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Holy Cross Parish -  Trenton NJ

A parish history from the 1941 Golden Jubilee Book

Some fifty years ago, a fervent thought, a thought that soon became a consuming flame of desire, arose in the hearts and the minds of a small group of Polish residents in Trenton, that thought was to form a Polish parish. And that thought became a reality, for in the year 1891, after having consulted the proper authorities, this small group of Polish residents received the necessary permission to form such a parish from His Excellency, the Rt. Rev. Michael J. O'Farrell, then Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton. The distinction of being the first pastor fell to the Rev. Valentine Swinarski.

In addition to his zeal as a patriot, Father Swinarski was renowned in Poland as a fearless exponent of Church dogmas. Because of these traits, he was forced to leave his native land, which at that time, as now, lay enslaved in the venomous and vicious grasp of unjust aggressors.

The Rev. Bolek, in his work, "Who is Who in America", has the following to say concerning Father Swinarski, in the form of a short biography. "Rev. Valentine Swinarski, Bishop-nominate of Plock, Poland was born in Warsaw in 1832. After completing his theological course, he was ordained into the priesthood on March 4, 1855. He immediately became a curate in Lowicz. Soon thereafter he was appointed Catechetical instructor in Leczyca. This was soon followed by his appointment as pastor of Nieborowie and Lowiczu, which appointment he maintained for seventeen years. While here he received the robes of Monsignorship. His next appointment was to be that of Rector of the Theological Seminary in Warsaw, where he also became the pastor of the Church of All Saints. It was at this time that he was nominated to the Episcopal see of Plock, an honor denied him however, by the government of Russia, which refused to confirm his nomination. In 1889, he left the beloved country of his birth. On his arrival in the United States, he was assigned to the pastorate in Mill Creek, PA. Upon his subsequent appointment as the first pastor of the newly formulated parish in Trenton, he served from 1891 to 1895, organizing the parish ond building the Holy Cross Church. In 1896, he became chaplain of the Polish Orphanage in Cheektowaga, NY, where he died."

The trials and tribulations encountered in the formative stages of the organization of this parish were indeed stupendous. At times they seemed insurmountable, a situation that invoked from the lips of Father Swinarski, the prophecy, "That only in the Sign of the Cross, could they possibly be overcome". Then matching action to words, he placed this newly organized parish, as yet in its embryonic state, under the sheltering arms of that Tree of Infinite Graces, for he named it the Holy Cross Church. And he himself, imbued with the help of God, flowing from that Cross, never despaired and never ceased working.

The first problem confronting him was a need for a place to worship. After a month of endeavor, he finally acquired a residence at Elm and Home Streets and soon converted the same into a chapel. That was the stimulus needed. From thence on, the progress, both spiritual and national, of those placed in his charge, was rapid.

That first congregation consisted of a mere "handful" of parishioners. However, these parishioners were comprised of a people who loved with ardent devotion the faith of their forefathers, the faith of the beloved homeland they had left behind them. the Catholic Faith. So, full of hope in God's Providence, they literally submerged themselves in the seemingly impossible task of raising the necessary funds for the upkeep of the parish and the buildings of the Church. These early organizers and parishioners were not wealthy. Whatever monies or incomes they possessed, they needed for the neccessities of life, yet they managed to pool enough to buy sixteen lots, and to pay in full for three of them, so that work on the Church could be started at once. The Bishop gave his consent. The work was begun. No time was wasted. In 1891, the corner stone was blessed and laid, and in that same year the combination building, that was to serve as Church, school, and residence far the priest and lay teacher was completed.

Father Swinarski, although burdened with apparently unending problems, never lost sight of the importance and the absolute need for a parish school. His farsightedness is to be admired, as should also the courage of those pioneers of the parish, who were so willing to make the additional sacrifices, which such a school would demand from them. Their courage and sacrifice was not in vain. There can be no doubt that if such a school had not been founded, this parish would never have reached its Golden Jubilee, or, most certainly, it would never have reason to be celebrating it as joyously, as it is doing today. The future of any parish lies in its youth, a youth in whom must be instilled, ... yea ... firmly imbedded and constantly nurtured, the love of God and Country. Nowhere can this be accomplished to a greater degree than in the Parochial School.

