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Archbishop Banach holds joyous celebration at home before setting off to represent the Pope

Posted By May 16, 2013 | 12:34 pm | Featured Article #4
Mass of Thanksgiving Banach Sprinkling

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By Catholic Free Press staff

Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish welcomed home  its native son Archbishop Michael W. Banach May 12. Joy permeated the proceedings from the formal greetings at the beginning, to the children in traditional Polish dress presenting him with gifts at its conclusion. The parish which nurtured his vocation to the priesthood added to the homecoming with prayers and hymns sung by the Polish choir in its native tongue.
Archbishop Banach is home for a short time before he travels across the world to take up his new mission for the Church as apostolic nuncio to Papua New Guinea. There he will be the representative of Pope Francis.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, represented Pope Francis at Sunday’s Mass. He told the congregation that they must be experiencing joy in seeing the fruit of their nurturing. He said that Archbishop Banach is very well prepared for this mission, so far from home.
“You have been sent by the Lord himself, and for the Lord from the Pope, in order to preach his word of the Gospel,” Archbishop Vigano told him.
As Archbishop Banach preached after the Gospel reading he told the congregation that “following Christ has a price” but it is what we Christians have to do.
Surrounded by family and friends, fellow priests and bishops, Archbishop Banach celebrated the Mass of Thanksgiving. He was ordained a bishop April 27 in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. He also marks 25 years in the priesthood this year.
Bishop McManus welcomed all and thanked the Holy Father for honoring the Diocese of Worcester with this most recent appointment of a priest of the diocese to a position of importance for the universal Church. The bishop also especially thanked Wallace and Jane Banach for the gift of their son to the Church.
Reflecting on the Gospel of the day, Archbishop Banach reminded people that, as Christians, they too are disciples of Christ and have an important mission, even though it is not always easy.
He recalled that in the day’s Gospel, Jesus thanked God the Father for the gift of disciples. Jesus said, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
Archbishop Banach said Jesus’  message was for countless generations, “not only those who hear the words in Galilee, Jerusalem, Corinth or Rome. He is speaking to me as a bishop, as a successor to the apostles, and he is speaking to us, all of us.”
How appropriate it is that we hear this message as we take up the great work of evangelization and renew this call in this Year of Faith, the archbishop said.
“We are called to live that word in the world with courage and with love,” he said.
“We are given the powerful example of someone who answered that call – in the first reading – with the stoning death of the first Christian martyr St. Stephen.
“The life and death of Stephen teaches us something vitally important. Following Christ has a price. And the reality is inescapable. Being one of Christ’s gifts, that is what we are, as flattering and as humbling as that may sound, carries a cost, sometimes a very steep cost. We discover that every day.
“We live in a time when Christ’s followers, God’s most cherished gift to his son, are increasingly under assault. People who call themselves Christians are being shunned, marginalized, discriminated against, persecuted. This is an age in which bishops in Syria are being kidnapped, when churches in Iraq and Nigeria are being bombed; and pastors in Iran are being imprisoned.”
But it happens close to home too, he said. He told the story of a high school track team in the Midwest that had just qualified for the state finals. The team was later disqualified because one of the athletes, after winning the track meet, pointed toward heaven in an expression of gratitude to God. “It was judged ‘excessive celebration,’” Archbishop Banach said.
“So you see the stoning of Stephen isn’t as remote or as ancient as it would appear, it happens today. There are countless Stephens around the globe being stoned in a thousand different ways. For what they say, what they believe, whom they worship.
“The Christian vocation demands personal testimony. Christ without the cross is a myth. Christians without persecution is a myth. And so we ask ourselves: Do we stand up at work for our faith? Do we stand up among our neighbors for our faith? Or do we give in to get respect?
“We are Christians and we are here today because we want to say ‘Yes Lord, I am not afraid to stand up for you; to believe in you; to witness to you.’
“And we do this because we have seen Jesus, the Lord, and we have been asked by him to proclaim this for Christ. To put it another way, we are men and women who have experienced Jesus and have the mission to proclaim him to others … all of us, bishops, priests, deacons, all of us.
“And there are countless Christians, who ever since Calvary, have preached Christ quietly by their lives. Generations of those Christians have lived in this parish. Not only prelates and priests, lay, single, married, it matters not. And today, Mother’s Day, it is singularly appropriate to remember gratefully those apostles whose apostolic task it has been, in imitating of Mary, to give Christ to the next generation,” he said.
“Bishops are successors of the apostles. Yet there is no one in this church who is not an apostle, who is not sent. We have no choice – except to refuse to be a Christian,” he said.
On Pentecost the 12 disciples discovered what “having no choice” meant. “They were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were so aware of God within them that they literally felt God. Such is the Easter experience,” he explained.
He went on to cite the example of Saint Ignatius as a way to follow Christ.
“If I am to be a good bishop, I too must experience the Risen Christ. I too must see Jesus. How do we realize that experience? I know of no better way than to walk with him every day.  In our prayers, let him unfold the Scriptures for us somewhat as he revealed them to the two discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus. So that we too can cry out: ‘Were not our hearts burning within us when he talked to us on the road, when he opened the Scriptures to us?’”
He concluded with these words of encouragement: “Walk with him in our work. Let that profound insight of Saint Ignatius take possession of our souls, mainly, that we do not labor alone, that Christ is at work for us, with us, in every reality we experience. And let’s try our best to see in each person the image of Christ, crucified or risen. And let’s not be afraid of walking with Christ and of being seen walking with Christ. He is praying for us. He wants us to be one with him, just as he is one with the Father.”
After the Mass, Father Thaddeus X. Stachura, pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa, invited people to a reception  that the parishioners had been cooking for all week to further celebrate the homecoming.