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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

082917 polish massCHARLOTTE — Connection and our shared faith was the theme at a recent celebration of Polish culture.

Approximately 350 people attended the sixth annual Polish Mass Aug. 27, celebrated in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa and, in a nod to the 100th anniversary this year, Our Lady of Fatima.

Father Matt Nycz, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Tonawanda, N.Y., celebrated the Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, assisted by Deacon James Witulski. The two men’s lives are connected, as they discovered not too long ago.

Deacon Witulski first met Father Nycz on a pilgrimage to Poland. The Polish-born priest now serves in the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., where Deacon Witulski was born, and he pastors the church where Deacon Witulski received his first Holy Communion.

That wasn’t the only “small world” moment. The Mass was concelebrated by Father Matthew Bean of St. Thomas Aquinas Church, who is from Buffalo and trained as an altar server with Father Nycz when he was a priest at Sacred Heart Church in Buffalo.

“Amazing how things are connected on a small and a large scale in our lives and in the world,” Father Nycz noted in his homily.

“On a large, historic scale the feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa on Aug. 26 also has many important connections,” he said. “This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of apparitions at Fatima. Pope St. John Paul II, who had a very strong personal devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa, strongly believed that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary who saved his life in the assassination attempt on his life on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square.

In fact, he believed that his life was spared so he could fulfill a most special mission to introduce to the world the message and devotion of the Divine Mercy as recorded in the diary of the Polish mystic St. Faustina Kowalska. In the year 2000, after instituting the Divine Mercy feast and the beatification of the two visionaries of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta, the third secret of Fatima was revealed to the world by the Vatican with a commentary. The secret mentions a call by the Blessed Virgin for consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by a pope in order that God would grant the world a period of peace.”

He continued, “The last apparition at Fatima on Oct. 13, 1917, brought a great miracle of the dancing sun seen by about 70,000 people. Just recently, millions of people witnessed another great sign in the sky, the Aug. 21 Great American Eclipse. Aug. 21 is also a date of another apparition of Our Lady at Knock, Ireland. There the visionaries saw Mary, St. Joseph, an altar with the Lamb of God, and an Apostle holding a book.”

That book most likely symbolized Revelation, he noted, and then he connected that with the day after the eclipse, Aug. 22, which marked the feast of Mary Queen of Heaven, and an upcoming stellar and planetary alignment occurring Sept. 23 that some say depict Revelation’s description of Mary: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

“Mary’s apparitions, messages, the miracles of nature and signs in the sky seen by millions are powerful spiritual reminders and call for conversion in these times of dimming of our moral lives and darkening of our culture,” Father Nycz said. “In the past century we have been witnessing repeated, serious attempts to rewrite God-given moral codes and redefine human relation to God and to one another.

Perhaps we can rededicate ourselves to the message of Fatima, which is always the message of Mary and Jesus: daily praying the rosary, personal sacrifice and penance, ongoing conversion, and the reception of God’s grace through the sacraments of the Church.”

Deacon Witulski gave thanks for all of the blessings that flowed from the celebration, which was an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together and experience Polish culture yet also our shared Catholic faith.

“Many people came forward to express their appreciation for the opportunity to experience the beauty of this Mass, and they traveled from the corners of our diocese. Some have come for the first time and others have come year after year,” he noted.

People lined up for hours to receive the sacrament of reconciliation in either Polish or English, and after the bilingual Mass they venerated first-class relics of Poland’s famous saints: St. John Paul II and St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. They also enjoyed fellowship and lots of traditional Polish food after the liturgy.

— Photos by Doreen Sugierski | Catholic News Herald

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