Hundreds of Polish Catholics gathered at Christ Cathedral last month for a special procession and Mass to dedicate the “Our Lady of Częstochowa” tapestry which was first installed earlier this year.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: FR. ZBIGNIEW FRASZCZAK, DIRECTOR OF THE JOHN PAUL II POLISH CENTER IN YORBA LINDA; CONRAD WYSZOMIRSKI; FR. ANGELOS SEBASTIAN, THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE’S VICAR GENERAL AND MODERATOR OF THE CURIA; THERESA WYSZOMIRSKI; JOANNE WYSZOMIRSKI-WITKOWSKI; FR. BAO THAI, RECTOR OF CHRIST CATHEDRAL.
The tapestry is a close interpretation of the original “Our Lady of Częstochowa” painting, and was woven with wool and gold thread by Polish American artist Monique Chmielewska-Lehman. She was commissioned by Theresa Wyszomirski, who donated the tapestry to the Cathedral.
Wyszomirski, a long-time parishioner of the St. John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda, left Poland in the early 1960s and ultimately settled in Southern California.
Through family connections in Poland, Wyszomirski was also able to acquire a first-class St. John Paul II relic for the altar at Christ Cathedral in 2019 when the Cathedral was dedicated.
“I am so happy to see this day,” said Wyszomirski. “I wanted the Madonna and St. John Paul II to be able to ‘see’ each other here in the Cathedral.”
For centuries, the Polish people bore the brunt of European conflicts – for 700 years these stalwart people were trampled on by armies from the West and the East. But they survived the worst of times through the intersession of their special Madonna, Our Lady of Częstochowa, also known as the Black Madonna.
Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe is at the heart of Mexican spiritual culture, Our Lady of Częstochowa, patroness of Poland, occupies a central place in both the political identity and spiritual heart of every Pole. Both are symbols of unity and national identity.
Legend holds that the painting dates to the time of Jesus and was painted by St. Luke on a table built by St. Joseph. Time, war and invasions damaged the table, which is why the paint darkened over time and explains the scars on Mary’s face. Regardless of its origin, it is one of the oldest depictions of Mary. Since the 12th century, the painting has been enshrined in the Monastery of Jasna Gora in Częstochowa.
Fr. Bao Thai, rector of Christ Cathedral, Fr. Angelos Sebastian, the Diocese’s vicar general and moderator of the curia and Fr. Zbigniew Fraszczak, director of the John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda, celebrated the April dedication Mass in English and Polish.
“There are no words to express the suffering of the Polish people in the wars of the 20th century,” said Fr. Bao. “The Madonna is the glue that holds these people together. She is like the Queen of Poland. The Polish people have had a huge impact on the Catholic Church, especially in the 20th century.” The tapestry was installed on the east side of the Cathedral at the entry to the Nave.
Fr. Bao added that the tapestry is part of a more extensive collection dedicated to Marian’s devotion at the Cathedral. The vision is to honor Mary as she is seen through various cultures in Orange County. The patron of the Diocese is Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her image is displayed opposite the altar in the Cathedral. Our Lady of La Vang, an icon of the Vietnamese people, is enshrined in an outdoor statue and garden area.
“We hope to add the Madonna honoring the Korean Community as well as the Pilipino community and other representations of our Lady,” said Fr. Bao.