Polish Catholic Mission in Hanover
We are one of many Polish Catholic Missions in Germany and all over the world that provide pastoral care for Poles living abroad, preserve Polish traditions and religious customs, and engage in dialogue and cooperation with other local churches. The Polish Catholic Mission in Hanover covers the deaneries of Hanover, Celle, Verden, Hildesheim, and Hameln-Holzminden.
Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Częstochowa
A special sign of the presence of Poles in Hanover at the Maria-Frieden church has long been the church's chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Częstochowa. The chapel is still used today for Holy Masses and devotions in Polish and, as in the meantime the entire church, serves the Polish mission. Thanks to the decision of Bishop Josef Homeyer, the episcopal curia in Hildesheim decided in 1988 to renovate the chapel from scratch. In this chapel there are, among others, showcases with votive offerings of gratitude from people who survived the ordeal of World War II. In the main altar there is since 1988 a new picture of Our Lady of Częstochowa.
The decision to build the Maria-Frieden church in the Hanover-Buchholz district was made by the episcopal curia in Hildesheim in 1963. After the church was consecrated on 8 May 1965, the Bishop of Hildesheim, Heinrich Maria Janssen decided to hand over the chapel in the northern part of the church to the Polish citizens.
The initiator of bringing the former image of Our Lady of Częstochowa to Hanover was the Franciscan Father Melchior Julian Fryszkiewicz. The enthronement of the image in the wooden chapel of those days, also in Hanover-Buchholz, took place on December 8, 1959. The love for the Mother of Christ brought from Poland has survived for many years and still connects people of different origins and different generations.
The main local religious ceremony of the Polish Catholic Mission in Hanover, called the "Hanoverian pilgrimage", is associated with the Częstochowa painting. During the Cold War, few of our countrymen could or wanted to travel to their homeland. Therefore, in 1959, Polish diaspora priests decided to create special centers of worship of the Mother of God from Jasna Góra, the most frequent destination of pilgrimage in Poland. Two were created: one in Mannheim – in the south and the other in Hanover – in the north of Germany.
This ceremony is called a pilgrimage, because the faithful from northern Germany, i.e. Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, etc. make their way to Hanover in this time. The Hanover pilgrimage always takes place on Sunday after August 15 (Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) and has a constant course: It begins with the procession of the Mother of God image, the one that has been brought to Hanover in 1959, through the streets of the city and back to the Maria-Frieden church, where a solemn mass takes place. After lunch, a Marian Academy is held, culminating in the Holy of Holiest exhibition, after which the picture is finally taken to the chapel.
The parish house
Another very important event for the Poles in Hanover was the construction of the parish house. Until then, religious education, meetings of the Parish Council and pastoral meetings were held in the rooms of the parish house of the German Maria-Frieden parish or in the chapel. The establishment of the Polish Mission house was initiated by Father Stanisław Budyń (pastor from 1982–2002 and 2002–2020 rector of the Polish Catholic Missions in Germany).
The construction work began in September 1984 and on June 2, 1985, the building was inaugurated by Auxiliary Bishop Heinrich Pachowiak from Hildesheim. Through the newly created parish house the life of the "Polonia" (Polish term for Poles living abroad) was revived, it serves the development of religion, culture and community life. Systematic religious instruction for children and adolescents, community choir rehearsals, youth and senior meetings, and courses for Polish, German and English are held in the parish house. There are readings, concerts, and performances. A library was also established, which quickly expanded and is still in full operation today.
Already during the inauguration, it became apparent that the parish house was too small. One must not forget that these were the years of martial law in Poland, which brought thousands of asylum seekers to Germany, and therefore also to Hanover, who had fled from the communist regime in Poland. It was here, in the Polish Catholic Mission, that they found a small piece of Poland, heartfelt shelter, spiritual protection, as well as social and legal assistance necessary for acquiring an apartment, the right of residence, etc. In this regard, in 1992 Father Stanisław Budyń made further efforts to improve the existing situation by expanding the parish house. These efforts were successful, and construction began at the beginning of March 1994, and on August 21, 1994 Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek (then General Secretary of the Polish Bishops' Conference) inaugurated the new enlarged center of the congregation on August 21, 1994.
The expansion of the parish facilities enabled the foundation of the Center for the Promotion of the Polish Language and Culture at the Polish Catholic Mission in Hanover e. V., a school where every year many children and adolescents learn Polish as well as Polish history, geography and culture in numerous groups and under the guidance of qualified teachers. In addition, after the expansion, the parish house serves with its rooms even better to the needs of other Polish diaspora organizations, groups and associations.
Monument of St. John Paul II
The monument of John Paul II, standing first at the Polish chapel and many years later moved in front of the entrance to the Maria-Frieden church, was designed by Prof. Czesław Dźwigaj from Cracow (Kraków). On the monument's pedestal are the words of a Pope's prayer: "God, hear my voice and give the world your peace". So many people living in Germany, in Poland, around the world have experienced the tragedies of war. John Paul II taught us how to live in peace, how to create peace and how to build bridges of understanding between people of different languages, nations, and cultures.
The installation of the monument goes back to an initiative of Father Tadeusz Kluba, with great support of the parishioners. The occasion was the 25-year pontificate of the Pope. It was unveiled on 14 December 2003 by Archbishop Szczepan Wesoły from Rome – then the first monument of the Polish Pope in Germany, or rather a symbol that was erected to remind everyone of the teaching of the Holy Father, and above all his commitment to the cause of God's peace between people. Since November 18, 2018, the Polish Catholic Mission in Hanover has owned a cassock of St. John Paul II, which is shown in a display case in the Maria Frieden church.
The Cross of Solidarność
A very special symbol is the solidarity cross, which stands next to the chapel. On January 1, 1982, Poles erected a cross in the center of Hanover (Steintor) as a sign of solidarity with their country and the people plagued there by martial law imposed on December 13, 1981. After half a year the city administration ordered the removal of the cross and so it found a worthy place next to the Polish chapel. On the cross were placed the names of the victims of martial law. Those who could not return to their homes after the war, were separated from their relatives, had to flee to save their freedom and lives, gathered at this cross. To this day it is a place of remembrance and prayer for those who fought for a free Poland and a dignified life. On Good Friday 2000, a new cross was erected, as the first one unfortunately fell to destruction due to its age.