MOTHER OF BROOKLYN
Fr. RYSZARD KOPER
Some people are crying, some people are lying on the ground in the form of the cross, some people are touching the picture, are bringing whole armfuls of flowers, they are talking with Our Lady loudly, are singing and are applauding. This is the way, the black-skinned inhabitants of New York express their worship to Our Lady of Jasna Góra
During a meeting in the parish of Our Lady of Częstochowa and St. Kazimierz in Brooklyn, Fr. Siergiej answered the phone and, as we understood, being asked where he was staying, he answered: ‘With Mother’. We looked at him because his mother lives in Ukraine. Fr. Siergiej smiled and explained that he meant Our Lady of Częstochowa, who has been protecting this part of the New York land with her coat in a special way for over 100 years, being its patron from the main altar of the church under her name. The first emigrants were setting up this parish and were building the church, entrusting this great work to Our Lady of Częstochowa.
In the year 1980 the collapsing Polish parish of St. Kazimierz was joined to this neighbouring parish. It was the oldest parish of the Polish Diaspora in this part of New York. In this joining we can perceive God’s plan. St. Kazimierz was a great worshipper of Our Lady. After this joining we have a double reason to name the parish of Our Lady of Częstochowa the mother of all churches of the Polish Diaspora in the diocese of Brooklyn. Firstly – it is the oldest church in New York, under the name of Our Lady of Częstochowa; secondly – after the joining with the parish of St. Kazimierz it is the oldest parish of the Polish Diaspora in this diocese. And it is perceived so by believers who often make a long way in order to pay tribute to Our Lady of Częstochowa in the Icon of the Brooklyn church.
One day, after the Holy Mass I asked one of women how far away she lived from the church of Our Lady of Częstochowa and St. Kazimierz. She answered that on the neighbouring Staten Island and that she had three interchanges to arrive in the Holy Mass. I asked why she had chosen that church, as she passed by other churches of Polish Diaspora on her way. – Because here is our Mother. I feel Her presence – she answered.
Another time, after the Holy Mass a beautiful dark-skinned young girl came to the sacristy. She asked for blessing before her journey. She was travelling to Poland. The main purpose of her pilgrimage was Częstochowa. She wanted to pay tribute to Our Lady of Częstochowa in Her home at Jasna Góra. She arrived in our Brooklyn church from far away, from the Long Island. Here I must add that Our Lady of Jasna Góra receives a special worship among black-skinned believers of Christ. They chose Her as their Mother, because Her image is dark. Each of them, if does not sing, surely understands the words of the Mary’s song: ‘Black Madonna’. During some Holy Masses there are more dark-skinned believers than the white-skinned ones. Dark-skinned believers express their love to Our Lady of Częstochowa in a very spontaneous way. They are crying, lying on the ground in the form of the cross, are touching the picture, are bringing armfuls of flowers, are loudly talking with Our Lady, are singing and others are applauding to them.
Haiti in white – red colours
During the annual parish feast, during a procession, the picture of Our Lady of Częstochowa is carried. Women of Polish origin are carrying it out from the church, but it is impossible to cope with the liveliness of black-skinned believers. Each of them wants to come closer to it, carry and touch it. There are sometimes scuffles. Among the black-skinned believers a large group comes from Haiti. Some of them have Polish genes in their blood, as well as Polish-sounding although distorted surnames…At the turn of XVIII and XIX centuries there was an uprising of the black-skinned people in Haiti. Napoleon Bonaparte sent Polish Legions to stifle the revolts in the richest French colony. Among 5200 legionnaires only 800 of them returned to France. Many of them were killed by tropical illnesses, others were enrolled to the colony British army, and others joined insurgents, not being able to accept their role as hated invaders. 400 of them settled down in the south of the island, in mountainous villages: Cazale, La Vallee de Jacmel, Fond des Blancs, Port-Salut and Saint-Jean du Sud.
Our Lady of Częstochowa is looking at Her children with love from the Brooklyn altar and she asks Her Son for graces for the young parish priest – Fr. Dr.Janusz Dymka, for me and multi-cultural community of Her children, who come to Her as to the home of their Mother.