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Sacred Heart - Swedesburg, PA

A brief parish history from the 1982 Jubilee Book

The Community of Swedesburg, one of Montgomery County's oldest settlements along the Schuylkill River, was founded in 1712 by the early Swedish colonists who resided around Gloria Dei Church in Philadelphia. Religious services were held in homes until 1734 when a combination log cabin schoolchurch was built. This sufficed until 1760 when Christ Church was dedicated.

In the 1830's a great many Irish immigrants settled in Swedesburg and in due time they supplanted the Swedes as the majority. Later they moved on to an area which became a part of the Borough of Bridgeport in 1851. The Irish organized the St. Augustine Parish in 1892.

History proves that wherever the settlers went, the church was not long in following. The history of the founding of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish is quite unique.

Many Polish pioneers, driven from their homeland by intolerance, persecutions and economic conditions, came to the United States in the 1880's and some settled in Swedesburg, Upper Merion Township. The abundance of work, particularly in the quarries, railroads, woolen mills and steel works attracted their attention for a better life.

An eminently religious people they longed for a priest who could minister to their spiritual needs in the Polish language.

In the 1890's the Rev. Gabriel Kraus, pastor of St. Laurentius Church, Philadelphia, visited these settlers and conducted religious services usually at the home of Joseph Nyksa.

Among those early settlers were Anthony Nowicki, Ignatius Rataj, Andrew Dybicz, Adam Sitarz. Peter Balcer, Andrew Szpindor, Walenty Barczak, Jan Capinski, Adam Oszczapinski, Maciej Piechowiak, Ludwig Dolga and Jan Wilczynski.

Also, Katherine Wrona, Anthony Piatkowski, Michael Zielinski, Jan Pleva, Adam Ostrowski, Andrew Nowak, Ignatius Domurad, Joseph Piatkowski, Frank Salkowski, Jan Borowy, Agnes Lukasz, Joseph Walkowiak, Walter Wolski, Anna Walkowiak, Teofil Pisarski and others

. When the Polish settlers of Conshohocken formed St. Mary's Church in 1905, Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia united Swedesburg, Swedeland, Bridgeport, Port Kennedy, King of Prussia and Norristown, to the parish.

However, the settlement in Swedesburg rapidly grew in numbers and a movement was begun in 1905 for the organization of a parish. There were abeut eighteen families and fifty single persons. With permission of the diocese, $6000 was collected and under direction of Rev. Soltysik of the Missionary Fathers, a modest edifice was built and dedicated on December 9, 1906.

Records indicate it was a most impressive sight that day when a procession of some two hundred persons, including clergy, laity and religious groups accompanied by the Conshohocken Band and the Polish Band of Phoenixville, marched four miles from St. Mary's of Conshohocken to Swedesburg to dedicate a new brick building, a mission church, called the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Diocesan authorities canonically established and declared Sacred Heart a parish on January 13, 1907 On that day, Rev. Hugo Krol, a Lazarist priest and first pastor, recorded the first baptismal certificate of Maryann Pisarski.

Rev. Krol remained in that capacity until September 1907 when he was succeeded by Rev. Marcen Stupinski, a young energetic priest with a keen desire to develop the parish. He opened the first parochial school, but unfortunately, in competition with the nearby Swedesburg Public School, it was terminated after two years.

Father Stupinski was succeeded by Rev. Stanley Olesinski who administered the affairs of the church to December 1910, when Rev. John Dudzik took charge and remained until May 1911, followed by the Rev. Michael Pachucki who during his administration built the first rectory.

On May 7, 1912 Rev. Dr. Alfred de Wroblewski, Ph.D., D.D. assumed charge of the parish. He was a learned priest who wrote many books, songs and poems. Father Wroblewski's grand-uncle was the great Polish composer Stanislaus Moniuszko. During his office, he purchased ground in anticipation of erecting a new church. Father Wroblewski shepherded the parish for eight years and during that time it grew to 100 families.

On June 10, 1920 Rev. Martin K. Maciejewski was appointed pastor by Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia, During his tenure, the parochial school was re-opened in 1922, a home was purchased and remodeled for the Bernardine Sisters of the Franciscan Order, and a newmagnificent church was built and dedicated on May 1, 1927, by the Most Rev. Michael Crane, Bishop of Philadelphia. It was a solemn and memorable occasion which will be ever written in the annals of thehistory of the parish.

