Current Location: Past Events > Mt. Carmel
Cemetery All Saints Day 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
FOURTH ANNUAL ALL SAINTS’ AND ALL SOULS’ DAY PILGRIMAGE, PRAYER SERVICE &
MT. CARMEL CEMETERY, WYANDOTTE, MICHIGAN
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2011
Story and Photos
by Laurie A. Gomulka
The Society has
been blessed with gorgeous weather for each of its annual pilgrimages, and
the event on Saturday, October 29, at historic Mt. Carmel Cemetery in
Wyandotte, was no exception. Our day began in the chapel at 11 a.m., where
a few board members, including Rev. Walter Ptak, Dr. Alina Klin, and Leonard
Skowronski, and Officer Laurie A. Gomulka, greeted approximately 25 pilgrims
who came out for the event. In this traditional service, we remember and
pray for those who have gone on before us.
Alina Klin recently
said that during the month of November, and at All Saints’ and All Souls’
Day in particular, she has a need to go to the cemetery. I think that many
of us can relate to that need. It’s a time to honor our dead, and while we
believe that they never truly leave us, it’s also a time to call them to us
and invite them to be with us again.
October 29, Rev. Walter Ptak led our prayer service, which included
scripture reading, singing the traditional hymns Dobry Jesu (“Good
Jesus, and Our Lord, grant them eternal rest”) and Witaj Królowo nieba
(Hail, Holy Queen of Heaven), and reading aloud the names of those
beloved dead whom we wished to remember.
Vice President & Executive Director-Secretary, along with Alina Klin, gave a
presentation on All Saints’ Day (Wszystkich Świetych) and All Souls’
Day (Dzien Zaduski or Zaduszny) customs in Poland. She
recalled the presentation given by then-Director Dr. Thaddeus C. Radziłowski
at the Society’s First Annual All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day Prayer Service
at Holy Cross Cemetery in 2007 and shared with the pilgrims some of the
things that Dr. Radziłowski had said. She recalled that he had said that
you cannot have home until you have your honored dead buried near you. He
made reference to the horizontal line of home and the vertical line of God
and heaven. With the Reformation came the breaking of the tie between the
living and the dead because it meant that the dead no longer needed you and
you no longer needed them. But All Souls’ Day and praying for the dead is
so much a Catholic thing. Dr. Radziłowski had said that the reason it
persists is because it is so deeply Catholic, and one of the things that so
deeply marks Catholics is the inclusion of the unborn and the living and the
dead—the ones we pray for.
It is not just
important for Poles, but for those of other nationalities as well. For
example, Dr. Radziłowski reminded us that it is very important for the
Vietnamese to bring home the bodies of their dead because otherwise, they
believe, they will wander the earth as ghosts. Poles have special foods, as
do Mexicans, such as the bread of the dead.
Laurie said that it
was very moving to hear Dr. Radziłowski talk about the Polish tradition of
reestablishing the ties with the deceased on All Souls’ Day, which is a
national holiday in Poland. People say, “You can now come back to us on
this day.” They open the windows, lay the bread out, and they pray to the
dead and invite them back: “Come, fly to us.”
Laurie said in her
presentation that Dr. Radziłowski, who had been in Poland for All Souls’
Day, had said that the sight of the cemeteries all aglow from the thousands
of burning candles was enough to bring a man to his knees and to tears.
Both Alina Klin and Rev. Walter Ptak agreed, and Fr. Wally said that the
only comparison, which does not nearly do it justice, is St. Hedwig Cemetery
on All Souls’ Day with its myriad of votive candles. But even at that, he
said that there is no American or Western comparison to Poland’s tradition.
It is truly breathtaking. It is the most-traveled day in Poland. Alina
Klin compared it to our Thanksgiving, with everyone returning home, except
that in Poland everyone returns “home” to home in a broader sense. She said
that to see so many candles aglow in the cemeteries, it appears as though
the cemeteries are on fire.
her presentation, saying that in Poland, food is taken after dinner to the
cemetery and given to the beggars, who are asked to pray for those who have
died. The prayers of the beggars—the least of God’s people—have special
merit, as it is believed they are close to God.
The beggars sing
songs and tell stories in the rural areas. People bring candles from home
and put them on the graves of their loved ones. They clean the graves and
also make a special effort to clean any unattended graves because in so many
instances there were people who were separated from their families. A
special effort is made to ensure that no grave is left unattended or without
Laurie talked about
the soul cake tradition. Before the Reformation, it was customary for poor
Christians to offer prayers for the dead, in return for money or food (soul
cakes), from their wealthy neighbors. During the 19th and 20th
centuries, children would go “souling”—rather like carol singing—requesting
alms or soul cakes. A soul cake is something like a hot cross bun but
without the currants or the cross on top. Laurie circulated samples of the
little cakes for everyone to try.
