By Tammy Daniels On: 07:40PM / Saturday February 18, 2012
Vigilers gathered at the church to mark the end of the of their long watch.
ADAMS, Mass. — Three long years of patience and prayer paid off on day 1,150 as St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was declared open as a mission chapel in hopes of healing the divided Catholic community.
Rumors about the reopening of the historic Polish church had been circulating since mid-week but the official word was given at the afternoon Mass at Pope John Paul the Great Church.
"Bishop McDonnell has given his approval and blessings to a plan that I have submitted that would restore the status quo of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church," the Rev. Daniel Boyle told the some 500 parishioners packed into the church.
The parish will be "fully utilizing" St. Stan's, including Sunday Masses at 8 a.m. beginning on April 1 and on Holy Days, and funerals, weddings and baptisms as requested.
"As we prepare to begin our annual Lenten journey focusing again on reconciliation and peace, we have the unique opportunity in the Parish of Pope John Paul the Great to begin healing the division and strife that seems to have splintered our parish and even our town," Boyle said.
His announcement was met with silence (and a few quiet claps) but soon after the bells of St. Stan's rang out in joy as church members who'd sat vigil in the church for years waved to horn-tooting motorists.
Richard Wisniowski said he'd asked if Boyle thought ringing the bells would be OK: "He thought it would be very appropriate."
"We pretty much received what people here expected we'd get," said Eugene Michalenko, of the planned Masses. "We got weddings and funerals, too, they could have denied that and they didn't."
The announcement brings closure to the three-year vigil to keep the church open after the Diocese of Springfield ordered it closed along with a number of other churches in Berkshire County and the Springfield as part of nationwide consolidation of parishes.
The very active parish at St. Stan's, however, didn't bend so easily. Just days before the official closure at Christmas, a group of dedicated members began a round-the-clock vigil to keep the doors open as an appeal by the Friends of St. Stan's worked its way up the heirarchy to Rome.
Last year, the suppression of St. Stan's parish was upheld but not the closure of the church itself. Both sides again appealed and the Apostolic Signatura affirmed the parish suppression in November; on Saturday, the diocese said the Apostolic Signatura had agreed that "adequate cause had not been demonstrated to reduce St. Stanislaus Church building to 'profane' status."
The plan by Boyle to continue the church as a mission chapel within the Parish of Pope John Paul the Great (comprised of the former St. Thomas, Notre Dame and St. Stanislaus parishes) was approved by the diocese.
"I pray that the entire Catholic community of Adams rejoices today," said Bishop Thomas McDonnell in a statement. "I am grateful that, in consultation with others, Father Daniel Boyle has developed a plan which not only provides a sustainable solution for the Catholics of Adams but promises as well to be a vehicle for healing and growth."
A number of parishes around the country, particularly in Boston, attempted vigils; a few are still going on but fewer still have been successful.
"It went to the Vatican and came back ... a little town in Massachusetts ... I don't think any other churches have been reopened," said Michalenko. "I was at a nursing home this afternoon and I was tellimg this woman they were going to open the church. She couldn't believe it."
Church members had continued to collect funds and support programs and missions of St. Stan's during the three-year vigil.
Michalenko supported the vigil both as a member of the church and as president of the Adams Historical Society. The 1978 renovation of the church was the biggest nongovernmental preservation project in town, he said. "Here's yet another preservation movement at the same time that the people were preserving something important to the community ... it's important to our heritage, our history."
The end of the vigil at 5 p.m. on Day 1,150 was bittersweet. The tribulations had brought together a devoted group that numbered at times more than 200 over long, sometimes cold, nights.
"I made a lot of friends sitting here," said Wisniowski. "I came every day at 6 a.m. and stayed overnight on Thursdays."
Helen Lipinski and Louise Charron spent their Fridays at the churuch. "We had a therapy class," said Lipinski. "If we had a problem we brought it here," chimed Charron.
