The National Shrine of St. Joseph in Kalisz, central Poland/ EWTN Polska.
CNA Staff, Mar 19, 2021 / 05:00 am America/Denver (CNA).
Poland’s Catholic bishops will entrust the country to St. Joseph on Oct. 7.
The act of entrustment of the nation and Church in Poland to St. Joseph will take place at the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Kalisz, central Poland.
The event will take place during the Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, 2020, before a celebrated image of St. Joseph in Kalisz.
The shrine, which is a center of prayer for the unborn and families, has continued to offer pastoral care despite restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
When Pope John Paul II visited the shrine in 1997, he described it “a special place in the history of the Church and of the nation.”
Fr. Jacek Plota, the shrine’s custodian, said: “We carry out the testament of St. John Paul II which he left us during his stay in 1997. It is a prayer for the intention of defending unborn life and for the intention of families.”
The shrine hosted a novena before the March 19 Feast of St. Joseph on 19 March. It also held a series of events known as “March evenings with St Joseph,” when priests preached daily conferences about St. Joseph.
A “Great Novena” and national retreat are planned from May 28 to June 5. Each month thousands of intentions from Poland and all over the world are sent to the shrine, Plota said.
The shrine’s history is entwined with the Second World War.
On April 22, 1945, Polish priests and monks held at Dachau consecrated themselves to St. Joseph, fearing that the guards were planning to murder them as the Allies advanced on the concentration camp.
They promised that if they were spared, they would make an annual pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Shrine in Kalisz, central Poland.
Just two hours before the planned execution at the camp -- once described as “the largest priest cemetery in the world” -- a small U.S. Army patrol unit arrived and saved the prisoners.
Several years later, the surviving priests made a pilgrimage to Kalisz thanking God for saving them, and in 1970 they founded the Chapel of Martyrdom and Gratitude in the basement of the Shrine.
After the war, the clergy who survived Dachau fulfilled their vow, making a pilgrimage to Kalisz every year on April 29. In 1970, they founded a Chapel of Martyrdom and Gratitude in the crypt of St. Joseph’s Shrine.
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At the chapel entrance, there is a representation of a barbed wire fence and a plaque thanking St. Joseph “for deliverance from the abyss of death.”