2013 Annual Report

Message for the Annual Report

Again, another year has come and gone all too quickly and we find ourselves in 2014. You, the parishioners of St. Mary’s Polish parish, are to be commended for your dedication to your parish.

Your support for this parish, evident in so many ways, is a testament to the faith bequeathed to you by your ancestors. While St. Mary’s Polish Parish will probably never be a large parish numerically, let your faith and devotion sustain us as we go forward. For this is the heart of any parish, big or small, faith and devotion. We are to be a beacon of the light of Christ to all those around us. Let your faith shine for all to see and St. Mary’s Polish Parish will be here for many years to come.

Together, as Pastor and parishioners, let us go forward in thanksgiving and gratitude for all of God’s blessings.

May God bless you and St. Mary’s Polish Parish,

Father Paul K. Murphy



Your tireless work, your creativity, your perseverance, and your dedication have not gone unnoticed within the parish and even nationally. A big thank you for everything you did to make our 100th anniversary such a special year of prayer, celebration, service, and renewal, and a time to prepare for our second century of faith and service. God bless … Bóg zapłać …

Here are some highlights of our 100th anniversary initiatives …

  • Special prayers and devotions; the year began with the blessing of chalk and homes
  • Two books issued to mark the Centenary (Przez Pokolenia: Prayers and Customs of St. Mary's Polish Church and Parish Centenary Cookbook); special video also produced (it can be accessed on our website: www.stmaryspolishparish.ca)
  • Centenary Historical Exhibit – CBC Radio's Mainstreet program broadcast live from the opening reception. This involved the efforts of many parishioners.
  • Joint "STO LAT" Concert – Choir of St. Mary's Polish Church (the only Polish-language choir in Cape Breton) and Men of the Deeps, paying tribute to our Centenary
  • Conference of the Canadian Polish Research Institute (with visitors from various parts of the country) and Memories and Stories Workshop with our elders
  • Parish dinner theatre presentation of The Odyssey of the Polish Treasures – incorporating aspects of the history of our church; a number of parishioners acted for the first time.
  • Free community barbeque to acknowledge the broader community
  • Parish family reunions, including a community reception
  • Centenary Banquet with the participation of many dignitaries
  • Centenary Mass and Polish Festival – The CBRM Council declared September 8th as "St. Mary's Polish Parish Day" throughout the region. Bishop Dunn and the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, the Honourable J.J. Grant, joined us for the Centenary Mass.
  • Special St. Michael's Day lunch marking the receipt of congratulations to the parish from Pope Francis and recognizing the St. Michael's Polish Benefit Society
  • Centenary prayers for the deceased of our parish at several local cemeteries and ceremony honouring our veterans over the past century
  • Enhanced St. Nicholas Day celebration with a public-education component
  • To be unveiled shortly: a Cape Breton Polish tartan; the design will be owned by our parish and used to help with fund-raising
  • Numerous Centenary Service projects (Sto Darów) throughout the year in the broader community (eg. Polish Food Garden, collaborating with other groups on developing a public parkette with a kapliczka – roadside shrine – as its centrepiece, assisting Loaves and Fishes, Operation Christmas Child, helping with local housing initiatives, etc.)
  • “Virtual tour” for our website (in collaboration with CBU)

Special thanks as well to our financial and in-kind sponsors.


EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS, LECTORS, AND ALTAR SERVERS -- We welcomed new recruits in all of these ministries in the past year. We were very pleased to always maintain two lectors at every Mass. These are core ministries, important to our faith life, and we are very grateful that all volunteers have taken their ministry very seriously.

CATECHISM AND POLISH CULTURAL CLASSES -- The Saint Mary's Polish Parish Catechism Classes have had a very successful year. This year we welcomed four new children into our program. 

The youngest group of children have been busy learning about the importance of God in our lives as well as the merits of belonging to a spiritual community.  We have also been busy preparing the children for a more comprehensive participation of the Mass.

This has been a very blessed year for our children.  Bartek Cebula, Justyn Gillis, Nicholas Pellerine and Nikolas Starzomski all received the Sacrament of Confirmation in December. The older participants are embarking on new endeavors that promote both spiritual and cultural growth and foster a stronger sense of belonging.

Three children will be receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and four will be receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist on Mother's Day: Keagan Campbell, James Clarke, Frankie Chislett, and Rudy Magliaro.

Not only are our participants involved in the spiritual aspects of the church, but they have also participated in numerous cultural activities over the past year. They played an integral role in both the 100th anniversary and the Polish Festival.  They worked the children's games, helped serve food and helped with both the set-up and clean-up. They actively participated in the 100th anniversary festivities, Polish Christmas play, brought in boxes for the Samaritan's Purse Project, collected items for the food bank, purchased items and organized the package to send to Ukraine, served mass and brought in baskets to be blessed during our Easter celebrations. 