It was at this time that the depression years in the economy of America took place. As it affected everyone, so too, Sacred Heart Parish felt its sting. Yet despite the financial crisis, the parishioners supported their church as best they could. Then there was the assistance of the James Lees and Sons Co., namely Abram and Joseph Eastwick, whose interest and concern for the welfare of the people were cognizant. Through their generosity, the parochial school playground was obtained. Many other improvements were begun, but the parish was saddened with the death of Father Maciejewski in June of 1944.

Rev. Francis P. Sokol was named pastor and served Sacred Heart Parish for 26 years until hisretirement in 1970. During his administration, a new parochial school was built in 1954, a new rectory in 1963, and a new convent in 1964. Father Sokol's enthusiasm, generosity and cooperation from parishioners also renewed a surge of progressiveness in the community as well.

Especially dear to Father Sokol was the spiritual progress of the parish which was evidenced especially among the younger folks. The various devotions were noticeably attended, the Sacraments are frequently received, and in general, a keener interest in parochial affairs was manifested. It was Father Sokol's innate talent and wonderful conception of what is noble and grand, spiritually andmaterially, that prompted him to adorn the House of God as majestically as possible.

In 1970, shortly before he was appointed Pastor Emeritus, Father Sokol was honored with the Americanism Medal from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the highest honor the DAR can bestow upon a naturalized citizen. He was the first clergyman in Pennsylvania to receive this award for "leadership, service and patriotism." Father Sokol died on March 2, 1981.

Father Sokol was succeeded by Rev. Leon E. Jaworowski who served as pastor until 1975 when Rev. Sebastian P. Babiarz took office. He became ill and on June 7, 1977, Cardinal Krol appointed Rev Leonard A. Furmanski, former principal of Archbishop Kennedy High School, Conshohocken, asthe new pastor.

Father Furmanski's energetic action was quickly attested to as he directed the refurbishing of all parish buildings including the painting of the interior of the church in preparation for the 75th anniiversary. Father Furmanski also called a parish meeting to organize committees for the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. He also established a kindergarten in the parochial school.

The first assistant pastor appointed at Sacred Heart in 1936 was Rev. Albin Yodzis. Serving over the years were Rev. John Dunajski, Rev. Stanley Gorak, Rev. John Pichla, Rev. Francis Luszczak, Rev. John Z. Basinskl, Rev. Henry J. Krzesinski, Rev. Joseph S. Deskiewicz and the last assistant at Secred Heart, Rev. Michael V. Marek who was at the parish from September 1954 to August 1957

. For a few years the parish, however, was not left without help as Rev. Edward S. Musial, Rev, George J. Boyle and Rev. Thomas P. Gillin were in residence at the rectory. Presently assisting Father Furmanski with religious activities are Rev. Msgr. Paul F. Curran and.Rev. James McKeaney.

Within the parish there are several religious and other organizations. Some of them originated with the foundation of the church while others came into being in recent years. Active in parish affairs are the Rosary Society, B.V.M. Sodality, St. Cecelia's Choir, Holy Name Society, Home and School Association and Scout Troops No. 352.

Also within the confines of the parish are organizations such as the Polonia Association, Union of Polish Women Group No. 24, Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Swedesburg Fire Company. With grateful appreciation, we assert that these groups always considered it a privilege to assist the parish in her needs.

In vocations, the Sisterhood is represented by Sister Nicodema Dziczek, Sister Salvatore Marshall, Sister Hubertine Sojkowski, Sister Claretta Puzio, Sister Joanne Bazela and Sister Mary of Jesus Palac.

Sacred Heart Parish is proud of possessing many outstanding lay workers. Many sons and daughters of these hard working God fearing Polish settlers who founded Sacred Heart are serving with distinction in various professional careers.

During World War II, 281 men and women of the parish served in the Armed.forces of the United States and six, Joseph Kilian, Stanley Kusy, Thaddeus Kaminski, Carl Mazur, Edward Mrozek and Stanley Dryla, made the supreme sacrifice. A bronze plaque in the church commemorates their valor and memory.

