St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish Milestones
October 15, 1979: Church officials agree to establish a new Polish parish called Blessed Maximilian Kolbe.
December 2, 1979: Inaugural Mass celebrated. Father Stanley Bąk, O.M.I. is officially installed as pastor by His Grace Archbishop Philip Pocock.
July 10, 1980: Parish Council meets with Bishop Leonard Wall to discuss building plans for the new church.
September 7, 1980: Sister Alice assumes her duties as Pastoral Assistant.
September 13, 1980: The Building Fund Campaign officially begins under the auspices of Their Eminences Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter and Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin.
April 5, 1981: Father Stanley Bak announces the purchase of the church site to parishioners.
April 25,1981: First meeting of the Building Committee.
August 27,1981: Blessing the site of the new church by His Excellency Jan Wieczorek from Opole, Poland.
November 1, 1981: Inaugural Polish monthly Mass at St. Anne’s Church in Brampton. Masses continued there until the new church was completed.
November 3, 1981: Work begins on the project to sponsor and settle Polish families from Austrian refugee camps.
August 4, 1982: Establishment of the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation.
October 7, 1982: The Maximilian Kolbe Foundation purchases an additional 3.2 acres at the church site.
October 24, 1982: The canonization of our Patron Saint- Blessed Maximilian Kolbe- celebrated with a Mass in St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto.
March 13, 1983: Ground-breaking ceremony at the church site and beginning of construction.
May 22, 1983: His Eminence Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin blesses the cornerstone of the new church.
December 18, 1983: First Mass celebrated in the newly-completed church.
February 26, 1984: Official opening of a branch of the Stanislaus-St Casimir Credit Union.
September 16, 1984: Blessing of the church during Pope John Paul II visit to Canada.
The 1970’s saw a great many Polish families move into the rapidly growing city of Mississauga. As a result, many individuals as well as representatives of various Polish organizations began lobbying to establish a new Polish parish.
Towards this end, formal petitions were gathered and presented to the Diocese.
In October 1979, shortly after the election of Pope John Paul II, the Polish communities in Mississauga and Brampton received the news they had worked so long and hard to hear. The new parish would have as its patron Blessed Maximilian Kolbe and be administered by the Oblate Fathers. Father Stanley Bak, O.M.I. was appointed its first pastor. The new parish was generously helped by the Felician Sisters, who gave permission for the use of the gymnasium at Holy Name of Mary High School. They also permitted the use of their liturgical vestments and furniture. On December 2, 1979, the first Sunday in Advent, the gymnasium was filled to capacity by new parishioners, city officials and representatives from Polish organizations. Father Stanley Bak concelebrated the inaugural mass with numerous Polish priests from the area. He was also formally installed as pastor by Archbishop Philip Pocock. This momentous day was the crowning glory of the first steps of the new parish. The sustained efforts of many enthusiastic volunteers working in unison with Father Bak and the Parish Council had reached fruition that Sunday.
The first Parish Committees had been established before the Inaugural Mass and were hard at work. The Social Committee was responsible for organizing parish social functions and dances; the Liturgical and Service Committees weekly transformed an ordinary gym into a place of worship; the Financial Committee had as its main objective to raise funds for the parish’s needs and church construction.
WHY WAS BLESSED MAXIMILIAN KOLBE CHOSEN AS PATRON SAINT?
Blessed Maximilian Kolbe’s life, missionary work and heroic death are known to most Polish people far and wide. The tragic memories conjured up by the events of World War II in Poland are still fresh in many minds. Father Kolbe was but one of many who died in those years. However, it is to the nature of his death that we must look. He made his sacrifice, to save the life of a fellow prisoner, alone, freely and fully comprehending the con-sequences of his act. By his action he was a living witness to the belief that only good can conquer evil.
There are many now living in Mississauga who continues to be witnesses of Maximilian Kolbe’s resolve. Above all, this man was a believer, who even in such inhuman conditions, brought consolation, love and the hope of survival. Father Kolbe is our personal ray of hope- our role model for loving our fellow man, a hero, a saint in our own time, who lived and died amongst our Polish countrymen. On September 13, 1980, in the parish hall of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mississauga the first Building Fund Banquet took place. Their Eminences Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter and Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin graced this milestone-event with their presence.
Included among the guests were Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Senator Stanley Haidasz. The Banquet was a great success, realizing substantial sums in cash and pledges to meet the initial goal of $500,000.00
BLESSING OF THE CHURCH SITE
Crowds of faithful gathered at the corner of Cawthra Rd. and Meadows Blvd. on a sunny Sunday, September 27, 1980, to itness the blessing of the church site. Sent to officiate by the Polish Episcopate, was his Excellency Jan Wieczorek, Auxiliary Bishop of Opole. Concelebrating the Mass with him were the Polish pastors of parishes adjacent to Mississauga. Representing the city of Mississauga was Mayor Hazel McCallion, along with other government and Polish organizational representatives. The most memorable and touching moment came when Bishop Wieczorek sprinkled earth taken from outside Block II at Auschwitz’s infamous Wall of Death.
