Read the full text of:
Homily of Bishop Fred Colli, Bishop of Thunder Bay - on the occasion of 100th Anniversary of St. Casimir Parish - Oct. 1, 2022
The celebration of 100 years for a parish community is indeed a wonderful event. As we gather here tonight - we can think of the many changes and developments that have touched this parish community. In the years that I have been here as the bishop - I have seen many changes. And tonight, we celebrate a Mass of St. Casimir - and we give thanks for this anniversary, and we ask St. Casimir to help direct us - into what the future may hold for our community.
What do we know about St. Casimir? Well, he was a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Second son of King Casimir IV Jagiellon, he was tutored by Johannes Longinus, a Polish chronicler and diplomat. After his elder brother Vladislaus was elected as King of Bohemia in 1471, Casimir became the heir apparent. At the age of 13, Casimir participated in the failed military campaign to install him as King of Hungary. He became known for his piety, devotion to God, and generosity towards the sick and poor. He became ill (most likely with tuberculosis) and died at the age of 25. He was buried in Vilnius Cathedral Lithuania - and his cult grew. His canonization was initiated by his brother King Sigismund I the Old in 1514 and the tradition holds that he was canonized in 1521. He was known for his piety, his devotion to God and for his generosity to the sick and the poor. These characteristics are not just for St. Casimir - but are an example for all of us - of our need to be holy, to make sure God is a part of our life, and to reach out to the poor and needy as Jesus himself did. In doing so - we too become holy and saintly.
As we celebrate our parish - we know that these values have been manifest in the 100 years of our parish life. Originally part of Holy Rosary Parish - St. Casimir’s was formally established in 1936 and was under the direction of Fr. John Wojnowski. After this untimely death in 1941 the new parish priest was Fr. Joseph Stankiewicz - or Fr. Stan - of happy memory. Under his direction a new church was built - this church - and through the generosity of the people - this church was blessed by Bishop Jennings, the first bishop of our diocese in 1953. It was determination, hard work, volunteerism, and generosity - linked to a love of God and faith - that brought this parish to life. Of course - it was serving many Polish people who were coming to Canada as immigrants to build a new life for their families. Today we know that this is not happening as much - so national parishes are suffering due to this lack of immigration. And of course, many children of the families, born and raised in Canada, have mixed with other parish communities and are raising their families differently today.
Many different pastors have been here to serve this parish community, and as the bishop I am grateful to all of them for their service and dedication. I am thankful to the Oblates of Mary for sending us Fr. Piotr, who serves you now. But in all of the history of a parish community, whether it be long or short, the very core and life of the parish is the congregation or people who come and support the church and its priests. The Polish community of St. Casimir’s has been faithful and strong for many years. Your determination to maintain your parish comes from a strong sense of Faith, a desire to continue Polish traditions, and to maintain a close-knit polish community. These are all very good values and desires. I commend you as a community for your continued efforts.
As St. Paul notes in the second reading from his letter to the Philippians, we must put Christ first in our lives, and no matter what has happened in the past, we look for guidance from the Holy Spirit to bring us forward in our history - recognizing that Jesus has won the victory for us, and we strive to share in the victory of eternal life. The Gospel of this Mass also reaffirms our work as a parish community. Loving one another as Christ has loved us. I image that this is true among all people of Polish descent here in Thunder Bay - no matter in what part of the city you live - we are one community, striving to keep our traditions alive and strong, and to pass them on to our children and their children. May Wisdom be our guide and the Holy Spirit give us courage, as we walk together into the future - after 100 years of prayer and praise to God, here at St. Casimir’s.
Thank you for your faithfulness, thank you for your support to Fr. Piotr Dudek and all your pastors, thank you for your generosity to St. Casimir’s parish, and thank you for your support to me, your bishop…we will always continue to pray for one another…
jen-KOO-yeh -3X - God Bless you.