We are fortunate to have so many youth who are actively involved in Parish life.

  • Submitted by Krista Ann Starzomski

ALTAR SOCIETY -- In 2013, we assigned four Altar Society volunteers per month for preparations and post-Mass clean-up/organization, as well as larger volunteer groups to decorate for special events. At the 100th anniversary banquet, past and present members of the Altar Society were recognized, and on the feast of Matka Boska Salentynska we also took time to specially acknowledge the Altar Society.

HOSPITALITY COMMITTEE -- This committee came through in a very helpful way on many occasions in 2013 for post-event workshops and special lunches, as well as assisting with other events. Thank you to Chair Peggy Ryba and all who worked so hard.

GREETER COMMITTEE -- The Greeter Committee was established in 2012. It plays an active role in the life of St. Mary’s Polish Parish. It functions to provide a pleasant and inviting environment for all that journey through the church doors.  Upon entering St. Mary’s Polish Church you will be met by greeters with a smile and who more often than not will give you a hug or a handshake as they pass you the latest church bulletin!  Whether you are a regular parishioner, a first time visitor or a returning guest, our goal is to ensure that you are warmly received and feel genuinely welcomed.

At every Sunday Mass two designated representatives welcome people, share a kind word, offer assistance or give direction as needed. There have been many times throughout this year that the members have been called upon to participate in special events such as the blessing of the Easter baskets in March, the opening of the historic exhibit of our parish at St. Michaels’s Hall in July, and the 100th Anniversary Mass and Polish Festival in September!

St.Mary’s Polish Parish is truly blessed to have this wonderful group of dedicated men and women.  There are currently 16 members: Marjorie Ardelli, Victoria Aucoin, Stephanie Black, Dianne Blondin, Elie Blondin, Mary (Micka) DiPenta, Teresa Fagan, Carolyn Kiley, Toni LaRusic, Janina MacCormack, Joan Mosher, Dorothy Rozeluk, Peggy Ryba, Catherine Tucker, Herb Tucker, and Anna Wesolkowska.

The Greeter Committee looks forward to the years ahead welcoming all people to St. Mary’s Polish Church as well as welcoming new greeters!

  • Submitted by Marjorie Ardelli and Carolyn Kiley

THE CHOIR OF ST. MARY’S POLISH CHURCH, under the patronage of St. Cecilia: Our parish is home to the only Polish-language choir in Cape Breton, under the direction of Mary Pierrynowski. The members of the choir are excellent ambassadors for our parish. Not only are they part of all our parish sacred celebrations and community events, but they also represent our church at special concerts, such as Pierscape.

A great highlight of 2013 was the joint concert involving our choir and the world-famous Men of the Deeps. It took place in a full Boardmore Theatre at Cape Breton University. The concert was a tribute to our parish’s 100th anniversary and was interspersed with poetry readings and images of our parish milestones.

POLISH LANGUAGE LESSONS --  As a parish, we have been making an effort to preserve and regularly use the Polish language that has been bequeathed to our generation by the parish’s founders. This has involved pronunciation guides in the bulletin, explanations of hymns, regular readings and responses in Polish, the use of the Polish language in the bulletin and for signage and literature. In late 2013, we began working on a program of Polish language classes, and these began on March 29, 2014.

POGORIA POLISH FOLK ENSEMBLE -- The Pogoria Polish Folk Ensemble celebrated its 10th Anniversary in September 2013.  Highlights of Pogoria's past year included appearances in "The Odyssey of the Polish Treasures" and St. Mary's Polish Festival. Pogoria was also the guest performing group at Pomorze's 30th Anniversary Gala held in Halifax, in October 2013.

Pogoria marked its 10th anniversary with the acquisition of 8 sets of men's and women's folk costumes from the Kurpie Zielone region of Poland.

Pogoria capped off the year by hosting the sold-out "St. Nicholas Day" event at the Polish Village.

  • Submitted by Shari McKay

STO DARÓW SERVICE PROJECTS -- The parish undertook a number of successful service projects in 2013. We had food drives on 15 separate dates. We launched our ogrodek (community food garden), working with Pathways (an agency that facilitates employment opportunities to individuals who are living with mental illness). Families within the parish undertook particular initiatives on behalf of the parish, such as a community skating party and food drive. Operation Christmas Child this year resulted in 81 packages being prepared. At our Swiecenie Pokarmow Wielkanocncyh (Blessing of the Easter Baskets) we introduced a large collective basket, with fresh (blessed) food for the Easter meal at Loaves and Fishes.

