Since 1992, Roman Catholics of many nationalities living and working for a variety of reasons and stationed for a shorter or longer tour of duty in Croatia have met regularly for Sunday mass in English and other languages at one of a number of chapels in Zagreb. It was in March 1992, that Ron Neitzke, then Chargé d'affaires of the new U.S. embassy in Zagreb, his wife Jean with their three children, Matt, Danny and Kate, approached Father Stjepan Kušan, SJ at Pamotićeva church and asked if it would be possible for him to organize religious services for the children in English. Fr. Kušan accepted and word quickly spread. Soon after, New Members from throughout the international community in wartime Croatia began to join: diplomats, members of U.N. and E.U. observer teams, military personnel, representatives from various international corporations beginning to invest in the economy of the newly independent Croatia.
Our first masses were held in a little chapel at Palmotićeva church, just large enough to hold about 20 or 25 people. Fr. Kušan was involved in founding Jesuit Refugee Service at the time, and when he moved to the former Jesuit seminary in Šalata, the little international Catholic community moved with him. That was in 1993. In Šalata, our masses were held in three different chapels, depending on availability and the size of the community. In 1997, when Fr. Kušan moved to his new quarters at Jordanovac, the community moved with him, and has since held its Sunday Eucharistic services in St. Joseph's chapel on the 3rd floor of the Jesuit seminary.
Hard Times and Changes
After Fr. Kušan was transferred to Ohrid in 2003, Fr. Valentin Pozaić SJ, now Assistant Bishop Pozaić in the Archdiocese of Zagreb, took his place as the head of our community. In 2005, when Fr. Pozaić was named Assistent Bishop, we began the quest for a new priest to lead our community. It was an uncertain time, since no one member of the Jesuit community was able to assume the task. After a number of tries, we were able to agree with Fr. Željko Rakošec SJ, that he would say Holy Mass regularly on Sundays for our community.
This is and has remained the central service offered by members of the Jesuit community in Zagreb to Roman Catholics from countries outside Croatia living in Zagreb. While Fr. Kušan was pastor of our community, we were able to have Holy Mass every Sunday throughout the year. Later, it became difficult to ensure this service during the summer months, and for the past four years we have only been able to have mass during the academic year.
In addition to Holy Mass and the sacrament of Reconciliation, members of our community, under the guidance of the priests who have served us, have also organized religious instruction for our children and preparation for the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. Holy Mass is now offered Sundays during the school year in English, with prayers, readings, and songs in French, German, Spanish, Italian and other languages as needed. Our members maintain a choir and enrich our liturgy with songs and instrumental accompaniment. Our community has also been actively involved in charitable and humanitarian work throughout its existence. In addition, our community organizes social events such as our regular monthly (in the past also bi-monthly) coffee reception, an annual parish picnic and special receptions on the occasion of feast days like Christmas and Easter, as well as for the celebration of First Communion, Confirmation, Baptism and on occasion even the sacrament of Marriage.
Despite the transiency of our membership, our little community, symbol in itself of the Pilgrim Church on earth, maintains a surprising degree of continuity. Through the years, our community has succeeded in casting a net to unite Roman Catholics the world over who have passed through Zagreb at one time or another in bonds of lasting friendship and Christian solidarity that transcend the boundaries of space and time. Former members often meet other former members elsewhere in the world for the first time, and though they did not know each other from Zagreb, recognize one another as members of a special family through having each at one time been members of our international Catholic community.
In September of 2007 a delegation of our members visited Pastor Marinko Zadro, OP of the Parish of Bl. Augustin Kažotić in the Zagreb city quarter Pešćenica, Ivanićgradska 71. Father Zadro and the other three priests at Bl. Augustin Kažotić were very sympathetic to the needs of our community and offered us their parish a permanent home. At a meeting of the ICCZ Council on September 15, 2007 and with the explicit support of Cardinal Josip Bozanić, with whom a delegation of the Council met on September 27, 2007, the members of the ICCZ Council voted to relocate the International Catholic Community of Zagreb to the parish of Bl. Augustin Kažotić. The relocation took place the last weekend in October, so that our first mass in Bl. Augustin Kažotić was celebrated on October 28, 2007.