Monday, June 11, 2007

Another "Hill of Crosses"

The Hill of Crosses at Our Lady of Vilnius, the last time that I saw it, took up roughly 1/4 of the basement vestibule. After every vigil the crosses are methodically and meticulously removed from the front of the church at someone's mysterious command. They are stacked on their sides on the floor like cordwood, but they still symbolize our prayers to re-enter our home and hear Mass there.

Today's press brings to light another 'Hill of Crosses,' this one growing in Waterbury, CT, for the intentions of the Lithuanian parish of St. Joseph.

Today's "Hartford Courant" online runs a story titled Plan To Demolish Rectory Draws Opposition. The story presents what is now a common scenario in the press, the diminishing ethnic enclave trying to preserve its tradition and institutions in the face of development, demographic shift and assimilation.

At St. Josephs parish in Waterbury CT., parishioners have begun building a "Hill of Crosses" and praying for the intention of preserving the parish rectory. The story states, "The crosses at St. Joseph appeared mysteriously one morning this winter, and recently a tall, carved wooden statue of Christ was added nearby."

Our Lady of Vilnius is mentioned in the article. Apparently Lithuanian parishes are viewing our plight as a cautionary tale and moving to take action.

I feel that my parishes, St. Stanislaus Kostka and Our Lady of Vilnius, were misunderstood by the Archdiocese. It seems that their origin as "national" churches created a perception that they were "foreign." This origin has given the Archdiocese an excuse to remain electively blind to the spiritually and culturally unique communities into which these parishes had evolved at the time of their closure. It seems that the decrease in numbers of the founding ethnicity and the reduced linguistic need legitimizes these closures in the eyes of archdiocesan officials.

The succession of parishioners and priests have created a culture, a legacy and a tradition that is unique. While there may be fewer old timers and a reduced linguistic need for these parishes, I feel that there is a crying need for their connection to history: national, international and personal. I feel that they present a basis for community in a world that is becoming too transient, impersonal and centered on bottom line values. People can come to these places, learn, love and put down roots. Maybe some of these roots would grow into vocations.

Jesus Christ came to us as man, with a particular body: a voice, a touch, a personality, thoughts and emotions. I can't imagine that He wants to see all His houses purged of their particularity and traces of specific humanity: specific people.

Our Trustee and much more, Joy McAleer, is asked for advice in this article, to which she says: "Pray."

I would listen and act, praying for our own church, all the little ethnic churches in jeopardy and the Church that doesn't seem to understand.

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