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St. Hedwig - Elizabeth, NJ

A parish history from the 1950 Silver Jubile Book

Hedwig's Parish was established in August, 1925. The Polish people in the Bayway section of Elizabeth, ever increasing in numbers desired a parish of their own because the distance between their homes and St. Adalbert's Church in the "port" section, was too inconvenient and hazardous, especially for the children in winter.

The Rev. Boleslaus Kwiatkowski, late pastor of St. Anthony's Church. Jersey City, N. J. was instrumental in the founding of the new parish. By his wise counsel and guidance, a committee was formed consisting of the following men: Stanislaus Pitero. Casimir Wajda, Adam Sawicki. and the late Francis Baran. The census was taken and it showed that there were about 350 Polish families living in Bayway who wished to enroll as members of the new parish. His Excellency, the Most Rev. John J. O'Connor, late bishop of Newark, studied carefully the report of the conditions existing in Bayway as presented to him by the committee, and soon after appointed the late Rev. Wenceslaus Slawinski, one of Father Kwiatkowski's former curates. as pastor of the
new parush.

Father Slawinski lost no time in organizing his parishioners. He was appointed pastor on August 20, 1925, and called a meeting at Frank Kwiatek's Hall that very same evening. Only about fifty people came. The Rev. Edward Kozlowski, who on the same day was made pastor of a new Polish perish in Linden, N. J., introduced Father Slawinski to the assembly. Great joy and enthusiasm prevailed throughout the meeting Five thousand dollars was pledged for a new edifice

A week later another meeting was held in Drotar's Hall. This time the hall was overcrowded. It was unanimously agreed that the new parish should bear the name of SI. Hedwig, a Polish Princess of the Middle Ages whose life of austerity and charity raised her to the altar of God. Stanley Pitero, and Casimir Wajda were selected as trustees. John Jarosz, Ignatius Zendarski, Stephen Ciuchta. Julian Adamkowski, John
Kazanecki, Valentine Okonowski. and Rufin Ryznar were chosen as collectors.

Soon after, the newly appointed pastor announced that Mass was to be celebrated for the first time on Sunday August 30, in the recreational hall of Simmons Co. It was indeed through the courtesy and generosity of this Bedding Company and, of Mr. Bomwhitter, a fine Christian gentleman, in particular, that divine services could be arranged without difficulty. The parishioners of St. Hedwig's should always
remember the splendid generosity shown by this manufacturing concern and the practical sense of Mr. Bornwhiller. A spacious hall with a seating capacity of about one thousand and already provided with over five hundred chairs, and having light and healing facilities, were all denoted to the newly established parish. Such benevolence surpassed all expectations of both the Reverend Pastor and all concerned.

Anyone could imagine the grand feeling that permeated the hearts of the faithful, when on Sunday morning August 30, 1925, the first High Mass was sung. Father Slowinski was deeply moved as he saw the great faith and love of his people for God and His Church. That day, was indeed a forecast of what the future had in store for him and his flock. A good number of those preent are still living in our midst. To them it was the most thrilling moment of their lives. The collection token up that morning amounted to $329.60.

It was a marvelous beginning. but there was much more to do to attain the ultimate goal. Losing no time, the pastor consulted his trustees as to the purchase of some property for the new church and school. Negotiations were launched with the Standard Oil Co. for the acquisition of some land in the neighborhood but the transaction did not materialize because of the antagonistic attitude of some of the tenants on the Company's property. This however, didn't discourage the pastor in his quest for property in the Bayway section. It was resolved to procure an adjacent piece of land bounded by Clarkson Avenue, Myrtle St., and Polonia Avenue. There were 19 lots in all and the price was $19,000. The lots, the location and the price seemed satisfactory enough, and the parishioners were eager to payoff the debt before the breaking of the ground.

Simmons Hall served well enough for a temporary church, but the people and Father Slawinski had their hearts set on something finer. The day finally came. It was the first day of Spring, Sunday, March 21, 1926, when in the presence of all Polish people in Bayway and friends from the "port", ground was broken and blessed for St. Hedwig's Church and School.

