For the past three years, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Nisku Holy Trinity Parish for its celebration of All Souls' Day. Each November 2, anybody who has ever been a parishioner in Nisku tries to revisit this place and the grounds where family and friends have been buried.
It is a privilege to be able to come here and be in the presence of those who have come and gone before. The people in Nisku feel strongly connected and deeply indebted to the families who settled in this area a century ago. These people left much
behind-a sacrifice which is remembered each year-but they brought even more with them. Often the treasures of those who travel can be found in the new places they settle. They invest their knowledge in the farmland they break and build on, and in the communities they nurture. They introduce their children, first and foremost, to the values and ways of being of the old
country-the values and ways of being that are closest to the heart of their parents. This first knowledge, received in the home and found in no book, is passed on to subsequent generations. Although in later years the ways of the new world encroach and are accepted, there remains a strong tie with those who made the long journey across the ocean, and through those, with the ancestors in Poland.
Thus, All Souls' Day represents much more than a remembrance of family and friends for the people in Nisku. It is a renewal of Polish-cultural ties and a recognition of what it means to be Polish-Canadian-Albertans. Food is an important part of this event. To accommodate the many dishes brought for lunch, pews are moved aside and a long table decked with a brightly
embroidered tablecloth is set up in the middle of the church. Over lunch, the community shares the many family reminiscences. Names from past and present mingle thus weaving the continuing fabric of knowledge, the soul of the community.
Here in the church in Nisku the Polish language has long been replaced by English. Also in the homes, among those who are now third or fourth generation Canadian, few remember the old language. What one does remember, though, are the tunes of songs and the words of prayers. The last vestige of the language resides in prayer and devotion. The songs and hymns from the old country sooth the earliest, as well as later, generations and, as one person remarked, "it gives much more comfort to pray the words your grandmother taught you, than it is to learn new words ..." Few today know the words to the old hymns, but when soloists are invited to bring them back to mind at special events, many remember.
Reprinted with permission from Henriette Kelker.
From Wkładka Kongressowa nr. 65, January 1996.