Fr Klaus Cieszyński, SJ, RIP
30 July 1938 – 18 September 2023
Klaus Peter Cieszyński was born in Lucienhof, Pomerania (Germany) of August Cieszyński and Gertrud Holder-Kotzung on 30 July 1938. After schooling he entered the Polish novitiate in Kalisz in 1957 as a brother. His first assignment was to be part of the Warsaw Province building team (1967-1969) and after which he was missioned to the building team of the Jesuit Education Secretary working from St Francis in Lusaka and the Sacred Heart in Kabwe. After his tertianship he requested to be trained for the priesthood and so did his philosophy in Pullach (Germany) and his theology in Milltown Park (Ireland). He was ordained in Monchengladbach (Germany) by none other than the Archbishop of Lusaka, Emmanuel Milingo.
His first assignment was to Katondwe as parish priest and superior (1980-1985), and then to Charles Lwanga Teacher Training College in Chikuni. He was deeply involved with the teachers now working in the schools. In 1991 he was assigned to look after John Chula House, where he lovingly cared for the elderly Jesuits there. During this time, he became involved in setting up a chaplaincy at the airport, where eventualy he opened a small chapel. He had personal contact with many workers and staff, as well as looking after the needs of travelers.
Except for a brief period as minister in Luwisha House and a short stint in St Ignatius (2000-2001), his life was centered on Chula House and its elderly, while developing a substantial apostolate at the airport on-and-off up to 2019.
He reached out to many with his warm greeting “My son…My daughter…My chikondi (beloved)” with genuine interest and love. His favorite hymn was ‘Chikondi ca Ambuye Yesu’ from which his nickname arose. He knew many of the workers and staff at the airport, and he was involved in their problems and struggles. Eventually he set up a small chapel at the airport and often ran days of recollection, to which all denominations were welcome. One email received said: “He was a warm-hearted person whose main apostolate was to cheer people up.” Even when in pain from shingles on his hand, he would still go to the airport or do the chores needed at Chula House.
Due to his wide diversity of contacts, he often had good stories to tell, which he relished telling. But behind the sometimes-extraordinary events, there was always some truth which yielded good insights on reflection, even though occasionally the stories appeared to only grow in their telling, there certainly was never anything that was lost as they were told (and re-told!)
Some of us would get annoyed very easily by some of the things he would say to us due to his openness and due to his truthfulness, but then when we reflected on those particular things that he would say to us, we would ourselves begin to see a lot of truth in what he was saying.
He was a larger-than-life person and anyone who ever had any dealings with him was marked by the encounter.