by Antonina Zielinska
As part of his mission to continue the work and legacy of Blessed John Paul II, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz visited the Brooklyn Diocese during his trip to the United States.
Cardinal Dziwisz is the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, and worked for the late Polish pontiff for nearly 40 years. He came to Brooklyn to ask Polish-Americans and all people who hold Blessed John Paul close to their hearts to take up their inheritance and continue the work their beloved pope started.
He also came to raise funds for the new Do Not Be Afraid Center in memory of John Paul II in Krakow. In response, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and the diocesan Polish apostolate hosted a fundraising dinner at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston.
Cardinal Dziwisz referred to the people who came to the dinner as friends of Blessed John Paul who have benefited from his example and leadership.
“This is an obligatory inheritance,” he said, “for all of us to come to understand it, depend on it, and live out our lives in accordance to what he preached. It is not enough to build statues or centers. Above all, we must live in accordance with his advice.”
Canon Witold Mroziewski, director of the diocesan Polish apostolate, said the apostolate is happy to take up the charge with which the cardinal has left them.
“People loved and still love John Paul II,” he said. “We don’t only want to commemorate him, but to continue his works.”
Zofia Twarowska, a native of Krakow and a member of the John Paul II Foundation based in the Brooklyn Diocese, said she and the group are happy to support the cardinal in his work to promote the efforts of the late pontiff.
“His presence can mobilize the Polish apostolate,” she said. “He is a witness of John Paul’s holiness.”
The cardinal said he hopes Blessed John Paul’s memory can unite his countrymen throughout the world.
“The unifier, the leader who we can all look towards, who can connect and unify Poles and the Polonia is John Paul II,” he said. “He was given to us to be our common ground, someone whom people can turn to, those who live off the shores of the Wisla and those who live abroad. We have to be aware of this, and take advantage of this, and get to work.”
Cardinal Dziwisz said the late pontiff and his work unifies more than just those of Polish heritage.
“Let this be something that unites all people of the world, not only Poles, not only Christians, because he broke all barriers,” he said. “He was a religious leader to all, a man of God.”
Bishop DiMarzio said he was happy to help the cardinal with this task, fully aware that it is not always easy.
“Fear can hold us back,” he said. “The new evangelization means that we have to have new zeal, new methods and a new way of doing things. I think tonight’s visit by Cardinal Dziwisz helps us along the way to extend the new evangelization to the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
The Do Not Be Afraid Canter, dedicated to the work of Blessed John Paul, is located near the Mercy Center dedicated to St. Faustina Kowalska in Krakow. When he was pope, John Paul II helped bring to light Sister Faustina’s visions. Now the two centers work to promote Grace among the people of God.
“It is a great endeavor because it is not only a museum,” the cardinal said. “The center has the goal of bringing the legacy of John Paul II to future generations. There is room for volunteers, room for study, room for inter-religious dialogue.”
Cardinal Dziwisz said the center must promote all aspects of the late pope’s work including evangelizing the youth, promoting the sanctity of life from conception to natural death and fostering a sense of service to all.
The center also has a section for research on the late pontiff’s lif. His relics are available for veneration in the chapel.
Bishop DiMarzio said it was an honor to sit next to the cardinal at the dinner benefiting the Do Not Be Afraid Center.
“He lived in the shadow of a saint,” he said. “And sanctity is catching – you catch it. And he too, I think, exudes a great sanctity, a great serenity, a great holiness.”
During dinner, Bishop DiMarzio publicly assured the Polish cardinal that the fundraiser is only the beginning of the support the Brooklyn Diocese will offer the center.
Cardinal Dziwisz said he was so impressed by the gracious hospitality of the Brooklyn Diocese and Bishop DiMarzio that he invited the bishop to his home in Krakow.
“Franciszkanska Street 3, Kraków,” the cardinal told Bishop DiMarzio to the delight of those present who recognized the address as the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Krakow.
Bishop DiMarzio said he might just take the cardinal up on his offer in the near future because he has received many requests to visit Poland.
“We now have a new bridge that Bishop DiMarzio has happily built to the center and to the cardinal so that we can learn from each other and help each other and grow in faith together,” said Msgr. Peter Zendzian, pastor of Holy Cross, Maspeth.