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Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish - Syaracuse NY

A parish history from the 1942 Jubilee Book

The Golden Jubilee of the Sacred Heart Parish is a triumph representing fifty years of heroic labor, crowned by honorable achieve,ment. Those who have stood at the helm, guiding us through trials and tribulations, know by what unflinching efforts all this has been accomplished.

Such an anniversary invokes memories. It is doubtless well that we have learned from these fifty years how much remains to be done. But it is none the less our duty to recognize with gratitude what the pioneers have accomplished.

The founding of the parish indeed is closely linked with the pioneer settling of the Polish immigrant in the City of Syracuse and its vicinity.

Catholic by tradition, the Polish immigrant ,brought his children into surroundings quite different from those of his native country, from its religious traditions, its immemorial custom , and its historic associations. It mattered not
how their political and social relations might 'be changed by coming to America, they " sensed that their religious duties were the same here as in Poland. They left Poland, mostly of their own free will so that they could better themselves in this great free country. Many Poles left their homesteads to escape the injustices of the three controlling powers who partitioned Poland, seeking to eliminate the Polish language, traditions even their undying spirit and nationalism.

It was during the great migration of European peoples to the United States that the Polish people settled in Syracuse. About the year 1880 there was a scattering of Polish families in this city. The majority of the earlier Polish settlers spoke German and, lacking a church of their own, they atttended Mass and satisfied their Easter duties at the iChurch of the Assumption and at St. Joseph's (German) Church.

The Rev. Francis Kolaszewski, the organizer of this parish, came here from the diocese'of Cleveland in May 1892 and he labored there for two years before returning to Cleve:land. He conducted his first Holy Mass in
Syracuse in Kelly's Hall at West Fayette Street.

On June 12, 1892, the Polish pioneers held their first general meeting in one of the school rooms of the Assumption parish and it was then decided to build their own church and the name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was selected. On June 30, 1892, at the incorporation of the church, the Most Rev. Patrick Kelly, Bishop of Syracuse, the Rt. Rev. James Kennedy, vicar-generaL the Rev. Kolaszewski, pastor, and the Messrs. Peter Gdaniec and Adolph Kirchner, lay trustees, were authorized to contract for the building of the first Polish parish in the Syracuse diocese. This parish has the distinction of being the mothe parish of the Polish churches in the diocese.

A framed, two-story combination building, the original church, was located at site of the present school being bulid at anapproximate cost of $12,000. The corner stone was solemnly blessed by Bishop Ludden on July 24, 1892. The first Mass was reecited August 20 of the same year in the new church. The bell was blessed later in the year, on October 2. The church was soIemnly dedicated June 11, 1893.

After the first pastor's departure, the parish was ministered by the Rev. Anthony Plucinski. assigned herle from the Pittsburgh diocese, who was followed: by the Rev. Jerome Klimecki who toiled until June 1896. He resigned because of poor health and advanced age. Thus the first phase of the church ends with Father Klimecki's leaving. During this first phase the parish was organized. Credit for organizing the parish must be given to the earlier settlers who endeavored to center their lives around the Mass. The St. Adelbert's Society, Syracuse afilliate of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of Chicago, the oldest Polish society in Syracuse was an essential part of the parish in its formative stage. Outstanding laymen at that time were Roman Lewandowski, John Lewandowski and the trustees Peter Gdaniec and Adolph Kirchner.

On such a glorious occasion as this it is hard to say that the first years of the parish were smooth. There were impediments and obstructions. The duties were arduous. It required patience of hl9h order al1d persistance. The people of the parish, mostly immigrants and poor working people, had to be as Catholics. The accumulation of funds for the church was slow. It can be suggested, that, according to parishioners of that day still living, whatthe new parishneeded a permanent leader and spiritual adviser - one who could tackle task without

Thus on June 16, 1892, Bishop Ludden appointed the Rev. Francis S. Rusin pastor of the parish. Being newly-ordained and without any previous charge and at that time 29 years of age, Father Rusin lost no time in effecting reforms to strengthen the bond between the people and God.

