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Homily of Bishop Fred Colli, Bishop of Thunder Bay - on the occasion of 100th Anniversary of St. Casimir Parish - Oct. 1, 2022
The celebration of 100 years for a parish community is indeed a wonderful event. As we gather here tonight - we can think of the many changes and developments that have touched this parish community. In the years that I have been here as the bishop - I have seen many changes. And tonight, we celebrate a Mass of St. Casimir - and we give thanks for this anniversary, and we ask St. Casimir to help direct us - into what the future may hold for our community.
What do we know about St. Casimir? Well, he was a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Second son of King Casimir IV Jagiellon, he was tutored by Johannes Longinus, a Polish chronicler and diplomat. After his elder brother Vladislaus was elected as King of Bohemia in 1471, Casimir became the heir apparent. At the age of 13, Casimir participated in the failed military campaign to install him as King of Hungary. He became known for his piety, devotion to God, and generosity towards the sick and poor. He became ill (most likely with tuberculosis) and died at the age of 25. He was buried in Vilnius Cathedral Lithuania - and his cult grew. His canonization was initiated by his brother King Sigismund I the Old in 1514 and the tradition holds that he was canonized in 1521. He was known for his piety, his devotion to God and for his generosity to the sick and the poor. These characteristics are not just for St. Casimir - but are an example for all of us - of our need to be holy, to make sure God is a part of our life, and to reach out to the poor and needy as Jesus himself did. In doing so - we too become holy and saintly.
As we celebrate our parish - we know that these values have been manifest in the 100 years of our parish life. Originally part of Holy Rosary Parish - St. Casimir’s was formally established in 1936 and was under the direction of Fr. John Wojnowski. After this untimely death in 1941 the new parish priest was Fr. Joseph Stankiewicz - or Fr. Stan - of happy memory. Under his direction a new church was built - this church - and through the generosity of the people - this church was blessed by Bishop Jennings, the first bishop of our diocese in 1953. It was determination, hard work, volunteerism, and generosity - linked to a love of God and faith - that brought this parish to life. Of course - it was serving many Polish people who were coming to Canada as immigrants to build a new life for their families. Today we know that this is not happening as much - so national parishes are suffering due to this lack of immigration. And of course, many children of the families, born and raised in Canada, have mixed with other parish communities and are raising their families differently today.
Many different pastors have been here to serve this parish community, and as the bishop I am grateful to all of them for their service and dedication. I am thankful to the Oblates of Mary for sending us Fr. Piotr, who serves you now. But in all of the history of a parish community, whether it be long or short, the very core and life of the parish is the congregation or people who come and support the church and its priests. The Polish community of St. Casimir’s has been faithful and strong for many years. Your determination to maintain your parish comes from a strong sense of Faith, a desire to continue Polish traditions, and to maintain a close-knit polish community. These are all very good values and desires. I commend you as a community for your continued efforts.
As St. Paul notes in the second reading from his letter to the Philippians, we must put Christ first in our lives, and no matter what has happened in the past, we look for guidance from the Holy Spirit to bring us forward in our history - recognizing that Jesus has won the victory for us, and we strive to share in the victory of eternal life. The Gospel of this Mass also reaffirms our work as a parish community. Loving one another as Christ has loved us. I image that this is true among all people of Polish descent here in Thunder Bay - no matter in what part of the city you live - we are one community, striving to keep our traditions alive and strong, and to pass them on to our children and their children. May Wisdom be our guide and the Holy Spirit give us courage, as we walk together into the future - after 100 years of prayer and praise to God, here at St. Casimir’s.
Thank you for your faithfulness, thank you for your support to Fr. Piotr Dudek and all your pastors, thank you for your generosity to St. Casimir’s parish, and thank you for your support to me, your bishop…we will always continue to pray for one another…
jen-KOO-yeh -3X - God Bless you.
With the Apostolic Letter “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from 8 December 2020 to 8 December 2021. Happy Year of Saint Joseph!
As an extra special blessing to accompany this celebration, the Church offers a plenary indulgence to all the Catholic faithful, under the usual conditions (Confession, Communion, and praying for the pope's intentions), if they participate in the Year of St. Joseph. Participation in the Year of St. Joseph includes:
The Church particularly extends the gift of this indulgence to "the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house" in this time of pandemic, as long as they are detached from sin and intend to fulfill the usual conditions as soon as possible, if they "recite an act of piety in honour of St. Joseph, comfort of the sick and patron of a happy death, offering with trust in God the pains and discomforts of their lives." And it encourages priests to make themselves more available for the dispensing of the sacraments to the sick.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.