Preceding the religious ceremony, a grand parade was held through the streets in the neighborhood, various organizations and the school children added color to the festivities. The Rev. Anthony Tralka, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, Plainfield, N. J., who is now the Rt. Rev. Msgr. and pastor of Mt. Carmel Church, Bayonne, N. J., blessed the ground and then delivered an eloquent and inspiring discourse in which he urged the people fully to co-operate with the pastor that the seed planted that afternoon, might bring forth fruit a hundredfold. There were other speakers too. Mr. Dennis Hennessy, who represented the Mayor, and Dr. Kacprowski, B. M. Janowski , editor of Obywatel Amerykanski, and Father Slawinski, all gave brief talks. Then, each of the clergymen turned a spade of the ground, while the Joseph Pilsudski Band played.
Assisting the Rev. A. Tralka were, the Rev. Miecislaus Lankau, pastor of the newly founded Polish parish at Irvington, N. J., and Father Slawinski. Over one thousand dollars were contributed that afternoon towards the building fund.

The following day work was started on the new structure. Mr. William L. Finne of Elizabeth, N. J. was the architect and the Golinski Construction Co. of Irvington. N. J. were the builders. The structure was a combination building, 125 feet wide and 110 feet deep with the Church proper in the center, while on the north and south sides

were classrooms and the Sisters' temporary quarters, as it stands to this day. In the basement is a large hall suitable for all parish affairs. The cost of the building exceeded $100,000.

When the construction of the church and school was started, a city wide campaign was
initiated by a group of parishioners who formed a committee of one hundred whose aim was to canvass and solicit funds from every family in Bayway as well as from the business establishments of Elizabeth and vicinity. A goal of $40.000.00 was set. Attorney Francis Regula was elected chairman of the drive and Father Slawinski was the treasurer.

The team captains were:

Mr. Charles Adamkowski, Mrs. A. Zydzik, Mrs. Anna Baran, Mr. John Laczynski, Mr. John Zyglarski, Miss Lottie Ryznar, Miss Anna Gasiorek, Mrs. Francis Regula. Miss Caroline Zydzik, Mrs. Julia Piotrowski, Miss Mildred Zendarski, Mr. Joseph Bialas and Mr. John Rogolinski.

After an intensive ten day drive only $10,000.00 was realized. Although the amount was short of its goal, nevertheless, it greatly alleviated the burden which the pastor had taken upon himself.

Two months after the blessing and breaking of the ground, another solemnity took place, the blessing of the corner stone. This second celebration by far exceeded the first. A dream was becoming a reality. At three o'clock on Sunday afternoon, May 23, 1926, all the church and civil organizations of the parish congregated at Kwiatek's Hall - 101 Bayway - and then marched along Bayway and Clarkson Avenues. Leading the parade was the Joseph Pilsudski Band, followed by the grand marshals, Messrs. Stanley Pitera and Casimir Wajda, riding in their own decorated cars; then came five hundred school children carrying American flags, some dressed in native Polish costumes. It was a picturesque scene for one to behold. Houses were bedecked on both sides of the street with American and Polish flags. Music, colorful attired children, the smiling faces of the marchers and spectators, all contributed in creating a justifiable pride in the hearts of the parishioners because they were seeing for themselves the realization of their dream of a few years ago, - a parish, a church, and a school of their own.

It was a somewhat cold and windy Sunday in May when the parishioners and guests gathered in front of the partially built church, but their joyful spirit was not dimmed by the discomfort of the weather. Father Slawinski invited the presidents of all the societies, Mayor Kenah, Comm. Hennessy, Drs. Urban and Gollick, Attorney Francis Regula and the Rev. Clergy to sit upon the improvised platform which faced the building. He then introduced the distinguished guests. Both, Comm. Hennessy and Mayor Kenah congratulated the Poles of Bayway on their achievement, and expressed their sincere wishes for further progress. The main speaker was the undaunted, patriotic and pioneer priest of God, the late Rev. Boleslaus Kwiatkowski. His vigorous and well chosen words carried a special meaning to the listening audience: “zeal for God’s work, and the fine qualities of a good Catholic Pole will contribute vastly to a better America". Father Kwiatkowski's talk proved authoritive, for he was a real pioneer among the Polish clergy. He had founded parishes for the Poles of Bayonne, Jersey City, Paterson, Passaic and Hackensack, and had been instrumental in establishing Polish parishes in Irvington, Linden and Elizabeth (Bayway).

The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Sigismund Swider, late pastor of Mt. Carmel Church, Bayonne, N. J. blessed the corner stone, in which were deposited important documents. Assisting him were several priests of the diocese, namely, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Emely Haitinger, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Anthony Tralka, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Ignatius Szudrowicz, Rev. Joseph Amlicki, present pastor, and the Revs. Joseph Maj, Julius Roszkowski, Edward Kozlowski, and Julius Szpilman.

After this memorable day the walls of the building were rising higher and higher until the structure took form as planned in the blue prints. In a period of six months the Golinski Construction Co. made this work a praiseworthy monument of their best and honest efforts.

Sunday September 19, 1926 was the day put aside for the dedication of the new church and school - staffed by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of New Britain, Conn. It was a triumphant day for the pastor and his people because the thought, the idea, and the plans of the new parish were completely fulfilled. This was the crowning point of all the labor put into the project.

The solemn ceremony began with a procession of the church societies, altar boys, and
clergy. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. John A. Duffy, Vicar General of the Newark Diocese, who subsequently became bishop of Syracuse and Buffalo, N. Y., was the celebrant. The church bells rang while the faithful sang sacred hymns as they all proceeded to the portals of the new building. Pausing here, the Rt. Rev. Celebrant in accordance with the Roman Catholic Ritual recited loudly the Miserere, accompanied by the assisting priests, as he blessed the outside walls of the building. Then he continued the blessing in the interior. The priests solemnly chanted the Litany of All Saints, invoking the blessing and protection of Almighty God and the intercession of the Saints in heaven upon all who would henceforth enter and worship God in this new edifice dedicated to His Divine Service.

It was a glorious crowning that Sunday morning for the founders of the new parish. The church was filled to capacity. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Vitus Masnicki, pastor of St. Adalbert's Church, Elizabeth, N. J. celebrated the Solemn High Mass. Bishop Duffy delivered a very inspiring sermon in English and Father B. Kwiatkowski preached in Polish. The assisting priests were: the late Msgr. Julius Manteuffel of Passaic, N. J. Rev. Martin Piasecki, Rev. Edward Kozlowski, and the late Rev. Joseph Maj.

The entire neighborhood was in a festive mood. Not only the women but also men were shedding joyful tears as they beheld the new building dedicated to the service of Almighty God. Over three thousand persons were present for the occasion. Solemn High Mass was sung at 10:30 A. M. and Vespers at four o'clock. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Paul Knappek of Newark, N. J. delivered the sermon. This event marked the closing of the great festivity for the parishioners of St. Hedwig's.

Twenty five years have elapsed since that memorable year. St. Hedwig's Parish has seen many changes during all this time. Too, there were periods of struggle to upkeep the church and school, and to meet the interest on the heavy debt undertaken by the parish. Father Slawinski overworked himself to meet the necessary obligations. Care, worry, and work, enfeebled still further his already weak health, and hastened his untimely death. The good, kindly and amiable Father Slawinski passed away on
September 7, 1934. The entire parish mourned him deeply because it had lost a good and benevolent pastor, one who had done his utmost to please all of the people. His name, his efforts and sacrifices will always be remembered by the present and future generations of St. Hedwig's Parish.

The day after the funeral, the Most Rev. Archbishop Thos. J. Walsh, appointed a new
pastor, the Rev. Joseph L. Amlicki, who at the time was administrator of one of the largest Polish parishes in the diocese, St. Anthony's of Jersey City, N. J.

 Father Joseph L. Amlicki was born in Passaic, N. J. His parents were founders of St. Joseph's Church in that city. Completing his elementary course in the local parochial school, he entered the Polish Seminary at Orchard Lake, Michigan, where he was graduated from High School and College with high honors. He pursued further philosophical and theological studies at the Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange, N. J., and was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Newark, N. J., May 21, 1921 by the Most Rev. John J. O'Connor. His first assignment was to St. Stanislaus parish, Newark. N. J. In 1924 he was transferred to St. Anthony's, Jersey City, N. J. Here he remained as first assistant and administrator for eleven years, aiding the ailing Rev. Boleslaus Kwiatkowski who played such an important role in the founding of St. Hedwig's parish. Father Amlicki endeared himself to the hearts of the faithful at St. Anthony's. His zeal in fulfilling his priestly duties and his administrative abilities are remembered to this day. The people of Jersey City were reluctant in seeing him leave the parish. It was their loss, and St. Hedwig's gain.

