Sunday, May 30, 2010

East is East and West is West – Or Is It?, Part II

Editor’s Note: The following story and photos were contributed by Mike Sadaj and constitute Part 2 of the continuing story. The WSDPAHS is truly grateful to Mike for this wonderful contribution to our e-Newsletter and for granting us permission to reprint his story and photographs. Both the story and photographs are © Copyright Mike Sadaj. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Editor’s Note: About the Author: Mike Sadaj grew up in the Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in the 1950s and lived within walking distance of the parish, where he served Mass and grew to love his Religion teacher, Sr. Mary Fabian, CSSF, for instilling his love for our Lord in him. He graduated from high school in 1963, joined the U.S. Military, and is a proud veteran of the fighting in the Vietnam War. Mike graduated from Wayne State University (Detroit) with a B.S. in Business and spent the greater portion of his adult life in Texas in the oil & gas business as a computer technician and high tech photographer in many parts of the U.S. and world prior to his retirement from business. Mike now pursues his photographic and writing interests as they pertain to his Polish Roman Catholic heritage.

Editor’s Note: Dedication: I would like to dedicate this story to Sr. Mary Elaine, CSSF residing at the Felician Sister’s Motherhouse in Livonia because of the inspiration she provides to me in my spiritual and religious walk on this earth. She is the kindest, gentlest and sweetest soul I have had the pleasure of getting to know in a long time. Finally, she models for me the simple humility so important in helping me recognize the unity of the Holy Spirit that brings me closer to God through Jesus that I struggle with so often as a sinner. Thank you, Sr. M. Elaine.

East is East and West is West – Or Is It?, Part II

By Mike Sadaj

In determining if “East is East and West is West?” (from our Part 1 venture from the Eastside Polonia to the Westside Polonia) is more than a metaphoric phrase or a catchy saying, it takes some thought, investigation, and insight into how much we are alike as opposed to how different we are. God provides us with the intelligence to do what is necessary to come to some understanding of these ideas and concepts, but it’s up to us to do what is necessary to figure out the meaning of those ideas and concepts. This leads us to these words of wisdom from Buddhism, “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” This applies to us as part of Detroit Poloinia to help us see each other as more similar than different. The way we do this is through the process of research that leads to knowledge with the engine of that process being God’s gift to us of the ability to think and reason. This phrase expressed the sentiment better in a few words than I could say in a whole dissertation.

St. Francis D’Assisi Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1924

When we left off last month, we were talking about and looking at the beauty of St. Francis D’Assisi Polish Roman Catholic Church. We were talking about the wonderful Polish peasants that were coming to the United States to make a better life for themselves and how they built these beautiful edifices. They were building these temples of worship to glorify the God of their understanding and to say “YES” to the future they had such strong faith that they were going to build for their children and grandchildren. They may not and probably did not it put it in these terms, but the message was clear as we children, grandchildren and yes even great-grandchildren tell the story about our beloved forefathers and mothers in the West Side Polonia of Detroit.

Upper Front Entryway to St. Francies D’Assisi Polish Roman Catholic Church

The attention to detail in the construction of this beautiful church is breathtaking and symbolically significant. Centered just above the two main front wooden doors is a beautiful Polish Eagle with its wings spread out as a welcome to all that enter. Just above that is, naturally, the bare cross symbolizing the resurrected and ascended Christ, letting us know that by Him dying on the cross for our sins we, too, can rise up from our own personal crosses to be with God the Father in His heavenly kingdom. On either side of the arch over the front of the church’s main stained glass window is the heraldic angel Gabriel calling us to prayer and devotion in the manner of our Roman Catholic ancestors in Poland.

Closer Detail of the Polish Eagle and the Cross

The St. Francis D’Assisi Parish was started in 1889 and is the second Polish parish established along the Michigan Avenue neighborhoods in the West Side Polonia. The present church located on the Northeast corner of Wesson and Buchanan was designed by Kastle and Hunter in the Italian Renaissance style. The cornerstone was laid in 1903 and the church was completed in 1905; it is 230 ft long and 123 ft wide and has the capacity to seat 1,700 people. It is constructed of Malvern brick with carved Bedford trim. The cost of construction was $150,000 (approximately $2 million in 1998 dollars).
St. Francis D’Assisi School went from K thru 8th grade. Some interesting numbers of students are 1933-l,229 students; l968-280 students, l980s-285 students and finally in 1999 the school closed. The nuns that taught at St. Francis were the Sisters of St. Joseph or SSJ order. Polish and English were taught through the 3rd grade. Many of the kids that were of first or second generation Polish were “snookered’ by their parents. When they didn’t want the kids to know what they were talking about, they would talk Polish in the house as kind of a secret language so the kids wouldn’t know what they were saying. But, once the kids figured out if they studied and did their lessons in Polish, “the jig was up”, as they used to say back in the day, as they could then figure out what their parents were plotting. That’s when the parents decided it was time to go in the bedroom and shut the door to talk about things they didn’t want the kids to hear. They found that they couldn’t fool the kids anymore!