In the first year of its existence, the Holy Cross Parish School, founded by Father Swinarski, had as its teacher, Vincent Sieniewicz, and the initial enrollment at the school consisted of seventy pupils.

That first year of existence of Holy Cross Church was indeed a fruitful one, for in addition to those matters already enumerated, the following deeds were also accomplished and performed. They acquired an acre of ground for the uses and purposes of a cemetery; the societies of the Holy Cross, of the Sacred Heart and of St. Florian were organized and the first Polish newspaper made its appearance in Trenton.

After approximately five years of earnest labor, Father Swinarski, due to poor health, resigned his pastorate and left Trenton. His departure was felt with keen sorrow by his erstwhile parishioners.

Succeeding Father Swinarski as pastor of the Holy Cross Church, was the Rev. Dr. John Ciemniewski, who at the time of his appointment was a professor in the Polish Seminary. His pastorate was of a very short duration. It extended from July to December of 1895.

To continue the progressive work of Father Swinarski and Father Ciemniewski, the Bishop of Trenton appointed the Rev. Francis Czernecki, as the third pastor of this rapidly expanding parish. Here was q priest who equaled in learning and zeal his worthy predecessors. The appointment took effect in December of 1895.

Father Czernecki at once applied himself wholeheartedly to his task. He gave very generously of his strength, both spiritual and physical. Ever uppermost in his mind was the desire to satisfy two unquenchable ambitions. First, as a priest, who loved God above all else, he must do everything to instill in his people a similar strong faith and love of God. And secondly as a patriot, who would always love the country of his birth, he must keep as a living thing, their memory of their native hearth and ancestral home, the home of their fathers and forefathers.

A deep-rooted devotion to the Blessed Mother inspired this pious priest to establish the Children of Mary and Young Ladies Sodality. This organization came into being on June 14, 1896. It is undoubtedly one of the first Sodalities founded in the entire Diocese of Trenton.

During one phase of tenure as pastor of Holy Cross, an emergency pertaining to the school demanded most of his time. Due to the steady influx of Poles into Trenton, there arose an immediate need for more teachers to take care of the increasing number of children pursuing their education in the parish school. In 1901, after many fruitless endeavors, Father Czernecki finally succeeded in securing the services of the Nuns of the Felician Order. The parish considered itself indeed very fortunate in procuring the services of the Felician Sisters, for this Order of Nuns had earned for themselves an enviable reputation as teachers. Their accomplishments in the field of education were second to none. That these Nuns have fulfilled their duties throughout the years is obvious to all. As monuments to their training of our students, one need only to scan the list of our prominent citizens today who have been trained in their early childhood by these nuns.

In 1898, the first Mission in the parish was given by the Jesuit Fathers. Bishop McFaul, newly installed Bishop of Trenton, paid his first official visit to the parish in 1897, and then again in 1899. It was also during Father Czernecki's pastorate in Trenton, that another Polish Parochial School was erected, this time in East Trenton. In May of 1902, Father Francis Czernecki was transferred to South Amboy, where his efforts met with equal success.

After holding pastorates in many of the larger parishes in the diocese, Father Czernecki, due to ill health, resigned in 1933, and spent the remaining years of his life, with his friend of many years, Father Francis Kasprowicz, in the Holy Cross parish. Following a lengthy illness, he succumbed, October 11, 1941, on the feast day of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother he loved so well. He was a priest fifty-five years, forty-five of which were spent in the Diocese of Trenton.

A priest of deep simplicity and extreme piety and kindliness, he was loved by all, respected by all, and looked up to by all.

Succeeding Father Czernecki, in May of 1902, was Rev. Francis Wojtanowski, who had recently arrived from Poland. Animated by the results and accomplishments of those who toiled before him, in this particular vineyard of the Lord, he proceeded to prove himself an indefatigable worker.

