Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 18, 2005
Our Lady Queen of Peace thrives
Burgeoning Calgary parisyh welcomes 1,400 families
Our Lady Queen of Peace — Feast Day — May 3
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
For almost 40 years, the unusual, soaring white tent-top of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in northwest Calgary has identified the core of the city's Polish Catholic community. It's a parish that seems to have always enjoyed continual growth in both numbers of people and church-associated activities.
Catholics of Polish extraction initially belonged to a nebulous, dimensionless parish. Churchless, it was established under the guidance of Father Leon Trawicki in 1955 to include and minister to the people of Calgary.
Plans to build a church were frustrated by the untimely deaths of Trawicki and his successor, so that as a temporary solution, the old St. Stephen's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Riverside was acquired and renovated.
It was blessed in 1958 by Bishop F.P. Carroll under the patronage of Our Lady Queen of Poland, but within 10 years was outgrown and replaced by the present church.
Bishop O'Byrne blessing
Opened on April 20, 1968 by Father Stanley Wachowicz from Edmonton, the new structure was blessed by Bishop Paul O'Byrne as Our Lady Queen of Peace.
The church is noted for its funnel-shaped dome, reminiscent of local native history. Offices and other parish facilities encircle the base of the structure, which is surmounted by a cross that faces east towards Poland.
In tune with Vatican II directives, Our Lady Queen of Peace is simply decorated inside. Natural lighting is effectively provided by small tinted windows and semi-circular seating for 400 people allows all to have a direct view of the altar.
Notable is the bronze bust created by parishioner Czeslaw Medrek to memorialize the visit to Calgary in 1969 by Bishop Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II.
Possibly the most revered artifact in the church is a replica of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. On it, the patron of Poland is portrayed tenderly holding the Christ child.
Tradition has it that the original was painted by St. Luke on a wooden panel from the table used by the Holy Family in Nazareth. It found its way to Constantinople and was acquired in 998 by Princess Ann of Kiev.
The painting arrived in Poland in 1382 from Ukraine with Prince Ladislaus Opolszyk who had it enshrined on Jasna Gora, the Hill of Light near the city of Czestochowa in a monastery where it still attracts millions of pilgrims each year. Veneration of the holy icon is believed to have helped repel a series of invasions from the east.
The resulting smoke and grime of battle is thought to be responsible for the darkness of the images and the sobriquet Black Madonna for the icon. Marks on Mary's cheek are the result of 15th century sword slashes, and her neck is said to have been pierced by a Tartar arrow.
Veneration of the holy image has extended from the shrine world-wide to wherever the faithful of Polish origin have settled.
Pastor Father Stanislaw Poszwa explains that the feast day of the parish patron, Our Lady Queen of Poland each May 3, is a primary celebration at the Calgary church. Also recognized are the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22 and the feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa on Aug. 26.
What makes this Calgary parish stand out though, is the consistent high energy level of the staff and congregation. For years, clergy were obtained for the church through the Society of Christ and in 1968, Dominican sisters arrived from the U.S. to take on a variety of duties - charitable endeavours, parish youth, church upkeep and religious education projects.
Today, Father Stanislaw counts some 1,400 families as parishioners and all are accommodated at daily and six weekend Masses.
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