American ‘Polonia’ with Benedict XVI
Fr Michal Czyzewski, OSPPE
The Archdiocese of New York celebrates its 200th anniversary. The preparations to the main celebration began in the archdiocese in the year that preceded the jubilee. There have been various symposia and exhibitions in New York; there have been collections of money for charities organized by various ethnic groups in the archdiocese as well as contests and other events.
Furthermore, many articles about the anniversary have appeared in the media. Masses, presided over by Cardinal Edward Egan, were celebrated in particular parishes of the archdiocese as thanksgiving for the 200th anniversary.
Undoubtedly, the culmination of the jubilee will be the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to New York on 18-20 April 2008. The Polish immigrants in New York and the parish community of the Church of St Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in Manhattan are waiting to welcome the Pope. They have prayed for the Holy Father and have been involved in various organizational works. The Pope will celebrate Mass for our fellow countrymen at Yankee stadium.
In the time of crisis
– The physical presence of the Holy Father in this busy city will let us stop for a while and reflect on the essence of our religion and our adherence to the community of the Church’, shares Mrs Alicja Paszkowska. – In the time of crisis of many values the Catholics whose faith is weak, especially the young people who seek their sense of life, face the facts concerning the scandals in the Church. Analysed in a very superficial way they blur the picture of the depth of our religion and the life of the community of the Church. The visit of the Holy Father will certainly be an attempt to strengthen our faith; it will galvanize our positive thinking and calm our interiors. We all need it.
Janusz Babiel, who lives near the church in the 7th avenue in Manhattan, made a survey among his acquaintances. The survey shows that some people do not know about the planned visit of Benedict XVI to the USA. ‘When is he coming?’ turned out to be an even more difficult question. ‘Can one wait for ‘the unexpected’?’ ‘Our’, Polish Pope will not come any more’, he admits sadly. ‘But Benedict XVI is coming and ‘our’ Pope chose him in some way like parents choose Godparents. Let us welcome Benedict XVI as Godfather’, he appeals to the uncomforted. Christ comes in his person and the Pope is his deputy on earth. ‘May your Spirit come and change...’ May him change us. Amen’, he prays fervently.
– The papal pilgrimage will be a time of great joy for the faithful in the whole country, says Sr. Bernarda Krajewska from the Missionary Benedictine Sisters. – The fact that New York is on the route of the pilgrimage makes us, living in Long Island, very joyful. We hope to get tickets for the meeting with the Pope. If we failed to get them we would enjoy welcoming him on the way.
– Certainly many of us remember the first visit of our fellow countryman Pope John Paul II to New York, says Sr. Bernarda. He won the hearts of the Americans by showing his vivid and joyful faith in Jesus Christ. We felt strong again and we were proud of belonging to the Catholic Church. The Holy Father Benedict XVI has a slightly different personality and a somewhat different experience of the Church. Nevertheless, as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, he is bringing a message of love, peace and hope. The fact that the Holy Father took the name after Saint Benedict, our founder, makes him very close to us, the missionaries of St Benedict. As it was in the Middle Ages St Benedict renewed the falling civilization of Europe and in his Rules he showed how ‘to walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel’ (the Prologue). Likewise, today Pope Benedict XVI – Benedict of our times – reminds the world of the fact that only in Christ we can build hope for better future. In his encyclical ‘Spe salvi’ about Christian hope, Benedict XVI tells the world, ‘Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God – God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30) (Spe salvi, 27). Bringing this message of hope the Pope comes to the society that, like Europe, replaces the key place of God by such categories as reason, science, freedom and they do it in the name of progress. The Church carries out her mission in such a society. At the same time the Church makes mistakes or loses her identity, sometimes falling into discouragement. This Church needs new enthusiasm and encouragement. Therefore, we are waiting for the Holy Father as the successor of Saint Peter and the highest Shepherd of the Church as well as contemporary Benedict who, with hope put in Christ, has taken up the mission to save the Christian civilization of love. We pray for all the intentions of the Holy Father, turning to Mary, the Mother of the Church, whom in his encyclical Benedict XVI calls ‘the Star of hope for us’. Like 2,000 years ago Christ strengthened the new Church on the rock of the first pope, Peter, may he strengthen her on Peter of our times, which as during the lifetime of St Benedict, need healthy teaching based on the Gospel and the Truth that is Jesus Christ himself.
Great thinker and theologian
– When I learned about the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States I remembered the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, recollects Emilia Lagucik from the Renewal in the Holy Spirit ‘Jude’s Lion’ in Manhattan. It was the first meeting of the new Pope with the young people from all over the world and Benedict XVI was to be the new shepherd of the Catholic Church, succeeding Pope John Paul II whom young people loved so much. I belong to the JPII generation and when I hear the word ‘the Pope’ I see the well-known figure of the man who had a great heart and leaned on the papal crucifix. I will remember this picture till the end of my life and his figure will remain a great ideal for me. Coming back to those days on the European continent, in Cologne, I could see the successor of St Peter for the first time and I could listen to his teaching. We welcomed the new Pope warmly and applauded his sermons. He is a great thinker and theologian. His hands and words welcomed us warmly, too. Today, like during the 20th World Youth Day in Germany, I am waiting for the arrival of Benedict XVI to the American land for the first time. For millions it will be the first encounter like it was for me in 2005. And I will gradually be proud that I belong to the Church that is alive and continues the teaching of Christ who comes to meet other people wherever they are.
‘The world capital’
Perhaps not all people will have the possibility to meet Benedict XVI in New York. But we are glad to know that people pray for his visit and they pray for the security of his stay there. Participation in the papal visit to the United States will be certainly possible through the Polish community media that will present the texts of his homilies and speeches. The visit of Benedict XVI to ‘the world capital’, the name that was given by John Paul II, will be surely an important message to all those who want to grow in faith, hope and love and most of all to the Polish community in America that tries to be faithful to the teaching of the Church in this land.