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Holy Family Parish - Pittsfield MA

A short parish history from the 1963 Jubilee Book

Introduction

When it became difficult for people to live in their own native land; when they lacked freedom and could not obtain their substantial daily bread, there were always those who left their homeland behind and chose to venture toward a promised land-as was to many - America. Among these incessant Immigration wanderings across the ocean, there were always included some sons and daughters of Poland from whom oppressors had confiscated land and whom had been deprived of their greatest treasure-freedom. And thus, for many years, from all three partitions of Poland, just as migratory birds in passage, crowds of Polish immigrants marched in unending procession toward America, here to form their family nest and to begin life anew. From these extended streams of Polish immigration, there arose in time in America a bulwark of 6 million Poles united in strong ties of blood and relationship with those in Poland who had remained behind. The Polish immigrants, deeply rooted in their faith and their native tongue and not wanting to lose this spiritual heritage so dear to them, endeavored vigorously to create for themselves their own circle of native environment in which they would be able to maintain their Polish language and observe their Polish customs. The building of their own church, the founding of their own parish and the requisition of a Polish priest were the chief aims of every Polish community. And, since such were the feelings of every Polish settlement, there was no exception among the Polish immigrants who at the turn of the last century settled in the city of Pittsfield nestled in the heart of the Berkshires in the state of Massachusetts.

Polish Pioneers in Pittsfield

The First Organization

The origin of Polonia as an independent national group in Pittsfield dates back to the year 1891. In Pittsfield, as in other places, the newly arrived Poles encountered various difficulties in the beginning and felt ill at ease and even displeased in an environment so foreign to them. There was a time when it was difficult for them to obtain work in spite of the fact that Pittsfield was noted for being a center of the textile industry and boasted of a great paper mill. Step by step, however, conditions changed for the better. Thanks to the friendliness and personal intervention of Mr. Noonan, director of the BerkshireWoolen Co., Polish workers were hired for work in the factory on an equal basis withothers. It was not long before the Poles in Pittsfield through their energetic dispositionand industriousness, gained a notable reputation and were acknowledged by employers and employees alike. Besides the problem of securing for themselves material goods, simultaneous efforts were made by the Poles to uphold among themselves their spiritual harmony and unity. Their main concern was to sustain the Catholic faith, their nativetongue and the Polish organizational life.

The results of these efforts called to life in1904 the Society of Saint Joseph which was organized within the framework of the Polish National Association. But this was still not enough. A few years later in 1910, the Polish Roman Catholic Union organized among Poles in the Pittsfield area a new organizational organism under the title of the Society of the Sacred Heart. From their very beginnings these two organizations were very active in spiritual works but they could not appease the desires and needs of the local Polish community. The Poles felt keenly the lack of their own place of worship and a Polish priest. Up to this time, in spiritual matters they had to depend on the patronage of the Irish priests and attended devotions in local churches. This caused a special three man delegation in 1913 to go in the name of the Polish people of Pittsfield to Bishop Thomas Bevan in Springfield. The delegation pleaded for a Polish priest to be sent as a founder of a new Polish parish in Pittsfield. Three active members of the community comprised this delegation: Joseph Ziemak, Joseph Zaorski and Stanley Pisiewski. Since this affair was not settled immediately and favourably, a few months later, Rev. Francis Kolodziej, the pastor in Adams, MA wrote a letter to the Bishop in Springfield on behalf of the delegation's plea and stressed the necessity of establishing a Polish parish in Pittsfield. This time efforts were rewarded with results. The Bishop, responding to the plea of the delegates and Father Kolodziej, named as pastor of the Polish community in Pittsfield, a Polish priest by the name of Rev. Boleslaus Bojanowski.

Founding of the Parish - The First Years

On January 18, 1913, Rev. Boleslaus Bojanowski came to Pittsfield as the pastor of all the Poles in the city and its vicinity. Upon him was placed the obligation of organizing the life of the church in his territory and the founding of a new parish. And thus, in a short time, there arose a new Polish parish by the name of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. From that time on, Poles had their own devotion conducted by a Polish priest. Not having, however, a church of their own, they were able to hear Mass in the hail beneath St. Charles' Church which was given over to their disposal through the courtesy of a local priest. Father Bojanowski performed the duties of pastor for a very short time-three month, in fact-in his newly established parish of the Immaculate Conception. In this short time, however, he spent himself in very solicitous care over his parishioners and from his initiative there arose in the new parish, the first spiritual organization of women-The Rosary Society which is still in existence today.

