Monday, November 03, 2008

All Saints Day at Holy Cross Cemetery

The West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Association in conjunction with the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan hosted the first annual Holy Cross Cemetery Prayer Service, Pilgrimage, and Wypominki, on November 1st, All Saints Day. It was a beautiful, crisp, autumn day... perfect for a visit to the cemetery.

The program began with a prayer service led by Rev. Gary Michalik (of St. Theodore Catholic Church, Westland) in the cemetery chapel. Attendees read off the names of their deceased family members buried at the cemetery and we prayed for them all. Following that, Michele Lipinski Matuszewski read a short history of the cemetery prepared by Elaine Walters Raymo, and Thaddeus Radzilowski (of the Piast Institute) spoke about All Saints' and All Souls' Days customs in Poland. Waleria passed out "soul cakes" which she baked herself. (I am munching on mine as I'm writing this and it is absolutely delicious!) From the label on Waleria's soul cakes...
On November 1 (All Saints Day) and November 2 (All Souls Day) in Poland, flocks of beggars turned up at the cemetery entrances in their rags and tatters bundled up against the cold. They were regarded as extremely helpful in praying for the intercession of the saints and for the souls of the family's dearly departed. Special small loaves of bread, or "soul cakes," were baked, one for the soul of each dearly departed family member, and were given to the beggars whose ardent prayers for relatives in purgatory were requested. Such loaves were often first taken to the priest, who blessed them before giving them to the poor.
After the program in the chapel was completed, attendees visited the graves of John Kronk (of Kronk boxing fame), and Redemptorists Priests. Michele presented histories of each while Laurie Gomulka Palazzolo demonstrated cleaning of the gravestones. Then we all went our own ways to visit the graves of our family members buried at Holy Cross.

I had a chance to visit with my good genea-buddies, Waleria and Cylka, who were also in attendance. It's always great to see them again! And I visited the graves of my grandparents, all 4 of whom are buried at Holy Cross.

I learned quite a bit at this wonderful event. For instance, I had no idea Holy Cross was such an old cemetery. Cemetery records go back to 1867 but there are gravestones indicating burials back to 1843. It's believed that there were burials even earlier but there are no stones or documents to confirm that. And, "soul cakes" was new to me. Yum! I know why the beggars in Poland flocked to the cemeteries for All Saints and All Souls Days! ;-)

Thanks to everyone who worked on this program. You did a great job! And thanks for the handout with all the historical information. Very well done!

I plan to attend this event again next year. If you missed it (sorry I didn't post about it here on my blog), do make an effort to attend next year! Holy Cross Cemetery is located at 8850 Dix Rd., Detroit, Michigan. 48210