A group of religious education children dress in traditional Native attire for the 40 Hours celebration.
A group of religious education children dress in traditional Native attire for the 40 Hours celebration.
Pauline Father Karol Jarzabek, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish, Manhattan, challenged those present for the Oct. 16 closing service of Forty Hours Devotion in St. Hedwig Church, Trenton, with a question:

“What would you do if Jesus were to come in the next two days?”

Serving as homilist for the evening, Father Jarzabek answered his own question, saying, “There is no need to wait two days. Jesus is present with us now,” pointing to the altar table where the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament was placed.

PHOTO GALLERY: Conclusion of 40 Hours Devotion in St. Hedwig Church

Present with him were Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., priests from the Trenton and Metuchen Dioceses, and Father Leslaw Bialek of Milan, Italy, and longtime friend of Father Jacek W. Labinski, St. Hedwig pastor, who also preached a homily in Polish. 

In his homily, which was preached in English, Father Jarzabek urged the congregation to remember that, in addition to the Eucharist, there is another way to recognize the presence of Jesus.

“And that’s in other people,” he said. “That is the most forgotten opportunity on how to meet God, in one another.”

Many parishioners have fond memories attending Forty Hours in their parishes in Poland, he said, noting that the devotion is a designated time for the faithful to come together for prayer, reflection and contemplation, all centered around the physical presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. While the Seasons of Advent and Lent are more likely occasions for parishes to hold Forty Hours, Father Labinski holds the devotion in October near the feast day of St. Hedwig which is Oct. 16.

This year’s devotion began after the 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 14 when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and placed in the monstrance. Adoration continued throughout the day until Evening Vespers. The following day, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for seven hours, then on Oct. 16, the devotion concluded with Vespers, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.

The closing ceremony also included the participation of a significant number of young people including altar servers and students from the parish religious education program and those who attend the Polish school on the parish campus. Dressed in native Polish attire, the students were part of the entrance procession and recessional as well as the procession with the Blessed Sacrament.

After Father Labinski’s closing remarks, several of the students presented Bishop O’Connell with a bouquet of roses as a gift of appreciation for his presence that day.

At the conclusion of the closing service, a group of seventh and eighth grade religious education students who are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation remained in church as their parish catechetical leader, Walter Czajkowski, reviewed with them what they had just experienced.

“The Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is something kids need to understand,” and Forty Hours is another way for them to do so, he said. He added that Forty Hours gave the students a chance to witness something that’s part of their Polish tradition.

Altar server and eighth grader Daria Wroblewski found it meaningful to participate in the closing ceremony, especially in the procession with the Blessed Sacrament. “I was once again reminded that it was not just a piece of bread in the monstrance, that it was God who was fully present to us,” she said.

Eighth grader Gabriel Heliniak was happy to attend Forty Hours for the first time and saw it as something that “could give people hope.”