Croatian Niepokalanów – Spiritual and Pastoral Centre the "Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady"

Mary is a Mother who excludes no one, and "Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady" in Croatia will be a place where everyone who comes will find shelter in the embrace of his/her Mother – says father Zdravko Tuba, a Conventual Franciscan, the guardian and manager of the Molve Marian shrine in Podravina, Croatia."

Why is it important for every country to have its own "Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady"?

St. Maximilian distinguished himself with a great ability to interpret the events of his time. Thanks to his discernment, Maximilian dared to establish the Militia Immaculatae (MI) – the Army of Our Immaculate Lady. He could not succeed alone in this endeavour.

His grand dream was to "Conquer the entire world for Christ through the Immaculate Lady." An oasis in the desert gives life; without it, the desert becomes desolation. Our earthly life is often a desert, especially when we observe today's society there is numerous challenges such as economic crises and unemployment, deserted villages and cities due to the emigration of many young people and entire families, especially the highly educated on whom rests the future of every society and nation. A complex demographic picture of the Croatian nation is characterized by a significant decline in birth rates and an increase in the elderly population, a growing number of impoverished citizens and those trapped in debt bondage, problems arising from refugee crises and economic migration – all of these factors truly necessitate an oasis.

Who can be the true oasis of the human heart without it turning into a desert or wasteland? The only answer is – Our Immaculate Lady – the bearer and giver of Life.

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

Are there such oases in the world and how did the first City of Our Immaculate Lady come about?

In the solitude of Zakopane, St. Maximilian Kolbe could, in prayer and peaceful walks, contemplate ideas related to the Militia of the Immaculate and the further development of publishing. The outcome of this reflection was the decision to establish a new monastery exclusively for publishing activities, fully tailored to that purpose. Having obtained permission from the superior, he immediately began the construction of the new - City of Mary - which he named Niepokalanów – the City of Our Immaculate Lady.

Once, one of the brothers asked St. Maximilian: “Tell us, father, what constitutes the true progress of Niepokalanów?” He answered: “Progress is not the expansion of operations, increasing the print run. Progress is not the construction of new buildings, buying the latest machinery, luxurious equipment for editions. Progress is not gaining fame, recognition, or glory in the homeland and the world, occupying a place on the geographical map, receiving visits from high dignitaries of the Church, government, and institutions who admire us and sing praises. All of that, my children, is chaff that does not sustain life. So what is it then? Our souls, spiritual enrichment, growth in grace, that is - holiness! Let us not deceive ourselves! Neither expertise nor education nor great knowledge - none of these are essential; they all belong to a secondary order of values. True progress is either spiritual or it does not exist. Only the living fire shines and warms."

Today, in the world, there exist: Niepokalanów in Poland, Marytown in the USA, Mugenzai no Sono in Japan, and our Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady in Molve, Croatia, which is under construction. When we think of it, let us remember the words of St. Maximilian: "If we do not respond to the call of the Immaculate Virgin, she will use others. It is our duty to collaborate with her will."

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

In this, the reasons for your stay at the shrine of Our Lady of Molve are recognized. How would you explain them to us?

As a Conventual Franciscan and priest, I am grateful to God and Mother Mary for the gift of birth and life in her sanctuary and in the Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I observe and experience this through the parable of the Wedding at Cana, through the task of the servant who listened to what Jesus and Mary were saying and did everything they told him. I am trying to live in surrender to Mother Mary, knowing that She knows best what every believer needs and what we should do.

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

How is the miraculous medal connected to the Marian shrine in Molve, your church order, and the Oasis of the Immaculate Lady?

It is beneficial in discussing the Oasis of the Immaculate Lady to mention St. Maximilian Kolbe's foundations at its establishment, his understanding of the meaning of the City of the Immaculate, and the spirit that was and should be present in every City of the Immaculate. First – man needs to be divinised. Man was created to be transformed into a divine being, to divinise himself in God. Not to become God himself, but to become divine in God. Second – Mary is the most magnificent proof of man's potential. She is the model and ideal of perfection. Third – Our Immaculate Lady is the mediator between Christ and man. Through her mediation, because she is full of grace, and by the merit of her Son, God continuously supplies man with divine power that destroys sin and perfects the soul. Through the Immaculate, to the Heart of Christ! Fourth – the Immaculate Virgin can overcome all evil in man and in the world. The Mother of the Church and all God's children is always ready to meet all our needs and prayers. These are the foundations of the Army of the Immaculate, we can freely say, these are also the foundations of the Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady.