After Father Bojanowski, Rev. Victor Zarek was named pastor of Pittsfield. Fromthe moment he assumed this responsibility, Father Zarek had one great task laid outclearly before him. From the very beginning he strove to give his Poles their own center of worship so that they would not have to depend on the graciousness of others.Since he did not possess the means to build a new church, Father bought a spacious house on Linden St. with the intention of remodeling it into a temporary chapel for his parishioners. The cost of this new building was quite high exceeding 30 thousand dollars. The money was to be solicited among the parishioners by means of a special collection for the church fund. Because, however, of unforeseen difficulties and local problems, Father Zark was not able to carry out this plan. Since this was during World War I and a Polish army was being formed in Canada, Father Zarek could not resist the desire to go along with other volunteers to help the Polish infantry. For this reason, in 1917, he resigned from the parish and enlisted as a chaplain for service in the ranks of the Polish forces. A year later, Rev. Waclaw Maleniewski came from Canada to replace Father Zarek. Father Maleniewski performed the duties or a third pastor in Pittsfield from the years 1918-1921. As a young and energetic priest, he was held in high esteem by his parishioners. Father also had bold plans which unfortunately never materialized. The home which was purchased by his predecessor on Linden St. was renovated into a presentable chapel in which two Masses were celebrated every Sunday. After the departure of Father Maieniewski to Canada in 1921, the Bishop sent in his place Rev. Joseph Stanczyk who previously had performed the duties of a curate in Webster, MA.

The New Church - Expansion of the Parish

The new pastor inherited an exceptionally difficult situation in Pittsfield. However, after a certain time, through his goodness and appealing simplicity, Father Stanczyk gained the entire support of his parishioners who very willingly worked cooperatively for the good and advancement of the parish. Since the present chapel on Linden Street was inadequate to satisfy the needs of the ever growing population, plans were madeto build a new church. But, it just so happened that at that time in Pittsfield a largebuilding called the Old Car Barn was put up for sale. After consulting the active andinterested parishioners of the parish, as were - J. Ziemak, Adam Loboda and Albert Taranawa, Father Stanczyk bought for $8,500.00 the mentioned building on Seymour St. which previously had stored trolley cars. The parishioners willingly undertook the soliciting of funds to pay for the acquired building and they, themselves, helped in the renovation of the Old Car Barn into a church edifice. Through the co-operative efforts of the entire parish, the work undertaken was successfully accomplished. The cost of renovating, repairing and furnishing amounted considerably to about $60,000.00. In 1924, the small city of Pittsfield witnessed the beautiful occasion of the consecration of a new church which at the same time acquired a new name - Holy Family Parish.

Next to the church in a lower part of the building, a hail was furnished and provisions were made for classes to be held for the children of the parish. Normally the children attended parochial as well as public schools in the city. Concern arose, however, as to teaching the children their religion and Polish language. At first, a few parishioners took upon themselves this obligation since there were no teaching sister available. Lessons were started in the parish in 1922 and for several years, three times a week, Adam Loboda, Wanda Gomula, Jane Wilk, Hedwig Baczkowski, Jane Obojeska and Jane Choromanska dedicated themselves with complete self sacrifice and unselfishness to the teaching of religion and their native tongue to the children. In addition to this, during the summertime, a vacation school was conducted with the help of two young clerics, Joseph Topor and John Skowronski and one parishioner Peter Paciorek. Thanks to the efforts of Adam Loboda, the Polish National Association obtained Polish textbooks for the children which helped them greatly in theirschool work. At this time about 400 children were taking advantage of the lesson in religion and language.

In the year 1929, the pastor of the parish was again changed. Succeeding Father Stanczyk as the fifth pastor in Pittsfield was Rev. Walenty Teclaw who previously served as a curate in Adams. In the new pastor, the parish obtained a priest of great merit in intelligence and at heart. He executed his administration for 16 years, longer than any other priest and did so with complete dedication to material progress as well as the deepening of religious life in his parishioners. Care for beautifying the house of God was his main concern. The complete renewal of the church, the installation of a central heating system, the acquisition of an organ and bells and the interior decoration of the edifice were some of the works and attainments that go to Father Teclaw's credit. It is also very notable to mention that during his pastorate, the large debt of 60 thousand dollars that weighed on the parish for the purchase and renovation of the Old Car Barn into Holy Family Church, was paid in full. It was during his administration, too, that the Felician Sisters who had been traveling from time to time to town from Adams, settled permanently in Pittsfield. Three Sisters arrived in the year 1942.