Michalenko said he enjoyed his Wednesdays at the church and will miss the people he'd spent time with.
"I'm glad the strife is over," he said. "That there's healing and reconciliation and hope. Whatever bad feelings there had been are now over ... we are looking forward to a comfortable future."
In his missive, Boyle called for healing of a division that had affected the parish and the town.
"This is truly a time for us to look ahead ... not back," he said. "It is a time for us to resume our spiritual journey together as one faith community moving always toward the Resurrection and joy of Easter Sunday."
The Rev. Daniel Boyle's letter to the Parish of John Paul the Great:
"As we prepare to begin our annual Lenten journey focusing again on reconciliation and peace, we have the unique opportunity in The Parish of Pope John Paul the Great to begin healing the division and strife that seems to have splintered our parish and even our town.
During the next forty days our parish will begin preparing for the reopening of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church as a chapel/mission of The Parish of Pope John Paul the Great.
While the Vatican has ruled in favor of the suppression of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, it also has decreed that traditional worship should be allowed at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Bishop McDonnell has given his approval and blessings to a plan that I have submitted that would restore the status quo of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.
The first Mass is planned for Palm Sunday, April 1, at 8 a.m. when we can come together again to worship as a unified parish that is filled with praise and thanksgiving.
This is truly a time for us to look ahead … not back. It is a time for us to resume our spiritual journey together as one faith community moving always toward the Resurrection and joy of Easter Sunday.
There must be sensitivity and care shown to embrace those who might still feel estranged. There will be challenges and we all must focus on the future, forgiving and forgetting as Jesus has taught us. As we move forward this isn’t about winning or losing, instead it must be about building up our faith community, our traditions and most importantly our parish.
What will this mean as we go forward? Quite simply we will begin fully utilizing the St. Stan’s church building for worship, and Kolbe Hall and the rectory as needed. Sunday Mass will be celebrated at St. Stan’s at 8 a.m. as it was previously. Mass will also be celebrated there on all Holy Days of obligation and special occasions. Funerals and wedding liturgies will be celebrated at St. Stan’s when requested, as well as Baptisms.
The spiritual center for The Parish of Pope John Paul the Great will continue to be the former Notre Dame Church, where parish communal liturgies will be offered.
The goal of the pastoral team will be to retain, renew and nourish the varied needs and traditions of our Catholic faith community striving to always be inclusive and not exclusive.
Additional details on the actual specifics will be shared as plans are finalized.
With great joy, the faith community of Adams will soon be able to stand together again as one parish worshiping our one true God."
St. Stan Vigilers Hope Prayers Answered
By: Tammy Daniels On: 07:41PM / Tuesday February 15, 2011
Even as parishioners celebrate news that the church may reopen, a bulletin board reminds them that the vigil is not over.
Laurie Haas reads the letter sent to the bishop along with the decree.
ADAMS, Mass. — St. Stanislaus Kostka Church is part of an "historic moment" in receiving one of several decrees from the Vatican so far that seem to open new avenues for closed churches.
Parishioners who have mounted a round-the-clock vigil were jubilant over the decision that rejected the Springfield Diocese's reasoning for closing the 100-year-old Polish place of worship. This, they say, means the church must be reopened as "a Catholic place of worship."
"This is a historic moment in the Catholic Church," said spokeswoman Laurie Haas after reading the letters sent to the diocese and the media and an English translation of the ruling from the Congregation of Clergy to the some 70-odd supporters seated in the pews. "We understand that a decree such as ours has only been issued in two other dioceses in the United States."
(Update: Similar decrees were sent to dioceses in Pennsylvania and Buffalo, N.Y., as well as to two other churches in the Springfield Diocese —St. George's and St. Patrick's, both in Chicopee.)
The ruling does not spell out what role the church may play in the parish — or whether the diocese can offer a better rationale to close it. "It's up to the bishop what happens next," said Haas.
