Family honors parish’s Polish history with image of St. Stanislaus Kostka

By Special To The Compass | February 1, 2022

Lorraine Lee, left, and Helen Waalkens, daughters of the late Casimer and Mary Wozniak, pose for a photo Dec. 3 with Fr. Albert Balderas and Bishop David Ricken next to an icon image of St. Stanislaus Kostka created by Fr. Balderas. (Submitted photo | Special To The Compass)

ARMSTRONG CREEK — A painting in the Byzantine icon-style of the patron saint of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was welcomed and blessed at the church on Jan. 16. The icon was commissioned in memory of Casimer and Mary Wozniak.

According to parishioner David Lee, the Wozniaks were born into two of Armstrong Creek’s pioneer families. They lived there for their entire lives, except during their final retirement years, when they moved in with one of their two daughters. 

Mary passed away in 2008 and the family celebrated her life with a funeral and burial in the Armstrong Creek cemetery. In 2019, Casimer passed away and was also brought home for his funeral and burial beside his wife in the town cemetery. 

At Casimer’s funeral, the family received many sympathy cards and condolences from the parish and community as well as donations in excess of $700, said Lee. They decided the funds should best be used to create some type of memorial.

“Over the next few years, the family had several conversations about what would be an appropriate memorial,” said Lee, who is married to Lorraine, one of the daughters of Mary and Casimer. “Several suggestions and ideas were considered, but none were deemed appropriate. Weather concerns and season issues eventually dismissed them all.”

Among the suggestions was to purchase a reproduction of an image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, as a way to honor the parish’s Polish history. However, the former pastor did not follow up on the suggestion.

Last year, Fr. Albert Balderas was appointed administrator of the parish. The Lees learned that Fr. Balderas is an accomplished artist.

“The parish had only one image of its patron saint, a statue located in a nook in the bell tower, and it could only be seen from outside the building,” said Lee. After seeing some samples of their new pastor’s paintings, the Lees — as well as Lorraine’s sister and her husband, Helen and Dick Waalkens — asked Fr. Balderas if he would be willing to do a painting of St. Stanislaus Kostka to serve as a visible reminder of the parish’s patron saint.

Having been trained in a Greek monastery that specialized in Byzantine icons, the priest suggested, and family members agreed, that an icon would be the preferred choice, said Lee. The family commissioned the icon using the donated funds and funds from the Casimers’ estate.

When the icon was finished, it was affixed to a laminated maple wood slab constructed by Dick Waalkens. The wood slab was prepared for the canvas painting by the use of a torch to lightly scorch all exposed surfaces and enhance the wood’s grain features.

Once the canvas painting was affixed to the wood, gold leaf was applied to the borders of the painting and as halos around the heads of the painted figures. A cedar easel was also constructed to display the completed icon.

On Dec. 3, the family met with Bishop David Ricken. “We explained what we were trying to achieve and showed him the icon,” said Allen. “The bishop approved and blessed the icon.” It was officially dedicated by Fr. Balderas following Mass on Jan. 16.

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