By Antonina Zielinska
Take care of each other whether you are here for a lifetime or just for a couple of years and remember, Jesus Christ is with you, was the message Polish Bishop Janusz Stepnowski told local Poles.
Bishop Stepnowski, the bishop of Lomza, Poland, was the main celebrant at the Mass in honor of Polish Heritage Day at St. Aloysius, Ridgewood, Oct. 18.
“Dear immigrants, in your life you must remember the great treasure that is prayer, that is religion, that is life in the Church,” the Polish bishop said during his homily. “You are not alone. Jesus looks out for each and every one of you and sends His Grace to you. Be close to Jesus. Be close to the Mother of God.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who presided over the Mass, took to the pulpit at the end of the liturgy. After greeting the congregation in Polish, which prompted applause, he continued his remarks in English.
He thanked Bishop Stepnowski, who demonstrated his own mastery of the English language, for being such a strong benefactor of the Brooklyn Diocese. The Diocese of Brooklyn has a number of priests from Lomza who are either here as diocesan priests or to work for a time.
To express their gratitude for the many ways that the Diocese of Lomza supports Poles in the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Diocesan Ministry to Polish Immigrants gave Bishop Stepnowski a photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Father Gregorz Stasiak, diocesan director of ministry to Polish immigrants, explained that the photograph is a symbol of the connections between the dioceses of Lomza and Brooklyn.
During the liturgy, Bishop DiMarzio also pointed out that this Polish Heritage Day is special in that it is the first year that a Polish auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn was able to attend, because it is the first time the diocese had a Polish auxiliary bishop.
To show its thanks, the Ministry to Polish Immigrants presented Bishop DiMarzio and Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski with a traditional Polish cake.
Andrzej Paszkowski, who came to represent the Polonia of St. Matthias, Ridgewood, said the presence of the bishop underlines the importance of Polish Heritage Day and the overall importance of Polish immigrants and Polish-Americans to the Diocese of Brooklyn.He said that when Poles show up to these kind of diocesan events with banners representing different groups it helps show unity and the willingness to bring about good in society.
Jarek Smigielski came in uniform to represent the St. Hubert Hunting and Fishing Club from Holy Cross parish, Maspeth. Aside from hunting and fishing, the club also partakes in various charitable endeavors and has come as a group for the first time to the Heritage Day.
Tadeusz Szetela, from St. Matthias, said events such as this are important to answer the call of St. Pope John Paul II to keep Polish and Catholic traditions alive.
“Our ancestors have entrusted us with these traditions,” he said. “We must nurture these traditions and pass them on to our children.”
Jadwiga Koziol said it is the responsibility of all Poles to keep their cultural and religious traditions alive, continuing the legacy of centuries-old history.
Poland has been a Catholic nation since the 10th century and has for many centuries been among the strongest footholds of Catholicism in Europe, while at the same time securing religious liberty for its people.
Bishop DiMarzio, who has recently received a medal of honor from the Polish government for his support of Polonia, thanked the Polish congregation as he does every year and urged the people to remain strong.
“Poland has always been faithful to the Church,” he said. “You must work in order to maintain your Polish heritage and your Polish faith.”