From Buffalo comes this surprising story of a discovery that is reminding a parish of its past — and offering hope for its future:
They were letters to God, written by schoolchildren more than a century ago.
And since being discovered concealed in a cross atop Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Clark Street, they continue to bring members of the East Side parish together — past, present and future.
“This was very surprising for us. It was a very beautiful moment,” the Rev. Mariusz Dymek, administrator of the parish, said Sunday of the recent discovery, which was made when a copper cupola and the cross were removed by a construction crew during restoration work.
So delighted were the parishioners that the decision was made to continue the tradition.
“So we followed this custom and asked our parishioners to add new letters to the old ones and put them back,” Dymek said.
The response from parishioners was overwhelming. Asked how many members were participating in the letter-writing campaign, which continued Sunday after all Masses, Dymek said, “Almost everyone.”
“I didn’t see one person who didn’t stop for the letters. It was beautiful.”
So far, between 400 to 500 new letters, including those written by children from the parish, have been collected.
“This is something that connects parishioners to each other and to the parish,” Dymek said.
“It just touched my heartstrings to see those letters,” parishioner Christopher Byrd, a member of the parish organization Friends of Corpus Christi, said Sunday. “It put into perspective the work we put into this church. It binds us with the past. It reaffirms why a lot of us are here, preserving the parish.”
Byrd, whose grandmother was baptized in the church in 1916, said that most parishioners feel very strongly about preserving the parish.
“We feel that we owe that,” he said. “By us being involved in preserving their church, it’s as if we’re going to church with our ancestors.”
Some of the old letters and artifacts found in the cross were on display Sunday in the St. Kolbe Center, across the street from the church.
Longtime parishioner and former altar boy Zbigniew Wilkosz remarked that the letters are just another sign that Corpus Christi parishioners still feel connected.
“The church still has a strong heartbeat,” he said. “This will be from our generation. We’re still supporting the church, and our lives are still part of this church. There’s only a few of us now, but we’re not giving up. The torch, like the Olympic torch, is still lit.”
Wilkosz said that although the parish has been reduced to just hundreds of parishioners from thousands in years past, it is still a very close-knit, predominantly Polish community.
“Everybody knows everybody,” he said. “I hope we are blessed as previous generations were blessed.”