A Child’s Costume, Big Faith, and No Small Coincidence

She didn’t have money to buy a costume. She didn’t know how to sew. What she did have was a grandson with a school assignment to dress up like his patron saint: St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), the Founder of the Marian Fathers.

She also had determination and faith.

More than a year ago, Marilyn Motley of Columbus, Nebraska, got a request from her then 7-year-old grandson, Stanley.

“On All Saints’ Day, the kids in his Catholic grade school dress up like their patron saints for the day,” she explained. “Stanley came to me and said, ‘Help me, Grandma!’ And I started to think, what can I do here? I remembered that about two years earlier [June 5, 2016], when Stanislaus was proclaimed a saint, the Marian Fathers sent us a prayer card with a picture of St. Stanislaus on it. And I get the Marian Helper magazine in the mail. So I thought, ‘Hmm, I wonder if I could write to them to see if they could help out with the costume here.’”

Marilyn emailed Peter Markavage, executive assistant to Fr. Joseph, MIC, for help in finding a costume. It’s not the kind of request Peter usually receives, but he empathized and suggested websites that had cassocks or altar server robes. He also looked up blogs from others who have made saints costumes.

None of the ideas suited Marilyn’s situation.

But then, she got a reprieve. “The St. Bonaventure School in Columbus had been doing this costume thing for years upon years,” she said. “It used to be second grade [that dressed up]. That year, they moved it to the third grade.”

Nearly a year later, in July 2019, no workable costume option was in sight yet. Stanley and his grandmother still wanted him to be St. Stanislaus Papczynski for the All Saints’ Day Parade this year. Once again, Marilyn emailed the Marian Helpers Center for assistance.

This time, Peter offered a new spark of hope: The Center had a receptionist who had previously worked in a costume department, and she might be able to help. The receptionist, however, was on maternity leave.

In the meantime, Peter asked Marilyn to send Stanley’s measurements and age (now 8 years old).

Marilyn did so. She also sent a check to the Marians to help defray any cost incurred. “I know this isn't very much money, but we are putting Stanley and his younger sister, Kimberly, through St. Bonaventure Elementary School. Our son and their mother are divorced, and the mom left the Church. So [the children] get to come over every other weekend. We pray with them and take them to Mass.”

Peter held off on cashing the check. “I’d rather find someone who will pro-bono give us suggestions and/or help us design something first,” he wrote.

Marilyn, meanwhile, was undeterred. “This will take divine intervention,” she wrote back. “We have to step up the prayers. Saint Stanislaus, please help us to make little Stanley look like you. Thanking you in advance, Stanley’s grandma. Thank you, Peter.”

Then, Peter found someone else with costume sewing experience, a friend in community theater who sewed. He explained to her that he was looking for a white cassock costume for a child. “I’d need someone who would do it inexpensively,” he added.

Peter’s friend smiled and said, “It’s funny you should ask me because I actually have a white cassock costume!”

It turns out his friend’s son, Kyle, dressed as Pope St. John Paul II about 14 years ago when he was in fourth grade. The costume was still tucked away in a closet.

On Aug. 19, Peter emailed the good news to Marilyn. A cassock would be in the mail soon. An anonymous donor covered the expense for mailing the cassock costume and enough prayer cards for Stanley to give to classmates. The check Marilyn had sent wouldn’t have to be cashed.

“Peter has been so great trying to put this together,” Marilyn says. “I am so grateful. It is through St. Stanislaus’ intervention that my grandson Stanley is getting this help.”

When Stanley tried on the cassock for the first time, he lifted up both arms and said, “Look! Just like St. Stanislaus!”

When asked if he knew his grandmother prayed for help through St. Stanislaus’ intercession, Stanley was not surprised. “My grandmother’s prayers are good,” he said. “She says prayers all the time.”

Stanley said his grandmother has taught him a lot about the faith, including about St. Stanislaus Papczynski. “He started the Marians,” Stanley said. “And he did miracles.”

Stanley recounted the healing of a Polish boy named Sebastian. Before he was born in 2001, doctors had pronounced him dead. The mother’s godfather prayed a novena through the intercession of the Marian Founder. Before the novena was completed, the baby regained a heartbeat. It was accepted as the miracle that led to Stanislaus’ beatification in 2007. Stanley adds, “When St. Stanislaus was made a saint in 2016, that boy carried up the gifts.”

Miracles aren’t the only thing that impress Stanley about his patron. If any of his classmates don’t know about St. Stanislaus, he plans to tell them something that will impress them. “He was born in Poland!” Although he goes by the name Stanley, he is quick to emphasize, “My real name is Stanislaus.”

Stanley sends his thanks to Kyle for the costume, and to Peter, too.

Marilyn shares his gratitude. “It’s just a wonder how this all came together. And St. Stanislaus had his hand in everything, I think.”

Visit StanislawPapczynski.org to learn more about the Marian Fathers’ Founder.

— Terry Peloquin


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