I am just recovering – in time to write this article – from the 18th National Convention of the Polish American Priests’ Association which was held here in Cleveland for first time from April 16th -20th , 2007. We had 78 priests, one cardinal, and eight bishops in attendance gathering from around the country and from Poland and Rome, as well.
Each year, one of the Chapters which make-up our national organization host the convention. This gives our members a chance to visit the various centers of Polonia across the country. A schedule of events which includes time for convention business, visits to various sites of interest, and presentations on pertinent topics is arranged by the host chapter to help our time together not only be an enjoyable gathering, but also worthwhile and enriching one, too.
This year’s convention began on Monday evening at our convention venue, the Marriott Hotel at the Key Center in downtown Cleveland, where our opening dinner was held. Bp. Robert Carlson of Saginaw, Michigan, powerfully addressed our membership on the important theme of cultivating a culture of vocations in our communities today as has been so successfully done by Polonia in the past. No one was left unmoved by his simple yet powerful words.
On Tuesday, following the morning convention business session, we all traveled for a Noon Mass at St. John Cantius Church in the Tremont section of Cleveland where the pastor Fr. Lucjan Stokowski welcomed us. Cleveland Auxiliary Bishop Roger Gries, OSB, was the main celebrant and Fr. Ralph Bodziony, Pastor Emeritus, spoke about Helena Pelczar, former parishioner, relative of the sainted Polish bishop, and Cleveland Polonia’s authentic mystic and stigmatist. From there we made the short trip to Sokolowski’s University Inn, a famous neighborhood restaurant frequent by “everybody who is somebody” and everyone is between!
After lunch, we traveled to Berea and Ohio’s oldest Polish parish, St. Adalbert, where we were cordially greeted by Fr. Gerald Keller, the pastor. Fr. Czesław Krysa of Buffalo was the celebrant for our holy hour and benediction and gave a presentation on the proper understanding of music within the Church’s liturgy and some of the differences devotionally and liturgically between the older and newer immigrant populations of our country. On the way back to the hotel, we made whirlwind pastoral visit to St. Barbara Church where we were warmly received by the pastor, Fr. Michael Dyrcz. After convention business, Wednesday brought us to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Cleveland for a Noon Mass. Fr. Ralph Hudak, pastor, and his parishioners received us warmly. Bp. Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, was our celebrant and he was joined by Bp. Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Detroit Auxiliary Bp. Frank Reiss, and retired Cleveland Auxiliary Bp. Edward Pevec. From Church everyone walked the one block to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and Museum where a fantastic lunch was served. During that time, Ben Stefanski, Jr. and Gene Bak, spoke to us of the groundbreaking and proactive private/public initiative underway which is transforming that local inner-city neighborhood into a model of urban renewal.
Afterward, it was off to Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Garfield Heights. Fr. Theodore Marszal, pastor, led all in singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and offered benediction afterward. Bp. Serratelli then gave a moving address on the beaty, exemplary nature, and importance of the ethnic communities, especially Polish, in the life of the Church in this country. From there, we made a whirlwind pastoral visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa at the Marymount motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Third Order of Saint Francis where our members could strike the same pose as did Pope John Paul II when he visited there as Karol Kard. Wojtyla in 1969.
The day culminated fantastically with a moving vespers service at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Cleveland. Bp. Wenski was the main celebrant and homilist and dedicated a new papal shrine in honor of both St. Stanislaus and Pope John Paul II – two saintly Polish bishops of Krakow 1000 years removed. Of special note was the extraordinary and powerful music under the direction of David Krakowski.
On Thursday, our group traveled to our Cleveland seminaries – St. Mary Seminary and Borromeo College Seminary – to celebrate Midday Prayer with the seminarians, faculty, and stuff. Chicago Auxiliary bishop Thomas Paprocki was the celebrant and homilist and we were all treaded to a festive lunch in the seminary refectory afterward. At the conclusion of the meal, all joined in singing a hearty PLURIMUS ANNOS to Bp. Ryszard Karpinski, the Delegate of the Polish Episcopate for Polonia Abroad, who that very day was observing the 48th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Also joining us for lunch were Clelveland’s Bishops Emeritus, Anthony M. Pilla, and our retired Auxiliary Bishop Edward Pevec, who both reside at the seminary.
After adjourning to the seminary’s Aula magna, Dr. Mitchell Bienia presented an overview and brief history of Cleveland Polonia which was well received by the delegates. We departed the seminary at the conclusion of Dr. Bienia’s talk traveled next to St. Casmir Church in Cleveland.
Welcomed by Msgr. Leo Telesz, St. Casimir’s pastor for 35 years, we were then led in the recitation of the rosary by Fr. David Bialkowski of Buffalo and Bp. Karpinski, who alternated the decades in English and Polish. A presentation followed by Fr. Leonard Chrobot of Fort Wayne/South Bend noting the changing nature of our Polish communities and the generational differences among the people who now make-up Polonia.
After that we all headed to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist where Bp. Richard Lennon of Cleveland offered our Solemn Convention Mass. He was joined by Bp. John Yanta of Amarillo, Texas, the founder of P.A.P.A. Bp. Karpinski, Bp. Paprocki, and Bp. Reiss. Of special note was the presence of His Eminence, Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop of Detroit and Episcopal moderator of P.A.P.A., who honored us with his presence. They were joined by all of our convention participants, whose ranks were bolstered by local clergy, by delegations from the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights of Columbus, and representatives from every facet of Cleveland Polonia.
Immediately after the Mass, everyone met at the Father Keller Center of St. Adalbert Church in Berea where we were joined by many others for the gala Fr. Leopold Moczygeba Award Banquet. A wonderful meal and enjoyable gathering made for a memorable time shared by all. Fr. Gerald Keller welcomed all on behalf of the Cleveland Chapter of P.A.P.A. and in the name of the parish. Bp. Paprocki offered the invocation and P.A.P.A.’s National President, Msgr. Daniel Plocharczyk of Hartford, gave the toast. Remarks were offered by Cardinal Maida, Bp. Lennon, and Bp. Yanta, who also presented the Fr. Moczygeba Award to this year’s worthy recipient, Fr. Ralph Bodziony. Cleveland’s own Syrena Dancers performed two wonderful pieces from two different regions of Poland. Bp. Reiss concluded the program by offering the benediction.
On Friday morning, Bp. Karpinski offered morning Mass and the 18th National Convention of the Polish American Priests’ Association was brought to an official close with the conclusion of the business sessions which followed.
As President of the Cleveland Chapter and Convention Chairman, I offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who so generously contributed in so many ways to helping make our convention possible…to our Cleveland pastors and priests, our Polish fraternals, organizations, and business both locally and throughout the country, to our dedicated people who helped with service of every kind – nothing could have been accomplished without all of them. With them, however, our priest participants left refreshed and renewed after an enjoyable fraternal gathering – which is what it is all about! On their behalf and in my own name, I offer a hearty and sincere BÓG ZAPŁAĆ!
Fr. Eric Orzech