Father Rusin was born in Poland in 1867. After completing his elementary education, attending St. Vitalis Seminary in Warsaw, he worked his way into this country and on arriving here resumed his study for the priesthood in St. Joseph's Seminary, Troy. He was ordained by Archbishop Corrigan on May 30, 1896. His appointment to Syracuse followed soon.

From that time on his work as a builder and leader began to take concrete form. Membership in the parish grew steadily. More and more property was acquired and the activities and influence of the Sacred Heart Church made it one of the most notable parishes in in the Syracuse diocese.

Since the parish had no rectory, the first three pastors rented a private home on Lakeview avenue. Father Rusin, in an effort to economize, occupied a few vacant rooms in the wooden church building. After residing in these inconvenient quarters for six years, he was forced, at the insistence of the parishioners, to occupy a two-story framed structure of twelve rooms, built to serve as a rectory at a cost of $3,500.

The parish grew in numbers-the older immigrants began to import the ones they left behind-their relatives, wives, sweethearts and children. Many came who sought to escape service in the Russo-Japanese war in the early years of the twentieth century.

Understanding the circumstances and perceiving the desire of the people for a more spacious church, Father Rusin, with the permission of the Board of Trustees of the church, bought the land for the purpose of constructing a magnificent church. He devoted himself to the task of completing it and nothing was too much for him to do in order to fulfill this purpose within his lifetime. In 1906, construction of the church began. The cornerstone was laid and blessed October 20, 1907, by Bishop Ludden. The new church was completed in 1910.

It was built by the labor of the people themselves to a very great extent and by the small contributions of those who had very little to spare, but who were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the parish. Much of the work on foundations and walls was done by artisans among the parish communicants, who were, in some cases, unable to make financial contributions. The church was built at a cost of more than $200,000.

Having two spires of 212 feet high and built in the form of a cross, the new church is of pure Gothic style. It is a steel-framed, stone building veneered with Gouverneur marble. Its length is 162 feet and the width in the cross is 105 feet, in the nave 65 feet and in the front 96 feet.

The new church was solemnly dedicated June 5, 1910, by the Most Rev. P. Rhode, Polish Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, to whom this privilege was extended by the local ordinary. Bishop Rhode celebrated the solemn pontifical Mass in the presence of Bishop Ludden, the Most Rev. John Grimes, Auxiliary Bishop of, Syracuse, and a score of other clergy. The sermon was preached by the Rev. John Bieda, S. J. On the same afternoon Bishop Rhode administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to a group of about 300 children. Three new large bells were blessed by the Auxlhary Bishop Grimes on the first Sunday of September in 1912.

Upon completion of the new church, the old church was converted entirely for school use. In April 1916 a fire damaged the old; school which was later razed and upon its site stands the present modern brick building. Erected at first as a two-story building with a basement. it was necessary in May 1926, to build an additional story because of the increased registration of pupils. The entire cost of the present complete building, including the playground, is $150,000.

Among the achievements of Father Rusin was the construction of a fine convent building where twenty-five Felician Sisters live and carry on the educational work of the parish. , Teaching nuns have been affiliated with the parish since 1892 when three nuns from the Order of St. Francis arrived here from Rochester, MN. In the year 1901, the Felician Sisters from Buffalo, three in number, took up the teaching reins of the parish. The original attendance was 86, but with the years it had reached as high as 1,568 pupils in 1928. The present attendance is 580. The cost of the convent, including equipment, is valued at more than $30,000. The land on which the convent is built was donated to the parish by Father Rusin.

With the building of the new school and in order to provide a playground for the children, the old rectory was moved and sold. The home in the rear of the school which housed nuns was also moved and sold. There was
a need for a new rectory again. It was built at a cost of nearly $40,000, including equipment. It.was completed in 1922. The land on which lhe rectory stands was also owned by Father Rusin and it was donated to the parish.

