THE EARLY COMMUNITY
Since 1992, Roman Catholics of many nationalities living and working in Croatia have met regularly for Sunday mass in English and other languages at a different chapels in Zagreb. That year, members of the US Embassy approached Fr. Stjepan Kušan to ask if he could organize religious services for their families in English. Word quickly spread and soon new members of the international community 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.
Masses were first held in a little chapel at Palmotićeva church, just large enough to hold about 20 or 25 people. At the time, Fr. Kušan was involved in founding a branch of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Croatia. In 1993, when the JRS moved to the former Jesuit seminary in Šalata, the international Catholic community followed. When Fr. Kušan moved again to new quarters at Jordanovac in 1997, the community moved with him, and for several years held its Sunday services in St. Joseph’s chapel on the 3rd floor of the Jesuit seminary.
In September of 2007, moved to the Parish of Bl. Augustin Kažotić in the Zagreb city quarter Pešćenica, Ivanićgradska 71 where Pastor Marinko Zadro, OP and other parish priests provided us with their services. In 2012, the ICCZ moved back to a chapel at the Voćarska complex in Šalata, this time Fr. Ivan Cidori SJ as our pastor.
Fr. Stjepan Kušan, our first pastor, died unexpectedly on April 12, 2013 in Zagreb, and some former and current members came together on this occasion to say farewell to him at Mirogoj cemetary. In 2013, Fr. Tvrtko Barun became our priest, caring for our community until 2016, during which period he also acted as head of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Southeast Europe. For his untiring efforts in promoting the rights and protection of refugees in the region, Fr. Tvrtko was named a recipient of the EU Citizen’s Prize in 2017. In 2016, at the invitation of Rektor Željko Tanjić, the ICCZ moved its services to the chapel of the Catholic University of Croatia in Ilica 242, Zagreb. There from September 2019 to 2020, our paster was Fr. Dražen Volk, and from September 2020 until the present Fr. Stanko Perica, S.J. Our community remained at the chapel of the Catholic University until its most recent move back to the Jesuit parish at Jordanovac, where Sunday services are now held in the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
MICROCOSM OF THE PILGRIM CHURCH
Over the years, the ICCZ has offered mass in English, with prayers, readings, and songs in French, German, Spanish, Italian and other languages as needed. More recently, our services have been in English and French. Members of the choir together with our accompanist enrich our liturgy with traditional and contemporary hymns and songs. We are also active in charitable and humanitarian work. As part of our outreach, we organise a monthly “Caring & Sharing” coffee reception, and celebrations for special occasions like our annual parish picnic, receptions on the occasion of Christmas and Easter, as well as on the occasion of First Communion, Confirmation, baptisms, and occasionally even marriage.
Traditionally, a large percentage of our membership has been transient, staying no longer than a few years in Zagreb. Nevertheless, the ICCZ, a microcosm of the Pilgrim Church on earth, has maintained a surprising degree of continuity, and many who have passed through our community at one time or another in the past remain even now connected by bonds of lasting friendship. Former members sometimes even meet other former members elsewhere in the world for the first time, recognizing one another as part of a special family for having once belonged to the International Catholic Community of Zagreb.