Vitally interested in patriotic endeavors of those of his nationality, he was in great measure responsible for having that grand national organization, The Union of Poles in America, convene in Trenton. A solemn high Mass, celebrated in the Holy Cross Church, served as a fitting conclusion to a success-ful convention. This took place in September of 1902.

Father Wojtanowski was relieved of his duties in Trenton at his own request, at the close of December, 1904. After fourteen more years of fruitful ministry in Lawrence, MA., he left this earth in response to a call from his Maker.

January, 1905, saw the arrival of the fifth in succession of pastors of the Holy Cross Church, in the person of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Dziadosz. He soon won for himself the respect, confidence and love of the faithful placed under his care, by his astute handling of their problems, and devotion exhibited to them in various ways.

The undertakings of this man-of-letters, particularly in the realm of religion, were prodigious in number and incredibly successful. He was also prominent in nationalistic movements, but in these, he adhered rigidly to the rule, given to mankind, by the Almighty Himself, "Give to God the things that are God's, and to Caesar, the things that are Caesar's." Always motivated by this golden rule, he made certain that in all such patriotic affairs, God and the true faith would have precedent. Patriotism he knew· was a wonderful sentiment, a needed external manifestation of a person's undying gratitude to the country of his ancestry, but under all circumstances it must be subservient to religion, to the service of God. And so all nationalistic and civil affairs sponsored by him or at his behest were celebrated in that religious-patriotic vein.

With the population of Poles steadily increasing in Trenton, the time came to build a new Church. Under the capable leadership of Dr. Dziadosz, all necessary arrangements were made. Plans were drawn up. Construction was begun. On the sixth of November, 1910, amidst great celebration, the cornerstone was blessed. Then, with the passing of time, there arose a beautiful Church, a Church with twin spires, that seemed like two upraised hands lifted in adoration and supplication to the blue skies above, beyond which, the Creator of All, made His Heavenly abode. The Church. took approximately a year to build. At its completion, with the approval of the Ordinary, the first bishop of Polish descent in America, His Excellency the Rt. Rev. Paul Rhode, consecrated and dedicated this imposing edifice of worship, to help further the glory of God on earth.

December of 1912, saw Rev. Dr. J. Dziadosz leaving Trenton, to continue his priestly work in a new pastorate assigned to him, this time in' Carteret, NJ. There, to this day, he is faithfully fulfilling his duties of a good shepherd.

In Trenton, he left behind him, a glorious temple that constantly serves as a suitable memorial crowning his every effort. He left also a host of friends, a tribute to his unostentatious ness, big heartedness, deep simplicity. All who knew him, loved him.

In December of 1912, Rev. John Budziak, took charge of the parish as the successor to Dr. Dziadosz, under whom he had been curate for several years.

The beautiful church of Romanesque Baroque Architecture was completed in 1911 during the pastorate of Dr. Joseph Dziadosz. The erection of such an imposing structure drained the financial resources of the parishioners and it became apparent that still greater sacrifices had to be made by them. The enrollment of students at the parish school commenced to increase by leaps and bounds and it became evident that a new and larger school building was an absolute necessity. Unperturbed, the young pastor and his parishioners did everything in their power to meet this new demand and responsibility. Generosity and the spirit of sacrifice for such a noble purpose were not lacking. The erection of a new school building was started and in 1919 there arose a large three story building, enclosing twelve class rooms, a large auditorium on the upper floor, a smaller one in the basement, and a sufficient number of conference rooms for various parish societies and organizations. The plant was now completed and in proportion the debt was great and became a serious problem.

With the school problem successfully met there arose another of perhaps minor importance but of great necessity nevertheless, the need for a new main altar for the church. Realizing that it was impossible to ask the people for further financial sacrifices, Father Budziak took matters into his own hands. Being a trained cabinet-maker, with the aid of one of his parishioners, he personally built a magnificent altar, which at this writing majestically graces the spacious sanctuary of the Holy Cross Church. The fine proportions and the artistic lines and workmanship described in the construction of this altar are a source of unending admiration, so much so that it has often been said that this altar would do justice to any Cathedral of our land.

