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Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish - Port Chester NY
A brief parish history from the 1967 Jubilee Book
The first Polish settlers came to Port Chester, N. Y. at the beginning of the century. Being small in number, they worshipped at the Holy Rosary Church, Don Bosco Place, where a Polish Salesian priest ministered to their needs. The baptismal records show the first child to be baptized by Rev. Thomas Patalong, Polish Salesian priest, was Stephanie Supron on May 5, 1912. The first Polish couple to be married there was Mr. Stanislaus Szymanowski and Helen Bogdanska on June 4, 1912. Subsequent entries in the baptismal and marriage records are signed by Rev. John Pilz, a Polish Salesian priest who took care of the needs of the early Poles.
In 1916 Rev. John Sikora, a Polish Salesian priest, took charge of the parish. A separate mass was said for the Poles in the lower church of Holy Rosary. In 1917 the congregation purchased for the sum of ten thousand dollars a protestant church, located on Willett Avenue and known as the "North Baptist Church." This church, when built in 1864 was known as the "First Baptist Church of Port Chester." Its name was changed to the North Baptist Church and when the Polish people bought it, it became the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The church was bought on July 28, 1917 and the closing contracts were signed August 21, 1917. After some necessary changes were made, the church was privately blessed by the Salesian Provincial, the Rev. Ernest Coppo on November 29, 1917. The first mass was said on December 2, 1917. The solemn dedication by the Bishop of the Archdiocese of N. Y. did not take place until June 30,1918. Father Sikora served as Pastor until April 10,1921 at which time he went to Europe to see his sick mother. The parish was then admi nistered by Rev. Thomas Patalong and Rev. Simon Maicher, both of the Salesian Order. In October of 1922, the Rev. Felix F. Burant, a diocesan priest, was assigned as pastor. He served until February, 1924 when be became pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, East 7th St. in New York City. The Rev. Francis Lesniewski was then assigned to succeed Father Burant. Father Lesniewski served as pastor from February until June of 1924.
The Rev. John C. Gazdzicki was then appointed to succeed Father Lesniewski. Father John, as he was usually called, took charge of the parish on July 5, 1924. During his time the wooden shed behind the church was dismantled and a new parish hall was built. The hall was blessed by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph Dworzak on December 28, 1924. The first entertainment and gala party was reid on January 1, 1925. It was also during the pastorate of Father John Gazdzicki that the church was enlarged, remodeled, and refaced with tapestry brick. The proiect amounted to the sum of about $24,000 dollars. A new Corner Stone was laid by the Very Rev. Msgr. Stanislaus J. Nowak on May 27, 1928. During that year the present rectory was bought and was paid for in 1929 by a loan of $18,000. Since money was scarce and employment difficult, it was necessary to raise funds th.rough bazaars, motion picture shows and picnics, as well as other social functions.
Father Gazdzicki passed away on Sunday, June 29, 1941 at 6:20 A.M. It was a great loss to the parish. For a few weeks the late Rev. Fabian Bednarski was the administrator. In August of 1941 the Rev. Francis Lesniewski was reappointed pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Cardinal Spellman. During his time, the church was redecorated and lighting fixtures installed.
The Sisters of the Resurrection were also introduced to teach Sunday School. The building at 239 Willett Avenue which was once the old rectory, was prepared as the convent. On May 16, 1945, Father Lesniewski passed away. For a short time, the Rev. Walter Kochman was administrator. On May 28, 1945, His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman appointed as pastor the Rev. Michael F. Kowalczyk, a professor of Latin at Cardinal Hayes High School, Father Kowalczyk assumed his pastoral duties on June 27, 1945.
On September 9, 1945, three Sisters of the Resurrection moved into the convent. Sister Alice was the first principal. The Sisters teach religion and the Polish language after school hours and during release time. They also take care of the altars. The Sister's Chapel, known as the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, was blessed by Monsignor Breslin in December of 1945.
When Rev. Michael Kowalczyk came to the parish, there was a debt of $24,000. With the help of the good parishioners, the debt was paid off a nd the mortgage was burned on April 24, 1949.
The good will of the people became evident in the various church organizations. With the help of Mr. Robert Masline, the scoutmaster, the old Troop No.8 was reactivated. The Cub Pack 8 and Explorer Post 8 were organized. The Holy Name Society was reactivated and a Mother's Club was organized. Later a youth club was organized for boys and girls of the parish. The Sodality of the Children of Mary; the Altar Boys Society, the St. Francis, St. Theresa and Rosary Societies also became active. The Pulaski Society and the Queen Hedwig Societies hold their monthly meetings in the parish hall. The Mother's Club is very active and they are known for their famous "Swienconka Banquets" which they prepare each year for the benefit of the Church.
In August of 1952, Mrs. Frank Andriski assumed the duties of organist and choir directress.
Under her capable direction and tireless work, the parish is proud of a first class Senior and Junior Choir. Since then great strides were made by the Senior and Junior choir in church singing and service. It was then that the famous "Buffet Suppers" began in 1953.
When the financial status of the parish showed progress, new property was purchased across the street from the church. A four family dwell ing at 241 King Street was purchased from Mr. David Rednick on March 1, 1959 for the sum of $65,584.28. Also the dwelling at 231 King Street was purchased on February 17, 1964 from Dr. Shelby N. Lever for the sum of $33,507.33. All this property was purchased with the hope of building a school in the near future.
The population of the parish has increased since 1945. At that time there were only two masses on Sunday. In September of 1945 a third mass was introduced. The Rev. Roman Szarama, professor of Latin at Cardinal Hayes High School, came to say the mass. After a year of service, Father Szarama was transferred to parochial work.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Harry J. Wolff, M.A., professor of English at Cardinal Hayes High School and later at Archbishop Stepinac High School, came every Sunday to say mass at Sacred Heart. When he was assigned to St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City, the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Stephen J. Fitzgerald, M.A., professor and head of the Department of Social Studies at Archbishop Stepinac High School took up the work on Sundays at Sacred Heart. He has been coming here since 1950. A fourth mass has been introduced to meet the needs of the people.
Not only has the parish grown materially but also spiritually. Attendance at masses has improved and the general spirit is that of devotion and gratitude to God.
This is a bit of a sketch of the past fifty years and an attempt to pay tribute to the pioneers who began so humbly and to their posterity that labored so zealously; thus making Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on its Golden Jubilee as one of the outstanding parishes in the Village of Port Chester.
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Last Updated on October 20, 2011