John Paul II's canonization to bring new name to Blessed John Paul Parish
ADAMS -- As a marathon vigil recedes into history, the business of running St. Stanislaus Kostka Mission Church remains.
That responsibility looms large, particularly during these few weeks, among the most important days of the Roman Catholic calendar.
"It's our busiest time of the year, and it's a special year, at that," parishioner Barbara Armata said.
Next Sunday, the parish receives a new name in recognition of Pope John Paul II's canonization on the same day at the Vatican. The parish, presently called Blessed John Paul, will become St. John Paul II Parish on that day.
Pope John XXIII will be canonized as well next Sunday, which would make it the first time in the history of the Catholic Church when two popes receive the honor simultaneously.
The event promises more festivities at St. Stanislaus, as the Polish Pope John Paul II holds a special place for parishioners.
"We do our best to keep our traditions alive here at St. Stan's," said Mary Anne Wojtaszek, a parishioner. "We offer the old Devotionals."
Dozens gathered in the Polish church Friday to begin a Divine Mercy Chaplet novena, or nine days of public prayer. The prayers invoke God's grace for all -- heretics, too -- and will conclude on the Feast of the Divine Mercy next Sunday.
The novena followed a Lamentation -- or Gorzkie Zale, in Polish -- on Tuesday, and Adoration and a procession down Hoosac Street on Thursday.
Parishioners were prepared to decorate and fill the church with lilies Friday night.
And this morning, parishioners will bring ham, eggs, Polish bread and more -- portions of the Easter feast -- to the church for blessing.
In all events, the St. Stanislaus parishioners are taking a more active role.
St. Stanislaus closed in 2008, during a merger with Notre Dame des Sept Delores and St. Thomas Aquinas churches, but reopened as a mission of Blessed John Paul Church (the former Notre Dame) in 2012 after a Apostolic Signatura from the Vatican's highest appeals court reversed the closure.
Throughout the closure, former parishioners held a round-the-clock vigil, which in the end totaled 1,150 days.
A famed Polish stubbornness is often attributed to these people's refusal to allow a church built by earlier generations to close.
"Poland was a very strong devotional place because it was always being sacked and invaded," parishioner Bernadette Armata said. "One thing our grandparents did was instill religion in their kids. They said, ‘This is your faith; it will keep you when times are bad.' Which was often in Poland."
Now, St. Stanislaus-goers, among other parish members, are taking a lead role in integrating the three church communities.
Parishioners on Tuesday said the Gorzkie Zale in English, rather than the traditional Polish, to accommodate other parish members -- with only a few grumbles over the "lousy translation," Wojtaszek said.
In recent weeks, many former parishioners of St. Stanislaus took part in Soup and Silence events at Blessed John Paul, where a speaker was featured and the crowd relaxed to soup, bread and the Stations of the Cross.
The project remains a work in progress, the parishioners from St. Stanislaus said, but one worth doing.
Others again reflected on the joy of remaining in the church, which appeared at its best as the sun came through the stained glass windows Friday afternoon.
"It's the greatest relief knowing my church that my grandparents helped build and gave their money for is now open," said Eileen Zeiba. "I never doubted for one minute that we'd be here again. Our prayers open churches."
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