July 1, 2012
At the beginning of the 20
th century, the Bolesheviks in Russia orchestrated several “show trials.” Francis MacCullagh, a correspondent for the New York Herald, was at one such trial. He witnessed the mock proceedings against Archbishop Jan Cieplak, fifteen other priests and one layman. As the highest ranking representative of the Catholic Church in the new Soviet Union, Archbishop Jan Cieplak had suffered much persecution and harassment by the government. Now, accused of crimes against the working class, he was on trial with the others.
During the trial, the procurator shouted at the archbishop, “Your religion, I spit on it, as I do on all religions, -- on Orthodox, Jewish, Mohammedan, and the rest.” And, then he added, “There is no law here but Soviet Law and, by that law, you must die.” On Palm Sunday, 1923, Archbishop Cieplak and his Vicar General Monsignor Budkiewicz were sentenced to death.
The United States, along with Great Britain and Germany, joined with the Vatican to stop the executions. Contrary to reports given to them, just before dawn on Easter Sunday, Monsignor Budkiewicz was taken from his cell and shot. His cause for sainthood was opened in 2003.
With increased international pressure, Archbishop Cieplak was eventually released from prison and taken to Poland in 1924. After reaching Poland, he visited Rome, and then the United States. During his visit in New Jersey, he fell ill and was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic. There, on February 17, 1926, he died. In 1952, the Church began the process for his beatification.
In 1976, the future Pope John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojytla, visited Saint Mary’s Hospital in Passaic where the heroic Archbishop Jan Cieplak fell asleep in Christ. Later that day, Cardinal Wojtyla celebrated a Mass at Holy Rosary Church to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Archbishop Cieplak’s death. By their presence among us, these two famous sons of Poland have blessed our diocese.
The present visit of His Eminence Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz in our diocese brings to mind this great history. The Archbishop of Kraków has come to Holy Rosary Parish to bless a statue of the saintly pope who himself visited this same parish to celebrate Archbishop Cieplak’s courageous witness to the truth of the gospel. The example of both Blessed John Paul II and Archbishop Cieplak is much needed today at a time when we face open hostility to the faith and a blatant disregard for religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. Their undiminished heroism shows us the way to be faithful to Christ in times of persecution.
The visit of Cardinal Dziwisz, faithful assistant to Blessed John Paul II for 40 years, also makes us aware of our communion with the Universal Church. It is through the Petrine ministry, so exceptionally exercised by Blessed John Paul II, that we are one. To his shepherding of the Church, the words of the psalmist rightly apply: “He pastured them with unblemished heart; with a skilled hand he led them” (Psalm 78:72). It is a blessing that Holy Rosary Parish and our diocese have a special connection to this most beloved pontiff.
In his homily at the Beatification of the Servant of God John Paul II held in Saint Peter’s Square on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI spoke of his ongoing influence. He said, “By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is
Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man.” Pope Benedict insightfully highlights his venerable predecessor’s virtues for us to emulate. Thank God that we have such a powerful intercessor before the throne of grace in Blessed John Paul II!
Because of the outpouring of love and esteem for Blessed John Paul II expressed by the faithful of our local church of Paterson, it has been my wish to establish a diocesan shrine where the faithful might seek his intercession and find strength in his example. Therefore, I am happy to designate Holy Rosary Parish in Passaic as the
Diocesan Shrine to Blessed John Paul
II. The people of this great parish, led by their pastor Fr. Stefan Las, are strong in faith and generous in charity. I know that many blessings will follow our prayers at the very spot in our diocese where Blessed John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist.
Even the title under which this parish is placed speaks to us of the life and devotion of Blessed John Paul II. The Holy Rosary! Blessed John Paul II loved our Blessed Mother and fostered devotion to her. In his Apostolic Letter on the Holy Rosary,
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, he wrote that the Rosary “blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings.”
I pray that the many pilgrims who visit this newly established Diocesan Shrine to Blessed John Paul II will avail themselves of the graces that are found in contemplating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, especially the Mysteries of Light provided for meditation by Blessed John Paul II. May this shrine serve as a source of hope for all of the faithful and may it be a witness to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ that Blessed John Paul II lived and preached with his every breath. May his example inspire us, his teaching instruct us and his intercession help us.