A group of 28 pilgrims from the St. Cloud Diocese recently toured special sites in Poland — and returned with a first-class relic from the convent of St. Faustina Kowalska in Krakow.
The pilgrimage was organized by Patrick and Sheri Dombrovski, parishioners of St. John Church in Foley, with Fathers Michael Wolfbauer and Gabriel Walz as the group’s spiritual directors.
“The first day in Poland, Sept. 29, was the feast day of the Archangels. Because of my name and Father Gabriel’s, our presence had a strong impact on our guide,” said Father Wolfbauer, pastor of St. John Parish.
“For a week we prayed at sites like the shrines for St. John Paul II and St. Maximilian Kolbe, people who have blessed the church with many graces and intercessions,” he said. “Our last day was Oct. 5, the feast day of St. Faustina. It was the 80th anniversary of her death, and we were at the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, the convent where she passed.”
Starting in the Year of Mercy
“In 2016, the Year of Mercy, St. John’s in Foley organized a bus tour of the holy doors in the diocese,” Patrick Dombrovski said. “One door was at the Divine Mercy Shrine at St. Paul Church in Sauk Centre. After our tour, I asked if they had ever considered obtaining a relic of St. Faustina for its shrine.”
The process was involved and complicated, John Lahr, the caretaker, told him.
“I’d been to Poland twice on pilgrimages and my heart was on fire for Divine Mercy. St. Faustina struck a chord with me — the date of her death was my birthday,” Dombrovski said. “I wanted to find a way for the diocese’s shrine to obtain its own relic. A few months later I started planning details for this trip.”
At the same time, he started looking into the process for obtaining a relic. Father Greg Paffel, pastor of St. Paul Church in Sauk Centre, asked his lay Divine Mercy committee to follow the protocol. They prepared a letter to the convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, including photographs and an explanation of how the relic would be presented in Sauk Centre.
In addition, Bishop Donald Kettler had to complete paperwork verifying that the diocesan shrine in Sauk Centre was a proper place for a relic.
“We finished the paperwork in late 2017,” Dombrovski said. “At that point people were already signed up for the pilgrimage but we had no idea if we would receive a relic. We didn’t find out until July 2018 — Father Greg got a letter, which he shared with us.”
“The day before we left on this pilgrimage, we’d started a novena of Divine Mercy,” Dombrovski continued. “We finished the novena at the shrine in Krakow where St. Faustina received the image of Divine Mercy, on her feast day. We delivered two bags of special intentions and petitions to the sisters.”
And then they waited.
“The sisters of her order invited us into the room where she passed. We felt special graces to be in their house and room, a great blessing, moments I can’t describe,” Father Wolfbauer recalled. “Even with 28 pilgrims trying to move in small spaces of the convent that last day, it was grace-filled and peaceful.”
“While we waited, we repeated ‘Jesus I trust in you,’” Father Wolfbauer said, “It calmed and assured us. Finally the sister returned and brought Pat and Sheri to a secure area to receive this beautiful reliquary, housing a piece of St. Faustina’s bone.”
“The sisters in Poland were happy to share it,” Dombrovski said. “They want the message of Divine Mercy to go out to the world. Most people can’t travel to Poland but they will be able to visit our shrine in Sauk Centre.”
Patrick signed the convent’s book signifying the formal acceptance of the relic, and the sisters provided documents needed to go through customs.
Veneration in Minnesota
St. Faustina’s relic was first venerated at St. John’s. Then it was brought to the parishes of Sacred Heart in Staples and St. Michael in Motley, served by Father Walz.
“It will reside permanently in Sauk Centre. We will make a transfer of possession at Mass at 4 p.m. Nov. 10,” Dombrovski said. “I think half of our pilgrims will be there to deliver the relic to St. Paul’s.”
Father Paffel, also the pastor of the parishes of Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre and St. Alexius in West Union, said, “Our parish will receive St. Faustina’s relic and it will be placed on a stand before the altar for all to venerate. I’ll preach about Divine Mercy.
“After that weekend, we will have a procession down to the St. Faustina Chapel, where it will be available to the public for adoration 24 hours a day, six days a week,” Father Paffel said. “On Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, we will again present the relic at the 4 p.m. Mass.”
Next spring, Father Paffel said, the committee plans to build a special area for St. Faustina’s relic, placed near the late Deacon Lawrence Kaas’ carving, to enshrine it along with other relics the shrine has.
“Deacon Kaas’ carving shows the rays of Christ’s heart spreading out through the diocese,” Father Paffel said. “And on Divine Mercy Sunday, St. Faustina’s relic will be received by the diocese, fulfilling the goal of sharing this message.”