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St. Joseph Parish - Central Falls RI

A short parish history from the 1957 Jubilee Book

it was at the close of the 19th century, at a time when the weaving industry in New England began to prosper, that the Polish people were attracted to Central Falls, Valley Falls, Pawtucket and other vicinities in the state of Rhode Island. The first Polish people came to Central Falls and settled in the vicinity of High Street. Since no Church was available for their use, they found it necessary to attend services on Sundays and special Feast days in neighboring Churches and others, who were in a position to do so, traveled as far as St. Adalbert's in Providence to fulfill their spiritual obligations. Occasionally the people would be visited by Father Duczmal from Providence, who would try to attend to what- ever spiritual needs were necessary.

The colony grew rapidly. On November 11, 1900, the Polish people organized themselves into "St. Joseph's Brotherly Aid Society." In this Society it was suggested that a parish be organized. With this aim in mind a special committee was selected, headed by Szczepan Pokraka. The Most Reverend Matthew Harkins, Bishop of Providence at that time, accepted the petition of the Society and conceded to assist them in organizing a parish, requesting simultaneously a census to be taken of all the Polish people in this vicinity. The results of this census indicated that there were two hundred Polish families in the vicinity of Central Falls. Pawtucket and Valley Falls. Actual organization of the new parishwas entrusted to Rev. Francis Kiuger.

Rev. Francis Kluger was born on April 22, 1880, in Siemianowice, Gorny Slask, Poland. He received his elementary education in the local schools; his college and Philosophy courses in Italy; his Theological courses in the American College of Louvain, Belgium. He was ordained to the Priesthood on June 28, 1905. In August of that year he arrived in Providence and was assigned by the Most Rev. Bishop Harkins to organize a parish in Quidnick (West Warwick) R. I. His work in Quidnick lasted for only fifteen months and he was assigned to Central Falls for the purpose of organizing a parish here. Rev. Dr. Marion Nowicki replaced Fr. Kluger in Quidnick.

St. Joseph's Parish of Central Falls was organized and became a legal Corporation on Dec. 6, 1906. The first Trustees were Jan Rzepiela and Jan Bozek. There was no parish house and no parish Church. For two years Fr. Kiuger made his residence on 60 Cross Street, Central Falls. The difficult task of parish organization began. The. Polish people frequently assembled for their Services in the hail of Sacred Heart Church in Pawtucket. In March 1907 Fr. Kiuger purchased a wooden building on High Street known as Temperance Hall. It was theatrical in structure with an upper balcony. The cost of purchasing and renovation amounted to approximately $10,000. St. Joseph, who was the Patron of the Brotherly Aid Society, became the Patron Saint of the Church and Parish:

In the basement of the church a school was opened. Three teachers staffed the school: an elderly lady whose name is unknown, an organist, Mr. Krawczyk, and the pastor, Fr. Kluger. In 1909 Fr. Kluger purchased a beautiful building on 353 High Street and designated that to be used as a Rectory. Today this building forms part of the present school.

The parish grew rapidly and the Church became much too small to accommodate all its worshippers. In 1915 land was purchased on Clay Street with the Most Rev. Bishop's permission to build a new brick Church at a cost of $45,000. The building of a new Church was hurried by a fire which broke out shortly after midnight on Easter Monday, caused by a boiler explosion, which destroyed the entire wooden structure. Services now were conducted in the Church hall of St. Basil's Church on Broad Street, Central Falls.

The new building project was swift, since the following Easter all services were taking place in the church hall of the new Church. The main Altar, still found in the Church today, was purchased from Holy Trinity Church in Central Falls. The new Church, of Gothic structure, is large and beautiful. The unique front makes it very impressive. The gracious steeple which was the admiration of many, was built by Fr. Malecki and was destroyed during the 1954 hurricane.

Rev. Fr. Kluger conducted the new church building project alone. In 1916 he was assisted for only several months by Rev. Peter Switala. In November 1917 Fr. Kiuger was transferred to St. Mary's Parish in Quidnick as Pastor.

