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St. Casimir Parish - Endicott, NY
A parish history from the 1978 Golden Jubilee Book
Beginninngs: Staint Casimir’s Mission Church
While Saint Casimir's Church was originally founded as a parish for the Polish-speaking community of the Endicott area, and derived its inspiration from the One Thousand Years of Christianity of Poland, the land of its founders, it is now composed of Catholics of various ethnic and national origins. They are all united In commen Faith and Love as members of the same Parish-family under the heavenly patronage of Saint Casimir
The recorded history of Saint Casimir's Church begins with the "written” minutes of a meeting held at Kotehick's Hall, 101 Avenue on February 24, 1928. These notes were written in Polish.
Even prior to the meeting there were some Polish families scattered throughout the Endicott area. Most of those were unskilled laborers employed by the Endicott Johnson Shoe Corporation. A few families owned their own farms in the Towns of Union and Maine in Broome County, or in the Towns of Owego and Newark Valley in Tioga County. Many natives of Poland had come to the Southern Tier of New York State from other Eastern states - especially the coalmining regions of Pennsylvania where they had first settled. Most of these families were affiliated with existing parishes in the Endicott area and the remainder were enrolled in Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, Binghamton which had been founded in 1914.
Realizing the need of a church to satisfy the spiritual hungers of the Endicott area Polish community, several members of the Casimir Pulaski Socicty - such as Joseph Bodck and Joseph Lisiecki, tried to arouse interest in the project. The Casimir Pulaski Society was affiliated with the Polish National Alliance and was organized in 1921. The February 24 meeting was the culmination of their efforts.
About twenty families were represented at the assembly at which Stephen Zarzynski presided and explained the reasons for the gathering. The Rev. Casimir S. Piejda, pastor of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, outlined the procedures by which the Endicott Polonia could establish its own parish. At this first meeting the officers of the parish were chosen. Stephen Zarzynski and Joseph Kaminski were elected as trustees and Simon Tercyak, Anthony Janicki. John Dutkowski and Joseph Lisiecki were selected as "collectors". Later John Niedopytalski, Frank Szeliga, and John Brzvski would assist them. The collectors would visit all the families each month to obtain their offerings for the new church. At this first meeting the sum of $575.80 was collected.
The next organizational meeting took place on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25. After Father Piejda's talk and much discussion it was resolved to incorporate a Polish parish under the patronage of Saint Casimir, the canonized prince and heavenly patron of Poland and Lithuania. In this manner the parishioners sought to honor Father Piejda, their spiritual father, for his guidance and service to the community. A cornmittee was organlzed to canvas the area and conduct a census of the Polish people. It was to devise plans to raise funds for a church edifice and to seek the bishop's approval for the entire project.
The original ledger of the parish shows that the following families enrolled in the parish in 1928. (The Christian names arc the English equivalent of the Polish first names): Joseph and Rose Bodek: Stanley and Rose Cenova: Joseph Cieslinski; Joseph and Caroline Lisiecki: Stephen and Victoria Zarynski: Anthony and Sophie Janicki; Simon and Sophie Tercyak ; Joseph and Emily Kaminski; John and Mary Dutkowski ; Anthony and Mary Mikueki; John end Stephanie Ostrowski: Genevieve Ostrowski: Alexander and Mary Shaffer; Joseph and Cecelia Wasicki: John and Anna Nledopytalski : Andrew and Honorata Kopy: Alexander and Antonina Ziemba; Bronislaw Kanibrowski: Frank and Josephine Szeliga: Julian Kuryla; Anthony abd Ludmila Borawski: Stanlev and Michaeline Krol: Theophil and Julia Grabowski: Adam and Josephine Czekala; Christopher and Katherine Brzvski: Joseph Harendza; Joseph Kohut; Michael and Pauline Dudish; Adalbert Mosol; Walter and Helen Shaffer; John Zwierek: Joseph and Helen Ciesla: Mrs. Maryanna Wolinski: Mrs. Antonina Miechewicz: and Stephen and Marlha Lipka .
According to the parish ledger, where mere street names without numbers were recorded, the majority lived in what was Endicott's North Side: some lived south of the railroad tracks in the "downtown" district, and a handful were dispersed in the rural areas. The ledger mentions several other families in 1928, but there is no further record of their support of Saint Casimir's Church after that year.
As of October, 1978 most of these pioneers were deceased. Fifty years after the organization of the
parish only the following charter members still remain as parishioners: Joseph Bodek ; Mary Mikucki; John and Anna Niedopytalski ; Andrew Kopy; Genevieve (Ostrowski) Guiey; Antonina Ziemba; and Michaeline Krol.
With the approval of the Most Reverend Daniel J. Curley, bishop of the seven county Diocese of Syracuse, "Saint Casimir's Roman Catholic Polish Church of Endicott" was officially incorporated on October 11, 1928 with the canonical status of a "mission" or daughter church of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church. Father Piejda was named the first administrator and pastor of the new parish-family.
For three year the parish community existed without its own church building. With great sacrifice many people traveled by trolley to attend Mass and services at Saint Stanislaus Church, or at other more convenient churches in the Endicott area. When the new Saint Joseph's (Slovak) Church on the corner of Witherill and Hayes was enclosed in 1928, the new congregation of Saint Casimir had hoped to use its former structure on North McKinley Avenue near Green Street (presently Watson Boulevard). But their brief stay was limited to about one month. Saint Joseph's parish did not own the lot on which its former church was located. Saint Casimir's people had expected to each an agreement similar to the Slovak parish – to pay the taxes on the lot in exchange for the privilege of using the building. Because of a misunderstanding, the fond dreams of the Polish people were not realized. Recently forwarded information indicates that the owner of the lot, Mr. Cyril Kotek (father of Mary Maykulski, a present member of Saint Casimir's Church), apparently had an understanding with Saint Joseph's Church that the building would be ceded to him when the Slovak group occupied its new church building. His original plan was to convert the garage like building into a residence. Subsequently-to the great disappointment of the Saint Casimir parishioners, the lot was sold. Oral tradition says that the purchaser was a Polish person who belonged to the then rival group-the "independent" or Polish National Catholic Church, which had made several attempts earlier to organize a congregation in Endicott. When informed of the development by the pastor of Saint Joseph's, Father Piejda sought the advice of an attorney, Then he and his associate pastor, the Rev. francis S. Holocinski, organized the parishioners to rescue and dismantle the simple structure and to salvage its usable building materials. Father Frank, the future pastor of Saint Casimir's, is credited by many pioneers with much of the organizational work of the new parish. Original members recall how Father Frank pitched in to help raze the building. Even passers-by were recruited or volunteered their services. Joseph Bodek kept close vigil at the Bite from his nearby home on Green Street while John Dutkowski's little Ford truck was used to haul the material to Anthony Mikucki's garage on Arthur Avenue, where it was stored and safeguarded until it could be used.
