While rummaging through the basement of Corpus Christi Church, Father Michal Czyzewski, OSPPE, pastor, found a rolled up canvas under some trophies. Unrolling it, he discovered a painting of St. Joseph and a mystery from the past.
"We don't know exactly who painted it," he said. Nor does he know where it came from. He found it in the basement of the former convent, which was used by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, so it may have hung in the convent. It may have come from Corpus Christi School, torn down in the 1980s, which was dedicated to St. Joseph. The former pastor collected articles from the many area churches that closed and merged during the late 2000s. So, the painting could have come from anywhere.
Father Czyzewski wants to restore it to its former glory and so it can once again be used as a prayer icon for the family.
"In front of this painting were so many people who prayed, and so much emotion and so much time spent in front of this image. We would like to continue and honor St. Joseph," he explained. "An opportunity to renew a devotion to St. Joseph is a good solution for the problems in the family. St. Joseph cared about the family. Maybe it would be a good time to encourage people to pray to St. Joseph and discover that St. Joseph can help us."
St. Joseph is the patron of fathers, families and the universal Church. He is also patron of the Diocese of Buffalo.
The 3-by-6-foot painting is believed to be from the late 19th century. It was found rolled up and flattened by various objects placed on it, causing cracked paint and dropouts in the creases. Currently, it is in New Jersey being examined. The curator has suggested the canvas be reinforced and dust be removed. Father Czyzewski would also like a nice frame bought or made.
A rough estimate placed restoration costs at over $5,000. Father Czyzewski is hoping the generous people of Buffalo will help defray the cost. Corpus Christi, located behind the Broadway Market on the corner of Clark and Kent, has a small congregation of around 120 people who come to Sunday Mass.
"We ask already from the parishioners to help us cover the bills for the electricity, for the heat. For me, sometimes, it's too much to ask them for an extra project." So he is reaching out to the wider community for the Save a Saint project. "Any support we appreciate," he said.
Father Czyzewski is a member of the Pauline Fathers, who have a devotion to St. Joseph.
"In the constitution of our community, we have some direction that every day is dedicated to one of the saints," he explained. "Monday is dedicated to St. Paul the First Hermit. Tuesday, the Angel the Guardian. Wednesday to St. Joseph. We try to celebrate every Wednesday Mass in honor of St. Joseph. For us, St. Joseph is a good example as worker. In Poland, on May 1 (feast day of St. Joseph the Worker), when we celebrate St. Joseph, it is a big celebration in Poland. March 19 (feast of St. Joseph) as well. In the Polish tradition, so many families give their child the name Joseph. It is still a practice that people pray to St. Joseph, honor St. Joseph and when they see a painting of St. Joseph, they go and light a candle."
For those who have information on the painting or who would like to donate for the restoration and help "Save a Saint" contact Corpus Christi Parish at 199 Clark St., Buffalo, NY 14212 or 716-896-1050.