Heritage Sunday — a part of the whole

Rev. Robert Koerber stands in the Holy Name of Jesus Church at 15 Thayer St. in South Deerfield.

Rev. Robert Koerber stands in the Holy Name of Jesus Church at 15 Thayer St. in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

By THE REV. ROBERT M. KOERBER

Pastor, Holy Name of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church

Published: 10-13-2023 8:33 PM

I am currently reading a book by famed author Simon Sebag Montefiore titled: “The World, A Family History of Mankind.” This 2023 book, which reads over 1,333 pages, tells of the “origins” of families, from 9500 BC to the present. From the early beginnings of the Sumerian, Phoenician, Persian, Chinese, Egyptian or Indian civilizations, as well as those who came afterward, Montefiore concentrates on the impact of “families” who helped shape our world, both good and bad, from the past to the present.

This weekend, Oct. 14 and 15, the town of Deerfield, in conjunction with its 350th anniversary, will celebrate the Eastern European Heritage Festival. This two-day event, open to the public, will present various programs, entertainment and a comprehensive history of the Eastern European immigrants who came to Deerfield and the surrounding areas from Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania. These immigrants brought with them not only their families, but their heritage of customs and traditions, as well as their food, which we all have enjoyed. They helped to shape and enhance the town of Deerfield as part of the “melting pot” experiment through their contributions in farming as well as other occupations.

This weekend in the Polish National Catholic Church we celebrate in our churches, as well as with other Christian denominations, Heritage Sunday, which honors our ancestors. Our ethnicity, our cultures and our traditions, whether Eastern European or not, define who we are.

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As pastor of the Holy Name of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church here in South Deerfield, I share in all these most special days with pride as we remember the rich heritage inherited to each of us from our families.

In our own history here at Holy Name of Jesus, so many of our families who came to America from Poland settled in the Deerfield area and built a church, dedicated to God, whose construction began in September 1929 and — despite the onslaught of the Great Depression of 1929 — consecrated and dedicated this church nine months later. Above the sanctuary of our church is inscribed in Polish “Chwala Bogu Na Wysokosci,” which translates in English to “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Personally speaking, I come from a rich Polish heritage. My mom, along with my Bacci — or Polish grandmother — shared with me their heritage. I remember as a child sharing the Oplatek, or Christmas wafter, at Wilgia, the Polish Christmas Eve meal, which I have kept and celebrate to this day. From pierogi or stuffed dumplings to singing koledy (Polish Christmas carols,) each of us, whatever our heritage may be, all celebrate with pride our rich ethnic backgrounds.

There is discussion presently that, in conjunction with the 350th anniversary of Deerfield, the churches in Deerfield will celebrate in early December their own unique heritage. Churches in Deerfield are being called upon, are preparing for open houses and will share pictures with visitors depicting their share of spiritual heritage as Christians.

As many will gather to observe the Eastern European Heritage Festival this weekend, we will see through dance and discussion, food and drink, the uniqueness of a people who helped define what it means to share a combined heritage of also being an American, a people whose country sets forth freedom in its religions and democracy through the diversity of many cultures.

Holy Name of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church is at 15 Thayer St. in South Deerfield. It is a family-oriented church established in 1929 by a community of parishioners whose legacy of spiritual freedom is still felt after 80 years. It is a democratic, non-papal Catholic parish, with a liturgical worship style. Reach out by phone at 413-665-2129.