"Depending on what occurs during this critical time will determine whether we go on to the next level to the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme court, which would perpetuate the whole matter," she continued. "I would hope to God the bishop does not want to do that."
Mark Dupont, spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield, said diocesan officials were reviewing the decree and had no comment at this time.
Francis Hajdas of the Friends of St. Stanislaus said the two-year vigil will continue.
"This is just a temporary thing until we get the official word," Hajdas warned the audience. "Come here at the usual time you signed up for. We'll let you know when it's all over."
The Friends have been leading a vigil that now numbers 200 participants to prevent the diocese from locking the doors and stripping the sacred relics from the Gothic church. They appealed the decision to merge the parish with nearby Notre Dame and St. Thomas and close St. Stan's, saying the Polish church was fiscally, physically and historically more suited as the parish church.
The Vatican decree, dated Jan. 25, reviews two separate issues: the suppression of the parish and its merger as the Parish of Pope John Paul the Great and the actual closing of the parish building as a house of worship.
The Rev. Seraphim Michalenko of the Marian Helpers led a prayer. For more information on the significant links between St. Stan's and the Marians, there is an excellent article here.
The Congregation of Clergy upholds Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell's suppression of the parish in 2008 as part of broad consolidation of numerous parishes throughout the Western Mass. diocese.
It found some technical problems with the closing (still rejecting the appeal de procedendo, or on procedure). But, more importantly, upheld the appeal on the facts (de decernendo) that the "grave motivations" for the closing were not provided.
Haas said the group and its canonical legal advisers believe this means the church should be reopened as a place of worship in some form.
Henry "Hank " Tomkowicz described the ruling as "80 percent" good because of the ambiguity of the language, the rejection of the parish appeal and the uncertainty of the bishop's response. "Hopefully, he's with us."
The Friends hope to have dialogue with the bishop on how the church can be used. While they would prefer once again attaining the status as a parish, Haas said they would be open for use as a shrine, "if it was a shrine that wasn't 6 a.m. Mass on a Monday morning, yeah, probably."
It was important, she said, that the legacy of the church continues. The working-class Polish immigrants who laid the cornerstone and their descendants have poured money and prayer into the building, which boasts such unique features as a stained-glass window with Lenin and being the first in the Western Hemisphere to have an image of The Divine Mercy enshrined within it.
It was fitting then, that the Rev. Seraphim Michaelanko of Adams, director of the Association of Marian Helpers in Stockbridge and an expert on The Divine Mercy, arrived to lead the parishioners in prayer.
But even as they prayed, and chanted "A hundred more years" in Polish, the vigilers were prepared to stick it out to the end.
"They're ready to go on for five more years if they had to because they love this church and some things are worth fighting for," said Haas.
By: Staff Reports On: 10:10AM / Tuesday February 15, 2011
ADAMS, Mass. — The vigilers of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church have been rewarded for the waiting and praying they have done for more than two years to save their church.
A decree from the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome has rejected the closing of the church.
A statement from Friends of St. Stan's spokeswoman Laurie Haas says "the Congregation's decision affirms the Diocesan decree relating to suppression and merger of St. Stan's Parish, but overturns the decree that resulted in the canonical closing of our church. As a result, St. Stan's must be reopened as a place of Catholic divine worship."
The vigilers will address the decision at 2 p.m. today at the church on the corner of Hoosac and North Summer streets.
The statement and four-page decree can be found below.
The historically Polish church was slated for closure during a sweeping consolidation of churches in the Diocese of Springfield to contend with falling attendance and increasing costs. Parishioners say they were caught off guard by the announcement because they had been under the impression St. Stan's was the most fiscally and faithfully healthy.
The day after Christmas in 2008, the Friends of St. Stan's entered the church and refused to leave. More than 200 people have participated in the round-the-clock vigil, some for an hour here or there, others spending night after night in the sanctuary through the seasons.
