Tuesday, April 10, 2012

St. Stanislaus Kostka: Ode to A Defunct Church That People Hardly Noticed

52 Main Street in Hastings-on-Hudson was constructed as a Baptist church in 1864. In 1914, it was acquired by the Polish community of Hastings-on-Hudson and consecrated as a Roman Catholic Church. It housed a lively and beloved parish until 2005, when a roof leak led to the closing of the building. In 2009 the former church was sold and now is one year into its 3rd "incarnation" as The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Social Innovation. The Center acknowledged this anniversary in their Spring Newsletter saying, "Well, it's been a year. Almost.
A year since this space was transformed from a defunct church the people barely noticed [my bolding] to a vibrant purple structure that livens up Hastings' Main Street. "

I thank God that the church is still standing, and I like the structural improvements and aesthetic blandishments as well. I just hope that the Center's "social innovation" will include respect for those who have fond memories of St. Stanislaus, a sense of place and a sense of their place in history as time continues in its inexorable march .

One Hastings artist not only noticed St. Stanislaus, but celebrated it. I cannot read this poem too often.


I awake to the sound of water rushing north,
Past my window, as the moon, tiding in the bay,
Pulls the Hudson and pushes barges carrying wheat.
I see a sea gull diving for a frightened fish.
Down below, in the garden, a scent of lilac
Draws me. Forsythias yellow the humid air.
I watch the skywriting of Monarch butterflies.
I hear the glad ringing of the church’s bells.
For it it is spring, at last, a time of the land’s Easter,
A resurrection, the egg breaking its shell.
The black Madonna, the mother of watchful God,
Broods no longer; she knows her son has risen.

Ninety years ago, on these verdant hills,
A group of earnest Polish immigrants
Erected a church and parish, honoring
A Polish saint, a man of solemn piety,
Who loved both God and his great creation, man—
St. Stanislaus. The congregation grew
Through generations of war and prosperity,
Births, weddings, holidays, and funerals,
Encompassing in dramatic communion
All the folk of Hastings, of America,
Under the shepherding of learned priests,
From Dworzak to Daszkiewicz
And Pinto to Wenceslaus.

The bells are ringing, the children are singing, life
Is basking in the splendor that is spring,
The promise of return that the millenniums bring.

-Stephen Stepanchev

Note: Stephen Stepanchev is Professor of English emeritus from Queens College. He is a former poet laureate of the Borough of Queens and a Hastings-on-Hudson resident.

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