Story by Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Standing at the ambo during Mass, Archbishop Waclaw Depo preached words of wisdom and exhortation as he urged the faithful to look to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the best model of how to trust in God even as they contemplate how difficult it must have been for her throughout her earthly life.
Photo Gallery: Polish archbishop celebrates Mass in Lakewood parish
“It could not have been easy for her to believe when she laid him in the crib or when he went missing from the temple. It was not easy for her to watch her son on the Cross, but she trusted God in everything. That’s why she is the bridge between Jesus and God,” Archbishop Depo, Metropolitan Archbishop of Czestochowa, Poland, said Aug. 5 in St. Mary of the Lake Church, Lakewood.
“If that bridge was ever needed, it is now. As was prophesied in Fatima, the world is again in fear, families are not turning to follow Jesus,” he continued. “If they do not turn to Jesus, the world will have no future. That’s why we have to trust in God like she did.”
The presence of Archbishop Depo and the diversity of Lakewood’s Catholic community was clear for all to see as hundreds of faithful from St. Mary of the Lake and St. Anthony Claret Parishes gathered in St. Mary of the Lake Church for a trilingual Mass celebrating the blessing of a vibrant symbol of their coming merger: a new icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Recently brought from Mexico by St. Mary of the Lake parishioners Elzbieta and Darius Targonski, to commemorate the union of the two faith communities expected to occur by July 2020, the icon is housed in a gilt frame and was banked with red and white flowers echoing the Polish national colors for the occasion.
The icon is a replica of the image of the Mother of God, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, miraculously imposed on the tilma (cloak) of St. Juan Diego. The miracle of Guadalupe occurred more than 500 years ago and is considered key to the conversion of six million indigenous people of the Americas. With hundreds looking on, the icon was solemnly blessed before the start of Mass by Archbishop Depo.
The archbishop – who will also meet with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during his visit – served as principal celebrant of the Mass in Polish, Spanish and English, and was joined at the altar by Father Michael Sullivan, St. Mary of the Lake Parish pastor, and Father Marian Kokorzycki, parochial vicar, and Divine Word Father Guilherme Andrino, parochial vicar of St. Anthony Claret Parish.
In his homily, Archbishop Depo, who accepted an invitation to make Lakewood his home base during his July-August pastoral visit to the United States, thanked the “dear sisters and brothers” who had come together in “the spirit of today’s Gospel” reflected in John 6:24-35. In the text, Jesus admonishes the huge crowd following him not to “work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
“Amen, amen, I say to you,” Jesus is quoted as saying, “it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
The archbishop urged all to reflect on the spiritual hunger plaguing the world today. “In the spirit of today’s Gospel, ask yourselves, ‘What are the biggest problems of today?’ There are two answers,” he said in Polish, which Father Kokorzycki translated into English.
“First, we have to recognize the Bible above all history books. It is alive in conversation with Jesus – as we heard him say, ‘I am the true bread of heaven,’” he proclaimed.
In his remarks as the Mass drew to a close, Father Kokorzycki, who became acquainted with the archbishop in Poland, conveyed his thanks to his “mentor” for blessing the icon, which he said is “not only a holy image” but a “symbol and source of unity for all the people of the community. We thank you for blessing our parish.”
During a social that followed in the parish hall, the Targonskis, who were accompanied by their three children and four grandchildren, shared their joy in seeing Our Lady of Guadalupe formally brought into the parish.
Parishioners for 20 years, they shared how they traveled with Father Kokorzycki to Mexico in March to purchase the rendering and bring it home.
“We pray to Mary for everything,” said Elzbieta Targonski. “We thought it was a good idea to have it here. It’s a special feeling for us as Catholics. It makes us feel very good.”
Since the archbishop arrived, he has traveled widely, bringing his pastoral message to communities in Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., where he paid a visit to the St. John Paul II Center. Being the spiritual leader of the Knights of Columbus councils in Poland, the archbishop also was scheduled to attend the Aug. 7-9 Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in Baltimore.
In addition to visiting Lakewood, the archbishop’s schedule in the Trenton Diocese over the past several weeks has included meetings with two Polish priests – Father Jacek Labinski, pastor of St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, and Father Richard Basznianin, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River.
Archbishop Depo said he draws strength from summer visits. It’s a blessing, he said, to follow the path of Jesus by visiting parishes and going “out to the whole world to preach the Gospel.”
“It doesn’t matter which country or race, Jesus is the savior of all,” he said. Jesus’ mother “was heroic in her faith, in her life and trials. She teaches us to have trust in the Lord, to be, as St. John Paul II said in his motto – ‘Totus Tuus, ‘All Yours.’”