Chicagoans march to Mass for Polish victims

April 19, 2010 4:27:04 AM PDT
Members of Chicago's Polish community filled Holy Name Cathedral Sunday for a memorial Mass honoring Poland's president and 95 other people killed in a plane crash last weekend.Francis Cardinal George took part in the memorial Mass.

The special Mass capped off of a week of mourning for Chicago's Polish community. The principal celebrant was Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who spoke in Polish and English.

Before the Mass, hundreds gathered at churches in the one of the city's oldest Polish neighborhoods.

Then, clutching pictures of their president or waving the Polish flag, hundreds marched from Chicago's oldest Polish church to Division Street, where they were met by a symbolic horse-drawn carriage.

The carriage was followed by children carrying the names of all 96 people who died in the crash that claimed the life of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and many other Polish leaders.

"Poland was always able to unite under tragic circumstances. So, the unity means a lot to me," said Barbara Fifield.

The carriage led the way for generations of Polish-Americans to walk through the streets of Chicago to Holy Name. There were so many marchers, hundreds had to settle for listening to the service from the outside.

The impressive turnout is not a surprise to members of the proud Polish community.

"Polish community is extremely strong community. We are wonderful nation, and every time we have a difficult time, we come together," said Agnes Widawid, marcher.

Inside, it was standing-room only for a bilingual Mass celebrated by Cardinal George and Bishop Paprocki. All 96 victims' names were read, including the name of Chicago artist Wojciech Seweryn. His life's purpose was to educate people about the Katyn Massacre.

The plane crashed on its way to a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, where thousands of Polish officers were killed by Stalin's secret police.

"One might say that through his death, his dream has been fulfilled, that people might know about Katyn," said Paprocki, auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

The Polish-Americans in Chicago kept saying Sunday their country has been through so many tragedies, Poles will emerge stronger from this one as well.


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