The Archdiocese of Birmingham - The Parish of the Immaculate Conception

1950 - Procession with an Icon of Our Lady Of Czestochowa.

The photograph taken in 1950 shows a procession carrying an icon of Our Lady Of Czestochowa on the outskirts of Bicester. The icon was presented by the Polish community to the new Parish of the Immaculate Conception and for many years resided in the old church in Priory Lane. The processio, as reported in the Bicester Advertiser, below, took place in January - clearly Bicester's Catholics were made of hardier stuff then. The young altar server leading the procession, Leo Hurst, would become the Master of Ceremonies in the Parish of the Immaculate Conception and today, more than sixty years later, still serves Mass regularly.

Thank you to John Dunn for the loan of the photograph.

The Bicester Advertiser carried two reports of the ceremony. The first was dated, 8th January, ran as follows:


A very important celebration for all Polish people will take place in Bicester on Sunday next. Out of gratitude to the English people, especially those of the Catholic belief, and to the Parish Priest (Father Foynes) the young Poles of C.O.D. Bicester, would like to present a true copy of “Our Lady of Czestochowa,” Queen of Poland, to the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. (The artist of the picture is Mrs. Pawlikowska, a Polish lady now living in London). The Shrine of Czestochowa is beloved by all Polish people the world over. It is strongly believed that “Our Lady” exists in Heaven, and perhaps there is a possibility that the ceremony will have an influence over the inhabitants of this town. Was not this country of England once called “The Dowry of Mary?” The history of Our Lady of Czestochowa is full of enigma and mystery; the most ancient beliefs indicate that St. Luke painted it himself. The painting remained in Jerusalem until taken by the Empresses Helena and Eudoxia to Constantinople, where it became very famous on account of the miracles that were performed there. It was afterwards given to Anne, when she married Wlodzimierz, The Grand Prince of Ruthenia, by her brothers (Emperors Basil and Constantine). Later it was endowed by Leon, the Prince of Ruthenia, to the Basilan Fathers at Lwow. Upon the death of King Casimir the Great, of Poland, the governor of Ruthenia, Wladyslay Opolczyk, with the approval of the new King Louis of Hungary and Poland, the treasure was transferred to Belz and later to Czestochowa where it was entrusted to the Paulin hermites-monks in Poland in 1383.This bizantin style masterpiece, which is on cypress wood, was actually painted on the table made by Joseph and Jesus himself, which was used by the Holy Family in Nazareth. It shows the Blessed Virgin, the child in her left hand, while her right clutches her breast; Jesus, Himself, holds the book in his left while his right is raised to God for blessings. Through the ages miracles which have occurred in Czestochowa have brought the endless glories to the Virgin on account of this beautiful rendition of a master man’s brush. The Polish people believe that Our Lady of Czestochowa took special care of them, and in times of trouble they pray to her. In 1655 the Swedes overwhelmed our dear land but were finally beaten at the walls of Czestochowa. Only a few years ago (in fact in 1920) when the Bolshevik hordes were battling Warsaw, once again we were saved with the help of “Our Lady” from destruction. All important events in Poland begin with pilgrimages to Our Lady. In 1646 Poland was consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, by Cardinal Hlond, the Polish Primate.

And a week later:


Sunday last was a special occasion for the Poles of number 5 Camp, Graven Hill, and for the Catholics of Bicester. The Poles were presenting a framed copy of Our Lady of the famous polis shrine of Czestochowa to their parochial church – the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Bicester.
The original picture, so dear to the Polish people, is supposed to have been painted by St. Luke himself, and although proof of this is lacking nevertheless, in the opinion of experts, the picture had its origin far back in the mists of the past, in the Byzantine east. As many miracles happened at the famous shrine, and as Czestochowa was the starting point of the greatest victory of the Poles over the Swedes in 1655, King Yan [sic] Kazimierz proclaimed Our Lady of Czestochowa as Queen of Poland, and dedicated to her then troth of the entire Polish nation. The copy presented to the Bicester Catholic Church on Sunday was painted by Mrs. Pawlikowska, a Polish artist in London, and was paid for out of the contributions of the Polish workers at the Camp.
Sunday’s ceremony commenced with solemn High Mass in the E.V.W. Chapel at Graven Hill, the Rev. Mgr. Bronislaw Malakski, vicar general of the Poles in the United Kingdom, being the celebrant, assisted by Father Slonimski, O.F.M., and the Revs. Polaka and Borek. The former Commander-in-Chief of the Polish army, (General Anders) and Mrs. Anders were present. The picture was then carried in procession from Graven Hill to Bicester, and a contingent from Bicester joined in at the old turnpike cottage in London Road.
The church was filled to overflowing as Mgr. Malakski dedicated the picture to the people of the parish. He said that as Vicar General to the Polish people in Britain it was a great pleasure for him to be present. The reason of the ceremony was to express the gratitude of the Polish people in general to the English people in general, and to the Catholic people in particular for many acts of kindness. He thanked, especially, Father Foynes, parish priest at Bicester, who, he said, had already captured the hearts of his compatriots. It was for him that they had undertaken to give some sign of appreciation of his work for them and to make closer ties with the parish of the Immaculate Conception and with all his parishioners. “We hope you will keep this picture in your church and that it will always be a reminder of our common faith and our common love of Our Lady, the Mother of God,” said Mgr Malakski.
Father Foynes returned thanks for what he termed “this great act of generosity,” and for their great devoytion to the Mother of God. He also expressed his appreciation of the gift as being a sign of common faith ad brotherhood.
Father Peter Szefler, chaplain at Graven Hill, also spoke.
At a luncheon at Graven Hill, General Anders thanked the British people for their hospitality to the Poles who, he said, were stopping here for a time on their march to free, democratic, and Christian Poland.
Dr. Stanko Tomnic thanked the General on behalf of the different nationalities, and stressed that they were all united in the faith, justice and democracy, that could only bring true peace to the world.
Lieut. Col. Sadler, deputy of the Commander of the Bicester C.O.D., thanked General Anders for his visit and assured the people in the camp that he and the British Authorities were doing everything they could to find for the E.V.W.’s good jobs and proper settlement in the U.K. So far many of them were content with the arrangements made for them.
A meeting in Graven Hill Theatre on Sunday afternoon was attended by about 600. Father Foynes expressed a welcome to Mgr. Malakski and General Anders, and to Mr. John Kiely, on the behalf of the Bicester Catholics expressed the hope that the co-operation and understanding between the Poles and the British people would grow, so that once the Poles returned o their own free country they would remember with joy their stay in England.
General Anders spoke for an hour, and said that they were all fighting for freedom. He appealed to his compatriots to be religious, proud and courageous.
Theatrical presentations of “Maria Stuart,” “Kordian” and “Mazeppa” by members of the Unity of Polish Artists in London, were afterwards enjoyed.