It seems that the first wedding involving a member of Saint Casimir's Church took place at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church on October 27, 1928. Records show that Mary Ciesla of Endicott and Walter Gacioch were married with Father Ptejda officiating. Victoria Ciesla and George Bonczek were official witnesses.
The first recorded baptism from the mission parish appears to have been of Helen Kopy, daughter of Andrew and Honorata (Ziebro) Kopy, born on March 10, 1929 and baptized on April 7 by father Piejda at the mother church. Her sponsors were Louis Henzel and Helen Ostrowski. Helen Kopy has remained an active member of Saint Casimir's Church all her life. The first funerals from Saint Casimir's congregation were Joseph Kosakowski, the victim of a drowning accident on June 23,1930, and Michael Dudish who expired on October 9, 1930.
Saint Casimir's Parish grew gradually until in 1930 it numbered fifty families. Despite the handicaps of a comparatively small number of families, all the financial stresses of the Depression era, and the meager wages of the people, they were not discouraged. They resolved to construct their own church building as soon as possible. During 1929 a total of $696.46 was raised for parish purposes. During 1929 the income was increased another $644.69. Various families and organizations sponsored "picnics", dances, banquets and parties to help raise needed funds. The Kolko Polek (Polish Women's Alliance) alone contributed about $350.00 in less than two years. Although the weekly collection averaged less than $15.00, a total of $2,303.81 was reached in 1930. In July, 1930 four lots on the corner of North McKinley Avenue and Witherill Street were purchased from J. Bilek for $700.00.
To curtail the expenses of constructing a new church the men of the parish volunteered their services to dig the cellar and lay the foundation of the building. Michael Dutkowski donated the use of his team of horses and Father Holocinski pitched in to help in the excavation. With a minimum of hired labor the original Saint Casimir's Church was completed in the Fall of 1931 for a total recorded cost of $7,200.00. It had shingles on the exterior and was painted gray with white trim. Its windows were of amber glass.
A t the end of 1930 the parish debt was $4,978.43 and at the conclusion of 1931 it was reduced to $3,890.98. The young parish was grateful to George F. Johnson of the Endicott Johnson Corporation for a gift of $1,000.00 to purchase pews for the new church-to replace its rough benches. In 1931-32 generous donations by Father Piejda, and many dedicated parishioners such as Krzysztof Brzyski, Joseph Kaminski, Joseph Kohut, John Ostrowski, Joseph Bodek, Andrew Kopy, Michael Dudish, Simon Tercyak , John Kuryla, and Stephen Zarzynski helped to supply many necessary church furnishings and the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (gift of Joseph Kaminski), and Saint Casimir (gift of Krzysztof Brzyski).
October 25, 1931 was a memorable day for the young parish-family. The new church was solemnly dedicated and blessed by the bishop's delegate, the Rev. Francis Rusin of Sacred Heart Church, Syracuse. He was assisted by Father Piejda. Also present were the Rev. John A. Kociela and the Rev. Joseph Jankowski who preached the sermon for the special occasion. From the time of his ordination and assignment as assistant pastor to Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church in June, 1931, Father Kociela became a shepherd, friend and father to the Endicott community. Father Holocinski and the Rev. Valentine Chrobok also assisted the pastor, Father Piejda, in serving the people of the mission church. The first recorded Parish Mission was conducted by a Franciscan Father from Pulaski, Wisconsin. Since the parish was so small and poor, his services were donated in consideration that it was a "missionary service”.
Parish records indicate that the first baptism in the new church took place on the dedication day. Stanley Binkiewicz, son of Bernard and Stephanie Sofka Binkiewicz who was born on September 28, 1931, was baptized by Father Piejda. His godparents were Peter Sofka and Stella Zigata. The marriage records at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church state that Louis H. Marsh and Anna Wasicki from Saint Casimir's were married by Father Piejda in November 1931. The best man was Walter Grabowski and the maid of honor was Cecelia Wasicki. Father Piejda had offered the couple the option of being married in the mother church, but they preferred Saint Casimir's despite its simplicity and rustic benches. Charles Watkins, Father Kociela's first convert to Catholicism, and his bride, Martha Zarzynski, had their nuptials solemnized at Saint Casimir's Church by her cousin, Father Joseph Losoniecki of the Scranton Diocese on June 28, 1932. The witnesses were Edward M. Kamas and Mary Zarzynski.
During the next few financially difficult years Andrew Kopy, Krzysztof Brzyski, Helen Ostrowski, Joseph Kohut, Rudolph Kucera and the Endicott Trust Company made very sizeable loans to the parish so that it could purchase several more lots and expand its properties. Two more lots were bought in 1933 for $1,500.00; one more from Thomas Thorne for $700.00 in 1934, and another lot from Rachel Tompkins for $1,000.00 in 1936.