The second Pastor was Rev. Lawrence Malecki, born July 14, 1882, in Franklin, Pennsylvania. His early education was obtained in LaSalle, Illinois; College and Theological Studies at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary (at that time) in Detroit, MI. In 1910 he was ordained a Priest and worked in Fall River, Massachusetts, Quidnick (West Warwick) RI and then was appointed Pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Central Falls.

The parish debt amounted to $56,000.00 at that time. Father Malecki, through his amiable disposition, priestly life and charity, gained the confidence and cooperation of all his parishioners. The times during that period were considered good and the church building project was nearing completion.

Solemn blessing of the Church took place on July 6, 1919, by Most Reverend Bishop Hickey, coadjutor of the diocese, in the presence of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Peter Blessing, diocesan vicar-general, and a large representation of the clergy from Central Falls and vicinities. The program commenced with a procession of Church and Civil organizations through High Street to Main Street, Pawtucket, where Bishop Hickey was met, greeted and led to the Church.

On that same day the Most Reverend Bishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to a group of 450 children. After the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered, Bishop Hickey, in an eloquent sermon, encouraged the faithful to acquaint themselves with the American language, customs and institutions, simultaneously preserving their beautiful national traditions and language. A thought indeed noble, practical and worthy of every consideration in our present day.

The parochial school, which was located in the parish hall at that time, welcomed graciously the arrival of the four Bernardine Sisters from Reading, Pennsylvania, in the Fall of 1918. From that time on the Bernardine Sisters have staffed the school. For three years the Sisters resided in a rented house near the church. In 1921 the Rev. Pastor purchased a home on 339 High Street and renovated it for convent dwelling and purposes. That same year a house on 355 High Street was bought and became a new rectory site, whereas the former rectory was converted to a school. In the Fall of 1921 a new and proper additional wing was added to the former rectory, thus making that building a renovated and well-constructed school for the children at a cost of $27000.

In February 1925 the interior of the Church was painted. The decorations were beautiful, rich in color and the painted pictures of high artistic calibre still remain untouched and in their original status, constantly admired by all the visitors, irregardless from where they may come. The chandeliers were imported from Poland by Father Malecki and donated to the parish by the Rosary Society.

In 1931 the Silver jubilee of the parish was observed. The parochial status at that time was considered very good spiritually as well as materially. The parishioners now rejoiced with a beautiful church, a convenient and spacious school, a convent and a rectory. The parishioners of St. Joseph's were indeed grateful to Father Malecki for his zealous and untiring efforts. The manifold blessings of Almighty God and the unending generosity of the parishioners brought a dream long desired to reality.

The following priests have assisted Fr. Lawrence' Malecki in his pastoral duties: Rev. W. Kapturkiewicz, Rev. B. S. Rosiak, Rev. F. Wilk, Rev. W. Rozpad, Rev. J. Szymczyk, Rev. J. Borek. Other priests, who assisted occasionally, were Rev. Jastroch, Rev. Kaszynski, Rev. Dr. Rolbiecki and Rev. Tyzynski.

Father Malecki rejoiced with a good and healthy life, however, shortly before his death he began to fail rapidly. On July 4, 1934, at the age of 52-24 years of his priestly life terminated he was called by his Divine Master. He was buried in St. Leon's Cemetery in Pound, WI. His successor was Rev. Peter Switala.

Rev. Peter Switala was born August 2, 1883, in Jaskolki, Poznan, Poland. He received his early education in Jaskolki and his high school education in a German High School in Ostrowo, Poland; his philosophy course in Petit Seminaire, St. Trond and theology in the American College of Louvain, Belgium. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 8, 1908. Immediately after ordinations he came to America and began his priestly duties in Warren, RI, later in Central Falls and Woonsocket. In 1920 he was appointed Pastor of St. Adalbert's, Providence. In 1934, upon the death of Fr. Malecki, he was assigned to St. Joseph's Church, Central Falls, as Pastor.

The new pastor planned to build a parish auditorium and make proper renovations to the parish buildings. Difficult economic conditions prevented Fr. Switala from fulfilling his plans. The great depression curbed material prosperity of the parish for many years.