In Kolbe's view, consecration to Mary does not exist outside the context of a relationship with the Church, especially with her mission. He was driven by the words: "To conquer the world for Christ through the Immaculate", "To embrace the entire globe… so that Mother Mary can expand her dominion into the hearts of all who live in any corner of the world."

In the figure of the Immaculate, we can recognize ourselves, we can perceive our calling. What has always adorned the relationship between Mary and Jesus was unity and love. It is precisely such a relationship that God calls us to through the figure of Mary. Through Mary, God evangelized. Mary is the one in whom the gospel was woven.

Mary has been chosen as the bearer of the Word from among ordinary people. Thus, each of us is called to proclaim the Gospel. Each of us is called to perform acts of love and mercy. Just as God called Mary, He calls us anew every day. Let us strive to live this and to give it as a gift to every pilgrim by leading them to the Immaculate Lady through the holy sacraments, through encounters and openness to their needs…

These are the foundations or principles of the Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady, the sanctuary of Mary, and of every devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that we nurture in our dedication to her. We express this devotion through the miraculous medal, whose greatest apostle was St. Maximilian Kolbe. He used the enrolment in the Army of the Immaculate Lady as a means of Marian apostolate, intending to fight under her banner, wearing the miraculous medal as a sign of recognition, and daily praying a short invocation seeking Mary's protection for all of us, especially praying for the conversion of the enemies of the Church. The Army of the Immaculate Virgin has its sign, its ammunition, the miraculous medal – her gift to us. The medal is a means of Mother Mary's enduring kindness for every person in all their needs. Therefore, we gladly pray: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee and for all those who do not have recourse to thee, especially for the enemies of the holy Church and for all those recommended to thee. Amen."

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

What can Podravina together with its shrine offer to Croatia, Europe, the world? What is the heritage it has, which is certainly important to preserve, learn, love, and pass on to new generations?

People of Podravina have been always willingly coming to their Mother Mary, whom they venerate in the form of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Molve. It has been recorded that the faithful of the Djurdjevac and Virovitica parishes, during the plague in 1806, made a vow to take a pilgrimage every year to the Mother of God in Molve in gratitude for received graces.

At the site of today's votive chapel of Our Lady of Molve once stood a medieval parish church, which was demolished around 1890 due to dilapidation. The parishioners, wishing to have a memorial to the place where the first church stood, led by their parish priest, built a new chapel in 1900, which became the place for the permanent safekeeping of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Molve. The following year, on the 7th of July 1901, the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Molve was solemnly carried in a maiden procession along Marian Street, from the parish church to the newly built chapel. There was 30,000 faithful from all over Podravina region and wider, as well as neighbouring Hungarian regions, as reported by the Catholic newspaper of 25th of July 1901. It was the first Sunday in July. Since then, the memory of this return of the statue has been renewed every year on the first Sunday in July, called Srpnjica.

In addition to organized pilgrimages, we witness pilgrims who come on their own or in organized groups. This is just a part of our current capabilities and of what pilgrims can experience at Mary’s shrine in Molve.

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

The shrine in Molve already offers a rich content that will surely be further enriched. What can all visitors expect in the future at the shrine and the Oasis Our Lady? Have you been thinking about programs for all age groups, and how will you implement them?

Today's world, especially modern families, face the same needs expressed in a different ways as during the time of St. Maximilian Kolbe. One logical solution that arises is the creation of family oases here in Croatia – places of support and encouragement for Catholic families in living in communion with the Creator and mutual mediation through the Immaculate Virgin. Furthermore, places for adopting Christian values and drawing inspiration from the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth, places where families receive refreshment and gather strength to continue their journey through everyday life. "I hope that, with the help of the Immaculate Lady, we will not bypass any country or abandon any people, and that everywhere we will establish the Army of the Immaculate and its headquarters, Niepokalanów", said St. Maximilian.

