This Saturday, November 12, is the
feast of our patron St.
Josaphat. During his time of great distress, he was incredibly disadvantaged. He was so outnumbered that he was killed in the streets by his neighbors. He was championing the cause of
peace and unity.
The Church had gone through a schism in the eleventh century that split it into Roman Catholic in Western Europe and Orthodox in Eastern Europe. The mutual excommunications of the leaders on either side of the schism led to many centuries of anger and hatred. St.
Josaphat, who was born in the sixteenth century, long after the schism had occurred, made it his goal to reunify the two sides in the name of Christianity. So many of Christianity's core values reflect forgiveness and community, and St.
Josaphat embodied these ideals. Unfortunately, in his attempts to peacefully create harmony between the two sides of the church, he was martyred.
t. Josaphat Parish was founded in 1882 by Kashube immigrants who hailed from an area that is now Pomerania in Northern Poland, which includes Gdansk. They were under Prussian rule, and spoke the Kashube language, different than Polish and German. These people did not feel welcomed in the ethnic Polish church of St. Stanislaus Kostka (nor did they consider themselves ethnically Polish), so they wished to form their own worship community. (n.b. In Chicago, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, parishes were typically formed to serve a certain ethnic group, and each parish's demographics evolved with their neighborhoods over time.) So why did our Kashube parish founders pick St.Josaphat as the namesake of their new parish, knowing that he was born in the Ukraine, entered the monastery in Lithuania and served in Belarus? We are currently researching this topic, as no one is quite sure! One educated guess is that St.Josaphat was canonized in 1867, around the same time as the founding of the parish, so he may have been a "popular" saint at the time.
Many of us parishioners of today may struggle to find ways to relate to St.
Josaphat himself and/or our Kashube founders. But we can all take St.
Josaphat's example and be on the side of unity. Community is an incredibly important part of any parish, and by being an active part of that community, we provide strength to each other. St.
Josaphat died in the name of peace and unity, but his legacy can live on in each one of us as we, too, can embody the core ideals of our faith and help to create unity in our families, neighborhoods and thereby our nation. And unlike St.
Josaphat, we are at the advantage here, because we have our parish community to support us in our efforts. If each one of us can try to take the side of unity, our parish community will be worthy of its name.