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."
ADAMS, Mass. — The vigilers at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church have been handed a serious setback in their attempts to keep the historic Polish parish open.
According to a release from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican has upheld the decision to suppress and close the parishes of St. George and St. Patrick in Chicopee, and St. Stanislaus in Adams.
The vigilers, who recently passed the 1,000-day mark in their occupation of the closed church, had held out hope Rome would order the reopening of the church after finding it had been closed improperly. The diocese appealed that finding for clarification.
The statement received from diocese spokesman Mark Dupont, states "this is a definitive finding which supports the actions of the diocese thus removing any possibility for their restoration as parishes."
"In the same action, the Signatura did indicate that the diocese had not yet provided sufficient cause to reduce the churches in question to 'profane.'
"This secondary finding does not require that these church buildings be reopened, and clearly does not direct that they be restored as regular worship sites since the parishes they were assigned to no longer exist. This action simply means they cannot be actively used for any non-religious purpose. It allows for no use, or a wide range on other non-worship religious uses.
The finding of the Signatura will be carefully reviewed by diocesan canon lawyers and discussions will take place with each of the successor parishes and their legitimate consultative bodies as to their recommendations on proceeding.
The diocese intends to pursue this matter following the suggestions given by the Signatura and other options as provided in canon law.
"The concern of the diocese remains with regard to the resources needed to keep these and other facilities open. Even limited use might pose a tremendous financial strain on the successor parishes. Our future actions may include, using the clarification now provided by the Signatura, to restate through decree the need to reduce the status of these church buildings or alternative uses as permitted."
ADAMS, Mass. — The doors at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church aren't opening any time soon.
Vigilers there had hoped that a recent decision at the Vatican would force the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield to restore the church as a place of worship. The diocese, however, has appealed the Congregation of Clergy's ruling. The vigilers have been advised that they, too, should appeal to ensure their voice continues to be heard.
Laurie Haas, one of the leaders opposing the decision to close the church more than two years ago, wrote that the Friends of St. Stan's had twice contacted the diocese attempting reconciliation after the Congregation of Clergy appeared to overturn that decision in February.
"We wrote to Bishop Timothy McDonnell and offered to enter dialogue with him in an effort to agree upon a manner of implementing the decree and reopen St. Stan's in a way that would best serve the Catholic community of Adams, as well as the Diocese as a whole," Haas said in a statement. "Unfortunately, our plea for conciliation went unanswered."
St. Stan's Church was still filled with Christmas decorations in February when vigilers and supporters gathered to hear the good news about the Congregation of Clergy's ruling. Now that it has been appealed, it may be months before the church's fate is known.
The ruling by the Congregation of Clergy, which included other church closures, has proved confusing to the dioceses affected.
The decree, received in February, upholds the suppression of the parish and its merger but rejects the reasoning behind its closure, saying it should have continued in sacred use.
At the time, the diocese said the "Congregation [of Clergy] seems to be undertaking a new application of Church law" and said it would ask for clarification.
"After consultation with canon lawyers from both within and outside our diocese, we determined the need to seek this clarification through the continuation of this canonical process," said diocese spokesman Mark Dupont in an email on Friday. "It is important to note that the Vatican upheld our right to suppress the parish in all cases, which was the more significant finding."
Dupont wrote that the decrees were all based on the same applications of Church law, but resulted in different findings by the Congregation.
Haas said the vigilers, who have refused to vacate the historic Polish church since before Christmas 2008, were informed of the appeal on Friday.
In a letter sent to Haas by the Apostolic Signatura, the high court's representative states "Bishop McDonnell contends that the Congregation erred in judging that the serious reasons for his decision were not demonstrated in the documentation submitted to the Congregation."
The vigilers had hoped the ruling would pave the way if not for resurrecting the parish, at least for reopening the building as a shrine or other sacred use.
In her statement, Haas said their canonical counsel had advised they (technically Haas and six other signatories) appeal as well to ensure their participation. "Regrettably, therefore, the Diocese has left us no alternative but to file an appeal of our own."
Haas said the Friends of St. Stan's were disappointed but confident the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal will reopen the church.
"The future of St. Stanislaus Kostka is ultimately in the hands of Almighty God."
Updated on Saturday, June 25, 2011, at 7:34 p.m. with new information on the Allentown Diocese that was brought to our attention.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Diocese of Springfield is seeking clarification on Vatican decisions related to the closing of St. Stanislaus' Kostka Church in Adams and St. George's and St. Patrick's churches in Chicopee.
In a statement released Wednesday, the diocese says, "In the case of these three churches the Congregation [of Clergy] seems to be undertaking a new application of Church law." Diocesan officials point to similar reasonings provided for the closing of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Chicopee, which the Congregation upheld.
Parishioners appealing closure of St. Stan's two years ago and their canonical legal advisers believe the decree received on Tuesday means the diocese must reopen the church as a place of Catholic worship. The Chicopee churches say the same.
The decree from the Congregation of Clergy upholds the suppression of St. Stan's parish and its merger with the two other parishes in Adams but rejects the reasoning behind its closure. The diocese, it states, failed to provide the "grave motivations" for its closing.
As it stands now, the use of the three churches is up to Bishop Timothy A. McDonnel. "It has to be stressed that in each instance the parish itself is not being reestablished and that any permitted use of the building will not be the same as when it was a parish church," according to the statement.
Statement of the Diocese of Springfield
The Diocese of Springfield has now received official notification on five appeals which were under consideration by the Congregation for the Clergy. These decisions involve St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Adams; Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Chicopee; St. George Parish, Chicopee; St. Patrick Parish, Chicopee; and Our Lady of Hope Parish, Springfield.
In the matter of Our Lady of Hope Parish, Springfield, the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell to amalgamate that parish into the new Mary, Mother of Hope Parish also in Springfield.
In the matter of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Chicopee, the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop McDonnell both to amalgamate that parish into the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Chicopee and allowed its closing as a place of worship. It should be noted that subsequently the Bishop has allowed the Assumption Church to re-open temporarily while structural concerns at nearby Holy Name of Jesus Church are investigated. It is currently open as the place of worship for Holy Name of Jesus Parish.
In the matters of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Adams; St. George Parish, Chicopee; and St. Patrick Parish, Chicopee the Congregation has upheld the decision by Bishop McDonnell to amalgamate those parishes, St. Stanislaus into Pope John Paul the Great Parish and both St. George and St. Patrick into the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Chicopee. In these three instances, however, the Congregation has indicated that, in its judgment, sufficiently grave reason was not provided to close each of these church buildings and that they should be used in some manner as determined by the Bishop. It has to be stressed that in each instance the parish itself is not being reestablished and that any permitted use of the building will not be the same as when it was a parish church.
In the case of these three churches the Congregation seems to be undertaking a new application of Church law. For example it should be noted the circumstances in these three cases was consistent with the diocesan reasoning in the case of the Assumption Church for which the Congregation did uphold closure of the Church. Because of these factors the Bishop is seeking immediate clarification from the Vatican as well as through canon lawyers.
The diocese has also received a request for additional information from the Congregation, but no decision, regarding an appeal by former parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Northampton.
Finally, late yesterday the Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, issued an apology to Bishop McDonnell for having failed to provide the diocese with these decisions in advance of their public release.
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.