My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This week, I find myself in Poland on a pastoral visit and pilgrimage to the homeland to the over 125,000 Polish-born of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Each Sunday, here in Brooklyn and Queens, we have over 10,000 people attending our Polish-language Masses, and almost 20 parishes with a significant number of Polish-Americans.
When I was working for the United States Conference of Catholic
s in the late 1980s, I visited Poland when Communism still was in power. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to visit since that time. The former director of our Polish Apostolate, Msgr. Peter Zendzian, and the present director, Father Witold Mroziewski, will accompany me on this journey.
For several years, they have urged me to make this visit for several reasons. First, to thank the Bishops in Poland who have lent us priests to assist us here in the Diocese with the Polish Apostolate, and then to make a special pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and then on to the birth place of Blessed John Paul II in Wadowice.
Our trip began in Lublin, the site of a major Catholic university and the Diocese which has sent the most priests to assist us here in Brooklyn and Queens. We proceeded to Kraków and visited with Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Kraków and former secretary to Pope John Paul II. We also visited the Blessed John Paul II center in that city, called “Do Not Be Afraid Center.”
Earlier this year, the Diocese of Brooklyn hosted a fundraiser to assist Cardinal Dziwisz in developing this center, and it was a special joy for me to see work being completed on the center. After Kraków, our visit to Wadowice, the birthplace of Blessed John Paul II, was an especially inspiring experience. During our trip we also had an opportunity to speak with a delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference to Polonia Abroad.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Patroness of Poland and perhaps the most sacred site of the Jasna Góra Monastery. Truly, this site is known as the heart of Poland and the seat of the deep faith of Poland, always known as sempre fidelis.
For over 1,000 years, the Nation of Poland has been faithful to their Catholic faith, through wars, invasions and captivity. The indomitable Polish spirit is something that is truly remarkable. We ended our trip in Warsaw, speaking with the Polish Bishops’ Conference, and returned home following a very rewarding trip.
In James A. Michener’s book, Poland, which I read several years ago, I recall his description of the Polish nation, which had a national assembly where the vote of one person could annul the actions taken by the whole body. Truly, this right known as “liberum veto,” which is Latin for “the free veto,” indicates the solidarity of the Polish nation where they truly maintain a community of faith and purpose.
As I put out into the deep on this pilgrimage and visit to Poland, I ask for your prayers for the Polish people. I remembered each and everyone of you in my prayers in a special way at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czstochowa, that she, who is the Mother of Poland and the Patroness of the Polish people, will assist you in your own needs.