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Droga Krzyzowa (Cross Roads)

WIARA OJCOW ZYJEMY (The Faith of our Forefathers Keep Us)

By David Shulist and Martin Shulist

When immigrants from Poland settled in the Wilno area, they brought with them not only a rich cultural heritage, but also a deep religious tradition. They settled in some very rugged land. Travel was very difficult – road conditions were poor and journeys were long. Those settlers longed for a place to worship.

There was no Catholic church close by. The nearest church was in Brudenell, built in the 1860's. It was near impossible for the pioneers living near Paugh Lake to make it to church in Brudenell. And even those living closer found that the terrain, the weather and the distance hindered their ability to worship in church.

To satisfy their strong need to pray to Our Lord the settlers erected large wooden crosses at the intersections of main roads. This was a tradition they borrowed from the motherland. On Sundays and Holy Days the pioneers close to each intersection would gather at the crossroads and celebrate their Faith. These crosses were not used, however, for regular service. The prayer at the crosses was private prayer. Rosaries were recited and the appropriate Sunday litany was recited. The worship that occurred at the crossroads was a very special religious experience - different from attending church. Our forefathers here took nothing for granted. They had no communication, no reliable transportation and no secure income. Yet they were grateful for every step they took in life. And they thanked our Lord.

It became tradition to make the sign of the cross when one passed a cross at an intersection. Gentlemen would remove their hats also. And not only were the crosses a place of worship for our ancestors, but they were a stopping place for those making the long journey into town. It was a place for the pioneers to stop and thank the Lord that he saw them that far into a journey. It was also a place for settlers to meet and to plan (e.g., meeting to organize a barn raising, etc.) and to pass on information and the news of the day.

From the Opeongo Line where the first Polish pioneers settled, northward to the Hamlet of Wilno, and up to the Paugh Lake area you can still see some of these crosses; the symbol of how strong and how important faith was to our ancestors.

It has been noted that there were approximately 20 crosses erected originally in this area. With the exodus of the young from the farms in the 1950's, many of these crosses decayed and were never seen again. There are currently only 6 original pioneer crosses still standing in the Wilno hills and two modern crosses which were erected more recently. One of these modern crosses was erected by Fr. Wilowski in 1933 and stands proudly atop Shrine Hill.

It is important that our generation remember the hard lives our ancestors lived. It is important to resurrect the crosses of Wilno and with them the strong faith of our forefathers. Our enjoyment of this great land we live upon today is possible only because of the hard work and the strong faith of our pioneer ancestors. It was their faith in God that kept them going through difficult terrain and even-more difficult economic times. We must do what we can to keep that faith alive. THE STRENGTH OF A PERSON LIES WITHIN THE STRENGTH OF THAT PERSON'S FAITH.

Map of the Crosses - click on a cross to see a photo


Heritage Crosses

#1 Corner of Paugh Lk. Rd. and Brotton Rd. This cross was erected by Joez & Mary Dedenski, passed down to Steven & dominica Yantha, then to Vincent & Agnes Golka, Joe & Victoria Dombroskie & finally to Victor and Jean Shulist. It is now maintained by the Shulist Family.

#2 Corner of Old Wilno/Paugh Lk. Rd. & Con. 10. This cross was originally erected by August & Helen Shulist, it was passed down from them to Vincent & Ludwica Shulist and is now under the care of Adam and Stacia Shulist.

#3 Corner of Old Wilno/Paugh Lk Rd. & Cranberry Creek Rd. This cross was erected by Frank and Rose Yeretch, passed down to Maxie & Mary Recoskie then to David & Diana Shulist who now maintain it.

#4 Corner of Con. 6 and Roche Rd. This cross was erected by Martin & Stacia Recoskie, passed down to Lornie & Catherine Recoskie, then to Raphael & Dorothy Smaglinskie who are the present caretakers.

#5 Corner of Con. 2 and Rockingham Rd. This cross was erected by Paul & Victoria Yantha then passed down to John & Katie Yantha, Tom & Elizabeth Yantha and finally to Frank Yantha who now maintains it.

#6 Corner of Round Lk. Rd. and Road 16. It was erected by Frank & Veronica Pecoskie, then passed down to Angus & Frances Anderchek, Andrew & AnnaMary Anderchek then to Michael & mary Anderchek. It is now under the care of the "Angel of Round Lake".

Modern Crosses

#7 Located on Shrine Hill, this cross was erected in 1933 by Rev. E. Wilowski. It is maintained by the Parish of St. Mary's in Wilno.

#8 Corner of Bonnechere Rd. and the Old Wilno/Paugh Lk. Rd, It was erected by Stanley Trebinskie and Nicholas Dombroskie. The cross is now maintained by Lornie & Barbara Biskup.

#9 Three crosses erected on a hill depicting the Calvary scene were established in 1996 by the Trebinskie Family. This beautiful display is located on the Old Wilno/Paugh Lk. Rd. between Con. 10 and the Bonnechere Rd.

The Oldest Polish CrossTHE OLDEST CROSS

This cross was on top of Canada's First Polish Church - St. Stanislaus Kostka church which burnt down in 1936. This cross is the only thing left from the structure and it is now resting in the Wilno Heritage Park. This cross was blessed at the Park by Monsignor Pick, Fr. Shalla, Fr. Kraftchick and Fr. Burchat

For more information on the Wilno Heritage Society e-mail: