Ladislav Heryán

* 1960  

  • “I feel like a kind of servant... I do what needs to be done... in the underground, I... what does it actually mean to be in the underground, for one thing there is no underground, in my opinion, that’s an anachronism, it’s more of an alternative culture, the people simply meet up at various events, of which there’re an awful lot, well, and I don’t have the time for it anyway, so I go somewhere and I have some friends there, so I like being with my friends, and sometimes they want something from me, so I celebrate Mass, say, there’s nothing institutionalised about it, on the contrary, I’m here with students, that’s another way of being there, I give lectures, right, basically I’d say I do what needs to be done... I don’t have some distinctive identity. If I was to describe what I am, well okay, I’m a servant, a priest, I have become all things to all people...”

  • “We Salesians are in the Church, but we live elsewhere than where the parishes are. I’ve never worked with parishioners as a full-time parish priest. I operate in other places, I like like a normal person, I’m not paid by the Church, I earn my keep as a teacher and youth counsellor, and I’m a priest on top of that... I think that the Church should open up more. That she even wants to open up, but she doesn’t know how. There are various initiatives now such Night of Churches, Days of Faith... then there are also a lot of social undertakings that are operated by the Church, a fact that people often don’t know. I think that’s nice, that’s the way to go.”

  • “Some kind of message for people who don’t believe? Live how you want to, live what makes you happy. An interpretation of the song White Death Caps [underground musician Milan Hlavsa’s hit song Mochomůrky bílé - trans.]”

  • “I came to Italy in 1987, back then it still looked as if Communism was going to be here for ever and ever... I didn’t tell my parents I was going to emigrate. I wrote a goodbye letter, which I left with one of my brothers, Pavel Klimovič, and when I was outside of the country I phoned him and asked him to take the letter to my parents... that was an awful blow for my parents... it was hard... In 1987, when you emigrated to the West, you weren’t given asylum there, they sent everyone on to America, Canada, or Australia. So there were collection camps where people waited until they got a visa to one of those three countries. But I, seeing that I was a monk, I was promised asylum by the Italian government because I wouldn’t be any trouble for their government - I would be taken care of by my fellow monks because they have separation of Church and state there... seeing that I became a member of his orders’ Roman province, I was supposed to go to Madagascar for three years in summer 1989, with that I was to stay there afterwards. But I still didn’t have political asylum... so I stayed in Rome that summer, and they sent someone else to Madagascar in my stead... I obtained asylum in September, but then there was the revolution [in Czechoslovakia] in November, and after the revolution my fellow brothers came to me and said: ‘The Salesians are permitted again, we must rebuild our order’s work there, the way it should be. You have some experience from that location, we need you to go back there. You have to finish your studies and postgraduate studies and then go back there and help form the young Salesians.’ So that’s why I wasn’t sent to the mission in the end.”

  • “One friend of mine, whom I had known from before, brought me in among these people, but I’m not here to spread the word... people sometimes tell me it’s good that the Church has its people even in such a place, and that really pisses me off, that kind of talk. I just like being with those people because I feel it gives me something... the fact that I’m a priest means they’re also glad to have a priest there... when it’s necessary, I serve as a priest, so what happened - one underground singer said that, Dáša Vokatá it was, Dáša said: ‘We’re kind of your parish and you’re our pastor.’ And since then I’ve been called pastor of the underground... I don’t completely agree with that, I have to say, because that’s not actually how it is, but it is true that people call me that...”

  • “I helped Helenka Papírníková when she was pregnant with two children who had a disability prognosis... her flat was frequented by Martin, it was frequented by the Prince - she was his godmother - I gradually made their acquaintance, I started attending various underground events, and I got to know Martin [Jirous] more and more. I would take him to his concerts in Vydří or with Dáša Vokatá, or when we went to the festival in Trutnov, I would take him home with me, I was kind of his chauffeur. Martin was a very pious person, he had a lot of respect for me as a priest, so quite naturally, when there was some festival, it was Sunday, I said I’d celebrate Mass, it being Sunday, so Martin said he’d come as well. And in time others also joined in, and thus the idea of having Mass at festivals was born, and I continue to do that, I celebrate Mass in Trutnov as well. I’m not some kind of underground evangelist, I’m a priest who spends time with such people, and it’s natural for me to have Mass on Sunday, so I do, and there’s no covert evangelising in it. People turn to me with various needs, sometimes I wed a couple, sometimes I baptise a person, and so on.”

