|Recognising exceptional service to the Church|
Thursday 26 April 2012|
On Sunday 15 April, Archbishop Denis Hart awarded Mr Gustaw Bernard with the Benemerenti medal, a Papal medal that recognises long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church
By Fr Tony Slowik SJ
Gustaw is a man of peace and unity. His love, dedication and respect shown in very practical ways to all people, regardless of their nationality, financial means, creed or social status is truly exemplary.
After the blessing of the newly renovated chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, at the Polish Marian Shrine in Essendon, Archbishop Denis Hart awarded Mr Gustaw Bernard with the Benemerenti medal. This Papal medal, which recognises persons for their long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church, gives fitting recognition to the service which Gustaw has dedicated to the Polish Catholic community in Melbourne and to the wider Church.
For the past 13 years, Gustaw has been an extraordinary member of our Catholic community. He has used all his equipment, talents, time and expertise in helping church communities and generously attending to people's needs. Acknowledging this achievement is greatly appreciated by many Polish people of Melbourne who know and admire Gustaw' s dedication to the Church.
As a carpenter, Gustaw has donated his considerable artistic talents and professional skills to building projects for the church. For over two years he volunteered his labour in building the Polish Shrine of Divine Mercy in Keysborough, where he continues to help out. He directed the extensive and complex renovations at the Polish Jesuit Centre in Richmond for 18 months, again without accepting payment. Over the last few months, he has been entrusted with the major project of renovating Our Lady's Chapel in the Polish Marian Shrine, Essendon during which he organized the voluntary assistance of a number of Polish tradesmen.
The award that Gustaw received was fittingly presented at the Marian Shrine in Essendon for the blessing of the chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which Gustaw donated so much of his time to restore. This shrine is of particular significance to the Polish Community and has deep spiritual and cultural connections with their homeland.
The heart of this Shrine is Our Lady's Chapel in which is displayed a copy of the icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, is a gift from the Polish Primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, blessed by Pope Paul VI and received by the Polish Community at St Patrick's Cathedral on 15 August 1971 in the presence of Archbishop James Knox.
The magnificent new altarpiece now framing the icon of the Black Madonna incorporates an ebony section of the original altarpiece in Czestochowa and houses several treasured relics of Blessed John Paul II who, as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, blessed this Shrine in 1973. Pope John Paul II himself donated his rosary and zuchetto and a reliquary also contains droplets of his blood.
Gustaw has dedicated many years of service to the Polish community in Melbourne. He also identifies strongly with his German heritage. Gustaw was born on 26 January 1939 in the village Posniez/Poszucice in the region of Opole (then Germany, now Poland) into a Catholic family to his German parents, Gustaw Bernard and Maria nee Wolf. After 7 years of primary education, he started his apprenticeship in 1953 and became a qualified carpenter.
When he was 18, Gustaw moved with his mother and sister to West Germany and after further studies in carpentry and additional exams and qualifications, his application for migration to Australia was accepted. In 1960, Gustaw arrived at the Bonegilla migrant camp near Wodonga. After only a few days he was employed as a carpenter by the Peter Damby Company and was involved in building Monash University in Clayton.
Gustaw met his wife Wladyslawa Tatarczuk while attending evening English classes and they were married 1st September, 1962 at St. Ignatius Church, Richmond by Fr. Jozef Janus SJ, Polish chaplain. They were blessed with two children: Roger, born in 1963, a medical practitioner, married with two children, and Krystyna, born in 1971, a scientist and bank manager, married with two children.
Gustaw and Wladzia Barnard are exemplary members of the local Catholic parish of St. Christopher's in Syndal and also of the Polish Catholic Community in Richmond. Gustaw has been always very generous to people and various community groups asking for his assistance, and his dedication to the Church has been enormous.
In so many ways, the generosity that Gustaw has shown goes far beyond his contribution to the building and renovation projects. Always smiling and joyful, extremely polite and humble he touches the hearts and minds of people around him with his deep faith and extraordinary care. He often goes to law courts or hospitals to assist people; he spends day and night with people struggling with alcoholism; he uses all his equipment, talent, time and expertise in helping church communities.
As so often happens, such extreme dedication and time-consuming service has not been sufficiently recognized or gratefully acknowledged. The Benemerenti Medal recognises the love, dedication and respect that Gustaw has shown in very practical ways to all people, regardless of their nationality, financial means, creed or social status