More than 1,000 people filled St. Albert the Great Church in Burbank when Franciscan Father Lukasz Buksa, from the Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland, joined Cardinal Cupich in leading Stations of the Cross for confirmation students on March 29. It was one of more than two dozen Lenten events planned for Polish-speaking Catholics as part of the “Family Evangelization Congress” between March 15 and April 10, said Father Marek Smolka, coordinator of the archdiocese’s Polish Ministry Council. Many of them were led by Buksa or retired Bishop Antoni Duglosz, former auxiliary bishop of Czestochowa, Poland. Both Lukasz and Bishop Duglosz have placed a special emphasis on children and young people in their ministries. This year’s congress was the second time that parishes with Polish ministries cooperated on Lenten events. Last year’s efforts had more of a prayerful mood, Smolka said, while this year’s congress emphasized evangelization, in keeping with the archdiocesan focus on Renew My Church. “The reason the congress is so spread out is that we want to get to all the parts of the archdiocese,” Smolka said, noting that there was even one Mass at St. John Vianney Parish in Lockport, Illinois, which is the Diocese of Joliet. “We want to make sure the people in the suburbs and the people in the city, on the North Side and on the South Side, have an opportunity to come to something in their area.” Overall, Smolka said, he expected between 5,000 and 6,000 people to participate in the talks, prayer services and liturgies that were included in the congress. That’s an increase from last year, when many people weren’t aware of it. The service was the only congress event that was bilingual in English and Polish, Smolka said, because Cardinal Cupich does not speak Polish. The families who attended, even the children, all generally speak Polish at home, Smolka said. “The children speak English at school, but they go to Polish school on Saturday,” Smolka said. “A lot of them only know the prayers in Polish.” Despite the strong Polish culture, many families say they don’t find the same joy in the church that they find in Poland. The congress was an attempt to capture that. “We’re trying to bring the joy through evangelization,” Smolka said. “We want to bring the joy into the church and to be with the people.” Father Mariusz Nawalaniec, St. Albert’s pastor, said having a Lenten fish fry before Stations of the Cross every Friday has helped his parish build community. The parish usually sells 700 to 800 fish dinners, and draws about 800 people regularly for Stations of the Cross, offered in Spanish, English and Polish every Friday during Lent. The congregation on March 29 was a bit bigger because young people from Polish schools on the North Side and Oak Lawn attended. “It’s good for people to come together,” Nawalaniec said.