From 1932-35 the parish grew to 90 families and was able to reduce its debt from $3,400.00 to $800.00. During this time of building and organization the following persons served as Parish Trustees: Stephen Zarzynski and Joseph Kaminski (1928-29); Joseph Kaminski and John Dutkowski (1930-31); Alexander Ziemba and Krzysztof Brzyski (1932-33); Alexander Ziemba and Louis Shaffer (1934-36)
. Page three of the 1928 First Communion Register of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, where all records for the mission church were kept, lists eight boys and eleven girls as "children from Endicott" after the listing of Binghamton area children. They included Joseph Czekala, Michael Gontewski (Gontaszewski), Walter Kenobraski, Edward Szczepanski, Helen Lisiecki, Helen Tercyak, Mary Zakrzykowski (Zakrzeczkowski), Mary Czekala, Jane Kozlowski, Lottie Kaminski, Sophie Stefanski, and Martha Bartoszewski plus the following who are still listed on the Saint Casimir Parish-Family membership list: Casimir Niedopytalski, Stanley Zareski (Zarjewski), Helen Mikucki Shear, Jane (Genevieve) Niedopytalski Drankoski.
After the construction of the Saint Casimir Mission Church in 1931 the following were recorded as members of its own original First Communion class in November, 1932 (The father's or mother's name is listed in brackets): John Czekala (Adam); Chester and Edward Makowski (Stanley); Walter Mikucki (Anthony); Joseph Kopy (Andrew); Stanley Tercyak (Simon); Helen Gontaszewski (Joseph); Stephanie Kocenko (John); Sophie Kurzycki (George Kozisky); Helen Porzucek (Agnes); Louise Ziemba (Alexander). Of these, only Louise Ziemba Kozol belonged to Saint Casimir's Church in October, 1978. The October 19, 1933 First Communion class in Endicott had ten boys and four girls whose ages and parents were recorded in the Register. Of these Edward and Henry Dutkowsky (sons of Michael), Michael Zakri (son of Michael Zakrzeczkowski), and Helen Makowski Bousquet were parishioners on the Golden Jubilee of incorporation. Of the eight boys and five girls who received First Holy Communion on October 6, 1934 only Bernard Krol and Francis Niedopytalski were still parishioners 44 years later.
The Death Register of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church records that a Joseph Czekala, age I5, of Endicott died March 8, 1932 and he could have received the first funeral from the mission church. The register states that Stanley Borawski, three months old, died in Endicott in November, 1933; seven year old Edward Zarjewski succumbed in Endicott on December 22, 1933; and Lisiecki and Bonczek infants were buried at Saint Stanislaus Cemetery in 1935. The first recorded adult who "died in Endicott" was Bernice Wasicki, age 49, who expired March 24, 1934. From the meager information available, the exact places of many of these funerals cannot be determined.
The precise date is not recorded in the Confirmation Register of Saint Stanislaus Church, but between the May 13, 1925 and the May 18, 1930 celebration’s, the sacrament of Confirmation was administered once more. But no further information is given. Included among the 228 confirmandi were many surnames similar to the names of the original members of the Endicott parish. The first recorded administration of Confirmation at Saint Casimir's Church was on October 6, 1935 when 35 males and 35 females were confirmed by Bishop John A. Duffy. Included were the following who are presently affiliated with Saint Casimir's Church: Edward Bodek; John Ciesla; Henry Dutkowsky; Bernard Krol; Casimir, Emil and Frank Niedopytalski; John Porzucek; Michael Zakri; Josephine Cackowski Okon; Lillian Lipka Rector; Helen Maciolek Collins; Helen Makowski Bousquet; Jane Niedopytalski Drankoski; Helen Wilczak Hromalik; Louise Ziemba Kozol and Helen Mikucki (erroneously recorded as Mikulski) Shear. Regrettably, for reasons of historical research and accuracy, only the names of the confirmation candidates, their patron saints, and sponsors are recorded - and not other vital information such as the names of their parents nor the church and place of baptism.
In 1931 Saint Casimir's Altar Society, also known as Beta Chapter of the Chi Sigma Sorority, was organized. It was a sodality open to all unmarried women of the parish, sixteen years of age and older. Its purpose was to provide care for the altar and sanctuary of the church by providing flowers for special occasions, to sponsor social activities, and to be guided by the pastor in observing religious duties such as the monthly corporate Communion. Violet Shaffer was elected its first president. The organization sponsored the May Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and an annual dance. The society was very active for about ten years until the American involvement in World War II.
Chapter One of Saint Casimir's Mission Church history concluded on June 15, 1936 when it was detached from the mother parish and the Rev. John A. Kociela was appointed by Bishop John A. Duffy as its first resident pastor.
Early Growth of Saint Casimir’s
Father Kociela and his successors in Endicott were forced to live in rented quarters on North Roosevelt Avenue and at 129 North Rogers Avenue (from May, 1937) since there was no parish residence. To the first pastor's satisfaction the small parish was able to liquidate its debts on October 24, 1936.
As the first resident pastor Father John recorded many notable "firsts" in the parish. On September 6 he baptized John Michael Forisha, son of Michael Forisha (from Austria) and Martha Ciaciuch originally from Hillsboro, Pennsylvania. Godparents were Joseph Seniglia and Sophie Ciaciuch. On August 15, 1936 Joseph Janowski, a widower, and Tekla Pytko, a widow - both originally from Poland and residing in Candor, New York in the Diocese of Rochester, were married by Father Kociela in the presence of John Brzeski and Martha Watkins. The first parishioners married in the church were Casimir Maciolek, haptized in Saint Joseph's Church, Jamaica, New York and Josephine Tarnowski, baptized at Saints Peter and Paul Church, Pottsville, Pennsylvania. They were married on September 13, 1936 in the presence of Francis Wilczak and Hermine Valek. John Ciaciuch, age 60, who died August 24, 1936 and was survived by his widow, Mary, was buried from Saint Casimir's Church with committal services at Saint Stanislaus Cemetery.
As pastor in residence Father Kociela was able to devote all his efforts to improve the spiritual and material welfare of his flock. Thus through his initiative the Holy Rosary Society, the Holy Name Society, and the Senior and Junior Sodalities were activated. A society of the largest Polish Catholic fraternal, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, was established. While it originally was called "Wolna Polska" ("Free Poland") Society, the name of the PRCUA group was changed to Saint Casimir's Society in February, 1965. During the pastorate of Father John the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious education of public school youth and children was organized. In addition the very active White Eagles Athletic Organization of Saint Casimir's - which maintained an intense rivalry with Saint Stanislaus Church and whose baseball and basketball teams traveled throughout New York State and Pennsylvania , had its beginnings.
Father John took special pride in the formation of the Krakowska Melodiers, a popular orchestra composed of parish youth. Organist, Milton Orszewski, was director. The teenagers were booked to play at many parish doings and receptions-even as far away as Bradford, New York. At the time when their parents were able to work only part time at the Endicott Johnson Shoe factories, its members were able to earn quite well for themselves.
At the conclusion of 1938 Father Kociela reported in the annual financial statement that the parish consisted of 169 males and 165 females, with 12 boys and girls of high school age, and 17 boys and girls of grammar school age. The youth received their religious instructions at the church each week from the pastor and three Felician Sisters from Saint Stanislaus Kostka School. Classes covered material about Bible history and the Polish language. The youth also took part in social activities, Polish dances and religious dramas. The pastor was grateful to the youth for the help they gave him in church chores such as putting out the ashes. At that time the Rosary Society had 39 members, the Holy Name Society enrolled 51 men, the Senior Sodality recruited 18 young women, and the Junior Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary consisted of 22 girls
. The youthful pastor initiated a fund for the construction of a new rectory which had grown to $2,187.41 at the time of his transfer. He envisioned the possibility of constructing a parochial school in the parish also, since the only available Catholic grammar school in Endicott was unable to accept pupils from Saint Casimir's, and the distance and time involved prevented more than a handful of pupils from traveling to Saint Stanislaus Kostka School in Binghamton. During Father Kociela's pastorate Joseph and Helen Ciesla gave much of their time to serve as voluntary church sextons. Organists were Walter Grabowski and Milton Orszewski. The parish trustees for this period were Alexander Ziemba (1936), Louis Shaffer and Francis J. Isban. Ann Zieminski was the dedicated housekeeper at the parish rectory.
There were about 108 families in the parish at the time of Father Johns transfer. He was reassigned by Bishop Walter A. Foery as pastor of Transfiguration Church on the East side of Syracuse. Thus he and his former pastor at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church were moved to Syracuse at the same time - Father Piejda succeeding the recently deceased Father Francis Rusin as pastor of Sacred Heart Church.
Succeeding Father Kociela as second pastor of Saint Casimir's Church on September 15, 1939 was the Rev. Walter Babula. During his pastorate the church was painted for $350.00. Most of Father Babula's efforts were directed toward the goal of increasing the fund for the needed new parish rectory. At the end of 1942 the rectory fund contained $4,733.23. At this time the parish was saddened to see many of its young men answer the call to serve their country in the United States Armed Forces in World War II. Among the causalities from the Triple Cities area was Lt. Walter Mikucki who was killed on April 14, 1944 in the South Pacific. Navyrnan Walter Aleszczyk was killed in action in the Pacific on May 13, 1945.
At the end of the conflict in 1945 the parish numbered about 125 families. In addition to the $9,000.00 in the building fund, $961.62 was collected for a new altar as a Memorial of Victory and Peace. This altar was to be dedicated in honor of the parish members who had served in the armed forces. Meanwhile Esther Woitach and Mary Ciesla contributed their talents in service to the parish-family as organists. Mae Bocienski was the housekeeper and Wallace Cieciorka and John Kurkowski were parish custodians. Alexander Ziemba, Andrew Kopy and Father Babula transported the Felician Sisters from Binghamton to Endicott for religious instruction classes and special church services. In 1942 Mrs. Rose Wilczak began several decades of service to the parish
as each week she drove the Sisters who taught C.C.D. classes and who cared for the sacristy and sanctuary needs, from Binghamton to Endicott. From 1936 Mrs, Wilczak generously did much of the parish and sanctuary laundry without any compensation - and even assumed the costs herself. Trustees for this period are: Andrew Kopy and John Brisky (1941-42), Michael Linko and Michael Zakrzeczkowski (1943), Michael Linko and Stephen Smacher (1944).
The 1937 to 1945 Financial Reports, in addition to listing the parish trustees, also list a Parish Committee which consisted of John Niedopytalski, Joseph Bodek, Michael Zakrzeczkowski, John Brzeski, Michael Linko , Walter Shaffer, Joseph Tercyak, John Porzucek, Stephen Smacher, Charles Watkins, Emil Niedopytalski, Joseph Kurkoski, Wallace Cieciorka, and George Kozisky. It seems that the committee was a continuation of the earlier "collectors" and served as all unofficial parish advisory board. The 1945 Report list, some 20 more "collectors" or Ushers, and a Building Committee which consisted of Joseph Bodek, Simon Tercyak, Stephen Zarzynski, Alexander Ziemba, Frank Bogaczyk, John Niedopytalski, Louis Shaffer, Francis Isban and Andrew Kopy.
Father Francis S. Holocinski returned to serve the people of Saint Casimir's as pastor on May 7, 1945 when Father Babula resigned the pastorate because of ill health. Father Frank's mother, Mary Holocinski, fulfilled the role of parish housekeeper and Anthony Prosinski served as church sexton until he was replaced by Robert Smacher. Trustees under Father Frank's pastorate were Louis J. Shaffer and Francis J. Isban. Under Father Holocinski's direction the building fund grew to over $12,000.00 and there was nearly $1, 000.00 in the new altar fund and about $200.00 collected for the new church organ. In July, 1947 it was necessary to cover the church with a new roof at a cost of $460.00.
Meanwhile, in April, 1947 the pastor organized the Saint Casimir's Athletic Club. Forty persons attended the first meeting of the organization which was open to all men and women, 16 years of age and older. Its purpose was to foster good will and promote athletics among the youth of the parish. Frank Rogacki was elected the first president. Men’s and Women's Bowling Leagues were formed. The men's basketball team placed second in the Endicott Bulletin League. No league was available for the baseball team until 1955 - nor for women's softball. The record shows that membership in the Athletic Club eventually reached 125. Around 1956 its baseball team boasted a most successful season - winning 16 games without a defeat.
Father Holocinski's brief tenure as pastor ended on September 11, 1947 when Bishop Walter A. Foery transferred him to the pastorate of Saint Stanislaus. Bishop and Martyr, Church on Utica's East side.
The first two years of the administration of the new pastor, the Rev. Peter J. Koleczek , saw more than $ 24,000.00 put into repairs and improvements. A rectory at 212 North McKinley Avenue with a four room apartment above its two car garage was purchased in June 1948 from Alex and Rose Marca for $16,000.00 Another $3,000.00 was spent to remodel the rectorv and construct parish offices. Renovation and painting of the church interior cost $ 2,200.00 and $ l,200.00 was spent to paint the exterior and to provide a new entrance with polished oak doors. The interior painting of the sanctuary and the nave was done by Marco Sylvestri and Sons of Buffalo. The altar was decorated with marbleized paint and the sanctuary or rear wall had artful decorations with images of two angels kneeling in adoration of God. The nave walls were decorated with symbols of the sacraments. These church improvements were completed in time for Easter, 1949. An additional $1,100.00 was spent to renovate the parish social center in the basement of the church. It received a new floor, a small stage, and a new kitchen. To help Saint Casimir's Church make all these improvements it was necessary for Father Pete to negotiate loans from Saint Patrick's Church, Binghamton; Saint Ambrose Church, Endicott; Sacred Heart Church, Syracuse; and Saint Stephen's Church, Oswego. Joseph Warrick became the director of the Senior Choir in September, 1949 and he continued to accompany it at solemn liturgical events as organist for many years. A t the close of 1949 the parish was able to acquire a new church organ for about $600.00. It was solemnly blessed by Monsignor Casimir S. Piejda in November.
Charles Watkins became the church custodian in December 1950 while Sophie Wdowiak served as housekeeper during Father Pete's pastorate. Parish trustees from 1955 were Frank J. Bogaczyk and Raymond W. Smacher. Mrs. Anna Niedopytalski who fashioned many of the vestments for the statue of the Infant of Prague also has changed these robes with each liturgical season for over 25 years.
Through the efforts of Father Koleezek the Confaternity of Christian Mothers was established on January 13, 1952. Its purpose was to spread Christian education in the home, to purchase equipment for the parish religious education program, and to supply vestments for the altar boys. Agnes Kolupski was elected its first President. Membership grew from 35 to 82 in 1957 and the average attendance at monthly meetings was about 30. Of the enrolled Christian Mothers 54 still belong to the parish. Like many organizations it suffered a decline in interest and attendance in the 1960’s so much so that it was suggested in 1967 that all parish organizations – male and female - be consolidated in to one "Saint Casimir's Guild". Many of the functions of the Confraternity of Christian Mothers were taken over by the Saint Casimir's Ladies Guild which was organized around 1972.
As the parish celebrated its 25th anniversary of founding in 1953 Father Pete further renovated and expanded the church building. A spacious boiler and storage room was added in the basement. Upon it a large sacristy was built. This permitted the very tight quarters of the sanctuary to he expanded to include the former "closet size" sacristies on each side. The new larger sanctuary was paneled with oak and a matching stalled. Earl Lauderman and Stanley Kuzneski provided the construction and carpenter skills. In addition the complete shingle sideboards of the exterior of the church were replaced by white stucco siding. Most of these improvements were made because of generous Memorial Gift offerings of the parishioners to the Altar Fund. Total cost of all this beautification was over $10,000.00. The Valuation Estimate issued on May 17,1954 assessed the church for $44,520.00; the rectory for $19,450.00; and the rear residence for $10,710.00. At the end of 1953 the indebtedness of the 160 family parish was $7,000.00
In Septemher, 1955 folding walls werc installed in the Church hall to provide additional classroom space. In January, 1956 an elevated choir loft in the front of the nave with an added expense of $2,000.00 was installed. At the close of 1956 the parish debt remained about $2,000.00.
On June 4, 1957 the newly ordained, Rev. Matthew S. Wieczorek was assigned to the parish as associate pastor. Father Matt lived in the "wikarowka"-the four room apartment above the two-car garage, and assisted the pastor in addition to his duties as teacher of religion courses at the recently opened Seton Catholic High School in Endicott. Casimir Niedopytalski began his twenty year term as sexton custodian in July, 1957. After the death of Mary Ciesla in December, 1957 Miss Lilian Valenta served a brief term as parish organist. When she entered the religious life as a Sister of Saint Joseph of Namur, her sister, Mrs. Dolores (Lolly) Cassin, began a term of service which would last until June, 1975.
At the conclusion of 1957 the parish had a surplus or balance of $6,956.61 and it grew to $9,264.37 by April, 1958 when the Rev. Leopold V. Prozny succeeded Father Pete as fifth pastor of Saint Casimir's Church. Father Leo had been the associate pastor, and administrator at Saint Mary's (Our Lady of Czestochowa) Parish in New York Mills after the death of the Rev. AIexander Fijalkowski. Father Koleczek was appointed to the Utica area pastorate by Bishop Walter A. Foery.
Among the immediate improvements undertaken by the new pastor was the installation of an exhaustventilation system in the church for the comfort and health of the congregation. This cost $865.00. Meanwhile new furniture was purchased for the rectory which was remodeled at a cost of $1,800.00. This improvement provided a pastor's study and a library as well as a spacious "common room" in the unfinished attic area of the rectory. In September, 1959 the beauty of the church interior was further enhanced by the installation of "tuff" wall covering the nave ceiling and walls as well as the sanctuary ceiling. This expenditure was $2,300.00. The soothing green walls and cream ceiling were made even more attractive by the installation of improved nave lighting fixtures removed from the recently remodeled Transfiguration Church. Rome, New York.