It seems providential that Father Amlicki was to succeed his dear friend, Father Slawinski in St. Hedwig's. A few years before, both had been curates at the same time in St. Anthony's Church, Jersey City. He came here unheralded, but not dismayed. In his quiet and unassuming manner he tackled a tough assignment - a heavy debt, a large interest and a very small income. This did not discourage the new pastor, but gave him a greater incentive to work harder for, St. Hedwig's parish was composed as now, of poor, hard working people. Father Amlicki understood the conditions of his flock. He knew they were poor, but that nevertheless their generosity exceeded that of the rich. He set out immediately to contact each family, soliciting funds to pay the interest
on the incurred debt. He made his people realize that it was they who had to pay for the church and school and not anyone else. He inculcated in them a sense of responsibility for their own welfare, and his priestly zeal has not waned to this
day with the result, that the old debt was liquidated; improvements have been made on the church interior; a new rectory with gardens, one of the finest in the archdiocese, has been erected; and finally a net surplus of over $70,000.00 is deposited in the bank for a new Sisters' Convent to be built in the proximate future. Such achievements can be attributed to the ingenuity and business acumen of our beloved pastor during the past 16 years.

Church Societies, and Youth Organizations have flourished immensely. Word War II cur­tailed the various sport activities of our wellknown Young Men's Club, but efforts are being made to revive the once famous St. Hedwig's Club. The recently organized Merchandise Club and the Parents and Teachers Association were of tremendous help to the church and particularly to the children of our school. These two organizations contribute everything they have towards the needs of the church and school.

During the first three years of his pastorate, Father Amlicki carried on with some week-end help from the Salesian Fathers of Don Bosco, Ramsey, N. J. As the parish grew there was need of an assistant priest. In 1937 the Most Rev. Archbishop sent Father Joseph Dziewic as the first curate of St. Hedwig's.

The accommodations in the temporary rectory situated on Myrtle St. were too small for the two priests, so the good pastor thought of building a new residence. In 1938 ground was broken for the present site on Clarkson Ave. This fine structure was completed in the Spring of 1939.

The late Father Joseph Dziewic was a graduate of Don Bosco Prep. Ramsey, N. J. and
Seton Hall College and Seminary. He was an able, gifted priest. Both in High School and College, Father "Joe" distinguished himself in baseball and he was some boxer too. He was an excellent athlete, apparently a picture of health, but nevertheless, a sick man, without his being aware of it. A big man with a heart as simple and kind as that of a child, his sudden death in November of 1940 came as a severe blow to his pastor, his parents, friends and parishioners. The Sodality of the B. V. M. of which he was Moderator, will long cherish his memory. He died in the 13th year of his priesthood. May God rest his soul. He was a real pal to all who knew him.

The year 1941 brought us death, disaster and a war. But in the midst of so much sorrow, there was a moment of joy when one of our boys, a member of the first graduating class of St. Hedwig's School, was ordained to the Holy Priesthood. The Rev. John Buklad whose parents still live in Bayway, sang his first Solemn High Mass,
June 7, 1941. Father Buklad prepared himself for the calling God gave him at Don Bosco Prep., Ramsey, N. J. and Seton Hall College and Seminary in Darlington, N. J. On the occasion of this Jubilee we wish to pay tribute to Father Buklad's parents as well as to himself who was the first alumnus priest of St. Hedwig's. We pray God that other boys may follow his example.

United States History will record the year of 1941 as a year of decision following the dastardly and atrocious attack upon our country. St. Hedwig's also gave its share toward a final victory over the evil forces. Over five hundred and fifty young men of the parish served in the armed forces and twenty four of them laid down their
lives that the people of the world may have a better place to live in. Our immortal heroes are:
K. Anton, C. Baran, E. Dryka, B. Dmitrzak, T.Germanski. F. Goqodzinski. A. Jarosz, C. loryczewski, T. Kazanecki. S. Kunka, S. Lubas, K. Martowlos, J. Nieminski, W. S. Piaszczyk, L. Piegdon, S. Palys, E. Rosiniak, B. Trzcinski. G. Schumer, F. Turbak, W. Wlczlowski, M. Wojtowicz, I. Wolski, M. Wolski.

