Polonia of the United States for the first time celebrated St. John Paul II Day in Washington, DC on Saturday, October 17th. Many people with their pastors from various states attended this special day in the recently established National Shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II. In fact, the Polish parishes of the Diocese of Worcester had a bus of people who wanted to make a pilgrimage and pray to God through the intercession of St. John Paul II.
This special day was preceded by a ceremony which took place in the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC, where the Supreme Knight, Carl A. Anderson received the high distinction of the Republic of Poland granted by the new President of Poland, Andrzej Duda. The ceremony was attended by leaders of many Polish national regional organizations of Polonia of the United States. It began with the national anthems of Poland and the United States performed by the renowned opera singer, Malgorzata Kellis from New York City. Msgr. Anthony Czarnecki, introducing Mr. Anderson, said: “John Paul II used to say that courage supported by prayer and wisdom can shake unmovable things”. Mr. Anderson followed the Pope’s words and added another one, “a vision”, which guided his planning and determination to establish such an enormous and world renown museum in honor of St. John Paul II. Mr. Pisarski, Charge D’Affaires, quoting the Polish Ambassador’s message, said: “On behalf of the people of Poland and Polonia of the United States, I want to express my gratitude to you and the Knights of Columbus for establishing the state-of-art, Museum and National Shrine dedicated to Saint John Paul II. […] After walking through this magnificent Shrine and experiencing the profound message that this Museum emanates, I was greatly impressed by the magnificence and grandiose of this landmark of Washington, DC. Therefore, I am pleased to present you the highest prestigious distinction – the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, for your outstanding contribution to promote the legacy of St. John Paul II. Under your dedicated leadership the Knights of Columbus established in Washington, DC, a living monument dedicated to the life of the Pope, who although came from an unknown town in Southern Poland, was able to change the world. […] It is my wish and hope that the spirit of friendship and cooperation with the Knights of Columbus and Polonia of this country, will continue to inspire the people to visit this unique, holy site of faith and culture where values could be rediscovered and life transformed”.
Mr. Anderson’s acceptance speech was very personal and meaningful, indicated vast knowledge of Polish history. He said: “I am most grateful to Poland – that throughout a long and difficult history, Poland has remained true to herself. I mean by this the Poland of Sobieski and Kosciuszko; the Poland of Chopin and Sienkiewicz, of Mickiewicz and Górecki; of Anders and Sikorski. And, of course, the Poland of St. John Paul II and so many other Polish saints. Because Poland has remained Poland, the lives of all of us has been enriched”. After the official part of the ceremony it was time for a reception and camaraderie.
Saturday was a day dedicated to St. John Paul II. All the participants took part in the exhibit “A Gift Of Love: The Life Of Saint John Paul II”. The superb museum part was the very first encounter dedicated to the great Pope. The exposition depicted his life in a very realistic way on the background of history; the German invasion, the Soviet occupation, the Communist regime portrayed life, activities and the pastoral mission of Karol Wojtyla as a student, priest and bishop. The participant was caught up in the animated impression of the time which Karol Wojtyla lived, amplified by modern technology, panoramic pictures, moving images and the voice of St. John Paul II in various circumstances of his life. It makes a lasting impression on everyone regardless of his faith, cultural origin or religious denomination.
The Knights of Columbus which purchased the former John Paul II Cultural Center, rebuilt the inside of the first floor and established a church with 570 seats, embellished by mosaics representing images of the Pope’s life based on the Gospel. The altar was consecrated in September 2015 by archbishop of Washington Donald Cardinal Wuerl and Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, former secretary of John Paul II. The entrance to the church is very traditional, original and innovative, with the mosaic inscription “Redemptor hominis” (“Redeemer of man”). Likewise the chapel of St. John Paul II with its magnificent art work which contains his relics is a place for devotion. The chapel was overcrowded with pilgrims on this day who participated in devotion by praying the Chaplet to Divine Mercy. Also, during the day visitors took part in interesting lectures and presentations, i.e. “St. John Paul II, Apostle of God’s Mercy” (Bishop Janusz Stepnowski), “John Paul II, Statesman and Pastor of the World” (Honorable Ryszard Schnepf), “The Cross and Freedom: Why Young People Love John Paul II” (Fr. Jonathan Kalisch), “St. John Paul II and His Message to Polonia” (Professor Thaddeus Radzilowski).
The highlight of the day was the concelebrated mass with Bishop Edward Grosz from Buffalo, NY as the main celebrant and homilist, with Bishop Janusz Stepnowski from Lomza, Poland and participating clergy. The music for the mass was arranged for vocal ensemble and trumpets by organist, Mira Cieslak who came to Washington with the group from St. Joseph Basilica in Webster. Very impressive was the prelude of the Gaude Mater Polonia in harmonization made by Teofil Klonowski. The 8th Gregorian Mass De Angelis was chosen for the Ordinarium Missae. Responsorial Psalm was sung by Patrycja Jarosz. Touching pieces, Panis Agnelicus by César Franck in arrangement for soprano solo and choir and Ave Maria by Franz Schubert were performed by Malgorzata Kellis.
This was the first celebration at the National Shrine of St. John Paul II, sponsored by the St. John Paul II Foundation of New England. The purpose of the organization is to perpetuate the legacy of St. Joahn Paul II and is accepting new members. For more information, please contact the executive director, Barbara Pysk: (508) 459-0008.