Aging Polish parishioners maintain three year vigil in shut down church defying diocese decision to close parish permanently. This Palm Sunday will be the start of the reopen of the Mass (NO apparently) and success of the rebellious vigilers, most of whom were well into their 70's and 80's.
This is either a sign that some NO have had it with their local bishops and their decisions to close down churches and deny these old Catholics the availability of the sacraments or just a vestige of the last remaining indomitable Polish spirit.
"Jezu Ufam Tobie."http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Polish-church-s-survival-an-underdog-tale-3450216.php#page-1
ADAMS, Mass. — You can't keep a strong Polish church down.
On this Palm Sunday, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 600, including busloads from out of town, is expected at the 8 a.m. reopening Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.
It is the first time in more than three years that the Eucharist is to be consecrated within the twin-steepled, yellow-brick Gothic landmark known affectionately as St. Stan's. The Mass follows a contentious dispute set off by the church's December 2008 closure that reached to the highest level of the Vatican courts and resulted in an unprecedented victory for the occupying force.
For 1,150 consecutive days, church members kept a vigil at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in defiance of Bishop Timothy McDonnell in Springfield and stood their ground.
They are the granddaughters and grandsons of Polish immigrants who came to this Berkshire town in search of opportunity. Their forebears toiled in the early years of this century for $15 a week in textile mills along the Hoosic River and built their church a century ago with their own hands and the dollars they scrimped to save.
For the past three years, the occupiers who had been baptized, confirmed and married in this church bundled up in blankets to fend off winter's cold. In summer they wore T-shirts stamped with "solidarnosc" and displayed the backbone of the famous Polish union leader Lech Walesa, founder of the Solidarity movement.
A bronze bust in front of the church and a banner hanging from the organ loft reminded them daily of another tough-minded Pole, Karol Jozef Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II and was later canonized a saint.
In all seasons, the Tomkowiczes, Mickalenkos, Kuzas, Lipinskis and the rest carried the DNA of Polish ancestors who overcame the oppression of Soviets, Germans and centuries of domination in their European homeland.
A cadre of 218 St. Stanislaus parishioners, known as vigilers, refused to accept a 2008 diocesan decision to close their church. They kept an around-the-clock vigil by signing up for one- and two-hour slots and by taking turns spending the night in sleeping bags in the sanctuary.
The bitterly cold winter months were a test of wills and pushed to the limit arthritic knees and creaky backs of the octogenarian radicals.
Diocesan officials sought to downplay the vigil, a tactic that has spread to Mater Dolorosa Church, a predominantly Polish church in Holyoke that was closed last June.
St. Stan's is an underdog's tale.
On Sunday, working-class parishioners who battled the powerful Diocese of Springfield and overturned its closure decree on appeal to the Vatican will carry palms fashioned into crosses. They will enter the church in a joyous procession as part of the Roman Catholic feast day that marks the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. They will usher in Holy Week, the most important clutch of days on the Christian calendar, which culminates in Christ's crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter.
Palm Sunday's spiritual symbolism is rich, but the secular backstory to this tenacious bunch of Polish-American septuagenarians and octogenarians who won a hard-fought victory to save their church is every bit as poignant.
As the months and years of their around-the-clock vigil inside the church ground on, four of their stalwart members died from complications of old age. They mourned the losses and prayed for the repose of their souls. Yet they refused to surrender their beloved church.
When their spirits flagged, they said the Stations of the Cross, stopping beneath delicately carved mahogany bas-reliefs from Bavaria with descriptions of Christ's journey of suffering and death written in Polish in gold letters.
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