It is ironic that the church, rectory, school and convent buildings are situated on the very ground upon which the American Continental Army encamped during the Revolutionary War after crossing the Schuylkill at Swedesford on December 12,1777 while on their march to Gulph Mills and Valley Forge.

Ironic also is the fact that one of the Countrymen of the Polish people, Gen. Casimir Pulaski, Commander of the American Cavalry, did in fact, trod upon the very soil upon which today houses theSacred Heart Parish complex.

Today, Sacred Heart Parish has over 650 families on its membership rolls .... and the accomplishments and contributions of the priests, nuns and parishioners .... dedicated to God and Country, certainly attests to the abundance of His Divine Graces.

75th Anniversary Observance

Directed by Father Furmanski, a continual series of commemorative events marked the 75th anniversary of the parish throughout the year. A Living Rosary Service, Mass for deceased priests, nuns and parishioners, Polish Festival, Forty-Hours Devotions presided over by Auxiliary Bishop Louis DeSimone, Blessing of the new church organ, were all culminated with a Mass of Thanksgiving and Banquet on Sunday, November 1, 1981.

"Although Sacred Heart is not a large parish, it is one of the finest in the Archdiocese", the Most Rev. Martin N. Lohmuller, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia told more than 500 parishioners, guests and friends gathered at the Ss. Peter and Paul Hall, Bridgeport, to celebrate the 75th  anniversary.

"Sacred Heart is a strong, stable and alive parish", said the Bishop. "Every parish is absolutely essential to the diocese. And, the diocese is only as strong as the parish", he pointed out.

Bishop Lohmuller congratulated the parishioners, Father Furmanski and the Bernardine Sisters, whom he said, "are a tremendous asset in the educational process."

"Leadership in the parish is very important, as well as faith. Those early Polish pioneers who founded Sacred Heart in 1906, their ultimate objective was their spiritual life. And today, on All Saints Day, we are here to commemorate those who sacrificed so much to make this Diamond Jubilee possible", Bishop Lohmuller concluded

Father Furmanski also spoke. He expressed his gratitude to all parishioners, guests, the Diamond Jubilee Committee and all those who cooperated in the successful celebration. As a remembrance of the Jubilee, Father Furmanski presented all those in attendance with a special medal of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

An Apostolic Blessing to the parish was received from His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Rev. Msgr. Anthony Jaworowski, pastor of St. Adalbert Church, Philadelphia, was master of ceremonies. He read congratulatory letters from the Pope, President Ronald Reagan, John Cardinal Krol, Governor Richard Thornburgh, and proclamations received from the Pennsylvania State Legislature, Upper Merion Township Supervisors and from Christ Church, Old Swedes, Swedesburg.

Msgr. Jaworowski introduced the following guests: Rev. Charles E. Gormley, Administrator of Our Mother of Divine Providence Church, King of Prussia; Rev. Michael V. Marek, pastor of St. Augustine Parish, Bridgeport; Rev. Edward S. Musial, pastor of St. Ephrem's Church, Cornwells Heights.

Key Dates in the Parish History

1905  People  gathered  to  organize  a  church 
1906  December  9  -  Dedication  of  Church 
1907  January  13  -  Acknowledged  as  a  Parish  with  Rev.  Hugo  Krol  as  the  first  Pastor 
1907  First  School  started  -  Terminated  -  1909 
1907  January  12  -  First  Marriage  - Constantine Subda and Alexandria Krysiak
1907  January  13  -  First  Baptism  - Mary Ann Pisarski
1907  April  1  -  First  Funeral  - Michalina Rakowski
1911  First  Rectory  Built 
1922  School  Completed  and  Opened 
1922  First  Convent  Built 
1926  Cornerstone  Laid  in  New  Church 
1927  May  1  -  New  Church  Dedicated 
1927  June  -  First  Graduation 
1954  Present  School  Built 
1963  Present  Rectory  Built 
1964  Present  Convent  Built 
1979  Sacred  Heart  Grotto  Built  in Memory of the Malinowski Family
1980  Present  Church  Completely  Refurbished 
1980  Purchased  New  Baldwin  Organ 
1980  First  Kindergarden  Classes 
1981  Opened  Kindetgarden  Room 

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Last Updated on October 23, 2014