Faith, Hope & Heritage

April 29-May 5, 2004
VOL 123 NO. 17
Faith, Hope & Heritage
Bishop Moynihan , center, principal celebrant, and over 60 clergy and several bishops concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception April 22
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Beginning on April 19,approximately 80 of the country’s priests and bishops of Polish-American ancestry converged in Syracuse for the 15th Annual Polish-American Priests Association (P.A.P.A.) Convention and Meeting. The week-long gathering celebrated the special spiritual care the men give to the Polish-American Catholic communities where they serve. The clergy also shared ways to sustain this presence amid a changing future. Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, P.A.P.A. was founded in 1989 by Bishop John Yanta of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. In previous years the convention was held in cities including Detroit, San Antonio, Miami and Albany, but this year’s was particularly special to P.A.P.A. It celebrated 150 Years of Polish Catholic Ministry in the U.S. The theme was “Following in the Missionary Footsteps of Father Leopold Moczygemba; Polish Catholic Ministry: The Next 150 Years.”

Born in Poland in 1824, Father Moczygemba came to America as one of the first five Franciscan Friars to do missionary work in the Syracuse Diocese. He is fondly known as the Patriarch of American Polonia because he encouraged the first group of Poles to come to America and founded a permanent settlement in Panna Maria, Texas. Father Moczygemba’s ministry in the U.S. reached far beyond Texas. He worked among Germans and Poles in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.In 1859, he arrived in Syracuse by way of Philadelphia, where he met with Bishop (now Saint) John Neumann and established the Franciscan Motherhouse. He was involved in the plans for building Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Syracuse and he invited the Franciscan sisters to come to Central New York from Philadelphia. “Father Leopold was a great man,” said Father Arthur Hapanowicz, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Utica and president of the Syracuse Chapter of P.A.P.A. “In his ministry he helped many people and gave special care to the Polish Catholic community. We want to do our part in continuing his mission.”

The Syracuse Diocese is fortunate to be rooted in Polish heritage. Basilica Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse was the first Polish parish in the diocese. The parish, established in 1892, also has special ties to Father Moczygemba. “He planted the seed at Sacred Heart,” said Father Peter Gleba, rector of Basilica Sacred Heart of Jesus. “He wrote to the Cardinal in Poland and asked him to send over a Polish priest. The people wanted their own priest who spoke their language.” The parish initially had about 85 families, noted Father Gleba. After witnessing the establishment of Sacred Heart, the Polish communities who settled in other parts of Central New York wanted to establish their own parishes, said Father Gleba. Their efforts were the impetus behind the 10 Polish-American parishes scattered throughout the diocese today in Binghamton, Oswego and Utica as well as Syracuse. Thirty-eight priests from the diocese belong to P.A.P.A.

Over a century later, Sacred Heart still maintains a vibrant Polish heritage, said Father Gleba. It is one of only two diocesan parishes that celebrate a Polish Mass each week –– the other is Holy Trinity Church in Utica. Each May 3, Sacred Heart also marks the anniversary of the Polish Constitution. Proclaimed on May 3, 1791, the constitution was the first in Europe. “It is important to celebrate our heritage,” Father Gleba said. “We are a Polish parish and we want to maintain the Polish heritage, traditions and customs that we have.” The P.A.P.A. Convention was full of meetings, activities and celebration. There was also plenty of time for the priests and bishops to take in the treasures that Syracuse has to offer. On April 20 –– the day after Mother Marianne Cope was declared “Venerable” by Pope John Paul II –– they had an opportunity to tour the Mother Marianne Cope Museum, located at the St. Anthony Motherhouse on Court Street. At Le Moyne College on April 21, the Polish clergy viewed the Polish paintings and tapestry collection which depicts major events in the history of Poland. The paintings once constituted part of the Polish exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The tapestries that made up part of the Polish display at the Parish Exhibition in 1937 augmented the New York exhibit. Stephen Kyburg de Ropp, a former teacher at Le Moyne and a native of Latvia, gave the artwork to Le Moyne College.

The pinnacle of the week was a visit from Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit. Cardinal Maida, who also serves as episcopal moderator of P.A.P.A., made a special presentation during the convention on April 21 at Le Moyne. He spoke to P.A.P.A. members of the need to preserve Polish traditions, culture and legacy in the Catholic Church. “It is important for our country, church and culture that our Polish parishes flourish,” said Cardinal Maida. “We need to support this mission.” Pope John Paul II has a special bond with the Polish community, said Cardinal Maida. “For the people of Polonia, our Holy Father has in a very special way, instilled an even greater sense of the value and importance of cherishing our Polish religious heritage,” he said. “Those of us who are privileged to share a common heritage with our Holy Father enjoy a special sense of pride and solidarity with him.”

Cardinal Maida talked about the emergence of the Papal and Polish Heritage Room at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. The newly established room celebrates Pope John Paul II and Polish culture and provides a special place for reflection and study of the pope and Polish Catholic culture. It is also host to personal items of the pope, including many of his writings and several inspiring photographs of him that were presented to the center by the Vatican. “By word and example, our Holy Father reminds us of the importance of maintaining ties to one’s homeland and cultural roots,” said Cardinal Maida. “I would like to see the center be a kind of resource for all of us.” He encouraged the priests and bishops to participate in the many lectures, performances, displays and exhibits that take place at the center. “We have a great opportunity to preserve the Holy Father’s legacy,” he said. “We must see that it is not lost.” Cardinal Maida also asked P.A.P.A. to help him compile a directory of Polish-American priests and parishes in the U.S. to help facilitate communication. “This will bring us closer together,” he said.

He expressed his concern over the reconfiguration and closing of churches and its impact on Polish parishes. “The structure of our parish communities changes and we need to keep adapting,” he said. “At times having enough people to support our churches and schools becomes a challenge, but we want to keep them open.” Each diocese is unique, said Cardinal Maida. “There is no one answer to how to solve this,” he said. “We need to take every situation into account.” And while some dioceses face restructuring Polish parishes, others are teeming with new Polish citizens. Father Hapanowicz cited Chicago, Ill. as one city with an influx of Poles. “There is a great number of Polish people in Chicago,” said Father Hapanowicz. According to Illinois Periodicals Online, one out of every 12 Illinois citizens is of Polish descent. “There are enough Polish people in Chicago for a new parish each year,” joked Father Hapanowicz. He attributes this to the fact that Chicago was a city where many of the first immigrants from Poland settled in the 1900s. “Most of the newest Polish immigrants to the U.S. settle in communities where Poles are already established,” he said. The Catholic Church has remained a close and active partner of the Polish community, in Chicago and beyond. The convention discussed ways to preserve this relationship. Father Hapanowicz noticed that the annual convention has a rippling effect on parishes throughout the U.S.

“What happens here is not only for these priests,” he said. “We take the successes and difficulties back to our diocese and share in our ministries.” On April 22, a Convention Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. Bishop James Moynihan was the principal celebrant. He was joined by Bishop Thomas Costello and a host of other concelebrants, including Bishop Yenta, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Fla. and Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. During the homily, Bishop Costello told his spiritual brothers to be proud of their ministry. “Brothers, let there be no doubt that we proclaim, by our very being, that Christ is Lord,” he said. “Thank you for the courage you live your lives with. Be not intimidated. Stand proud. You are the Lord’s men.” An appropriate message for P.A.P.A., as it begins another 150 years of Polish Catholic Ministry in the United States.

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