The beautiful church was in need of a new organ. In 1938 an organ, valued at $15,000.00, was purchased and shortly after installation the blessing of the new organ took place.

During Fr. Switala's Pastoral administration, he had Rev. Peter Dobek and Rev. Michael Dziob as assistants; likewise the Franciscan Fathers Conventual assisting when needed. In 1937 parochial organizations such as Scouting and CYO activities were under way.

Fr. Switala died on May 12, 1944, of a heart attack and was buried in St. Francis Cemetery, Pawtucket. The fourth pastor appointed to St. Joseph's is Rev. Peter P. Dobek, born July 4, 1906, in Wilmington, DE, where he attended St. Hedwig's parochial school andthe Salesian High School in the same city. His college and philosophical studies were at St. Mary's College, Orchard Lake, MI, and for the last two years of his theological studies he attended St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, MD. He was ordained to the Priesthood May 21, 1932, in Philadelphia, PA, by His Eminence Dennis Cardinal Dougherty.

As a curate he served in the following parishes: St. Philomena's, Narragansett, for six months; St. Joseph's, Pawtucket, for three months and St. Adalbert's, Providence, for one and one-half years. In October 1934 he was assigned to St. Joseph's, Central Falls, as curate for ten years and after the death of Fr. Switala he was assigned Pastor of St. Joseph's.

Fr. Dobek as the new Pastor was confronted with many tasks. The parish buildings were in need of repairs and improvements. The parish debt at that time was only $14,000. Preparations were being made for an observance of a 40-year anniversary of the parish. The first project was Church improvements. Second was a drive for funds to pay the remaining debt on the parish. The people responded very well so that within one year's time all parish debts were paid. The success of these projects are attributed to the able administration of Fr. Dobek, the constant generosity of the good people of the parish and the wonderful economic status throughout the country, which America enjoys and continues to share at present.

In 1946 the 40th Anniversary of the parish took place. The Holy Sacrifice of Mass was offered by Rev. P. P. Dobek in the presence of Most Rev. Francis P. Keough, D.D., and numerous priests. The sermon was preached by Rev. John Dziok, a former parishioner of the parish. A banquet followed the Mass at Coats' Recreation Hall, Central Falls, in which 800 people participated.

With the church tended to, the work of improvements in the church hall, school convent and rectory followed. The church hail was painted, a new boiler bought, new chairs, tables and kitchen equipment was obtained.

The school, consisting of ten classrooms, was painted on the interior and exterior, new seats and new lights were obtained. The renovation of the Convent, a new boiler there, painting, new furniture and other objects amounted to a cost of $21,000. All these expenses were paid for without incurring debt.

In the meantime the parish property expanded. In 1947 a home was purchased on High and Clay Streets and in 1949 an adjacent house was also purchased in that locality and which was transformed into a kindergarten school of two large and spacious rooms. In 1948 a beautiful memorial was dedicated in honor of all the young men who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our Country during the Second World War.

In 1955 the great renovation project got underway in preparation for the observance of the Golden jubilee of the parish. In the spring of 1956 a new front was erected at the Church at a cost of $14,000. During the summer months renovation of the roof and pointing of the church took place.

In 1957 the work of a complete interior renovation commenced. The painting was accomplished by Roman Przybylski of Gloucester, Mass., at a cost of $19,000.00. Two new confessionals were installed, windows renovated, a new lighting system, organ reparations, a new look to the vestibule of the church and the choir, new sacristy cabinets and new doors of the church became a reality. The complete expenses of the Golden jubilee preparations amounted to $80,000.00.

Assisting Fr. Dobek in his Pastoral work in the parish were Rev. Michael Dziob, Rev. Peter Narewski, Rev. Eugene Konopka, Rev. Matthew Strumski and presently assisting is Rev. Frederick V. Slota with the Franciscan Fathers from Canton, MA, assisting in the parish work on week-ends.