She then gave a
brief history of Wyandotte and a brief history of Mt. Carmel Cemetery,
explaining that preceding the Poles to Wyandotte were the Irish and German.
It was during the 1890s that a large Polish community began to form in
Wyandotte, with the bulk of those immigrants arriving during the first
decade of this century. The shipyard and chemical industries of Wyandotte
were the main draws.
Our Lady of Mount
Carmel Catholic Church was founded on Glenwood in 1899, with services being
conducted in Polish. The present-day church building was constructed in
A second Polish
community began to form around 1910 in what was then Ford City. This was
located in the area north of Ford Avenue and east of the railroad tracks and
in a smaller section north of Goddard Road and west of the railroad tracks.
In 1914, St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church was founded for this
new Polish community.
settlement formed on the south end of Wyandotte, and in 1925, St. Helena
Roman Catholic Church was founded to serve them.
Mt. Carmel Cemetery
was founded in 1865. It is currently under the auspices of St. Elizabeth
Catholic Church located on Superior Blvd. It’s a mystery as to why it was
named Mount Carmel Cemetery, except that perhaps it was due to its proximity
to Mount Carmel Catholic Church.
As for some of the
prominent people buried at the cemetery, the Ptak family, ancestors of Rev.
Walter Ptak, who also were founding members of Wyandotte, are buried in Mt.
Sisters have a plot in Wyandotte Cemetery. Rev. Ptak explained that in
1900, the Felicians were asked to come to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to teach
K-12 education. A convent was built for them on the corner of Vinewood and
10th Streets. A rectory was built across 10th
Street. The pastor eventually relocated, leaving the rectory across 10th
Street empty. Sisters from Detroit who were suffering from tuberculosis
came and the former rectory became the infirmary where they lived. Mt.
Carmel’s pastor and the Sisters were charged with their spiritual care.
When they died, they were buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Most were only 20
to 21 years old. There are still two Felician Sisters assigned to Mt.
The family of one
of the Society’s Honorary Members, Syl Wienclaw, is buried at the cemetery.
Syl’s father and mother, John and Mary Wienclaw, and his brother Ted and
Ted’s wife Lillian are buried in the main part of the cemetery. Along 9th
Street, his son John is buried.
Szarek of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church (b. December 20, 1928), who
died on April 11, 2010, at age 81, is also buried at Mt.
presentation, Laurie explained that one of the most prominent families to
have a large plot in Mt. Carmel Cemetery is the Cahalan family, a well known
Irish family with political prominence in the Detroit area. She learned
from Leo Cahalan, son of the late Judge William L. Cahalan, that Leo’s great
grandfather, James Cahalan, bought all of the family plots, simply because
it made sense to do so. It was the largest cemetery at the time.
James Cahalan and
his wife Catherine arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800s and settled in
Wyandotte, and there have been three or four generations since then. He
started off as a night watchman at the local energy company and became
affectionately known as “Jimmy the Night Watchman.” He had sons and
daughters, and they did quite well. They opened six or seven drug stores in
Wyandotte. One of them still exists, but it is now a liquor store and not
owned by the family.
The family attended
St. Patrick Catholic Church. At the time, there were three Catholic
churches in Wyandotte: St. Patrick, St. Joseph, and Our Lady of Mt.
Carmel. St. Patrick was where the Irish attended; St. Joseph was where the
Germans went, and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was where the Poles attended.
There have always
been lawyers and doctors in the family. Of course, many of us are familiar
with William Cahalan, former Wayne County Prosecutor. Leo’s father, the
late William L. Cahalan, became a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge in 1972
or 1973. Both William Cahalans enjoyed long political careers.
cross-shaped monument marking the Cahalan grave sites is interesting in that
there is a symbol carved into it that resembles a dollar sign with three
vertical lines cutting through the “S” shape. Laurie explained that it is
not a dollar sign, but rather a derivative of the letters “I” “H” and “S”
superimposed over each other. These letters represent the Greek letters
Iota (I), Eta (H), and Sigma (Σ), which are the first three letters of Jesus
presentation, the pilgrims ventured out into the cemetery, where
Polish-style votive candles were lit and placed at three grave sites: the
Ptak family graves, the pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church’s grave, and
the Felician Sisters’ grave site. At the Felician Sisters’ grave site, a
candle was placed at the grave of Sister M. Damasia Kasprzyk (1888 – 1914),
who, Fr. Wally explained, was the first vocation at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Those pilgrims who
opted for the banquet at Polonus Restaurant on Biddle Ave. in Wyandotte
departed to enjoy a fabulous meal that included City chicken, gołąbki,
mashed potatoes, sweet cabbage, mixed vegetables, soup, tossed salad, and
bread & butter.