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South Texas Living

Searching for the roots of faith and heritage

Searching for the roots of faith and heritage
Leading the way is the Rev. Frank Kurzaj (holding the Panna Maria sign) as the group joins hundreds of travelers to take in the historic Vatican in Rome.

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August 13, 2014
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The 2014 trips to Silesia, Poland, sponsored annually by the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation, coincided this year with the canonization of both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Due to overwhelming response, participants were divided into two groups and separate trips were scheduled but included the same destinations. The first group of 40 travelers participated in the canonization ceremony that took place on April 27. The second group of 32 travelers departed for Italy in June.

In Italy, the travelers from Texas joined with the many pilgrims from around the world to tour and visit many of the holy places in Rome. They visited St. Peter’s Basilica and prayed in front of the altars dedicated to St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. They also visited several other basilicas and significant churches, and were able to pray in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and in the Church of the Holy Spirit (located near the Vatican). The travelers toured the catacombs, the Vatican museums, and the many places of ancient Rome. They traveled to the town of Assisi to visit the ancient basilicas. where they learned about St. Francis and St. Clare. The groups, together with many others, also participated in an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. After seven days of traveling and searching for roots of faith and heritage, the groups departed for Poland.

Upon arriving in Poland, both groups were immersed in the beauty of the Polish culture. In Krakow, they learned about the history of Poland and became acquainted with all the special places so dear to St. John Paul II. In Krakow, Lagiewniki, they visited the Basilica of Divine Mercy and the “Do Not be Afraid” Center honoring St. John Paul II. They explored Wawel Castle, prayed in St. Mary’s Church, shopped in Old Market Square, and visited the Salt Mine in nearby Wieliczka.

From Krakow, they traveled to the region of Silesia, where the Polish Texans find their roots. On the way they stopped in Wadowice and visited the birthplace of St. John Paul II. They toured the Auschwitz concentration camp, an experience that will remain with them forever. From Silesia, they traveled to Czestochowa, the home of the Monastery of Jasna Gora, where they prayed in the Chapel of the Black Madonna.

In Silesia, they visited Pluznica, the birthplace of Father Leopold Moczygemba, then Kamien Sl., the birthplace of Saint Jacinto. They prayed at the Mount of St. Ann, and also in the many churches and cemeteries of different villages so dear to the thousands of Silesian-Texans. They participated in festive and educational meetings organized by local schools and other cultural institutions. They spoke with the local media people using the old Silesian dialect, and enjoyed meeting with many of the local bishops, among them Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the president of the Polish Conference of Bishops. For those who met their distant relatives that today still bear the family names of the first Polish settlers that came to Texas from Silesia in the 19th century, it was an unforgettable experience.

After two weeks of learning, praying, and bonding, the pilgrims of both groups returned home to Texas, where, enlightened and enjoined, they are now sharing their experiences with others.

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