Father Teclaw was deeply attached to Poland to which he paid a visit in 1935. His stay in the "Old Country" left him with deep impressions. These he expressed publicly during the welcome ceremony given him upon his return from Poland by the parish and representatives of the city. He spoke these words: "I thank God that by His Providence He made me a Pole". His concern over the fact that his parishioners should not deny their Polish extraction while simultaneously considering themselves loyal citizens of America, gained for him a general respect among the local authorities and the entire community in Pittsfield. Many presented the figure of the Polish pastor, Father Teclaw to the young Polish generation as an example to be followed.

When in 1941 the Polish community in Pittsfield observed its Golden Jubilee of existence, the mayor at the time - Mr. James Fallon - expressed upon the occasion public acclaim for the community as well as for its spiritual leaders in these words: "They have been large contributors to our industrial, commercial and civic activities. They have shown themselves worthy descendants of heroic sires. They were amongst the first to volunteer for military service and become generous contributors to the civic life of our City." (April 14, 1941)

After the death of Father Teclaw in 1955, his place was taken by Rev. Ladislaus Rys. Father Rys spent only 5 years as the 6th pastor of the parish making his stay memorable for the acquisition of the Sisters' Home on Symour St. He also acquired parking space near the church for the benefit of his parishioners.

In 1960, Father Rys was transferred to a parish in Springfield. After six months time during which Rev. Henry Kreczko acted as administrator of the parish, Rev. John Klekotka was chosen to be the new pastor in Pittsfield. Assuming the obligations of the pastorate, Father Klekotka realized the fact that to him fell the responsibility of organizing and conducting the celebrations connected with the observance of the 50th Anniversary of Holy Family Parish. Therefore, from the very outset, he channeled all his endeavors in this regard. In connection with this aim, work was undertaken to beautify the church interiorly as well as exteriorly, and thus, for the Golden Jubilee of the Parish, the church assumed a new look thanks to the elegant painting of the altars and statues and the remarkable renovation of the entire exterior. Esteeming the importance of establishing a parochial school, the present pastor has worked vigorously to increase the building funds which in this jubilee year have amounted to the sum of $75,000.00. The importance which the parishioners themselves have attached to this affair, as well as their unyielding sacrifice towards reaching this goal, guarantees that this plan will soon become a reality in the future. Presently the children attend local school while the sisters and priests of the parish provide them with regular catechism instructions.

The Parish and Its Faithful

As was already previously mentioned, the Polish organizations had thrived for several years in this area before the parish in Pittsfield existed and through the years they have grown in number and in significance. Besides the three oldest organizations namely: The Society of St. Joseph, Group 661, P.N.A.; The Society of the Sacred Heart, Group 881, P.R.C.U. and the Rosary Society, many new organizations both spiritual and social were gradually formed through the years. They are listed as follows: St. Cecilia Choir, The Falcon's Nest, Children of Mary Society, a Division of the Veterans of the Army of Gen. J. Hallera, Polish-American Citizen's Club, the Boy's Club, Society of the formed not too long ago during Rev. Henry Kreczko's administration. It should be noted here that those organizations of a civic nature while having been employed in reaching their own set organizational goals, always assumed a most favorable attitude towards everything which concerned the unity and the expansion of the parish.