Other properties belonging to the parish include the large cemetery in the Town of Geddes and the frame building in the rear of the school building, serving as quarters for the janitor. It was built in 1914 at a cost of $2,000.

So we see that in two decades of building, with Father Rusin at the helm, a half million dollars worth of buildings was constructed. From 1906 to 1926, the church, the school the nunnery, the rectory went up in the air to
stand for many years as a monument to the personality, the ability and the industry of the priest who spent his entire priesthood in this one spiritual post.

During his long career as a churchman, Father Rusin was accorded a reverence richly deserved by a man crowned by the snow of years. A series of generations have had brought close to him his flock at all precious crises of family life - births, marriages, sicknesses and deaths. He was an index of unselfish character.

The fine work of Father Rusin was acnowledged not only in his community, or in the diocese, but also in high places in his own native land. The Golden Cross of Honor was awarded to him in January, 1929, by President Ignacy Moscicki of the Polish Republic. From time to time little gatherings were held in honor of Father Rusin. On October 4. 1937, a dinner was given by the parishioners in honor of the venerable priest's seventieth birthday. Father Gorski of Amsterdam, who came together with Father Rusin from Poland to resume their study for priesthood in Troy, was toastmaster. Men,from all walks of life were there to pay homage to this venerable priest.

When Father Rusin came to Syracuse, he found a flock of eighty-five families, a $10,000 church building and debts of about $11.000. From that day on he toiled, here and there, working with his own hands as he was a craftsman of no small ability. Carpentry, among other occupations, was his hobby. He visited his parishioners personally with priestly zeal at times pleading, at times administering i;. to their spiritual needs. His work was well done.

At the age of seventy-two, Father Rusin died of a heart attack on Friday, July 21, 1939. He was swimming at the time at his summer camp at Selkirk. The passing of the reverential priest shocked and grieved not only his own flock, but thousands of others of all faiths and positions of life, as well as the clergy of the entire Syracuse diocese. Father Rusin, a diocesan consultor for twelve years, served as pastor for forty-three years in the one parish. It will be long before he is forgotten. The church, a handsome ecclesiastical structure, will tower as a striking monument of his foresight.

The Most Rev. Walter A. Foery officiated at a pontifical mass of requiem on July 25. Thousands gathered to acknowledge his goodness and to pray for the repose of his soul.

The Rev. Francis A. Cyman served as an administrator for two months after Father Rusin's death.

On September 15, 1939, the Rev. Casimir Piejda, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Binghamton, was appointed by Bishop Foery as the fifth pastor of the Sacred Heart parish. With this appointment ends the second phase of the parish, namely, the building of the parish.

Father Piejda was born January 14, 1897, in Poland. He received his elementary education in the parochial schools in Buffalo after he arrived there with his parents as a young boy. He also attended St. John Kanty parochial schooL St. Mary's High School at Orchard Lake, St. Mary's College and St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary. He was ordained in 1922 for the Omaha diocese where he served for one year. He was adopted into the Syracuse diocese and from 1923 to 1927 he acted as administrator of St. Stephen's parish in Oswego. In 1927 he was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, Binghamton, from which parish he came to Syracuse. Since 1939, Father Piejda has made many improvements and by his expert financial administration has reduced the debts of the church by $40,000. When Father Piejda assumed his duties as pastor here, the debts on the property were $132,000.

By consolidating several loans and outstanding mortgages, Father Piejda was enabbled to pay only 3 1/2 % instead of the usual 5%. ForĀ· this great occasion-the Golden Jubilee of the Parish-Father Piejda started a fund. The fund is now about $11.000 and it will be used to build either a new marble main altar or it will be used to build a social center for the young people of the parish. This decision will be reached after the present war.

