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Monday, August 17, 1998
Pottsville Republican/Evening Herald

Over 400 believers attend Ciszek Mass
Shenandoah priest's sainthood candidacy promoted

SHENANDOAH -- Over 400 people traveled from as far away as Connecticut to celebrate the life and work of Father Walter J. Ciszek and promote his candidacy for sainthood. The 14th annual Father Walter J. Ciszek Day Mass, held at St. Casimir's Church, honors the anniversary of his ordination as an American Jesuit priest in the summer of 1937. The service, organized by the Father Walter J. Cizek Prayer League, began a year after the priest's death in 1984. Last year, the celebration and prayer league headquarters were moved to St. Casimir's, where Father Ciszek was baptized. Retired Bishop Thomas J. Welsh of the Allentown Diocese, the main celebrant, urged the worshippers to continue the ``important work of bringing Father Ciszek to the highest honor of the church.'' Bishop Welsh, chairman of the Walter J. Ciszek Prayer League, also read a letter from his successor, Bishop Edward P. Cullen, supporting the cause.

Monsignor Felix Losito of Holy Rosary Church, Reading, recalled Father Ciszek's life and compared his trials and sufferings to those of Peter the Apostle and Jean D'Arc (Joan of Arc). He told the worshippers of the 23 years Father Ciszek spent imprisoned in Russia and how he maintained his faith. ``(Father Ciszek's) life was filled with examples of faith,'' Monsignor Losito said. ``He took the worst moment of his life and turned it into the best moment.'' Monsignor Losito said he drew his inspiration from Father Ciszek's books, ``With God in Russia'' and ``He Leadeth Me,'' written after his return to the United States in 1963. ``Ciszek went on to attain heroic holiness,'' Monsignor Losito said. ``He kept believing. He did not quit.''

Also participating in the Mass were Monsignor Edward J. Sarzynski, pastor of St. Stanislaus and St. Casmir's parishes, Shenandoah, and Monsignor Anthony D. Muntone and Father Thomas F. Sable, co-postulators of the cause for canonization. A dozen other local priests also attended. Julia F. Wapinsky, Pottsville, said she has attended the Masses all 14 years. ``I believe that (Cizek) was a very special person, and I pray to him,'' she said. Wapinsky credits her recovery from cancer in part to those prayers. Twice, Wapinsky was diagnosed with cancer and made a complete recovery. She said she has been diagnosed with a third cancer and believes she has been healed again. ``I prayed to him, I went to his grave, and I got over it,'' she said. Others also believe there is holy power connected with Father Ciszek. ``I believe in intercession and I believe he can intercede,'' said Julia T. Heber, Pottsville. Heber, a prayer league member, was impressed by the number of people who attended the Mass. ``It was wonderful to see so many people turn out and so many priests,'' Heber said. ``It is wonderful and great for Schuylkill County.''

Near the end of the service, Monsignor Losito presented Bishop Welsh with a plaque thanking him for his assistance in furthering the cause for canonization. The Prayer League also presented $3,000 to the Allentown Dioscese, which will be used to help with the costs involved in the process. Father Sable said that he expects to send the materials gathered by the postulators to the Vatican for approval soon. If approved in Rome, Father Cizek would be declared ``blessed,'' the first of two steps toward canonization. The timing of the process is indefinite and could not be estimated, Sable said.

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