In July, 1959 the parish plans for the construction of a new church suffered a set-back. Seton Catholic High School which had been established as a parochial high school for Saint Ambrose Church in 1954, was declared a regional or central Catholic high school with all the Endicott Roman Catholic parishes responsible for its continued maintenance. Saint Casimir's Church received a $19,000.00 assessment for this purpose and was forced to borrow that amount from Calvary Cemetery, Johnson City. Father Leo and the church committee undertook an Educational and New Church Fund campaign to raise $40,000.00 in order to pay off this debt and to increase substantially the fund for the new church. Regrettably only $19,000.00 was pledged and it took the parish until May, 1963 to repay the balance of $969.10 on the note from the cemetery and its interest charges. Meanwhile the new church fund stood at a standstill - $15,091.99 after 1959; $16.225.40 after 1960; and $19,069.53 after 1961 when the debt to Calvary Cemetery was still $3,000.00. To make matters even worse the annual assessments upon the parish for Seton High School, where only a handful of students from the parish were enrolled, remained at a very high level. There was a slight increase of students from Saint Casimir's attending parochial grammar schools when Saint Joseph's School, Endicott was opened. Unfortunately the hope of establishing a tradition of Catholic education was not to be. Whereas in 1955 Saint Joseph's accepted children from Saint Casimir's. the policy was changed in 1958 when its new pastor insisted that families which enroll children at Saint Joseph's School must belong to that parish. As a result about eight out of 150 families transferred to Saint Joseph's Parish to assure Catholic education for their children.
On February 1, 1960 Joseph Simandl and Edward Olkowski were appointed as parish trustees. Father Leo installed hand-carved Stations of the Cross from Oberammergau, Germany in the church in 1963. Happily. these same beautiful Stations were so adaptable that they were retained when the new church was built.
Several times during the early 1960's the parish made inquiries and attempts to secure additional off street parking for the convenience of those attending church services and social gatherings, but none of these efforts bore fruit.
Saint Casimir’s New Church
In 1965 a Parish Building Committee was organized to promote the Parish Building Fund. In addition to Father Prozny its members were Frank Bogaczyk, chairman; Joseph Lucey, co-chairman; and Frank Sweezy, Adam Konikowski. Charles Drankoski, Ambrose Novitske, Richard Srnacher , Frances Jurczak, Victoria Pawletko. Eventually it evolved into the first Parish Council whose purpose was to devise means to raise funds for the new church, to assist the pastor, to coordinate activities of the parish, and to create enthusiasm among parishioners. The members of this Parish Council were appointed by the pastor or served as leaders of the parish organizations. They were: Frank Bogaczyk, chairman; Joseph Lucey, co-chairman; Walter Florczvk, treasurer; Victoria Ciesla, secretary ; Walter Kozol, Daniel Kolupski, Richard Srnacher, Frank Sweezy, Clement Kovalich , Adam Konikowski, Charles Drankoski, Ambrose Novitske, Frances Jurczak, Eleanor Rembecki and Walter Luberecki.
In 1965 a survey was made of the church property as a preliminary for the future building of new parish facilities. In November Bishop Foery received the building plans from Father Prozny. The pastor attempted to convince the bishop and the diocesan building commission that the parish was financially able to embark on a building program. A $65,000.00 reserve at the end of 1965 was expected to surpass the $80,000.00 goal which the bishop had set as the minimum before consideration could be given, The firm of Leonard J. Robilatti was engaged as the architect assigned the task to prepare a drawing of a church building to meet the needs of Saint Casimir's Parish. In November, 1966 the preliminary plans were approved by the pastor and lay trustees.
The matter of the existing rectory was discussed since the proposed new rectory attached to the new church would occupy the same site. Bishop Foery gave Father Leo permission to arrange for temporary quarters and have the rectory demolishcd or moved. On March 17,1967 an agreement was made between the pastor and Thomas and Ann Marie Kurkoski to purchase and move the old rectory to their lot at 318 North McKinley Avenue. The agreement included permission for Father Proznv and the housekeeper to reside rent-free in the structure on the Kurkoski lot until the new rectory was ready for occupancy - a period of about eighteen months. The old rectory was moved by the Van Buitten movers in April, 1967.
On October 27, 1967 Bishop Foery responded affirmatively to the parish resolution to proceed with the construction . The bishop's decision was based on the fact that Father Leo was able to negotiate a loan for $I50,000.00 from the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America for a period of ten years at a low interest rate. To remain within the debt limitations set by the diocese, it was necessary to reduce the size and seating capacity of the church from 450 to 325, and to make engineering and structural modifications. The following low bidders were awarded the contracts: General Construction: Francis Construction Co., Inc., $I87,670.00 ; heating and ventilation: A Roy Auchinachie & Sons, $18,282.00; plumbing: Johnson City Plumbing and Heating, $12,900.00; electric: Freije Electrical Supply Co., $17,860.00.
St. John Associates were the consulting engineers for the project which had increased in cost to $244,301.06 for the church alone, because of changes necessitated by the addition of the rectory and the acceptance of alternative bids for nave lighting fixtures.
While the cornerstone of the edifice had been blessed in October, 1966 by Bishop Ladislaus Rubin, the personal representative of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski to the America celebrations of the Polish Millennium of Christianity, actual construction was delayed until November, 1967. Groundbreaking took place on Sunday, October 29, with Monsignor Casimir S. Piejda of Syracuse officiating. Area clergy and Village of Endicoll officials were present. Further delays were caused by the weather and ground conditions. The former church remained standing until the new church, which stood immediately North and behind it, was completed. Because of so many cherished memories associated with the old church, it was a sad day for many parishioners when it was demolished in April, 1969. The garage apartment was razed at the same time for combined cost of $2,500.00
The new Saint Casimir's Church was solemnly dedicated on Sunday, May 4,1969 by Coadjutor Bishop of Syracuse, David F. Cunningham. Father Proznv was the celebrant of the Dedication Mass and Vincentian Father, Rev. Waclaw Hlond of Saint Vincent's Mission House, Utica preached the special sermon. Because of the lack of sufficient funds most of the sanctuary furnishings had to be retained and adapted to the new church for the time being.
