Father Marcin Jablonski, LC: Making Christ Present at the Dakar Rally as Chaplain and Part of Winner Carlos Sainz’s Team
Originally published in Spanish at LomásRC.
Father Marcin Jablonski, LC, had the unique experience of joining Carlos Sainz’s team in the Dakar rally as a chaplain and motorhome driver. In addition to blessing Sainz’s Audi, which won the rally, his presence created a space for the competition to be an opportunity for a spiritual encounter. “Amid the desert and competition, my role was to be the presence of Christ,” shares Father Marcin, who celebrated daily Mass and spiritually ministered to many people, providing a space of faith in an environment of intense demands. This adventure has reaffirmed his passion for cars and has enriched his vocation as a member of a religious order and a priest, demonstrating how faith can be present in all aspects of life.
- At first, they didn’t believe I was a priest until I showed them my Instagram account, where I have pictures of myself celebrating Masses.
- It was a beautiful experience to see how people, who perhaps had never had close contact with a priest, approached with personal questions.
- As a priest, it was not only about getting your hands dirty with others but also about passing on something more.
- Of course, I missed my Legionary community a lot: spending 20 days in a desert without your brothers, who understand your life and the demands of religious life, is something I missed during those days. I am extremely grateful to my superiors for trusting me and seeing that behind this opportunity, there was something more, a special mission prepared by God, undoubtedly full of wonders.
Father Marcin Jablonski, LC, originally from Poland, works with Regnum Christi in Barcelona and at the Reial Monasterio de Santa Isabel school. He just spent 20 days at the Dakar Rally with Carlos Sainz’s team Audi. It has been quite an experience for him and his teammates. One of the crew in everything: collaborating in the organization of the camp, driving a motorhome, supporting with whatever was necessary… and also acting as chaplain: “I have observed that when people are faced with very human problems, and they see a priest, they automatically start to perceive these problems in a different light, contemplating the possibility that God can help them in these moments.”
How did this adventure begin?
I have a passion that has always been a part of me: cars and racing. I had thought that, over time, this interest would wane, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, my enthusiasm has increased, especially after a crucial encounter. I met Daniel, a father from the Santa Isabel school, and we had a pivotal conversation. One day, he asked about my aspirations as a young priest, and I jokingly shared my desire to be involved in Formula 1. His response was surprisingly serious. Instead of laughing, he asked me: “And why don’t you become a chaplain for a Dakar team?”
Instead of laughing, he asked me: “And why don’t you become a chaplain for a Dakar team?”
Although I was extremely excited about this possibility, I didn’t think it was feasible. Then, one day, I received a call from the Audi team. They had seen my resumé and were delighted to invite me to join them as a chaplain and a motorhome driver. This is how this great adventure began.
And your work with Regnum Christi in Barcelona, your superiors, your Legionary community… what was it like for all of them?
It wasn’t a given that I would receive permission to be absent from school and community life for 20 days. However, I am incredibly grateful to my superiors for trusting me and seeing that there was something more behind this opportunity, a special mission that God had prepared, undoubtedly full of wonders.
You were a motorhome driver and a chaplain. Can you share how the Lord has been present to you in this experience?
As part of team Audi, I joined as one of the crew, but day by day, more people discovered that I am a priest. At first, they didn’t believe me until I showed them my Instagram account, where I appeared dressed as a priest, celebrating masses. It has been a beautiful experience to see how these people, who perhaps had never had close contact with a priest, approached me with interesting questions on a personal level, even while driving the motorhome. We shared the same duties and work, traveling between 500 and 600 kilometers daily. Despite doing that work, I was still a priest, in whose presence God revealed himself and met the people I came across during the Dakar.
Before leaving for the Dakar, the auxiliary bishop of Barcelona, Don Javier Vilanova, advised me to be humble.
The presence of the Lord was manifested in many ways, especially in everyday life and working with people. Before leaving for the Dakar, the auxiliary bishop of Barcelona, Don Javier Vilanova, advised me to be humble, to be there as who I am and how I am, making Christ present among them. That’s what I was trying to do. Every morning, in prayer, Christ reminded me that there is work to do but, above all, to be present among those people at the Dakar.
What has it meant for your priestly vocation to find yourself in this demanding world in which sports, competition, dreams, and failures are mixed…?
Being part of the Audi team means facing everything required humanly: work, difficulties, failures, and demands. All of this creates a strong bond among all team members. Being there, participating, and facing challenges with them gave me a precious opportunity to live authentically and be who I am. As a priest, it is not only about getting your hands dirty alongside others but also about passing on something more. I have observed that when people are faced with human problems and see a priest, they automatically start to perceive these problems in a different light, contemplating the possibility that God can help them in these moments.
How did you feel as a priest in this environment?
As ‘Marcin,’ it felt great working with the cars, preparing the bivouac for the camp, traveling many kilometers… As a priest, I felt equally good performing these tasks. However, the circumstances were indeed very extraordinary for me as a religious priest. Despite feeling comfortable in this environment, I often missed having a chapel or a quiet place where I could be with the Lord and gather strength. Of course, I also missed my community a lot: spending 20 days in a desert without your brothers, who understand your life and the demands of religious life, is something I have missed during these days. But I know that they have supported me with their prayers. The Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi also assured me of their prayers several times. Although I was the only Legionary priest there, I was not alone. I knew that the entire Regnum Christi family was supporting me worldwide, which I greatly appreciated.
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Father Marcin participated as chaplain of the Audi team. However, he was also able to serve other teams, such as the Spanish ALL1, with whom he shared time, prayed, and blessed their motorcycles, as you can see from minute 8:09, in the video below.
In the media
Upon returning to Spain, Carlos Sainz made several statements to the press in which he expressed his faith and mentioned the presence of a chaplain in the team who had blessed his car, which became headlines in some media. It was a Polish media outlet that revealed the identity of this priest and sparked the interest of some Spanish reporters in learning more about the history and experience of Father Marcin in the Dakar.
- Un sacerdote desvela el motivo de la victoria de Carlos Sainz en el Dakar: “Él tuvo la idea” – Mediodía COPE – COPE
- Un joven sacerdote polaco que vive en España bendijo el coche con el que Sainz ganó el Dakar – ReL (religionenlibertad.com)
- Carlos Sainz llevó a un sacerdote en ,el equipo del Dakar (gaceta.es)
- Dakar 2024: Carlos Sainz y la ‘mano de Dios’ en el Dakar: “Mi coche fue el único que bendijo el cura…” | Marca
- Marcin Jablonski, el capellán que ha hecho «presente a Cristo» en el Dakar – Alfa y Omega
- Se habla mucho de un sacerdote polaco en España. Contribuyó a un gran éxito – WP SportFacts
- El sacerdote que acompañó a Carlos Sainz en su victoria y le bendijo el coche: «Fue idea suya» (eldebate.com)