Celebrating a new Polish Saint

by Joan Lewis, EWTN Rome bureau chief

I have been out of the office so much these last two days that writing a decent column has been a bit more difficult than usual. I wanted to post the following story yesterday but there literally was no time to write in between all the events on my schedule. In reverse order, tomorrow I’ll feature the papal Mass of canonization but today I bring you the post-Mass luncheon for Polish pilgrims and members and supporters of the Marian Fathers whose order was founded by the new Saint Stanislaus Papczyński.

Saint Stanislaus was canonized Sunday along with saint Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish-born convert to Catholicism who re-founded the Order of St. Bridget, patron of Sweden and original foundress of the order of religious women that took her name and followed.

Most of you probably know Fr. Joe Roesch whom you see on EWTN every year before, during and after Divine Mercy Sunday, as well as on many other occasions. Fr. Joe and I have been friends since he was assigned to the Marian Fathers in Rome where he is now the vicar general, It was Fr. Joe who made it possible for me to attend two canonization-related events – the luncheon yesterday and the Mass later this afternoon that will be presided over by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow and secrtary for 40 years to Saint John Paul II. We’ve known each other for over 30 years.

Founded in 1670 in Poland, the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is also known as Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Although it is now an international organization, the Marians still have strong roots in Poland and place a great deal of emphasis on spreading the messages of Divine Mercy and Saint Faustina Kowalska.

The current Prior General is Fr. Andrzej Pakuła. He is to the right of the president as we look at the photo.

Not far from St. Peter’s Square is a huge underground parking area for cars and busses that was built into Janiculum Hill for the 2000 Holy Year. The fifth floor of this structure has a large restaurant and it was here that 300 Polish pilgrims, Marian Fathers and seminarians, the president of Poland and Cardinal Dziwisz ate a celebratory lunch.

At lunch I was able to take some pictures of Poland’s young President Andrzej Duda who led his country’s delegation to the canonization, accompanied by his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda. In the first images, Fr. Andrzej Pakuł is presenting a portrait of their founder, Saint Stanislaus, to the Polish president. In the second series, President Duda is giving a gift to the Marians.

Fr. Pakula receiving a gift from President Duda.

President Duda’s talk to all of us was in Polish but I had help from Fr. Peter (Piotr) who interned a few years ago at EWTN and is now the director of communications for the diocese of Krakow. He reognized me at lunch and we had a grand cìconversatio in addition to his translating some of the remarks the president made.

At one point when people broke into laughter. Fr. Piotr told me the president had remarked that, after the beatification of Fr. Stanislaus, the Marian congregation sent priests to the Philippines where they built a hospital. Laughing, the president, who is a practicing Catholic, said, “If the Marians did that after the beatification, what will they do after the canonization!”

Andrzej Duda, President of Poland

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz exited the private dining room just minutes after the president’s departure. We had a delightful conversation and photos of that encounter will be posted tomorrow. Our brief but wonderful visit just may have a sequel to stay tuned!

Some of the great personal moments at the luncheon occurred right after I sat down at one of the tables. All of a sudden I was surrounded by fans of my work on EWTN – most having come from the U.S. for the canonization – and many readers of my new book on the Holy Year. It was such a joy and I only wish I had had the foresight to take a few photos!