mission. A foundational Course in Missiology, Sebastian Karotempler). Warsaw: Missio-Polonia. ISBN 83-8627-115-9.
- Andrzej Halemba (1997). Wkład polskich misjonarzy i misjonarek w dzieło misyjne Kościoła powszechnego, w: J. Guzowski, Misyjne zadania Kościoła w Polsce. Olsztyn.
- Andrzej Halemba (1996). Oczekiwania Kościoła w Afryce u progu roku 2000 w świetle Synodu Afryki i Adhortacji Apostolskiej Ecclesia in Africa, Nurt SVD 30(1996), s. 3-32;. Warszawa: Verbinum. ISSN 1233-9717.
- Andrzej Halemba (1995). Diecezjalne dzieło misyjne a udział diecezji katowickiej w misji ad gentes Kościoła powszechnego, w: W. Świątkiewicz, Kościół śląski wspólnotą misyjną. Katowice: Societas Scientiis Favendis Silesiae Superioris – Instytut Górnośląski.
- Andrzej Halemba (1994). Mambwe-English Dictionary. Ndola: Franciscan Mission Press Ndola. ISBN 9982-07-047-9.
- Andrzej Halemba. Zagadnienia inkulturacji w Afryce w okresie powstania orędzia Africae terrarum” Pawła VI”, SSHT 25/26(1992/93).
- Andrzej Halemba (1993). Niektóre aspekty inkulturacji ludu Mambwe w świetle adhortacji Pawła VI Africae terrarum. mps.
- Andrzej Halemba (1991). Icipangano Cipya (New Testament in Mambwe). Ndola: Mission Franciscan, Mission Press Ndola.
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