Wilno (Polish for Vilnius) is the first and oldest Polish community in Canada. Located between Barry’s Bay and Eganville in Ontario, it was first settled in 1848 by families from the Prussian area of Poland. It has fascinating cultural history such as the tradition of building crosses at cross roads. Our pastor in Arnprior, Fr. John Burchat is directly descended from these immigrant families.
Last Saturday Marie and I went on a pilgrimage to Wilno with our Divine Mercy friends. The occasion was the Feast of Saint John Paul II. The day retreat was led by Fr. Dan Dubroy, Ottawa Archdiocese and assisted by St. Mary’s pastor Fr. Jan Wadolowski, OMI and St. Casimir Associate Pastor Fr. John Bosco Gali, OMI, located in nearby Round Lake. Frs. Jan and John are from the Assumption (Polish) Province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
We were truly amazed at the size and beauty of St Mary’s Church, high on the hill overlooking the gorgeous fall colours of the Ottawa valley. It hosts a number of special icons. In particular:
- a specially commissioned Divine Mercy painting from Vilnius, Lithuania
- Our Lady of Sorrows from the Vilnius Gates of Dawn Chapel (visible at left below)
- Our Lady of Czestochova above the altar
Because we had visited Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Provence where as the legend goes, the Three Marys landed in exile, I was particularly intrigued by an etching depicting the Three Marys mourning the death of Christ. Presumably these were Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas.
We had a very full and holy day filled with prayer, reconciliation, Eucharist, adoration, veneration and stations of the cross. At lunch I chatted with Fr. Jan and Fr. John who were delighted to meet an Oblate Associate from Lacombe Province.
We tried to get a group picture outside but it was too windy and cold. We chanted “JP2, we love you!” to stay warm.
On the way home we stopped at the famous Wilno Tavern to pick up some delicious cabbage rolls and pirogues for dinner. A wonderful spiritually meaningful day’s outing in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.