The new church faces South toward Witherill Street and seats approximately 325 persons. A unique part of the design is the total absence of symmetry through the design of the structure as "the place of community worship of God" in accordance with the liturgical requirements of Vatican Council II and its renewed architecture and sacred art. The nave is framed in structural wood laminated timbers, with red wood used for the upper walls. An upper wall consisting of stained glass clerestory windows faces the East; its mullion separations tend upward piercing through the roof. Interiors of the church are similar to the exterior and feature walls of lava stone and red wood. The stained glass windows at the front (South) wall depict symbols of the four Evangelists while symbolic representations of the Corporal Works of Mercy are expressed in the windows of the Eastern and Western walls. The front of the church contains a "cry room" for mothers and infants and an ushers' area flanking the entrance narthex. Adjacent to the sanctuary area are two sacristies and a large choir area enclosed within a choir box which rises above the altar platform. The church basement contains a large social hall which seats 250 persons for dinners, and a foyer or lobby which can be used for classes and small group meetings. The basement has also a mechanical room, a convenient kitchen and serving area with several storage and workrooms.
Financial restrictions prevented the planned building of the original new rectory adjoined to the church and facing West on North McKinley Avenue. After some delay and the revision of the first plans, the rectory eventually was built for $75,000.00 by the FBY Home Builders Company. It contains office and living areas "with quarters for the pastor, an associate pastor or priest in residence. and the housekeeper as well as a guest room. Since the rectory is attached to the church there is easv access to the sacristy as well as to the church mechanical room and social hall. The rectory basement presently houses two classrooms which can accommodate 20 pupils, plus four smaller class areas, a laundry room, a custodian's workroom, and a storage room in addition to a large meeting room. In July, 1969 the parking areas and the driveway around the church and rectory were hlack-topped at a cost of $2.725.00.
On December 31, 1969 the parish owed $14,000.00 to the Diocese of Svracuse and $141,688.80 to the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America. In subsequent years from 1969 to 1974 Father Prozny and the parishioners intensified their efforts to significantly reduce the parish debt. Josephine Dembowski Maykululsky and Nell Minor served the parish as Father Leo’s housekeepers. Leo P. Serowik and Richard S. Smacher became Parish Trustees and have served in that capacity since February 1, 1968.
Father Proeny officiated at the first marriage which "as solemnized in the new church: Jane F. Barno and Michael Coleman were married on April 19. On April 27 nine boys and ten girls received their First Holy Communion from the pastor. On October 27 Bishop David F. Cunningham confirmed 36 members of the parish. Kristen Ann Komorek. daughter of Benjamin and Barhara (Mac Dermott) Komorek, born on April 23, was baptized by Father Leo on May 11. 1969. The first recorded funeral in the new church was for Rose Wilczak who died on November 16 and was buried on November 19, 1969.
On September 5, 1973 Father Prozny was transferred by Bishop Cunningham to Utica. New York. He replaced the Rev. Msgr. Bernard A. Janczewski as pastor of Holy Trinity Church when Father Leo's bovhood pastor at Transfiguration Church. Rome reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. Bishop Cunningham assigned Father Matthew S. Wieczorek, associate pastor at Holy Trinity Church, as sixth pastor of Saint Casimir's Church. Thus Father Matt returned to the place of his earliest priestly ministry where he had served from June, 1957 to August, 1965. At the time of his return to Endicott the parish debt was $96.039.75.
The new pastor's goals were to build up the feeling of Christian community or "parish family" and to continue to build upon the programs of his predecessor. Among the latter objectives were his efforts to meet the monthly mortgage payments of $1.554.60 to the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, and to satisfy the parish's contractual obligations toward those who made memorial gifts for the new church.
Because of the inadequacies and the frequent need of repairs on the "spinet" organ” use from 1949, it was necessary to establish an "organ transplant" fund for Saint Casimir. Within a few months over 55,000.00 was raised and the new 34 pedal Conn Deluxe Artiste electric organ was installed on January 14, 1974. At the same time the 15 foot sculpture of Saint Casimir. which had been contracted for by Father Prozny. was installed bv the fabricator, The Baut Studios of Swoyersville, Pennslyvania. Delays in the procurement of materials had prevented its installation prior to Father Leo's departure or farewell reception. With this new sculpture of the parish patron saint and appropriate lettering on the facade of the church much confusion and ignorance about the identity of the church was dispelled.
Thanks to several successful "50·50 Clubs" sponsored by the parish the six clerestory (upper) stained glass windows were installed during 1974 and 1975. The colorful windows added much to the beauty of the church and to the comfort of the worshipers who had been disturbed by the direct rays of the morning sun
The last major project facing the new pastor was the furnishing of the sanctuary. Because most of the pieces had been used in the old church prior to the liturgical renewal of Vatican II, they were of many contrasting and conflicting styles, shapes, colors and hues. The task of fabricating the new altar of sacrifice, the altar of repose with the tabernacle, the baptistery, and the ambo (pulpit) plus all the sanctuary benches was entrusted to The Baut Studios and their liturgical consultant, Sister Mary Benedicta of Stoneview Studios, Mount Aloysius College, Creson, Pennsylvania. She designed the total sanctuary to be theologically rich, liturgically correct, and aesthetically beautiful. All the furnishings plus the mosaic figure of Our Lady of Czestochowa for the shrine altar of Our Blessed Lady, and the plaque of the Holy Spirit above the baptistery were delivered and installed in time for Christmas, 1975. With the installation of the confessional screen with the image of Christ the Good Shepherd in the chapel of Reconciliation (confession room) in October, 1976 and the new vestment cases fashioned by Ronald Feher in the same priest's sacristy-chapel in 1977-78, most of the pastor's goals for the completion of the church and sanctuary were attained. Although a glass-paneled wall was installed in the front of the church nave beneath the storage loft, the architecture of the structure was not disturbed. At the same time provision was made for the elimination of distracting sounds and odors emanating from the church hall into the area of worship by this division of the vestibule from the nave.