During World War II a committee was formed in the parish with the Rev. Pastor as its chairman, composed of all societies, in order to bolster up the morale of the fighting boys and girls and their parents. Thousands of dollars were spent for food, packages, gifts and home coming receptions. As a final tribute to them all, especially to the dead, a beautiful memorial has been erected on the church grounds.
The Rev. John Witkiewicz - now pastor of St.Joseph's Church at Hackensack. N. J. - succeeded Fr. Dziewic as assistant to Fr. Amlicki. "Father John", as he was known to all in the parish, was an experienced priest in parish chores. His interest and good work among various societies was very gratifying to all. However, his stay at St. Hedwig's was cut short, for in February 1945, he was appointed pastor of St. Joseph's Church at
Hackensack, N. J.

It was impossible for the pastor to get an immediate replacement from the Archbishop because there was a scarcity of Polish priests at that time. But, there was a Franciscan Father, Rev. Hyacinth Rosinke O. F. M. working in and around the diocese. Father Amlicki appealed to his Superior for help. The wish was granted at a personal sacrifice to the Order. Father Hyacinth arrived for a temporary stay in March, 1945, and remained until June 1946. A former chaplain of the Polish Army, he rendered an unforgettable service to the parish. His wise counsel, fine judgment and experience in guiding souls will always be appreciated. He was mainly responsible for the wonderful and efficacious arrangement of Fr. Amlicki's 25th. Anniversary in the Holy Priesthood, His stay was short but fruitful.

In June of 1946, the Most Rev. Archbishop ordained over twenty new Levites, among whom, were five of Polish descent. Since Father Hyacinth had been loaned only by the Franciscan Order, it was expected that one of the newly ordained was to come to St. Hedwig's. The new appointee was Father Ferdinand Miller, of Newark, N. J. This young priest labored in this part of the Lord's Vineyard for three years, endearing himself to many.

The parish grew in number of people, and the work likewise increased. To take good
care of several thousand souls diligent attention is needed. So the Reverend Pastor, like a good shepherd, asked for another curate. In 1947 a second newly ordained priest was assigned to us, the Rev. Joseph Sapeta, also from Newark, N. J. He is with us to this day, nobly performing his priestly duties, especially among the little ones of the flock.

In the year of 1949, many changes took place in the whole archdiocese. New pastors were made and curates were transferred. St. Hedwig’s lost the services of its first assistant and in his place the Most. Rev. Archbishop has sent another able priest, the Rev. Francis J. Szeszol, who in his twenty years in the priesthood had also distinguished himself as a teacher, preacher and coach, and director of athletics in various Salesian High Schools. Before his coming to St. Hedwig's, he was stationed three years at St. John's Church. Bergenfield. N. J.

For this Silver Jubilee Year, a well planned program was arranged, the outstanding feature being the Holy Mission conducted in English by Father Jerome Gallagher O. F. M. and in the Polish language by Father John Sliwowski, a Marist, and Father John Pietrzak S. D. B., a well known Polish Salesian retreat master. It was chiefly due to the latter that the mission was such a huge success. He not only opened the hearts of his hearers towards God but also created a generous spirit among them. New vestments, altar linen, repainting of statues and other items needed were donated as jubilee gifts at his suggestion. Worthy of particular mention is the beautiful and expensive Repository bought by the Rosary Society.

Future events to take place in this Jubilee Year are: Card Party in September; Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving and Banquet on September twenty fourth; Novena to the Patron Saint of the Church, St. Hedwig, in October; the annual bazaar, and the final closing with a novena to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in December.

Thus, we close the book of the first twenty five years of the existence of St. Hedwig’s Parish. May this history written from authentic sources be not only a source of information, but also an inspiration to those who will write the Golden jubilee Book in 1975. The younger members of the parish will live to see that eventful year, others will be gone to sleep in peace. We hope and pray that the work, sacrifice and wholehearted co-operation of the pioneers of this parish, priests and laity, will be an example to them for further progress for the greater glory of God and the good of our people in Bayway. Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Ad Multos Annos ! ! !



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Last Updated on March 15, 2013