In the heart of San Antonio’s historic and charming Monte Vista neighborhood sits what may be one of the local Catholic community’s undiscovered gems: Our Lady of Sorrows Church. The small, but exquisitely beautiful 100-year-old church draws in worshippers from varied sections of the city and all walks of life. This diversity was reflected in crowd of parishioners and guests that recently gathered for the parish’s centennial
anniversary Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo, joined by Our Lady of Sorrows pastor, Rev. Thaddeus Tabak, SDS; Most Rev. John W. Yanta, Bishop Emeritus of Amarillo; and several other priests.
Addressing the packed church primarily in English, and a bit of Polish and Spanish as well, Archbishop Gustavo stated how appropriate it was the parish’s centennial celebration occurred on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and one day before the feast of the parish’s namesake. “What a way to honor the blessed mother—Our Lady of Sorrows—by contemplating what she suffered out of love for all of us in Jesus giving his life for all humanity. The two feasts are woven into a single tapestry. …We stand tonight with our lady at the foot of the cross of Jesus.”
One of the highlights of the Mass was the archbishop’s blessing and unveiling of a newly enshrined first-class relic belonging to St. John Paul II. Located beneath an image of the Divine Mercy, the custom-made repository contains a small capsule which holds a cloth that was immersed in the saint’s blood. The process of bringing this sacred relic to Our Lady of Sorrows commenced last February during Father Thaddeus Tabak’s business trip to Poland. The parish website recounts how the pastor spoke with the Superior Provincial of the Salvatorian Fathers in Krakow in order to petition Cardinal Dziwisz (a former personal secretary of John Paul II) for the relic. Only a few months later, the relic arrived at the parish accompanied by a letter in Latin attesting to its authenticity and signed by the cardinal himself. Wording in the letter is identical to that which surrounds the blood-stained cloth within the capsule: Ex Sanguine Sancti Joannis Pauli II Papae (from the Blood of Saint John Paul II, the Pope). A special bond exists between this saint and Father Tabak. While auxiliary bishop of Krakow and years before he became pope, Karol Wojtyla administered the sacrament of confirmation to Father Tabak.
Following the Mass, mariachis welcomed guests into the elegantly decorated gym for a generous potluck meal. A narrated program was shared detailing the parish’s rich history and heritage.
Our Lady of Sorrows began in 1905 as a catechetical center on Valdez Street and evolved a few years later into a mission of San Fernando Cathedral until 1926. As first, liturgies were held beneath a tent, but in 1911 the current property was purchased and four years later the church was erected. The church’s name, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows), was chosen at the behest of major donor Fred Rodriguez who suggested it be named after his mother, Dolores Rodriguez. It served a primarily Mexican-American community of about 200 families. The ensuing years saw significant expansion with the addition of a rectory, a school (closed in 1970), and a convent (now used as a commercial business office). The church became a mission of St. Mary’s parish in the downtown area and later of Our Lady of Grace parish in Monte Vista. Finally, on Dec. 8, 1977, Our Lady of Sorrows became an independent parish.
Throughout the years, the leadership of the parish has changed hands, first from the Spanish Dominican fathers in 1926, the Oblates in 1944, and later, archdiocesan clergy. In 1986, Our Lady of Sorrows was entrusted with the spiritual care of Polish immigrants. Finally, in 2003, the Polish Salvatorian Fathers (known as the Society of Divine Savior) were assigned this role and the current pastor, Father Tabak, took the helm of the trilingual parish. Our Lady of Sorrows is located at 3107 N. St. Mary’s St., at E. Mistletoe Ave.
For more information about the parish including a Mass schedule, visit www.ourladyofsorrows-sa.org.