St. Stanislaus Reopens For Palm Sunday Mass
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church officially reopened on Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, with Mass at 8 a.m.
The Mass on Palm Sunday marks a new beginning after three years of vigil, appeals to the Vatican and, finally, an agreement brokered in hopes of healing a rift that had threatened to tear the Catholic Community of Adams apart.
"It was a great day in Adams, a great day for the church, a tremendous day," said a beaming Rev. Daniel J. Boyle afterward. "It's the unity and peace we need in this community ... it's been a tough three years."
He likened the attendance of the packed church for the 8 a.m. Mass to that of Christmas Eve.
But it was a far cry from a Christmas Eve three years ago when diocesan orders to close the beloved Polish church caused a rupture between the pastor and his unruly flock. Some of the congregation whose ancestors had poured love and money into St. Stan's refused to leave; others took their prayers elsewhere, prefering to worship anywhere but the newly designated parish church of Pope John Paul the Great up the street.
In February, the 24/7 vigil ended quietly on day 1,150 with the announcement the church would reopen as a place of worship in line with a ruling from the Vatican late last year that upheld the suppression of the parish but not the closure of the building. St. Stan's will remain a mission chapel within the parish named for the first Polish pope.
And on Palm Sunday, marking Jesus' entry into Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace, a long line of palm frond-holding worshipers prepared to procession — peacefully — into their church again.
"It feels awesome. We've been vigilant for 1,150 days and this is great, great," said David Meczywor, who has been a member of the church since "baptism on up." "It's overwhelming, it brings tears to your eyes."
Joan Pause, one of the more than 200 who sat vigil, said St. Stan's has played a central role in her life. She'd attended St. Stanislaus School next door, as had all four of her boys. They had their First Communion and confirmation in the church; it had been the setting of her wedding and her husband's funeral.
The Rev. David Boyle celebrates Mass at St. Stan's for the first time in more than three years. Right, David Meczywor, who was baptised at St. Stan's, attended with his family, describing the reopening as 'awesome.'
It was standing room only and ranging in age from the very young to at least 96, supplemented by a busload from Mater Dolorosa Church in Holyoke — another Polish church ordered to close. Inside, the bulletin board marking the vigil schedule was gone, along with the other elements of a long-term occupation.
"We knew it would come, it was just a matter of time," said Francis Hajdas, a leader of the vigilers who had prevented the doors from being locked and the church stripped. "I am trying to move into the background ... my work is done."
But the work of Shirley and Victor Anop isn't done. They're taking inspiration from St. Stan's for the far more contentious legal battle over the 111-year-old Mater Dolorosa that was closed last June. On one side, the diocese says the church is structurally unsound; the congregants say their right to worship is being infringed.
"Why would someone want get a restraining order to stop you praying in your church?" said Victor Anop. "We're fighting to stay in our church and find out what's really going on."
Anop, an attorney, said the tribulations have made them a closer faith community; more than 300 attended a Christmas service and a couple hundred are expected at Easter.
"Today gave us a lot of inspiration," said Shirley Anop. "I really hope we'll go down the same path."
At a gathering in the church's Kolbe Hall afterward, Henry "Hank" Tomkowicz, another vigil leader, thanked the "couple hundred" people who made it happen, the press that had followed the story, and Boyle, who had been instrumental in resolving the situation.
"You know some parishes were allowed one Mass a year ... we're not a parish but we'll have our Mass at 8 o'clock [every week]," said Tomkowicz.
St. Stan's will host morning Mass on Sundays and weddings and funerals. Four funerals have already been held in the church.
Boyle said the members of St. Stan's had done everything right, from their appeals to Rome to maintaining the church, and their prayers had been answered.
"You never discount the power of prayer, never."
Editor's Note: We started this blog three years ago to chronicle the fight to keep St. Stan's open. We hope that this will be our last post on the matter, and that St. Stanislaus' Church will continue to be a vital part of the community of Adams.