West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society Holds Fifth Annual Pilgrimage & Święconka

Saturday, April 14, 2012 By Laurie A. Gomulka Although the crowd in attendance was smaller than in years' past, many felt that this was the Society's best pilgrimage yet! Approximately 40 pilgrims began the journey at noon at The Church of the Divine Child at 1055 N. Silvery Lane in the Cherry Hill-Beech Daly area of Dearborn. Although it was overcast on the morning of Saturday, April 14, the pilgrims' spirits were not dampened by the threatening weather outside. The church's history was presented by Society Vice President & Executive Director-Secretary Laurie A. Gomulka. The church was founded in 1950 within the previous Sacred Heart Parish boundaries in response to Dearborn's greatest growth period between 1940 and 1950, when the city's population catapulted from 63,584 to 94,994, and as the migration of Polish Americans continued westward from the old west side Detroit neighborhoods. Rev. Herbert F. Weier was the church's first pastor, and there were an estimated 1,100 to 1,200 Catholic families within the boundaries of the new parish. Herman & Simons architects designed the new church, and the firm would also be selected to design the elementary school, the convent for the Bernardine Sisters (who arrived in 1953), and the high school. The new, permanent church building was modeled after Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, with its angular shaping. Groundbreaking occurred on June 18, 1962, and dedication ceremonies were held on June 22, 1963. A unique feature of the building is that the marble used to construct the interior was brought in from the former Kern's Department store in downtown Detroit, established in 1883. There were several original structures, and in 1929, a new ten-floor structure was built at 1048 Woodward Avenue, the site from which the marble for The Church of the Divine Child would be taken. The store closed its doors for the last time on December 23, 1959, and would eventually be demolished in 1966. The former site of the department store is now occupied by Compuware's corporate headquarters. Today, The Church of the Divine Child has approximately 2,400 registered families, and its elementary and high schools are still thriving. Rev. James Bilot is only the third pastor in the church's history to be assigned to the parish. The church's talented music minister, organist Mr. Ray Staroscik, led the pilgrims in a variety of Polish and English Easter hymns. We learned that Ray was a transplant from St. Stephen in the old neighborhood and that his mother still attends Mass there! Society member Ms. Wanda Krupski led the pilgrims in a decade of the rosary in Polish, which we dedicated to the Church in Poland, our immigrant grandparents and parents, and future generations of Polonia. Following some time spent in looking around the church and taking photographs, the pilgrims then drove to Our Savior Polish National Catholic Church at 610 N. Beech Daly Road in Dearborn Heights, only a few blocks away. We were warmly greeted by Our Savior's pastor, Rev. John Cramer, who presented the church's history. We learned that there are 60 paid members of Our Savior Polish National Catholic Church in Dearborn Heights. Nation-wide, there are approximately 30,000 members. Rev. Cramer explained that the Polish National Catholic Church was established in 1897 after separating from the Roman Catholic Church over the question of allowing the parishioners to own the property of the church building and grounds. Since then, they have based their theology on the teachings of the undivided Church through the first 1,000 years of Christianity. They also have a married clergy. The Polish National Catholic Church's Prime Bishop, located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is their head. He is elected every eight years. The church is in limited communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Etched into the wood of the church's altar are the words comprising Our Savior Polish National Catholic Church's motto: Prawda, Praga, Walka, Zwycięzymy (Through truth, work and struggle we will succeed). Rev. John Cramer is originally from South Bend, Indiana. He began his ministry at Our Savior in September 2010, and was formally installed as Pastor by the Bishop Ordinary of the Western Diocese on January 30, 2011. Our Savior Polish National Catholic Church at 5272 Chopin Street, founded in 1916, was the first and mother church of all Detroit's Polish National Catholic Churches. Our Savior Polish National Catholic Church inhabited the building on Chopin until approximately 1970, when the church relocated to its current location at 610 N. Beech Daly Road in Dearborn Heights. Afterwards, a group of Romanian Pentecostals inhabited the structure on Chopin for many years. It is currently inhabited by an African-American congregation. Two other Polish National Catholic Churches in the Detroit area are Holy Cross in Hamtramck (founded in approximately 1916) and All Saints in Sterling Heights. On this pilgrimage, we learned that some artifacts, including the angel fonts in the entranceway of the Dearborn Heights church, are from the original Chopin Street church. Mr. Eric Sniezek, an accomplished saxophone player, along with piano accompaniment, led the pilgrims in the singing of several Polish and English Easter hymns. Ms. Wanda Krupski led the rosary, this time in memory of Bl. Pope John Paul II, Polish religious sisters, priests and deacons, and Saint Maria Faustina Kawalska (in honor of the Feast of Divine Mercy celebrated on Sunday, April 15). Rev. Cramer then blessed the hard-boiled eggs and led everyone into the church's dining hall for our Święconka (Polish Easter meal). The pilgrims were again greeted with warm and bright smiles and were given red-carpet service by Rev. Cramer and Mr. Eric Sniezek (who by then had donned their aprons!) and the rest of the enthusiastic dining hall staff. We feasted on a meal of blessed hard-boiled eggs, ham, kiełbasa, potato salad, beet horseradish, and rye bread and butter, with gołąbki and pierogi thrown in as a bonus! The dessert table featured a variety of desserts, including pies, cakes, and brownies with mountains of whipped cream. The pilgrims relaxed and ate to their hearts' content while being treated to lively polkas and smooth waltzes spun by Polka Booster DJs Barb and Ross! The Society picked up a few new members at the event, and we departed into warm breezes, blue skies and sunshine! It was a truly beautiful and blessed day!