To celebrate the religious aspect of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the parish, Bishop Foery presided at a solemn Mass celebrated Sunday Sept. 13, 1942 by Father Piejda, assisted by the Rev. George Guziewicz, the first in the parish to enter priesthood, as deacon and the Rev. Bogumil Pawlewicz as sub-deacon. The Rt. Rev. Michael J. Grupa, former rector of Orchard Lake seminary, delivered the sermon. The Rt. Rev. Ladislaus Krzyzosiak, present rector of Orchard Lake Seminary, the Rt. Rev. Francis Kasprzak of Buffalo and the Rt. Rev. David Cunningham were the monsignori present to commemorate this great day, besides these, there were present also about 20 other priests. A huge parade was formed this day consisting of the Polish Legion Drum Corps, the Polish Legion Band, the Boy Scouts of Troop No. 76 and Troop No. 30, the veterans of the Polish Army and the American Army with their auxiliaries, the St. Mary's Sodality girls, the members of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, the Polish Union, the Polish Alliance and members of church societies. Bishop F oery was escorted from the parish house by the present lay trustees, John Macko and John Smoral.

To celebrate the social aspect of the Golden Jubilee a dinner dance was held Oct. 11, at Hotel Syracuse at which 900 persons attended. The Rev. Bernard Janczewski of Rome acted as toastmaster and the Rev. Dr. Michael Dzialuk of Utica was principal speaker. Scores of clergymen, consisting mostly of former assiskmts at the parish and those who entered the priesthood from the parish, also attended. It was a gala affair, accompanied by community singing, solos and musical renditions.

To conclude the Golden Jubilee year and to do it appropriately the committee has arranged a gathering of the parishioners in the parish hall at which time the breaking of the wafer (oplatek) takes place and the best wishes for the coming year are extended. This affair marks the formal closing of the Golden Jubilee year.

The present assistants at the church are the Rev. Joseph M. Kowalczyk, ordained for this diocese and appointed to this parish in June, 1940 and the Rev. Peter Koleczek, ordained for this diocese and apPointed to this parish in December, 1940.

As the parish grew in the beginning it was necessary to have assistance. The first assistant to serve here under Father Rusin was appointed in December, 1907. From December, 1926 on there have been two assistants in the parish. Among the assistants who have labored in this parish, accomplishing splendid work that was recognized by the hierarchy resulting mostly in promotion and greater tasks are: the Rev. Alexander Fiialiowski. the Rev. Dr. Dzialuk, the Rev. Stanley Lniski, the Rev. John Tarlowski. the Rev. Valentine Chrobok, the Rev. Ferdinand Schilowski. the Rev. John Sciskalski. the Rev. Francis Taborski, the Rev. Bernard Janczewski, the Rev. Joseph Jankowski, the Rev. Bernard Wierzbicki. the Rev. Walter Babula, the Rev. Charles Kazmierczyk, the Rev. Francis Cyman and the Rev. Edward Misiuta.

The following boys from the parish were ordained for the priesthood: the Rev. George Guziewicz, the Francis Holocinski,the Rev. Albert Korzuch, the Rev. Joseph Osip, the Rev. Bogumil Pawlewicz, the Rev. Francis Przywara, the Rev. Joseph Andraka, the Rev. Teophil W ojcikowski and the Rev. Stanley Maczewicz. Felix Guziewicz, a brother of Father Guziewicz, made his profession in the Christian Brothers order. His religious name is Brother Bernard of Jesus. Thirty-three girls from the parish have entered the religious life in the Order of the Felician Sisters, the Mother house being located at Villa Maria, Buffalo.

So in this brief sketch the reader is given a resume of the high points of a half-century of parish life - a parish which grew from 85 families to 1,000 families - a parish built by the labor of a great priest and a great leader, Father Rusin - a parish supported by the immigrant, the Pole who came here poor but willing to work, many uneducated but anxious to learn, never forgetting their duties to their God and their church. Indeed, a parish which with the present industrious and zealous spiritual leader shall go far in reaching the heights which it deserves by reason of its genius, its numbers, its glorious and magnificent past. In closing, a salute to the pioneers who have labored and sacrificed.

Written by Alexander Husak

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011