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SS Peter & Paul Parish - Three Rivers MA

A parish history from the 1955 Jubilee Book

At the time when mass immigrations to America were taking place from England, France and Germany for religious and political reasons, the Poles had no need to leave their homeland. Indeed, up to the first quarter of the 19th Century, the only Polish arrivals in Americaa were those who came for private reasons, or like Generals Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski with more than a thousand Polish Patroits, to join America's struggle for independence.

The government of Poland, developed on democratic principles and established under a liberal constitution, allowed full freedom of thought to its citizens during the several centuries of its independent existence. Persecutions, either political or religious, were virtually unknown. When the tide of the Reformation swept over Europe during the 16th Century, Poland remained untouched, even offered haven to those who were persecuted in their native lands for religious beliefs.

It was only after Poland was overtaken by foreign powers in the latter part of the 18th Century, her government destroyed, and their liberties forcibly revoked, that the Polish people sought refuge elsewhere. In 1831 after an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the rule in Poland, the first actual emmigration of Poles to America was carried out. A group of participants in the Uprising of 1830, seeking political asylum, arrived in New York in May of 1834. The entire company totalled 235 people. Later that year, several additional boatloads of Polish immigrants arrived, and then the American public became aware of their plight and their past. In the years of 1846 and 1848 there were new revolts in Poland, which again failed to restore freedom. As a result, a fresh wave of Polish immigrants found their way to America. A new revolt broke out in shackled Poland in January of 1863, due to the unbearable political and religious persecution of schismatic Russia, protestant Prussia and economical hardship of subju­gated Poles in Austria.

These earlier immigrants organized the. first Polish Catholic parishes wherever settlements were large enough to support them. The first parishes were those of "Panna Maria" and "Czestochowa", established in the year 1854. Incidentally, the towns were also named after the Virgin Mary, Patroness of these parishes. Similarly, a Polish community, "Polonia" was formed in Wisconsin in 1855 and again a church in honor of the Virgin Mary was built there. From this meager beginning, more than six million Americans of Polish extraction possess about one thousand churches and there is hardly a Catholic parish in the United States which does not have a larger or smaller number of Catholics of Polish descent. Students of the Catholic Church in the United States claim that every fourth American Catholic is of Polish extraction.

According to the record, the first Polish immigrant came to the town of Palmer in the year 1886. Through the efforts of Father Chalupka of Chicopee, in 1891, the small but respected group of Polish settlers in Three Rivers, Thorndike and Bondsville were urged to organize a Polish society which would unite them and at the same time serve as incentive to organizing a parish for the fast increasing members of Poles in this area. As a result, the St. Joseph Men's Society of Thorndike was organized in April of 1895.

Over a period of four years, the needs of the Poles were discussed at the monthly meetings of the St. Joseph's Society. It became a real hardship for them to travel to Chicopee, where Father Chalupka administered to their spiritual needs. For a few years they were visited by priests of Polish descent periodically at the St. Mary's Church in Thorndike and the St. Anne's Church in Three Rivers.

In 1899 the St. Joseph's Society chose representatives to explore the matter of a Church wherein they could be administered in their native language. The committee visited the late Most Rev. Bishop Daniel T. Beaven and with the assistance of a young lawyer, David Dillon, they finally were granted permission to organize and to establish the SS. Peter and Paul Parish at Four Corners in Three Rivers, Mass.

In July 1902, the Most Reverend Bishop Daniel T. Beaven appointed the Rev. Venceslaus Lenz as the first pastor for the Catholics of 'Polish descent residing in the town of Palmer, Three Rivers, Thornd'ike and Bondsville. At the first meeting of Polish Catholics more than one thou­sand members were affiliated. They decided to build the Church in the center of the town of Palmer and chose the present site in the village of Three Rivers opposite the Town Hall. This choice was made wisely to accomodate the people of the four villages at a time when communication was difficult; the present site, known as Four Corners, is equidistant from all the four villages.

A farm comprising of about eleven acres was acquired for the sum of $1,000. It took three years to erect the Church and rectory and during this time Father Lenz celebrated one Mass at St. Anne's Church in Three Rivers and a second Mass at the so‑called French Chapel in Bondsville. At the time of the blessing of the SS. Peter and Paul Church, when the buildings were completed, the parish was indebted with a mortgage of $35,000. When the first pastor of Happy memory, Father Venceslaus Lenz was assigned to the Sacred Heart Parish, EasthamptonMA in April of 1911, the mortgage was reduced to $28,050.