  • “Seeing that I’d declared when in my fifth year at school that I wanted to become a priest, the teachers informed my parents of the matter with a cautionary admonition, so my parents banned me from going to church, and that was mainly for fear that they wouldn’t let me study secondary school, because I had top marks... but paradoxically, that helped me a lot because then I had something of a religious puberty. Then when I was sixteen, I got this strong feeling that I wanted to be a priest, so I went to see one priest that I’d known since my childhood, who’d been reassigned from our village to Ostravice, he was the parish priest in Novosady, he was a Salesian, the Salesians were banned just like all the other orders, but he had gathered about him a group of young Salesians from the Ostrava District, and he took me in among these young Salesians, and I started studying philosophy under him because coincidence had it that he was also a professor of philosophy.”

  • “What happened was that when I lived here before the revolution, we were banned from keeping in touch with the underground, with dissidents, we young Salesians weren’t even acquainted with the older Salesians, those who had been locked up in the Fifties. Bar a few exceptions, such as our superiors, we weren’t allowed to keep in touch with anyone [like that] because they were under surveillance, and we’d betray the fact that we were young Salesians. So we lived in pretty big secrecy... I came back after spending ten years in Italy, I lived in České Budějovice for five years, I didn’t meet the people there... I taught at the faculty... when I came to Prague, I met one friend of mine, and she said she’d introduce me to the Plastics [Plastic People of the Universe - trans.]. The Plastics had a concert in Holešovice, so we went to their concert, and then she introduced me to all of them one by one. So I gradually found my way into the underground, my first meeting with Martin Jirous took place quite soon after that, in Aero Cinema, they were showing Nosferatu, which had music performed by DG 307, and Pavel Zajíček played music to it there. That’s where I first met Martin Jirous, Martin had a shot in one hand and a beer in the other, and when he saw me he said: ‘So it’s you, that Catholic trash.’ He added: ‘I’m Catholic too, so let’s have a shot.’ That’s how I made the acquaintance of Martin Jirous.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Salmovská 8, Praha 2, 12.03.2015

    duration: 01:16:19
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Post Bellum, studio EYE direct, Malá Strana 5, Praha 1, 18.06.2015

    duration: 01:31:07
  • 3

    Praha, 05.11.2018

    duration: 01:18:32
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

“I am a servant – I have become all things to all people.”

Fotka z bohoslužby v Římě v kostele sv. Dona Boska, jako salesiánští studenti   hráli a zpívali při jáhenském svěcení spolubratrů, je to asi z roku 1991
Fotka z bohoslužby v Římě v kostele sv. Dona Boska, jako salesiánští studenti hráli a zpívali při jáhenském svěcení spolubratrů, je to asi z roku 1991

Ladislav Heryán was born on the 24th of February, 1960 in Petřvald, near Nový Jičín. He graduated from the Secondary Technical School of Construction in Ostrava, when he was 17 he began attending a secret course in theology. From 1979 on, he studied at the Faculty of Civil Engineering of Brno University of Technology, and in summer 1981 he secretly joined the Salesian order. After receiving his university degree and undergoing compulsory military service, he worked at a concrete panel factory in Brno while continuing in his studies of theology. In August 1987, he emigrated to Rome with the aim to complete his studies of theology and serve as a missionary in Africa. However, after the Velvet Revolution the superiors of his order asked him to return to his homeland after completing his postgraduate studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Biblicum). Having lived abroad for ten years, he returned to the Czech Republic in 1997 and took up a posting at the Faculty of Theology of the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, where he lectured on New Testament and Greek. He also led the student community and the nearby parish of Suchý Vrbný. From September 2002 he functioned as the director and chaplain of the Salesian community in Prague-Kobylisy. In September 2009 he defended his dissertation and became a Doctor of Theology. He is often called ‘pastor of the underground’, he preached at the funeral of Ivan Martin Jirous (a prominent figure of the Czech underground) in Kostelní Vydří on 19 November 2011. He currently lectures at Jabok Higher Vocational School and the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague (IES PTF CU).