Apart from the existing organizations, this parish has not been lacking those persons imminently interested in the affairs of the parish and willingly served it with cooperative work and sacrifice. To be listed among those parishioners in the first place, are several valiant Polish pioneers in Pittsfield to whom the parish and the Polish community likewise are deeply grateful. Among those who happily have lived to see with joy
the day of this jubilee are the following; Adam and Marcelina Loboda, Walenty Kruczkowski, Stanislaus Pisiewski, Tekia Para, Antonina Ziemlak, Josepha Paliwoda, Eleonore Harubin, Stanley and Stephanie Kobus, Antonina Szewczyk, Katherine Gorna, Rosalie Iwanowicz, Katherine Smith, Teofila Koldys, and Katherine Orzolek. In the records of the parish the names of many persons were found who belonged to the parish from its very beginning. We comemorate them now by mentioning their names here: Aniela Eckert, Paul Trepacz, Bernice Karalun, Maria Slaska, Mary Ann Cmielowiec, Frances and Victoria Wilk, Helen Ropienska, Bernice Nosek, Michael Kubica, John and Philomena Ziemba, Bronislaus and Wiadislava Walczyk, Katherine Surowik, Hary Ann Klimaszewska, Matthew and Anna Maslanka, Felicia Klimaszewska, Stanley Miszczak, Katherine Spiewak, Stanley and Stephanie Trzcinska, Joseph and Veronica Myszka, Sophie Andruszkiewicz, John and Antina Baginski, Ladislava Biedrzycka, Louis and Antonina Duda, Natalie Jiuda, John Falkowski, Frances Henderek, Magdalene Hospod, Francis and Caroline Jamula, Ignatius Kasprzynski, Staney Keller, Francis Klimek, Ladislava and Agnes Komuniecki, John and Katherine Lemanski, Stanislaus and Stephanie Naprawa, Sabina Obojska, Mary Ann Potas, Stanislava Podsiad, Teofila Szymanska, John and Wanda Ulmy, Maria Wal, Adam and Tekia Wittenberg, Maria Wojtkowska. Among those who have already left us and who deserve a special mention are two zealous and hard working parishioners - Joseph Ziemak and Joseph Zaorski. We salute them in memory!

In the grateful recollections of the first Poles who came to Pittsfield the names of two Irish priests are outstanding. They are: Monsignor Bernard Canaty, pastor of St. Joseph's and Rev. William Dowd, pastor of St. Charles' parish. Not only did these priests shower the newly-arrived Poles in Pittsfield with kindness but in many instances they came to the material assistance of Polish families who were living under very difficult financial conditions.

The Polish community in Pittsfield always vivified the spirit of patriotism and a vibrant love of country. When in 1917 a division of the Polish army was formed in Canada, immediately a group of volunteers in Pittsfield enlisted to go in the footsteps of Constantine Chojnowski to fight for the freedom of Poland. During World War II, 292 parishioners from Holy Family Parish joined the American Army and fulfilled their military obligations toward their country.

In Holy Family Parish even noble souls who consecrated themselves to the service of God by following their vocations were not lacking. This parish has given the church one priest, Rev. Zygmund Baczkowski, who is presently working in Canada and several sisters in religion. To these belong: Sr. Mary Dorothea (Patricia Flynn) a Felician; Sr. Mary Adonia (Sophie Stefanik) a Felician and Sister Jane, C.R., (Alexandra Bozynska), a Sister of the Resurection.

Difficult working conditions and low wages have not been favorable towards having the greater number of our young boys and girls strive in the past for a higher education. In spite of this fact, the parish can boast of a number of persons who have obtained degrees and now work in their own fields of endeavor as lawyers, doctors and teachers. In the line of professional work, the majority has dedicated themselves to teaching and nursing. It is a good sign that among the younger generation there is presently a determined striving to obtain a professional training in the universities and with it to gain the opportunity of obtaining a responsible position in the community.

Conclusion

Glancing back in retrospect upon the 50 years of this parish's existence and having before our eyes those things which during the years have been accomplished, nothing else remains to be done on this jubilee occasion than to express words of deep appreciation to all those who worked together and through their sacrifices helped erect and up-keep this ecclesiastical cell that is Holy Family Parish in Pittsfield. Gratitude and recognition is greatly due to priests and parishioners alike. Thanks above all to the undying efforts of the pastors and at the same time to the dedication and co-operation of the parishioners, there arose this small division of the great Catholic Church which today observes its Golden Jubilee of existence. Much has been done in the past fifty years. Much is still left to be done. For, a parish can never be a dead cell, but only a living organism which constantly must expand if it is to meet the newest needs of its times. The elders in the Polish community of Pittsfield have already fulfilled their obligations toward their parish. Now the responsibility rests on the younger generation to maintain their spiritual heritage and not only to sustain it but through labor and sacrifice to contribute to its flourishing advancement. Such should be our jubilee wishes and resolutions. We believe that with God's help they will be fulfilled by our younger generations. We live with the deep hope that with the coming years there will be in Holy Family Parish material advancement and continual spiritual progress.

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Last Updated on October 19, 2011