Szanowni Panstwo!

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Mary’s Polish Parish:

Serdecznie dziekuje za wasza doskonala prace i za modlitwy.

The pilgrimage to the St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Antigonish was a tremendous success – a historic event for the parish and for the diocese. It was, just as we had hoped, prayerful and positive. Father Tom MacNeil, the cathedral rector, described our presence and participation as “moving.”

This spiritual  and cultural event brought the whole parish together, but it also renewed friendships in the diocese and the broader region. Representing our parish were all generations – our hard-working and esteemed elders as well as the new generation of coordinators and animators in our church, not to mention youth members.

Everyone deserves credit. Many people worked very hard on this pilgrimage. The support and solidarity in the media and from the general public have also been remarkable.

At the risk of inadvertently leaving people out, I want to take this opportunity to share a few special acknowledgments:

•     To Father Paul Murphy for presiding at the special service at our parish before the buses set out and for blessing the congregation and the buses. And to Father Roman Dusanowskyj of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church for assisting with the blessing – and making sure, in his charismatic way, that we were all blessed! It showed, yet again, the longstanding friendship between Cape Breton’s Ukrainian and Polish communities. Thank you as well to Father Tom Lathigee, who has a long and respected association with our parish, and to Father Jan Grotkowski (Dartmouth, a very good friend of our church)  for co-celebrating Mass at the cathedral.

•     To Father Tom MacNeil for the warm and gracious welcome at St. Ninian’s Cathedral, and to the parishioners of St. Ninian’s who received us with hospitality. We wish them “Sto lat!”

•     To everyone who wore traditional Polish attire, a very high proportion of our parishioners. Many of the Polish regions were represented by our stroje ludowe. Thank you to the Pogoria Polish Folk Ensemble (under the direction of Shari McKay), which is based at our parish, for lending some of the traditional suits.

•     To our very diligent and tireless Finance Committee: Richard White, Wayne Joseph, Joe Gillis, Francis Wall, Bernie LaRusic. And thank you, Bernie, for working with the bus company and the caterers in Antigonish.

•     To our parish choir, led by Mary Pierrynowski: You sounded heavenly in the cathedral. It was quite an experience for Polish hymns to be heard at St. Ninian’s. Thank you also to Shauna McKay for preparing the
materials to allow the congregation to rehearse on the buses.

•     To the members of the Parish Planning Team for each composing a meaningful reflection and prayer of the faithful to recite at the pre-pilgrimage blessing service: Marjorie Ardelli, Wayne Joseph, Carolyn Kiley, Toni LaRusic, Shari McKay, Tony Melski, Krista Ann Starzomski, and Elaine Tynski Shipley. The Parish Planning Team is to be commended for completing the second draft of the “Renewal and Service” report (multi-year plan for the parish) in time for parishioners to review and discuss on the buses. Thank you also to Bartek Cebula and Marcin Cebula for composing and reading prayers of the faithful.  

•     To Peggy Ryba for preparing the bread and salt, and to Kayley Pellerine and Noah Starzomski-Wilson for making the traditional presentation during the Mass as a gesture of friendship.

•     To Shelley Brown and June (Wojcik) Brown of Brown’s Cresting for preparing (pro bono) the St. Mary’s Polish Parish ribbons for us all to wear.

•     To Andrzej Cebula for proclaiming the second reading in the cathedral in Polish. And to our altar servers for serving at the cathedral Mass in traditional attire.

•     To the members of the St. Michael’s Polish Benefit Society – the Society that petitioned for the parish 100 years ago and that raised money and found worker-volunteers to have the church built and thereafter sustained -- for serving as ushers in the cathedral, in their official Society uniforms.

•     To 18 members of St. Faustina’s Mission in Halifax-Dartmouth for making the trip to Antigonish to pray with us and support us. It meant a great deal to all of us. Thank you to Jan Skora in Halifax for the coordination of that. 

•     To the Honourable Gordie Gosse, MLA for Cape Breton-Nova and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, for accompanying us on the entire pilgrimage. Thank you as well to the Honourable Mark Eyking, MP, and Councillor Jim MacLeod for their presence and encouragement at the pre-pilgrimage prayer service at St. Mary’s.

•     To the Cape Breton Regional Police Service for providing a special escort for the buses through to the outskirts of Sydney. That was a kind gesture, indeed. (Thanks to Tony Melski for coordinating that.) Hats off as well to our neighbours and fellow Cape Bretoners who pulled to the side of the road and honked in support.

•     To our “web wizard” Chris Shipley, who also did the program layout. The program, with a history of the parish and an invitation to our 100th anniversary in 2013, was distributed to all the parishioners at the cathedral.  I know that many parishioners at St. Ninian’s who usually attend Sunday morning Mass came instead for yesterday evening’s Mass in order to meet with us. 

•     To members of the media who covered this pilgrimage and who have profiled the parish in recent days: CTV (Randy MacDonald), CBC (Wendy Bergfeldt, Joan Weeks), The Cape Breton Post (Nancy King, Chris Shannon), The Chronicle Herald (Mary Ellen MacIntyre), The Eagle Radio (Ross Powell), 98.9 FM in Antigonish, The Casket (Antigonish), and others. Congratulations to parishioners who have given very eloquent interviews or who had submissions published: Elaine Tynski Shipley, Tony Melski, Joanne Wall, Marilyn Gillis, Paul Tynski, Wayne Joseph, Richard White, Joe Dziubek, and others. 

•     To the Canadian Polish Congress and other Polish organizations for keeping contacts across the country apprised of our work and our situation.

•     To Carabin Coach Lines and our very efficient caterer in Antigonish, Nellie Cypher.

•     To the members of the small but proud Polish community in Antigonish who joined us for the Mass and for supper afterwards. Although our church in Sydney is more than 200 kilometres away, our friends in Antigonish have a special connection to it – as we are seen as the heart of the Polish community for the whole province. It was nice to meet with them again.

I know that many of you prayed very hard that this pilgrimage would go well – that the weather would finally cooperate (which it did!) and that the logistics would fall into place, as everything had to be pulled together in a very short time. Alas, our prayers were answered. We give thanks.

Niech Bog blogoslawi wam wszystkich,

Tom Urbaniak