Holy Week – a visit at the Polish Mission in Brampton, Canada

The Czestochowa Icon arrived on Tuesday of Holy Week, April 15th, at Brampton, the Canadian province of Ontario, northwest of Toronto.  It was a long trip from Omaha through Nebraska - about fifteen hours long, but Our Blessed Mother's escort decided that it would be worthwhile to use a few "days off" during the Holy Week to make it possible for the Polish community of Toronto to meet Our Lady of Czestochowa.  During Her last visit in Canada there was a conflict of schedule and many people expressed their regrets at the fact that the Icon did not stop to visit one of the largest Polish centers in Canada.

The parish in Brampton is unique.  A Polish Catholic Mission has its home here, but the Holy Masses are also celebrated in English.  The parish patron saint is the founder and the first Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – St. Eugene de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles.  This parish contains the Shrine of Our Lady of Ludźmierz, the queen of the Polish Tatra Mountains, who is also known as the Shepherdess of Podhale, or in Polish: Gaździna Podhala, with a beautiful replica of the original wooden statue of the smiling Madonna with the Child Jesus.  St. John Paul II, as Archbishop of Cracow, tremendously enjoyed visiting the Shrine in Ludźmierz during his hiking and skiing trips in the mountains.

Since November of 1999, Father Adam Filas, OMI is the pastor of the parish in Brampton.  One of the difficult tasks he had to undertake was the formation of a parish that was just coming to existence, uniting the Polish people who were dispersed all over the Toronto area.  He also had to oversee the building of a new church that would become the Millennium Shrine.  Father Adam is originally from the Polish Podhale region.  He was born in Rabka, the same Polish village as Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, currently serving as the Cardinal Archbishop of Cracow, once - the long-time and influential Secretary of St. John Paul II.  Father Adam undertook the missionary work in Canada as a missionary from the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  Initially, he worked in very harsh conditions among the Eskimo population, first at Hudson Bay, and later in Northern Canada in the Nunavut Village of Igloolik.  Subsequently, Fr. Adam became a pastor at several parishes, including the well-known Polish Parish of St. Maximilian in Mississauga, just south of Toronto.  In 1996, the Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, made the decision to expand the Polish Catholic Mission to include a parish in Brampton, because the parish in Mississauga was unable to provide adequate pastoral care to the vast numbers of the Polish faithful in this area.  Father Adam Filas, as pastor of St. Maximilian in Mississauga, began to expand and build out the parish in Brampton into a significant Polish Center.  Since 1999, he became pastor of this parish and moved to Brampton.  Within a short amount of time, a Marian Shrine was erected, and shortly after, a new church was constructed to serve as the Millennium Shrine, according to the architectural plans of Stanislaw Szafarski – Dziana with the "Archway" team.  A solemn consecration of the church took place on May 22, 2011.

Our Lady of Czestochowa arrived at Brampton on Tuesday evening of Holy Week.  She was greeted very solemnly at the entrance to the vast parish grounds, followed by a solemn procession during which the Icon was carried to the church square where a large memorial of John Paul II is located, for whose canonization everyone was preparing at the time.  The Brampton Parish has a memorial hall honoring St. John Paul II, where many of his personal belongings and memorabilia are located; among them is the cassock and shoes which the late Pontiff wore during this World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.  Next to the memorial hall is the Chapel of St. John Paul II which contains first class relics of the Pope Saint's blood.  The stole that was used by the late Holy Father is located above the reliquary.  Father Adam received many mementos of the holy Pontiff for the Polish Mission in Canada.  He participated in private Masses and papal audiences with St. John Paul II twenty-two times.

Priests, who work at the parish, together with the Missionary Sisters of Christ the King for Polish immigrants and large parish groups, participated in the main welcoming ceremony in the church square.  The Knights of Columbus, assisted by an escort, carried the Icon of Our Lady.  When everyone had gathered in front of the church, they listened to a recording of John Paul II's pro-life homily, originally given on June 4, 1991 in Radom, Poland.  These were his words:  “…Let us also notice that the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ does not only contain a command. It calls us to assume certain attitudes and positive behavior. Do not kill but rather protect life, protect health and respect the human dignity of every man, regardless of his race or religion, level of intelligence, level of awareness or age, health or illness. Do not kill but rather accept another being as God’s gift – especially if it is your own child.  Do not kill, but rather make every effort to help your neighbor, so that they, who – in human terms – think that it arrived at an inconvenient time, may receive their child joyfully."

Father Adam has always been in support of protecting human life.  He willingly assisted the pro-life groups and all activities aimed at the protection of the unborn.  He oftentimes hosted Father Paul Marx, OSB, the founder of Human Life International, and also Ewa and Lech Kowalewski, the directors of HLI-Poland, in his parish.

The veneration of Our Lady in the Icon continued from Tuesday until Good Friday.  The entire time, the church was filled with people praying.  Father Peter West preached homilies during the English and Polish Masses.  Father West and Chris Morales sensed a tremendous joy and a great love of the Polish people for the Blessed Mother.  Their visit at such a lively and active parish made it a wonderful experience for both of them during the Holy Week.

On Good Friday in the morning, the Icon joined a group of pro-lifers who were participating in the Lenten "40 Days for Life."  About eighty people arrived, walking in a procession from the Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Toronto to pray at the nearby abortion mill.  Father Adam half-seriously and half-jokingly remarked that Our Blessed Mother could stay in their parish for good.  Many people would like that, but the Icon of Czestochowa is a pilgrim icon and continues to travel around the world.  Soon afterwards, Our Lady started heading in the direction of Chicago, Illinois.

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