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St. Joseph Parish - Ansonia CT

A short history from the 1951 Jubilee Book

Only a superficial perusal of the history of St. Joseph's parish in Ansonia, Connecticut will quickly convince the casual reader of one outstanding fact. The sacrificing labors of its parishioners have made possible the founding of St. Joseph's parish in spite of innumerable difficulties, both material and financial.

Like all works of God, St. Joseph's parish also had a humble beginning. The care and solicitude for the welfare and education of their children were the contributing factors which prompted the Polish residents of Ansonia to establish a school within their own environs. Their struggles for the realization of this worthwhile project paved the way for the establishment of a parish.

No history of St. Joseph's parish would be complete without a necessary mention of the part that St. Michael's parish in Derby, Connecticut played in its foundation. At the turn of the century St. Michael's church took care of the spiritual needs of the Polish residents of the towns of Shelton, Milford, Orange and Ansonia. Parish chronicles record the generous contributions made by the Poles of Ansonia to aid the building of St. Michael's church and school. While the distance to school from Ansonia to Derby was considerable, the Polish people of Ansonia continued to send their children to St. Michael's school in Derby for a period of 20 years. It was not until 1923 that in their anxiety for their children the Poles in Ansonia decided to remedy the situation. An excerpt from the St. Michael's parish history gives the following information pertinent to the history of St. Joseph's parish. "The combined Polish societies of Ansonia passed a resolution at their meeting on April 29, 1923 to request the Reverend Pastor, Father Waszko for permission to build a school in Ansonia for their children. They gave as their reason that the cost of sending their children to Derby by streetcar was too expensive. Their petition was reasonable, all the more so, for St. Michael's school was at that time filled to capacity."

Upon Father Waszko's transfer to Brooklyn, Father Studzinski, C. M. energetically met the situation by presenting the whole matter to Bishop Nilan. The Bishop did not give his whole-hearted approval to the project, but he stipulated that if a school must be built, it must also include the church and convent. This was the initial step toward the organization of a separate Polish parish in Ansonia.

Father Joseph Swaltek's census of the prospective parishioners in Ansonia revealed a total of 218 families. Father Stuclzinski purchased in the greatest secrecy for $6,000.00 a piece of property near Jewett St. known as the Mansfield House. for a new parish. Since there were no parish funds available at that time, the money had to be borrowed from the bank.

The pioneering stages in the formation of a new parish were difficult but the Polish people in characteristic fashion determined to have their own parish. They rented a hail from the Figlii d'Italia Society on Central Street, the present home of the Polish Falcons and on July 12, 1925 the first Mass was offered for the Polish people of Ansonia. On the afternoon of the same day the parishioners welcomed their first pastor, the Reverend Aloisius Zieleznik. C. M. The new pastor presented to his parishioners a fund-raising plan which would finance the tremendous cost of building construction. It was decided that each family contribute the sum of $60 to defray expenses. While this decision resulted in many misunderstandings and protests from many parishioners, Father Zieleznik was adamant, for he realized that this was the only mode of procedure in view of the pressing financial needs of the parish.

This preparatory work laid the groundwork for the actual foundation of St. Joseph's parish on May 2, 1926 when the cornerstone of the present church building was solemnly blessed amid great rejoicing in the new parish. Father Zieleinik's appeal to the parishioners to furnish the new building with the necessary church and school furniture met with an immediate response from the parish societies and even individual parishioners. St. Michael's church in Derby made an offering of her church benches to the new parish. August 22, 1926 was a memorable day for the Polish residents of Ansonia. The first Mass in the new church was offered at 8 o'clock on the side altar, the gift of the Society of the Knights of King St. Casimir. At 10:30 o'clock on the same dry a High Mass was sung at the high altar donated by another parish society, the Guards of Tadeusz Kosciuszko.

The male societies of the parish and parishioners personally helped to landscape the rough terrain around the church building. They labored tirelessly for two years on the difficult project. The beautiful contours of the church property today are a lasting tribute to that unselfish devotion and deep interest in their parish. The summer months of 1926 witnessed the purchase of a rectory, the completion of the school, the arrival of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the final opening of the new school an September 16, 1926 with a total enrollment of 96 children.

After three years of indefatigable labor Father Zieleznik left Ansonia for a new field of missionary labor in his native Poland. For his untiring efforts to lay a firm foundation for the infant parish in the face of many obstacles, St. Joseph's parish will be forever grateful.