His successor, a newly arrived priest from Poland, Rev. Wladyslaw Kielbasinski administrated the SS. Peter and Paul Parish for only two years, reducing the debt to $21,250.00. The new pastor was in ill health; he resigned his pastorate and returned to his native country.

On April 1, 1913 Rev. Andrew Krzywda came to the SS. Peter and Paul Parish to begin his long pastorate of thirty four years. He cleared the parish of debt, bought a house the present convent for the sum of $3,312.00 in 1919 and built the SS. Peter and Paul School at a cost of $70,000.00 in 1921. When the school was ded­icated, according to the parish records, the pa­rish contracted a debt of $45,000.00. In 1946, Fr. Krzywda procured land for the new SS. Peter ard Paul Cemetery for the sum of $5,500.00. At the time of his death, the debt on the school was reduced to $8,000.00. Father Andrew Krzywda died on December 18, 1947, after spen­ding most of his priestly life in this part of God's vineyard‑the SS. Peter and Paul Parish.

Born at Dembowiec, Poland, Fr. Krzyda came to this country at the age of seventeen to live for a time with a brother in Chicopee. He was edu­cated at St. Mary's College in Detroit and the Grand Seminary in Montreal where he was ordained Dec. 18, 1909. Before coming to Three Rivers he had assignments at St. Mary's Clinton, St. Joseph's, Webster and St. Joseph's Gardner.

After two months of administration by Rev. Joseph Szczepaniak, a long time assistant of SS. Peter and Paul Parish, the Most Reverend Thomas M. O'Leary, Ordinary of the Springfield Diocese, appointed on the twenty second day of February, 1948 the present pastor, Rev. A. A. Skoniecki from Turners Falls, where for more than twenty three years he had administered the Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish.

Father Skoniecki was assistant pastor of the SS. Peter and Paul Parish in 1917, yet he spent most of his time taking care of the St. Adalbert's Parish in Bondsville. The St. Adalbert's Parish was legally separated from the SS. Peter and Paul Parish in 1910, though intermittently, it was administered by the pastor of the SS. Peter and Paul Parish. In 1917, when the St. Adalbert's Church was completed, a resident pastor, Rev. Valentine Pomykalo, was appointed.

During the administration of the present pastor, not only was the parish cleared from all mortgage, the grounds were leveled and reseeded, parking place for cars made, new sidewalks constructed, all buildings thoroughly altered, re­paired and renovated, but up to this time over one hundred thousands dollars have been amass­ed for a new school building, so badly needed in this parish.

Through the initiative of Father Skoniecki the following organizations came to life: The Mother's Club which supervises the School Cafeteria and serves approximately 200 children with hot lunches daily during the school year; the Knights of St. Casimir; the Daughters of St. Hedwig; the Women's Club of Thorndike; the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. An athletic program for the school children and younger elements is also projected.

The following priests served as assistant pastors at the SS. Peter and Paul Parish: Rev. Miecislaus Godlewski, Rev. Stanislaus Chlapowski, Rev. John Minkinski, Rev. John Panfield, Rev. John Morrissey, Rev. Andrew T. F. Nowak, Rev John Finneran, Rev. Alphonse A. Skoniecki, Rev. Stanislau's Feresz, Rev. John Oszajca, Rev. Joseph Szczepaniak, Rev. Andrew Tolcz, Rev. Joseph Sitkowski, Rev. Joseph L. Niedzwiecki, Rev. Ladislaus Swider, Rev. Casimir Switalski, Rev. Henry Kreczko and at present, Rev. John E. Aubertin.

The following societies are in existence in the parish: St. Joseph's Men Society of Thorndike, St. Stanislaus B. M. Society of Three Rivers, Holy Rosary Society, Sacred Heart Society, St. Cecilia Society, SS. Peter 'and Paul Alumni, Polish Nat­ional Alliance of Thorndike, Polish National Alliance ‑ Three Rivers, Polish Women's Alliance of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Joseph's Athletic Association, Children of Mary Sodality, Altar Boys Society, Knights of St. Casimir, Daughters of St. Hedwig and the 'Mothers Club.

May Almighty God through the intercession of SS. Peter and Paul, patrons of this parish, bless them all.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011