Rzeszowsko-tyczyńskie Bractwo Kapłańskie pod patronatem Ducha Świętego i Maryi Panny od XV do XVIII stulecia
The Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary Rzeszów-Tyczyn Brotherhood of Priests From the 15th to the 18th Century
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An extremely important role in maintaining the clergy’s high religious-moral level in the Church in the West was played by brotherhoods of priests (fraternitates presbyterorum) that were established starting from the 9th century. Their aim was a continuous formation of their members, mutual spiritual and material aid, and praying for the dead confreres. From Gaul, where they were first established (Reims), they soon spread to the neighboring countries, among others to Germany, Italy and Spain. They reached Poland in the 13th century becoming one of the important factors of reformation of the clergy. In the Przemyśl Diocese of the Latin rite (established about the middle of the 14th century) brotherhoods open to the clergy (and also lay people, according to the so-called filadelfia principle) appeared in the first half of the 15th century, and by the end of the 17th century they spread to its whole territory. As the first one the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary Rzeszów-Tyczyn Brotherhood of Priests (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis in ecclesiis et districtibus Rzeszoviensi et Tyczynensi), that the author discusses here, was established. First it was active in the Rzeszów and Tyczyn regions, and from the end of the 16th century within the Rzeszów Decanate. It was a grass-roots initiative of a group of clergymen, and then it was officially approved of by the Przemyśl Bishop Maciej in 1419. Its statute described the structure of the brotherhood, defined its aims, means of work and the disciplinary issues. It devoted quite a lot of attention to the questions connected with the ultimate matters, like preparation for death, funeral, aid for the soul of the dead one, and so on. Indulgence privileges were supposed to encourage the members to diligently take part in the meetings and celebrations of the brotherhood that took place periodically. A great role in the life of the Brotherhood was played by sessions convened initially once every three months, and then twice a year, that were usually attended by all its members as well as its lay sympathizers. The sessions took place in Tyczyn and Rzeszów, alternately. The devotion during a session had a set order: first the mourning office was sung and the Holy Mass was celebrated with a procession and with stations for the late brothers, next a solemn Holy Mass was said about the Holy Spirit, with the exposition of the Sacrament and the procession and a sermon. After the devotion a debate was held with a scrutiny concerning the life of the confreres, and in the later period also concerning the state of their churches. Also the more difficult cases of moral theology were discussed. When all the items on the agenda had been discussed the confreres went to a meal, in which only priests could participate. Some of the most important aims of the Brotherhood was the promotion of the cult of God, ensuring profuse spiritual gifts to the living brothers, and prayer aid to those, who had already passed away. In the current of this type of actions (collective as well as individual) various religious funds were contained (the first one in 1492), including altar prebends (the first one in 1639). In consequence in the middle of the 18th century the Brotherhood had the right of patronage over four altar prebends. The Rzeszów Brotherhood was quite active practically throughout the 17th century, however, in the next century its deep crisis was revealed, which was caused to a considerable degree by external factors. It also affected the other priest communities in the diocese, which had an adverse influence on the formative work among the clergy. Brotherhoods were revived in the diocese by the zealous Przemyśl priest, Bishop W. H. Sierakowski (1742-1760). After an in-depth examination of the situation, on 5 May 1760 in Brzozów he issued a directive to all the brotherhoods in the diocese, in which he described in detail the reforms that were to be effected. Introduction of a uniform and to some degree centralized structure of the brotherhood in the diocese was an important novelty; it was adjusted to its new territorial structure introduced in 1751 (3 archdeaconates). Instead of about a dozen small, independent brotherhoods existing in particular deaconates, the Bishop organized three big ones, each of which was to function in one of the archdeaconates. Each one was to be headed by the provost elected for life. At the same time Bishop Sierakowski ordered all the brotherhoods to keep to the reformed statute of the Sanok-Krosno Brotherhood. The reform of 1760, although it was not fully implemented (the new structure based on the network of archdeaconates was not accepted), gave a new impulse to the work of all priest brotherhoods in the Przemyśl Diocese (including the Rzeszow-Tyczyn one), which is confirmed by the preserved official reports dating back to that time. It should be stressed that the reform introduced by Bishop W. H. Sierakowski gave sound foundations for further fruitful work of priest brotherhoods in the diocese for a long time. However, their fate was unexpectedly decided by external factors. In consequence of the first partition of Poland in 1772 the Przemyśl Diocese was annexed by Austria that soon abolished the system existing in Poland and introduced its own in its place. All former institutions of the Polish Republic that were incompatible with the vision of an „enlightened state” ruled in an absolutist way were abolished. Also the Catholic Church was subjected to utter control as well as to numerous restrictions and transformations that were supposed to make it completely subject to the state and make it an obedient tool for the lay authorities. These actions, presented as a „reform of the Church”, were taken in the name of the political-ecclesial system obtaining in Austria at that time that was called „Josephinism”. Ruthless and consistent interference of the lay authorities into the life of the Church in a few years led to liquidation of many Church institutions that played a great role in the religious life of the community of the faithful. Also all religious brotherhoods were the aim of a furious attack, including the ones to which priests belonged, whose profile did not correspond with the vision of the „enlightened state”. They were abolished by the Austrian authorities on 22 May 1783, and in their place the court decree of 9 August 1783 established the „Association for Active Love of the Neighbor” that was subjected to the control of the state. These actions also meant the end of the Rzeszow-Tyczyn Brotherhood of Priests, deserved in the field of forming and sanctifying numerous generations of priests as well as of lay people.
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