St. Joseph’s Parish Golden Jubilee Observance

On the beautiful sunny spring day of May 5, 1957, the long-awaited Golden jubilee observance commenced. Preceding the Mass, a solemn, colorful and impressive procession took place in which Most Reverend Russell J. McVinney, D.D., bishop of Providence; Msgr Patrick S. Canning, Msgr. Thomas V. Cassidy, Msgr. Peter A. Foley, Msgr. Joseph A. Corbeil, Msgr. Ladislaus A. Sikora, Msgr. William F. Murray, a large delegation of Clergy, all parish organizations and numerous parishioners participated. The Knights of Columbus formed the guard of honor and school children, in golden attire, contributed greatly to wards a lustrous sight.

The parish choir greeted the Most Reverend Bishop as he approached the Church with the beautiful Latin hymn, 'Ecce Sacerdos Magnus." The recently renovated and elaborately decorated Church gleamed with magnificent splendor as the procession moved slowly towards the sanctuary. The Most ReverendBishop was the celebrant of the Mass and he was assisted by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Matthew F. Clarke, Assistant Priest; Rev. Frederick Baker, Assistant Sr. Deacon: Rev. Robert C. Cassidy. Assistant Jr. Deacon: Rev. Omer E. Paquin, Deacon; Rev. Michael Dziob, Subdeacon; Very Rev. Msgr. William F. Murray, Master of Ceremonies; Rev, Daniel P. Reilly, Asst. Master of Ceremonies; Rev. John Skalko, OP., Miter Bearer; Rev. Anthony Paiva, Crozier Bearer; Rev. Anthony Iwuc, Book Bearer; Rev. Theodore Peloquin, Burgia Bearer; Rev. Peter Narewski, Gremial Bearer; Rev. George Girouard, Thurifer; Rev. Frederick M. Halloran and Rev. John Randall, Acolytes; and Rev. Frederick Slota, Cross Bearer. Rev. Peter P. Dobek, Pastor, extended a sincere welcome to the Most Rev. Bishop and guests. Rev. John S. Dziok preached the sermon and the parish choir, directed by Dr. Vernon Fiola, magnificently rendered the proper church music and chant during the Mass.

The Holy Sacrifice of Mass concluded and Bishop McVinney extended his wholehearted felicitations to the parish on this joyous occasion and in behalf of the Apostolic Delegate, presented the wishes and Blessing of the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII. Miss Susan Wlodkowski presented the Most Rev. Bishop with a Spiritual Bouquet and an attractive floral gift from the school children. The Most Reverend Bishop, expressing his profound gratitude, encouraged the children to aspire to the Religious life if at any time they feel the call of the Divine Master. He said that the Church is greatly in need of Priests and Sisters and people who would sacrifice their lives and work in His Vineyard for the salvation of souls. A solemn procession from the Church to the Rectory concluded the first phase of the Jubilee observance.

The Golden jubilee banquet took place that same day in Sacred Heart Auditorium on Park Street, Pawtucket, in which approximately 750 were in attendance. The banquet was attended by the Most Rev. Russell J. McVinney, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Matthew Clarke, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Ladislaus A. Sikora, Reverends Joseph Walsh, Bronislaus Rosiak, William Delaney, Wilfred Jette, Daniel Regan, John Drury, James Loughran, John Czerwonka, Peter Narewski, Anthony Paiva, Michael Dziob, Daniel P. Reilly, Anthony Iwuc, John Skalko, OP. and Ambrose Pocek, O.F.M. Forty Religious Sisters attended the jubilee Mass and partook in a private banquet at the parish hall.

Reverend Frederick V. Slota acted the part of Master of Ceremonies at the banquet. The Most Reverend Bishop gave the invocation. Felicitations were extended by Mayor Raymond Garvey of Central Falls, Rev. Bronislaus Rosiak, State Banking Commissioner Alexander Chmielewski, representing His Excellency the Governor; Reverend Robert assidy, Dr. Walter Molak, D.D.S., Trustee and Rt. Rev. Msgr. Ladislaus A. Sjkora, guest speaker.

In conclusion Father Dobek expressed his utmost satisfaction and sincere gratitude to all who in any way contributed to the success of the jubilee observance. The Polish National Hymn, "Boze Cos Polske” concluded the banquet program.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011