The group joined with churches in Boston also appealing their closure after the sex abuse scandal rocked the diocese – and led to multimillion-dollar settlements. The Boston group hasn't fared well; the Vatican rejected their pleas at the end of last year after a seven-year wait. The Boston parishes are trying a last-ditch effort to prevent the archdiocese from declaring the churches available for nonreligious use.
The Friends of St. Stanislaus have been represented by a canon advocate in Rome, who, on July 10, 2009, submitted an extensive legal brief to the Congregation of the Clergy on behalf of the parishioners summarizing the facts of the case and canon law issues: particularly the procedure followed by Bishop Timothy McDonnell, the legitimacy of the parish suppression and church closure followed within the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Springfield. All appeal documents can be viewed at adamscatholics.org.
The vigilers have been buoyed by recent "split" decisions of the Congregation of Clergy that seemed to indicate a diocese could consolidate parishes – but not close certain churches without grave reason. That could mean the building would remain as a site of worship, dependent upon the parishioners.
The last week may have been the hardest in the two-year wait, knowing a decision had been made by the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome and was on the way.
St. Stan's Joins With 30 Parishes in Appeal to Rome
By: Tammy Daniels On: 10:09PM / Tuesday April 07, 2009
St. Stanislaus leader Laurie Haas talks to vigil members on Monday night.
ADAMS, Mass. — As the faithful at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church pass the 100-day mark of keeping vigil, they're hoping a Holy Week that ends with Resurrection will be repeated in the revival of their beloved church.
St. Stanislaus' Church was closed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield two days after Christmas as part of a consolidation across the Berkshires and Springfield region. But the descendants of the Polish immigrants who built the church with their sweat and money are fighting the decision on several fronts — and finding friends in other communities. ... continued.
The day after Christmas, 2008, a group called the Friends of St. Stan's entered the church vowing to not to leave until every last avenue to save the historic Polish church had been tried.
Last week, three days after the church's official closing by the Diocese of Springfield, nearly a dozen group members were working on a schedule that keep the building occupied by at least three people at all times.
"We've got a lot of support," said Francis Hajdas, the group's spokesman. "People have been bringing us coffee and doughnuts."
He and Henry "Hank" Tomkowicz were pouring over large schedule board, trying to plug in empty time slots with volunteers. There were a lot of holes to plug, but the group was undaunted.
With good reason, it appears - more people are joining the effort.
Hajda, contacted on Monday, Jan. 5, said about 130 people had gathered at the church to sing carols on Sunday evening. "It was a really good showing," said Hajdas. The event was so successful, the singing will resume next Sunday but at 2 p.m., an easier hour for the former parish's elderly to attend.
The church will also be in the national spotlight. A reporter from Time magazine spent the entire afternoon on Friday interviewing parishioners; a photographer showed up Sunday.
A strategy meeting last week was attended by close to 100 people, said Hajdass. At least that many are expected for this week's meeting; meetings are held at 7 p.m. on Mondays.
The diocese, meanwhile, has said it won't interfere with the vigil unless safety issues arise. The Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, said, "We'll leave it to the will of God."
The appeals process in Rome could last more than a year; the diocese has said it is unlikely to overturn the local decision.
St. Stan's was one of six churches closed this fall as the diocese restructured parishes in light of declining attendance and a lack of priests. St. Thomas in Adams closed the week before St. Stan's; both parishes along with Notre Dame, were consolidated into the Parish of Pope John Paul the Great. Notre Dame was designated as the new parish church.
In North Adams, St. Francis of Assisi and Our Lady of Mercy were closed and consolidated at St. Anthony's Church, now known as St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Those closings, while heartbreaking for many parishioners, were not met with the same level of bitterness as at St. Stan's. Parishioners there fear losing their church also means losing their heritage.
And so the Friends of St. Stan's are determined to go on. Hajdas spent four night in the airy, but chilly, church last week.
"Church pews can be surprising comfortable," he said.