The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East
At Mass we share in the one Bread and the one Cup “that these gifts may become the sign of a new humanity, reconciled to you in loving charity, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” – Offertory Prayer for the Memorial of SS. Cyril and Methodius
I am an old guy, having gone to school in the 1950’s and 60’s. I grew up in New Britain, CT, in a Polish-American Parish. My Dad owned a bowling alley, and the family would help out at times. About half of the alleys had mechanical pin-setters, while the others used pin-boys. I learned how to set pins. Many of our pin-boys were African-American men. I remember talking with Mr. Coaker, who during the day delivered coal, and on many nights would come in from Hartford to set pins. I took Latin in high school, and somehow we began to discuss the conjugation of Latin verbs. That night as I went home I began to ask myself, “Why is this educated man delivering coal and setting pins? Doesn’t he deserve a better life than this?” Only later would I come to understand the depth of prejudice and discrimination that he faced.
Fr. Lucian Bojnowski was the founding pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in 1896 and was still the pastor in the 1950’s when I was in the parish school. He founded an order of sisters, a couple of schools, a hospital, and an old age home, and was influential in seeing that the Polish immigrants became educated in English and in their Polish heritage. In reading his biography, I learned that around 1930, there was a scandal when in a nearby town, a black man and a white woman married in their Protestant church. There was much gossip. On Sunday, Fr. Bojnowski got up in the pulpit and told the people to shut their mouths. These two people were doing what was right in the eyes of God. Your gossip is sinful. I was consoled on learning this for it underlined the true Polish spirit. The reason that there were so many Jews in Poland who were killed by the Nazis in WWII was that during hundreds of years when Poland was a free Polish/Lithuanian nation, Jews were less discriminated against than elsewhere in Europe. Catholics and Orthodox also were able to live together. It was only after WWI, when Poland regained its freedom, that the disease of anti-Semitism crept in. In understanding Who we receive is to see all my sisters and brothers in Christ. Like Bartimaeus, may our prayer be: “Lord, I want to see.”
This month’s reflection was provided by John Michalowski, SJ, of St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC . If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.