During Father Matt's pastorate many necessary repairs were made to the parish plant because of donated services and labor of the men of the parish. Through the coordination of the Men's Club, which supplanted the Holy Name Society in 1974, the kitchen in the social hall was painted and paneling installed on its back wall. In addition the men undertook the painting of the mechanical room and the rectory basement where religious education classes are held. In June, 1975 the men undertook the project of painting the exterior of the church. Working on several week nights and weekends they were able to re-stain the red wood siding and the exposed beams which had suffered from the elements for the six years since the construction of the church. This “do-it yourself" project cost about $250.00 for paint and $150.00 for scaffolding. this generous donation of volunteer labor saved the parish several thousands of dollars. Also in 1976 new lighting and room dividers were donated and installed in the rectory basement thus creating the two larger and four smaller classes with greater soundproofing between the classes. These latter improvements proved their worth when the enrollment of children attending Monday Evening religious education classes increased from 60 to about 150.
In 1976 a committee was organized to prepare a constitution for a new Parish Council. After the approval of the constitution by the parishioners in June., it was implemented. It provides for four elected or at-large representatives, as well as representatives from each of the active parish organizations plus the pastor and t he two lay trustees. Several of the prescribed standing committees were activated soon thereafter. The first members of this re-organized Parish Council which was seated in June, 1976 were: Father Matt: Leo P. Serowik and Richard S. Smacher , parish trustees: Edward Chicourka of the Men' s Club : Kathy Konikowski of the Ladies Guild; Ted Benaelewski, Frank Blanco, Alvin Buchinskv and John Fanning as the elected representatives. At the expiration of his term, the first president of the Council, Mr , Benzelewski, declined to seek reelection and and was, succeeded by John Mur awsk i, John Fanning was re-elected and chosen president for 1978. The Catholic Youth Organization was without a regular representative until John Standish accepted the post for 1978. Donald Marshall and Joseph Bokol have served as Men's Club representatives.
Various area priests assigned to the Catholic high school apostolate assisted the pastor with Sunday Masses from 1969 when Father Eugene Matuszewski was transferred, to 1977. Father Michael Meagher. Father Donald Van Amburgh and Father Bernard Stephan helped on a regular basis. Father John Mikalajunas resided at Saint Casimir's rectory and assisted Father Prozny from September. 1972 to September, 1973. Father Matt has been without weekend assistance for the Saturday evening Vigil Mass (5:15) and the three Sunday Masses (6:00 or 7:30, 8:30 and 10:30 AM) since September, 1977.
Since it was determined that a genuine pastoral need for Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist to assist the priest in distribution of Holy Communion existed, Joseph Zareski, a candidate for the priesthood at Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Michigan was commissioned in March, 1975. Hopefully Joseph will be ordained a priest in 1980 - the first vocation to the religious ministry from Saint Casimir's Parish-Family. Subsequently other Eucharistic Ministers were commissioned: Paul Yusko, Paul White, William Marsh, and John Fanning in 1976; Carl Sienkiewicz, Walter Luberecki, Gerald Vanier, Alvin Buchinsky, Donald Marshall and Lawrence Nickerson in 1977. In addition Daniel Kolupski and Cornelia Standish were appointed by the bishop to bringing Communion home to the sick.
In July, 1976 - in time for the Bicentennial of American Independence, the parish was blessed through the generous donation of Mrs. Frank J. (Julia) Isban. Schulmerich electronic carillons with external speakers were installed in memory of all the deceased members of the Cackowski, Isban and Kosakowski families. In February, 1978 the kitchen in the church hall was improved with the installation of new oak cabinets and another three-basin sink.
In February, 1977 John Zaccarini, a college student, was hired as organist and song leader for all weekend Masses and special liturgies. Prior to his employment Kathy Smida had accompanied the Senior Choir, which was directed by Walter Kozol, in its preservation of Polish hymns and customs at Christmas and Easter times. For several years Peggy Gusefski, a high school student, gave her generous service to the parish by playing the organ at the Sunday 8:30 Mass. Father Matt's mother, Frances, has served the parish as housekeeper since September, 1973. John and Julia Spisak have cared for the church building and grounds since 1977. In recent years Edward Zareski and his mother, Wanda, have cared diligently for the sanctuary and sacristy, folded and distributed the weekly parish bulletins, and kept record of the weekly offerings for parish support.
Altogether during the five years of the pastorate of Father Wieczorek over $40,000.00 worth of improvements and repairs were made in the parish plant. At the same time the parish was able to reduce its debt considerably. At the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of Saint Casimir's Church, in October, 1978 -the parish debt was about $10,118.00. In May, 1979 at the time of the Tenth Anniversary of the new church, when the parish-family gave thanks and praise to God in its belated Golden Jubilee observance, the entire loan of $150,000.00 from the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America was paid off. The parish was able to burn its mortgage and rejoice in its debt free status.
As of October, 1978 there were approximately 260 households (which includes widowed and separated individuals as well as families) on the parish membership rolls. There were about 280 families and individuals who received the bi-monthly mailing of adult membership envelopes. There were about 720 persons from infancy to old age on the active parish census list - and about 40 others who seldom if ever gave evidence of their membership in the parish-family by their attendance at Mass, the reception of the Sacraments, or contributions for parish support.
Only God knows what the future holds for the Saint Casimir Parish-Family. Despite losses through death, transfer or moving to other areas, it is expected that the parish membership will remain fairly constant. It is hoped that with generous, dedicated service to the community by its spiritual leaders and parish members, the bonds of grace and love which bind them in the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church,-with Christ, and with one another will enable our unique unit of the Mystical Body, Saint Casimir's Church, to prosper. With God's grace may all its members experience ever more perfectly the unity which characterizes a "parish-family".
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