We gave input to the Kolonia Immigrant Heritage Parkette Project on land owned by the Sydney Architectural Conservation Society. On July 28, a new kapliczka (roadside shrine), featuring Our Lady of Czestochowa (in Polish motifs) and St. Nicholas (in Ukrainian motifs) was blessed. Unfortunately, the shrine was destroyed by an arsonist(s). However, the community came together in an inspiring way with donations and offers of assistance. The Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage made a grant as did the Polish Consulate General. This will allow for development of the parkette to resume this summer.

ST. MICHAEL’S POLISH BENEFIT SOCIETY -- The Society had a productive year. The Society was involved in many of the 100th anniversary initiatives and served as the honour guard for the Lieutenant Governor on September 8th.

In 2013, we saw the completion of major renovations to the Polish Village Hall. In fact, the finishing touches were still being put on the new reception/exhibit area downstairs when CBC Radio was already setting up for its live broadcast of the opening reception of our Centenary Exhibit.  

The hall is now wheelchair-accessible and air-conditioned.

This work is the result of support of many donors and volunteers, as well as investment from the three levels of government.

The administration of the hall requires great care, frugality, and outreach. Thanks to continued participation the hall is holding its own with a number of well-attended cultural events and also first-time clients for rentals.

POLISH FESTIVAL -- On 8 September 2013, as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations, the Polish Festival was held on the parish grounds to celebrate this joyous milestone.
Ethnic food was served and its great popularity was proven by long line-ups and a quick sell-out. The children's tent featured a free caricaturist and games with a multitude of donated prizes.  The festival stage showcased the Pogoria Polish Folk Ensemble from Sydney and the Pomorze Polish Dance Ensemble from Halifax, as well as the Ukrainian dancers from our neighbouring Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Despite overcast skies and rain, the Polish Festival proved to be a huge success with a record number of visitors and revenue. The Lieutenant Governor and the Mayor remained for the festival and made special presentations.

  • Submitted by Shari McKay

CAPITAL PROJECTS – There were many improvements as we prepared for the 100th anniversary, with caution and supervision to ensure quality work by contractors and good value. We had interior and exterior painting (thanks, everyone, for the collaborative effort in selecting the beautiful colours!, new and updated fire extinguishers, new rails to the choir area, refurbished downstairs washroom, restoration of exterior sound system, installation of ceiling tiles where these were missing downstairs, refreshed curtains, polished brass plaques and artefacts, placing of safety strips on exterior stairs, replacement of worn carpet in stair areas, and planting of flower beds.

WEBSITE -- Many thanks to webmaster Chris Shipley for his continuous and outstanding work on the website. We have one of the most professional and comprehensive websites in the diocese. During the past year, among other things, we added a “virtual tour” to the website, allowing people to zoom in on artefacts and get an explanation. We also posted a “welcome” video on-line. These features were in collaboration with Cape Breton University’s Central and Eastern European Communities Project.

FRIENDS OF ST. MARY’S POLISH PARISH/OUTREACH -- We have a large e-mail list of people with some current or former connection to our parish, or who have expressed interest in staying informed. We have kept them updated on special events and projects. Before Christmas, Father Paul and the Rada sent Polish Christmas cards and information on upcoming celebrations to people whose mailing addresses parishioners had supplied.
It will be important in the year ahead for us all to reach out to our networks and bring people (back) to church. Let us share as much as possible the spiritual and hospitable character of St. Mary’s Polish Parish.

DIALOGUE WITH THE DIOCESE -- In 2013, the Rada had several meetings with Bishop Dunn as well as a meeting with the full Diocesan Pastoral Planning Committee in an effort to reach a consensus to ensure the long-term future of our parish. The meeting with the full Pastoral Planning Committee included a (supplementary) detailed report prepared by the Rada showing the financial viability, special characteristics, activities and plans of the parish, as well as a video presentation. At the end of the year, we learned of a further (indefinite) reprieve, but discussions continued on other challenging issues. In these first few months of 2014, there have been two meetings with the full parish to brief everyone on these discussions and to seek your input and guidance. Since the last meeting of March 16 (where we also shared the favourable legal opinion on the meaning and continuing application of the special-purpose trust that covers the church and part of the O’Connell House property), there is nothing new to report. The Rada remains optimistic that we will collectively work through these issues with the Diocese.

The Rada Duszpasterska (Pastoral Council) extends a heartfelt thanks for everyone’s service and dedication, and for the prayerful and constructive approach to all issues and projects. God bless. Bog zaplac!

APPENDED TO THE REPORT: Financial statements of the parish