The Presbytery in Domaslav

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There is one thing the priests in Domaslav cannot be accused of, namely that they had been moral cowards. As early as in the 15th century reverend Marschik lost his job because he spread the doctrine of the theologian, preacher and reformer Jan Hus. After the German annexation in the last century reverend Womes encouraged the children to greet in a Christian way instead of showing the Hitler greeting. He did not abide by a subsequent ban on teaching religion and in his sermons turned against the bad treatment of the Czechs by the regime. In the summer of 1940 he was denounced, arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Dachau the following spring. After the expulsion, in 1947, the committed priest Hradecký came to Domaslav ­ he founded a popular amateur theatre and inspired the new inhabitants with football. As an opponent of the communist regime, however, he had to leave the parish as early as 1952. His immediate successor was called the „mechanics pastor“ because of his preference for motorcycles. In the sixties, finally, reverend Španihel came to the long orphaned presbytery. He had been exiled to Domaslav for the same reasons as Hradecký had been sent away from there before – because of critical remarks about the regime.

Later, in the eighties, reverend Chroust looked after the parish and developed the presbytery into a meeting place for young people. For the time, he was considered to be quite alternative and turned out to be bothersome because he was able to inspire and bring together young, often unadapted people. This had been the reason for his relocation to Domaslav, but young people from the larger cities nevertheless followed Chroust. They returned again and again, even when the reverend was no longer active in the village. Based on an idea of the diocese, the Cantate association was launched and linked up with this community. It’s purpose was to find a meaningful use for empty buildings in the region. Cantate redesigned the presbytery as a location for events and recreation aiming at children and young people, mainly from Plzeň. The guests were developing a growing interest in the region and its diverse history.

The o. s. Domaslav association, founded in 1998, finally continued Cantate’s tasks in the village. Its members are still looking after the church of St. James and the presbytery and organise a number of cultural events. Literature events and activities by landscape artists take place on a regular basis. Many of these members have regularly been in this place as children, for example as part of leisure activities or holiday camps. For years, the association has been seeking funding for renovation work. In 2006, the association Pomozme si sami (Let’s help ourselves), founded by the mayor of Olbramov, Válová, stepped in, and later on the Czech Ministry of Culture also provided subsidies – but so little that only a small part of the completely desolate roof could be repaired. This is still the case today, one place is being repaired, another one is still decaying by the ravages of time. But the progress – for example the pretty red roof of the church tower – cannot be overlooked. The renovation of the church is not an end in itself. The association’s aim is rather also to promote reconciliation between the Bohemians of German and Czech tongue.

At the beginning, the members of the association had to borrow the key to the presbytery, where no pastor has lived for a long time, from the diocesan administration. Meanwhile the presbytery belongs to the association. The bishop of Plzeň, Radkovský, was committed to the transfer of ownership before he retired in 2016. This means a great responsibility for the association. The presbytery continues to be used by scouts and schoolchildren for recreational activities. Here the little ones can paint and potter and something can go wrong – it is not a fine hotel. The children also learn about the region and its history. It may sound strange, but visiting the old church alone is usually something unknown and adventurous for them. By the way, the building can also be rented for groups.

In summer, the presbytery often fills up with twenty or so club members during the weekends. In the beginning they came up here on foot from the railway station in Kokašice, now by car directly from Plzeň. Many of them have founded families in the meantime and bring their children along with tools and other utensils for the work on the parsonage and in the church. This brings life back to the small village, where today the population makes up less than a tenth of what it was before the expulsion. Even if there are only few of them, the relationship with the Plzeň newcomers at first had to be established. Young Czech musicians from the surrounding area (Lidová muzika z Chrástu – folk music from Chrast) also like it here. They shot a small but lively music film in the landscape around Domaslav, still often visiting the village.

The contact of the former German inhabitants to Domaslav had never really broken off. There were also individual connections during communism, although of course not as open as today. In 2007 the first „Treffen/Setkání“ took place – a meeting of the association with former and today’s dwellers. Two years later, young people from the border region spent two weeks dealing with the present and history of the place and the region. The project, which was carried out in cooperation with Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste e. V., included extensive maintenance work, a series of talks between the young people and the former and present residents, and an exhibition. The informative and attractively illustrated interviews can be read in the booklet „Jako doma – wie zu Hause“, which is published on the association’s website.

The „Treffen/Setkání“ continues to take place every summer – always on a Saturday around the feast day of the parish patron Saint James. The number of former German residents taking part is decreasing, but the children of the association members are raving through the generous garden of the parsonage. The friendly and devoted parish priest Šašek from Planá celebrates the bilingual Holy Mass at the opening of the meeting. If God’s ground personnel was like this elsewhere, one participant remarked the last time, fewer believers would run away from the Catholic Church. Domaslav apparently attracts committed people, be they pastors, young people, residents or visitors. The old parsonage is located in the middle of this magnetic field.