HANOVER TWP. -Doubtful he would have an audience for his Polish language Lenten service, Barry Kaminski expected an almost empty church three years ago when he revived a centuries old religious tradition.
Hundreds of people attended the “Gorzkie Zale” or “Bitter Lamentations” at the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Church on Main Road.
“I never thought anybody would come,” Kaminski said Sunday afternoon in the small church his ancestors founded.
Geri Lukasavage proved him wrong. So did Amelia Nice and Marian Menapace. All of Polish heritage they sang and prayed at the hourlong service centered on the Passion of Christ. It was a shortened version of the devotion started in a Warsaw church in 1707.
Kaminski described it as a dialogue between the parishioners and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, as her son endures his final hours leading up to his crucifixion.
“It made me cry today,” Lukasavage said.
The 74-year-old Lukasavage, a member of St. Mary’s church in Plymouth, recalled attending the “Lamentations” with her mother as a child on Wednesdays and Sundays during Lent. “Nobody missed. Everybody went,” she said.
Nice, 87, of the Lyndwood section of Hanover Towship, said she was moved by the beauty of the service. She was brought up Polish and attended the same church as Lukasavage.
“It’s heartwarming,” Nice said.
Menapace made the trip from Lake Ariel in Wayne County with several other people.
“The service is so moving in the fact that it brings back the ethnicity of the area,” she said.
The director of religious education at St. Thomas More church, Menapace, 65, remembered her Polish grandmother telling her about the “Lamentations.”
“It’s very different than the Stations of the Cross,” she said.
It was her first time attending the service and planned to come back next year.
That’s when, Kaminski said, he would like to have all three sections conducted instead of just the two done on Sunday.
Kaminski, 60, who speaks Polish, said the service is not widely held throughout the Diocese of Scranton. He started it “just to maintain the tradition” of his ancestors who founded and built the church in 1917. After a fire it was rebuilt in 1947 using the basement of the original church.
The Revs. John Albosta, James McGahagan and Richard Zavacki conducted the service. A choir made up of people from the Diocese of Scranton and accompanied by Dominick Costantino Jr. performed. Rev. Kevin Mulhern pastor of the church welcomed the nearly 200 people who traveled from near and far for the service and led them in a prayer at a reception afterward in the church basement.