The very same earth had been soaked years earlier with the blood of thousands executed there. It served as a fitting reminder of our patron’s sacrifice. Later that afternoon a special commerative banquet, attended by close to 800 people, was held at St. John’s Lithuanian Parish Hall in Mississauga. Distributed at that time was the first Souvenir Booklet outlining the events and activities of our young parish.
MAXIMILIAN KOLBE FOUNDATION ESTABLISHED
The dynamic growth and active participation in the new parish spurred the pastor to lay plans for the future. After many consultations and discussions with parishioners, Father Bak decided to capitalize on the opportunity to purchase the adjacent 3.2 acres of land at the church site. The land was owned by the Ontario Government and already had a bidder.
Lacking funds to bid directly, it was decided to form a Foundation that would purchase the land as its primary objective. Thus the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation was born on August 4, 1982. The Foundation continues its work by planning future use of the land to accommodate a park, senior citizens home and perhaps a nursery and meeting halls. Today the benefits accruing from the establishment of the Foundation are obvious to all.
SPONSORING REFUGEE FAMILIES
The Parish was able to do a great deal in helping many refugee families. Thanks in large measure to the hard work of certain individuals and the co-operation and support of the entire parish, we were able to assist 137 refugee families and sponsor 17 families ourselves. The planning and coordination for this project was headed by Father Bak and Sister Alice.
What type of assistance did these families receive? Many were temporarily accommodated in the homes of parishioners until their own lodgings were available.
These friendships and contacts enabled the newcomers to more quickly acclimatize themselves to their new lives in Canada. Not everyone realizes the tremendous amount of work involved in this successful undertaking, – the countless telephone calls, hundreds of kilometers driven and the many major decisions taken. A great deal of time and effort went into the collection, pick-up and delivery, division and cleaning of donated items.
The new families were encouraged to participate in all parish activities from the liturgical to the social to the recreational. Individual contacts and visits continued to help in the psychological adaptation of the first traumatic months and to maintain morale. In this atmosphere of assistance and gradual exposure to life in Canada, they could look more confidently to the future.
CANONIZATION OF OUR PATRON
In the fall 01 1982 the parish family received the long awaited momentous news Blessed Maximilian Kolbe was to be canonized. Happiness and awe were but two emotions we all experienced at this news. Attending the canonization Mass In Rome was a parish delegation headed by Father Stanley Bąk. Meanwhile, at home, plans were rapidly advancing to organize a fitting tribute for the canonization.
Invited to help us celebrate was the newly appointed Primate of Poland, Archbishop Jozef Glemp. Unfortunately, due to pressing political problems at home, he was unable to attend. Nevertheless, the celebratory Mass was held at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral on October 24, 1982. The Mass was concele¬brated by Father Bak and the homily delivered by Father Henry Pieprzycki, a Franciscan from Montreal, who was also the official postulator for the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe. Hundreds of people filled the cathedral to capacity including standard bearers from Polish organizations, children from Polish schools, Polish Girl Guides and Scouts and choirs.
We were once again fortunate to be witnesses at a very historic event. Following the Mass a banquet was held at St. John’s Lithuanian parish hall in Mississauga.
Among the various city officials and organizational representatives were two special guests and parishioners, Mrs. & Mrs. Mazurek. Both had been inmates at Auschwitz and Mr. Mazurek was an eyewitness to the martyrdom of Maximili3n Kolbe. Both shared their painful memories of their experiences and in so doing helped all present to better understand the events of 41 years ago.
GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY
On Sunday, March 13, 1983, with the sun shining warmly, the official ground breaking for our new church took place. With it the stage was set for a group of active and enthusiastic supporters who began to give of their time and labor. Craftsmen and tradesmen volunteered their time and expertise and some donated construction materials. Those without special trades volunteered their time and labor while ladies provided lunches. Everyone worked towards the common goal – completing the new church as quickly as possible. Providing encouragement and handling the countless details involved while maintaining a grueling schedule was Father Bak.
BLESSING OF THE CORNERSTONE
On Sunday, May 22, 1983 at 2:00 p.m. our church’s cornerstone was blessed.
A steady and prolonged downpour forced a change of location for the blessing from the church site to St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Cardinal Rubin once again officiated at the ceremony and celebrated the Mass. As at many of our previous milestone events, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, Provincial and Federal Government representatives as well as representatives from Polish organizations were present.
The Parish choir, children in national costumes, Girl Guides and Scouts all contributed to the solemnity of the occasion. Later that afternoon parishioners and guests assembled at St. John’s Lithuanian parish hall for a celebratory banquet whose guest of honor was His Eminence Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin.