St. Stan's Hopes for Strength in Numbers; Joins With 30 Parishes in Appeal to Rome

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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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.

Today, members of the former parish will join 30 other groups in eight parishes, including Boston, in requesting the Vatican bypass the appeals and start a process to overturn the closures. A gathering will be held at St. Stan's at noon today to show support and to explain the details of the request.

While the diocese has said it will not interfere with the vigil, the parishioners who have been keeping watch over the century-old church have worried they may be forcefully removed, as happened in New Orleans.

"I think that because this is a very critical time in the history of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish," Laurie Hass, who spearheaded the appeals to Rome after the first notice of the closure, said from the church's pulpit on Monday night. "That we make a novena to the Divine Mercy. The Divine Mercy chaplet is a powerful intercessory prayer."

Despite the wet, cold weather, the church's pews were more than a quarter filled at Monday night's regular meeting, at which vigil members were updated on appeals and informed of schedules and events.

As it has for decades, the church will be filled with Easter lilies, 200 or more, and the call of "Christ Has Risen" will be declared at 6 a.m. on Easter morning. The Polish traditions will be kept but there will be no Mass, no priest.

Rachel Branch of North Adams knows the pain of losing a church. She was the organist at St. Teresa's in Pittsfield, which was shuttered last year in the first round of closures.

She visited St. Stan's for the first time last week and was so struck by its beauty she felt she had to help

"It's absolutely awesome," she told vigil members. "I've been to cathedrals in Europe like this. I was nearly brought to tears."

Branch offered them a petition she had written and offered to help spread it throughout the Berkshires. Afterward, Branch said both St. Stan's beauty and importance as historical element of Berkshire County had prompted her offer. "But it's up to them to do it if they want to."

It seems likely they will; Branch's offer and request to be an "honorary vigil member" was greeted with loud applause.
 
Branch's petition:

We the residents of Berkshire County petition the Roman Catholic Diocese to keep St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Adams, Mass., open. We believe it must be preserved because of its historic value, its artistic treasures, its cultural identity and its extraordinary beauty and the unquestioned contribution of the Polish community in building this magnificent cathedral in the Berkshires. 
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