Closer Detail of the Angel Gabriel Blowing His Trumpet Calling Us to Prayer and Worship

Stas Grabowski told me that none of the boys wanted to stand as Safety Patrol Boys on the SE corner of Buchanan and Campbell where Joseph J. Sarnowski Funeral Director’s at 4188 Campbell Avenue was located or on the SE corner of Buchanan and 35th where Jarzembowski Funeral Directors at 4405 Wesson Ave. was located. He said, “The reason being that the boys were superstitious or nervous about standing on the corner where dead people were located in the funeral homes.” Stas, also, said, “It didn’t bother me because I was not afraid of the dead ones; it was the live ones I was worried about.”

This is all that remains of the Joseph J. Sarnowski Funeral Home these were, at one time, beautiful green patina gates leading into the “delivery area” of the funeral home

Cas Sadowski told me he was an altar boy at the early, 6:30 A.M. Mass and when he and the other boys were walking to Mass the boys used to hear this “plinking” noise all the time coming from the bell towers. One day they figured out where the noise was coming from. According to Cas, “the groundskeeper was shooting an air rifle or BB gun of some sort at the pigeons in the bell towers and when he missed they heard the ‘plinking’ noise from him hitting the bells. We all had a good laugh because he must not have been a very good shot because there was more ‘plinking’ than any other noise and the pigeon population never seemed to decrease.”

The Bell Towers where the local pigeon population outsmarted the groundskeeper

Roman Dudek told me that the Safety Patrol Boys used to go to a local bakery on the corner of Campbell and Buchanan to buy day old pączki for two, sometimes three for a nickel. What a treat! We make a big deal out of Pączki Day signaling the start of Lent. Back in those days pączki’s were an everyday occurrence if you wanted them along with a loaf of rye bread and maybe some seven sisters, babka or chrusciki.
From St. Francis D’Assisi you could start your life with a baptismal; first Holy Communion was the next important milestone, then on to Confirmation; you met your future spouse at the Dom Polski dances on Junction, then came marriage. Now you were back at St. Francis with a good life including children and later it was the final Mass for your death with Fr. Kowalczyk officiating and the altar boys accompanying your casket into church, past your house and on to Holy Cross Cemetery at Dix Ave. in Dearborn Heights. No doubt your life insurance policy would pay for the tombstone from Jozef M. Miodek Monuments that said “Loving Husband, Father and Grandfather”.

NW Corner at the rear of St. Francis D’Assisi’s Magnificent Chapel

I couldn’t resist one more photograph of the inside of this most beautiful and magnificent Polish Roman Catholic Church, St. Francis D’Assisi located at:

4500 Wesson Street
Detroit, MI 48210-2494
(313) 897-7229
Mass: 10:00 A.M. Sunday
8:30 A.M. Wednesday Chapel
9:00 A.M. Holy Days

These Polish Roman Catholic Churches are really the heart and soul of our West Side Detroit Polonia and I urge you as a member of the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society or WSDPAHS, and as a personal plea, to come out and support these beautiful old and venerable Polish Roman Catholic Churches that describe the deep and rich heritage we bring to our community and city of who we are as Americans of Polish decent. We are responsible on a personal level to make sure that this history and heritage goes on and moves forward to future generations of Polish Americans that will research and feel the pride we have in our history, contributions and roots.
Again, it was so much fun talking to you my dear friends and brethren and I look forward to continuing this journey through the West Side Detroit Polonia in our next installment in July of 2010. A good prayer said once is fine but a great prayer said twice is nice. So, pray with me to St. Francis since we are saying goodbye to St. Francis D’Assisi Polish Roman Catholic Church for now:
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in
pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

A Note From the Author: The next installment, Part III, will take us deeper into the west side Polonia, I promise, to Junction, Michigan Avenue and Lonyo Street in the west side Polonia. And, we’re going to sample those pączki from Proctor (Lombardia Bakery, now) Bakery on the west side. Then how about lunch at the Starlite Restaurant on Michigan Ave. in Detroit and Sabinas Restaurant on Oakwood Boulevard in Melvindale for dinner. See you in the next installment of the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society e-Newsletter. Z Bogiem!