During his pastorate, the Circle of Polish Women, the St. Vincent de Paul Socirty and other worthy organizations, were .established.. Under his diligent care, the dramatic Circle" founded by his predecessor, had great success, both socially and financially. Due credit for that success must also be given to Mr. Maximilian Maslowski, in whose capable hands, was placed the coaching and directing of the various dramatic efforts.

The curates who assisted Father Budziak in his eleven years at the Holy Cross Church are as follows: Father Joseph Lipka (now deceased), Father Matthew Konopka (present pastor of All Saints Church, Burlington, New Jersey), Father Alexander Maciejewski (Rector of St. Stanislaus, Sayreville, NJ), Father Stephen Rybacki (Morris Hall, NJ), Father Zenon Lesniewski (now pastor of St. Stephen's Church, Perth Amboy, NJ). All of these priests played an integral part in the success of this Parish.

Father Martin Lipinski became the seventh pastor of the Holy Cross Church in November, 1923. He strove earnestly for the spiritual and temporal well being of his people. The goal he had set for himself, on taking charge of this pastorate, was to instill into the hearts of his people, a sense of responsibility to God, a feeling for the recognition of the right of fellowmen, a feeling for their foster country, a feeling for sound citizenship. In sorrow or in joy, in failure or in success, he never lost sight of his goal. He was known as a fiery speaker, capable of inspiring his people by well prepared and well delivered sermons.

Among Father Lipinski's many accomplishments, the parish lists as most notable, the beautiful painting of the interior of the Church. This work was done by Joseph C. Mazur, the well known artist from Buffalo, NY.

More recently with the help of his parishioners, he completely relandscaped the entire cemetery, and in such a fine fashion, as to utterly astonish everyone.

Various renovations were effected in the course of his pastoral work. The interior of the Church, particularly the sanctuary and the vestibule, were redecorated. New rubber kneelers were installed. The roof of the Church was fixed, the steeples repainted, crosses regilded. New heavy bronze doors were affixed to the three entrances of the Church adding to the Church new beauty. Practically all the buildings about the parish were in one way or another repaired and put in excellent condition. Both auditoriums in the school were redecorated so as' to make their use applicable to almost any occasion, either the most hilarious or the most solemn.

In addition to all these accomplishments, by reason of his efforts, the parish debt was appreciably decreased, and the rate of interest on the parish indebtedness considerably lowered.

His concern for the spiritual life of his flock shows itself in the numerous devotions fostered by him. His love for the Blessed Mother finds expression particularly in the two Perpetual Novenas he has established in the parish in Her honor, namely. The Miraculous Medal, and the Sorrowful Mother. A beautiful picture of Our Blessed Mother of Czestochowa, was fittingly enshrined in one of the side altars, and blessed in August, 1938, by His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Bishop Stephen Woznicki, Auxiliary of Detroit, and a life-long friend of Father Kasprowicz.

In his pastoral work, Father Kasprowicz, had as his curates, Father Walter Madura, (who also as sisted Father Lipinski), Father Francis Kapica, (now a curate at St. Stanislaus Church, Sayreville, NJ), and two present curates, Father Joseph Brzozowski and Father Alexander Burant.

A half century has elapsed since that small band of Polish pioneers gave the necessary impetus to the founding of the Holy Cross parish. That faithful body of Christ's followers little thought that their simple, unpretentious church would expand, thrive and prosper; little did they anticipate the fact that their small parish would some day expand, into a Church many times its original size. Scarcely could they foresee, that their small group who then could barely speak the tongue of their adopted country, would some day grow into a large group of devoted American citizens, many of them prominent in civic affairs, all of them ready and willing to serve the United States of America, to the best of their abilities, in a manner befitting the example set by their illustrious ancestors, Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski, who played such at: essential part in making America known as the cradle of liberty.

To this Polish Pioneer stock, whose simple homes, clustered about the Holy Cross Church, in the south side of the City of Trenton, this album is dedicated. They never dreamed that some day their Church would observe its Golden Jubilee. Their sons and grandsons, have already set their eyes toward its Diamond Jubilee. Yea, its Centennial celebration, GOD BE WILLING.

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Last Updated on October 19, 2011