Fr. Antoni Polaniak SDS (1950-2020)

Foto: {[description]}
Przeczytanie artykułu zajmie Ci 5 minut

Fr. Antoni Polaniak SDS (1950-2020)

On January 23rd 2020 in Mikołów (Poland) Fr. Antoni Polaniak SDS has ended his earthly pilgrimage. He was a true Salvatorian, man of many gifts, an artist who proclaimed Jesus Christ through the sacred art.

   Father Antoni Polaniak was born on January 15th 1950 in Tokarnia near Myślenice (Poland). Together with his siblings he was raised in a family of Józef and Maria née Durek. He was baptized on January 25th 1950 in a parish church in Łętownia. On July 1st 1962 he received a sacrament of confirmation from Bishop Karol Wojtyła. He helped his parents in a farm. The religious atmosphere in his home helped him in spiritual growth and – as he wrote by himself – he was thinking to follow the path of priesthood vocation since he was a kid.
He started his education in elementary school in 1957. After graduation, he joined the Minor Seminary of Bernardine Fathers in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. He discovered his vocation there and in the 9th grade he made a decision to join the Salvatorians. He started his novitiate in Bagno on August 14th 1965 and took a new religious name – Octavian. After II Vatican Council he returned to his baptismal name. On August 15th 1966 he made his first religious profession. As a candidate for Salvatorian Major Seminary, with the group of other candidates, he attended in studium domesticum classes to prepare himself for high school final exams. The classes were led by Fr. Juliusz Boroń SDS. From 1967 to 1968 he lived in our Salvatorian community in Kraków-Zakrzówek, where he passed all needed exams.
   In the years 1968-1974 he studied in Salvatorian Major Seminary in Bagno. He made his perpetual vows on August 15th 1973 in Bagno. On October 11th 1973 he was ordained as a deacon by Bishop Wincenty Urban also in Bagno. From his novitiate and during seminary studies he was interested in the history of art. He helped with his artistic talents in the community. He wrote a request in which he asked his superiors for the permission to study art. He was ordained for priesthood on May 23rd 1974 in Trzebinia by Bishop Stanisław Smoleński.
He was assigned to be a catechist in Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Oborniki Śląskie. He still wanted to study the history of art and monumental painting, so he wrote another request to the Provincial Superior. This time the answer was positive and in 1975 he was moved to the Salvatorian community on Łobzowska Street in Kraków. From 1976 to 1981 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. At the same time he served as a pastoral aid in his community. He got his master degree at the Faculty of Painting on September 28th 1981.
As an expert in sacral architecture, in 1983 he was assigned to be an adviser during the construction of our church in Merrillville, IN, USA. On July 16th 1984 he became a vice-superior in Łobzowska Street community in Kraków. In 1985 he was again sent to USA to supervise the process of construction and decoration of the church in Merrillville. On November 15th 1989 he became a member of the Team for Church Building and Art of the Polish Province.
   On July 30th 1990 he became a vicar in BVM Queen of Poland Parish in Bielsko-Biała. A year later he was moved to Ponice and served as a pastoral aid in local church.
At the end of 1991 he was sent to St. Hedwig, TX, USA, to work with the decoration of the church and to prepare a parish jubilee. His talents became widely known and he got a lot of invitations from the priests from different parts of the States. At the beginning of 2000 he again went to the States to design and build the interior of the oldest Polish Catholic Parish Church in USA – Immaculate Conception of BVM in Panna Maria, TX, USA.
   His next community was in Trzebinia, where since August 15th 2002 he was a pastoral minister in local basilica. He still worked as a sacral building expert in many different places. In October 2006 he became a chaplain in Local Prison in Trzebinia. On December 14th 2012 he was assigned to be a community consultor and pastoral aid in Our Lady of Częstochowa Shrine in Merrillville, IN, USA. Through all these years he was active as a sacral art expert.
   He came back to Poland in October 2016 and was sent to Więciórka, serving as pastoral aid in BVM of Ostra Brama Church. The last years of his life were filled with increasing illness. On December 3rd 2019 he was moved to the community in Kraków-Zakrzówek to continue his long medical therapy. Since the illness was deepening, he was moved to the Senior Nursing Home Salwator Park in Mikołów.
He will remain in our memories as a joyful, humble and hard-working priest, religious and artist. Until his last days he used his gifts in art and sacral buildings decoration. To describe all his projects and works a separate paper would be needed. Fr. Bronisław Jakubiec SDS made a list of his works only in USA:

Merrillville, IN
• Designed and carved The Last Supper altar in Our Lady of Częstochowa Church and made a coverage for the tabernacle – two tables with Our Father prayer written on them
• Designed an altar in the Divine Mercy Chapel;
• Designed and painted a fresco by the entrance to the church with the coats of arms of Poland and USA;
•Designed the scenography of The Millenium Panorama – moving Christmas nativity set; he made it together with Fr. B. Jakubiec SDS
• Designed two back altars in the church: Saint John Paul II Altar and Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko Altar;
• He took a part in designing rosary stations surrounding John Paul II statue in front of the church
• Designed the decoration of Millenium Hall and painted about 950 coats of arms of Polish cities and our Salvatorian emblem;
• Designed and altar, ambo and baptismal pond for the vintage church in Lemont, Diocese of Chicago;
• On the request of Bishop Andrzej Wypych from Chicago, he designed the interior of the Bishop’s chapel;

• Painted a polychrome in the church and the Saint Stanilav Chapel in Bandera; he also placed there copies of Angels from Mariacki Church in Kraków;
• Superintended the renovation of the church in Czestochowa; he also painted the Divine Mercy painting;
• Reconstructed damaged ceiling polychrome in the church in Panna Maria; he painted a Salvatorian emblem there;
• Left unfinished painting of the Divine Mercy in St. Ann Church in Rosebud (the time of his legal presence in USA was going to an end); designed the tabernacle coverage; designed and carved two medallions: of St. Ann and of the Annunciation of BVM
• Renovated the Stations of the Cross in the Annunciation of BVM Church in St. Hedwig and supervised the renovation of the church; designed and painted a polychrome with St. John Paul II. The original painting of John Paul II was made before his death, while he was not a saint yet. Fr. Antoni repainted it after the beatification, changing his face – John Paul II looks at the church (That is why the rumor spread, that after the beatification of John Paul II there was a miracle and the Pope from the painting turned his face and now he looks at the church);
• Designed and made the interiors of community chapels of Seraphite Sisters in Kennedy and St. Antonio;
• Reconstructed main altar and two back altars in Our Lady of Sorrows Church in St. Antonio; designed new altar; painted John Paul II painting; designed a place for the relic of John Paul II with an access for handicapped; he painted a polychrome with the Holy Trinity
• Renewed the statues of the saints in Chappel Hill Church;
• Designed an interior of the new church of St. Victor in Lake Hill; the church was consecrated in 2019;

New York, NY
• Painted few paintings in Our Lady of Consolation Church.

     Beside the places mentioned above, he also worked as an artist and designer in Pensier (Switzerland), Steinfeld (Germany) and Bielsko Biała, Ponice, Wilkasy, Węgorzewo (Poland).
Fr. Antoni Polaniak died on January 23rd 2020 in Mikołów. He lived for 70 years, for 46 years as a priest and 54 as a religious. The funeral Mass took place on January 28th 2020 in the Divine Savior Church in Kraków-Zakrzówek. He was buried in a Salvatorian tomb in Salwator Cemetery in Kraków.