Fr. Piotr Dudek, OMI was born in Poland. After graduating from high school with majors in biology and chemistry, he began the Oblate Noviciate at Święty Krzyż and a year later studied at the Oblate Seminary in Obra (Poland). As a deacon, he completed his pastoral internship in Ukraine, where he was ordained by the Apostolic Nuncio Abp. Nikola Eterović. After nine years of working in Ukraine, Fr. Piotr stood on Canadian soil beginning a ministry among the Poles outside of Poland. He likes to travel and read.
AN INTERVIEW WITH FR. PIOTR DUDEK, OMI - OUR NEW PASTOR
First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you for such a warm welcome. I am happy to share with you a few thoughts about my faith journey as a priest and religious.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Poland. My childhood elementary and secondary education were revolved around Zduńska Wola, a city name famous for being the birthplace of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Also, Saint Faustyna Kowalska was born just 60 km from my place of birth.
2. Can you share a bit about your family: parents, siblings?
I grew up in the difficult time of the economic crisis and Solidarity movement in Poland. In the eighties, some of my family members were imprisoned by the communist government. My father and mother courageously risked his career in the name of freedom and truth. I thank God for my parents every day. They gave me an example of defending Christian values and beliefs and immense trust in God. They showed me the strength of love in our family. My beloved mother past away in 2005. My father lives in Poland. Providence has designed for me to be an only child.
3. How long have you been a priest?
I have been a priest for 21 years (2000). On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, I have received my priestly ordination from the hands of Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, papal Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine. I also grateful for the 30 years (1991) of my religious and missionary life and I pray, through the intercession of Immaculate Mary to be continually blessed in my Oblate vocation.
4. Have you always wanted/felt/called to be a priest? Was there any defining moment or event where you felt God's call?
I remember that as a little boy I “celebrated masses” in my room. At the age of six, I began ministering as an altar server, then as a lector. I really wanted to be an altar server, to be close to the altar. My parish church was also a major Seminary church for the Orionine Fathers (FDP). It was this environment that gave birth to my vocation as a religious and a priest. After completing matriculation examination in the biochemical field, I entered the Oblate Noviciate at Święty Krzyż (Poland) and on the 8th of September 1991, I had made my first profession as a Missionary Oblate. Later that same year, I started studies in philosophy and theology at a major Oblate Seminary in Obra (Poland). In due time, I graduated with a Master’s Degree from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.
On the 17th of February 1996, I had made my perpetual oblation in the presence of Father Superior General Marcello Zago OMI. In June of the same year, I had received my ordination to diaconate from the hands of Bishop Eugeniusz Jureczko OMI from Cameroon. Then my superiors had sent me to minister in our relatively new mission in Ukraine. During my stay in Ukraine, I had ministered in various Ukrainian, Polish and Russian ethnic parishes. For the first five years, I worked in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. My next placement was a village parish in Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, in Chernihiv (in the northern Ukraine, close to Chernobyl and the border with Belarus), and in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Along with Oblate brothers, we worked hard to develop and organize the community and spiritual life in the area previously heavily laicized. The time I have spent working in the Lord’s Vineyard overlooking the Dnieper river was a time of a witness to God’s great power working through our missionary effort and among the faithful. It was also a time to gain a deeper understanding of human frailty as well as the strength of the human spirit. My approach to ministry and to the faithful has undergone a number of revisions. I began to be more hopeful as to the actual fruits of my missionary effort.
5. In which parishes have you worked before being assigned to come to St. Casimir?
I am grateful to God for having a missionary experience of both, the Eastern Tradition, and Latin Tradition of the Church. Saint John Paul II wrote in his document Ut Unum Sint that the Church must breathe with her two lungs. Both, the Latin and Eastern traditions contribute to the health of the Church. After 9 years of my ministry in Ukraine, I began my ministry in the Western Church. I stood on Canadian soil, facing new challenges and new experiences. I begin a ministry among the Poles outside of Poland, in an Oblate parish in Toronto Area under the auspice of our founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. He knew all too well what it meant to be an immigrant. Then I served in our missions and parishes in New Foundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia. Besides, I had a wonderful time to discover the beauty and power of the Catholic church in the U.S. ministering at St. Joseph the Worker Shrine in Lowell, MA. My last assignment was St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Mississauga (ON) - the largest ethnic Polish parish outside of Poland.
Now, I am in Thunder Bay beginning my journey with you in St. Casimir's. I entrust my ministry to the care of Our Immaculate Mary and St. Joseph - the Patron Saint of this 2021 year.
6. What's your message to the entire parishioners of St. Casimir's?
Beloved Parishioners, I will begin my ministry with you by taking time and making a concerted effort to get to know you, personally, and as a faith community. I would like to listen to you and to hear about your hopes and joys, as well as your concerns and struggles. The primary goal of my leadership is to encourage and inspire you to embrace your Baptismal commitment, striving always towards building a joyful and welcoming faith community.
God bless you in all you do and will do to the community of St. Casimir's. Let's start our journey of faith together holding fast to the hand of Our Mather, Virgin Mary and St. Casimir.