Mother Mary's shrine, where the Oasis is emerging, is a spiritual and cultural centre. The Oasis opens its doors to all who come to find everything their soul needs in Mary's presence. In this regard, we are preparing the chapel – the heart of the Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady – a place for all-day adoration of Jesus presence in the Blessed Sacrament, a place to encounter God in the Eucharist, and in the sacraments... Additionally, the Interpretation Centre of spiritual and cultural heritage will have its own content. The programs we will implement will cater to all ages, individuals, families, and groups. Mary is a Mother who excludes no one, and "Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady" in Croatia will be a place where everyone who comes will find shelter in the embrace of his/her Mother.

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

I know you are a man of prayer, someone who engages with people openly and is open to new things, especially if they glorify God. What is your opinion of the Digital Crowdfunding Campaign that has been launched to complete the construction and setup of the Oasis? Besides raising funds to finish the Oasis, what is the true meaning and goal of the campaign?

Approaching the crowdfunding campaign, I am grateful for St. Maximilian’s guidance left to us, a legacy that obliges us to continue the work he began. We know that Kolbe's mission is characterized by the widespread use of means that enable the transmission of evangelical content, as well as the importance of Marian devotion. The miraculous medal, thanks to its deep spiritual and symbolic meaning, represents for him a privileged means of dedicating humanity to God's service.

Kolbe distinguished himself by his great creativity in carrying out apostolic work. His desire to serve always with new, original means, relevant for proclaiming Christ's love, marked his life and was never exhausted. We can say that St. Maximilian Kolbe was truly a volcano of ideas when it came to new apostolic inventions, new ways of proclaiming the Gospel. Many of these ideas are commonplace today but were daring in his time. For example, his idea to send brothers into the streets to distribute freely newspapers printed in Niepokalanów, since at that time, religious went out among the people very rarely. 

As the founder of the St. Maximilian Kolbe association, he used all available media to highlight the power of the Immaculate Lady. "Members of the Militia of the Immaculate will use the means that father Kolbe used with a prophetic and Franciscan spirit, becoming apostles of the pen, microphone, screen, and any other means," but as St. Maximilian emphasizes: "Our goal is not to gain subscribers, but souls." On this basis, our goal is the spiritual richness that the Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady offers now and will give to all who come to it, who come to their Mother.

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

Is this just the beginning of the awakening of Molve, or do you have other projects already?

Molve is already awake! We have ongoing projects. Since 2019, the Marian Shrine has been part of the Marian Pilgrimage for the Homeland route. The St. James Way – Camino Podravina passes through the shrine, and every pilgrim on that route receives a stamp in their “passport” featuring the image of Our Lady of Molve. The Amazon of Europe bike trail, a European project along the Drava River, also passes through Molve. In addition to organized pilgrimages, we witness pilgrims who come individually or in organized groups. This is part of our current offer and what pilgrims can experience at the Molve Marian Shrine.

St. Maximilian worked and created in dedication to the Immaculate Virgin. He left us a powerful legacy that he himself lived by. In this spirit, we strive to remain open to everything that Our Immaculate Lady wishes to achieve through us, for our homeland and the world.

Photo: Marian Shrine Molve

How wonderful it is to have a mother or two mothers, both heavenly and earthly, to whom you can come, rest, and be refreshed... What is your final message?

We believe that with the completion of the construction and setup of the Spiritual-Pastoral Centre Oasis of Our Immaculate Lady, we will open the doors for more meetings and programs so that people can stay in a spiritual oasis with Mary, socialize, grow, and let themselves to be renewed by Lord.

Mother Mary was present at the wedding in Cana, carefully ensuring that the newlyweds had everything they needed. Furthermore, she is present in our families today, and we believe that families in her embrace will hear the words: "Do whatever He tells you!" and that their lives will be filled with meaning, love, togetherness, and the closeness of Lord Jesus and His holy Mother. Moreover, Mary has visited Elizabeth, who needed help. In the spirit of that visit, the doors of the Marian shrine in Molve are open to all who are in any need: children, young people, families, elderly, the healthy, and the sick.

We wish all pilgrims and visitors a warm welcome to the Marian Oasis in the heart of Podravina in Croatia!

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