In 1929 the Reverend Joseph Janowski, C. M. succeeded Father Zieleznik. He assumed the responsible position of the pastorate in the turbulent years of the depression. His mild disposition and genuine kindness soon captured the hearts of the parishioners. Cooperation and further sacrifices were generously given to Father Janowski. As a result the work of adding many improvements to the parish plant became a fairly easy task. Thousands of fir trees were planted with the assistance of parishioners. The property around the church buildings began to take on a new appearance. The beauty of God's House was nevertheless Father Janowski's primary concern. He engaged the services of an outstanding artist from New Haven, Vincent Mondo, to paint the interior of the church. To provide a suitable place in the country for parish outings and picnics, the zealous pastor
purchased a plot of land two miles away from the church. Since that time, Warsaw Park, as the place was called, became the center of parish social activities. One of his last projects before ill health forced him to leave his post in 1936 was the formation of plans for the addition of several rooms to the small parish rectory. Only a few months after his departure, God called this tireless servant of God to Himself.

When the Reverend Casimir Kwiatkowski, C. M. assumed the duties of pastor after Father Janowski's demise, a staggering debt of $73,500.00 burdened the parish. The interest that was annually paid on this money was consuming all the financial resources of the parish. To meet the unfortunate situation, Father Kwiatkowski adopted a plan whereby he issued one bandied-dollar bonds at three per cent and sold them
o the parishioners. This clever financial strategy liquidated the church debt in the short space of nine years. Father Kwiatkowski energetically began a wide program of improvement of the newly-purchased Warsaw Park. The Dancing hall was enlarged and parking, camping and swimming facilities were provided for. Through the efforts of Father Kwiatkowski and the parishioners a lasting tribute to the memory of Father Janowski was erected on the park he loved so much. A five foot monument in his honor now graces the premises of Warsaw Park and is a fitting attestation of the gratitude of his former parishioners.

Little has been said thus far of Father Kwiatkowski's fruitful campaign in the esthetic, spiritual and educational spheres. The purchase of a new Hammond organ in 1939 and re-organization of the church choir through the kind assistance of the Reverend Francis Kelner, C. M., raised the tone of the church music to a high level. The beautiful renditions of the St. Cecilia and the Children's' choir are due in no small measure to the zealous efforts of Miss Martha Lachowska, who was for the past 12 years the church organist.

The parish had long felt the need of a church bell which would summon the faithful to church services. The pealing of bells in Poland brought back nostalgic memories to many parishioners. Their desires to have a church bell were fully realized in 1950 when Divine providence directed Father Kwiatkowski to Winchester, New Hampshire. While passing through the town, Father Kwiatkowski happened to notice a bell for sale in front of some Protestant church. Upon further inquiry, he purchased the hall valued at $3,000.00 for $495.00. On the occasion of administering the sacrament of Confirmation in the parish, October 14, 1950, Bishop Henry J. O'Brien, D. D. blessed the century old bell and named it 'Casimir ". The bell was fittingly rung for the first time on November 1, 1950, the day the dogma of the Assumption was solemnly proclaimed in Rome by Pope Pius XII.

In preparation for the approaching jubilee celebration of St. Joseph's parish, the church was completely repainted by Mr. Vincent Mondo and his assistant, Mr. Anthony Amato. No effort was spared to beautify God's Home. Its painting is a crowning tribute to the toils and hardships of the Vincentian Fathers and the parishioners, who cooperate with them during a quarter of a century of progress.

The silver jubilee celebration of the parish would not be complete without a spiritual preparation. Two Vincentian Missionary Fathers from Whitestone, NY, the Reverend Ignatius Dudziak, C. M. and the Reverend Joseph Piorkowski, C. M. conducted a jubilee mission in the parish.

St. Joseph's parish is grateful to God not only for its material accomplishments and rapid expansion but most of all for its spiritual harvest of souls. In the 25 years of its existence there have been 77 baptisms, 452 weddings, 310 funerals, 898 children received their First Holy Communion, and 956 received the sacrament of Confirmation. God called two of our parishioners to the Priesthood and thirteen to the Sisterhood. One cleric from the parish is at present completing his studies for the Priesthood and will be ordained in three years.

The parish school prepared hundreds of our young men and women for responsible positions in the professional, business and industrial world. It was long enjoyed an excellent reputation for its high standards in the field of education. While it prepared and still continues to prepare its pupils for a position in life, the parish school plays a far more serious role in the spiritual training it gives the children from eight years. The parish school gives what no public school can give . . . . a knowledge and love of Almighty God. St. Joseph's parish pays a high tribute of thanks to the good Sisters, who have unselfishly dedicated their lives to the education and spiritual training of the parish children.

This brief resume of the growth and development of St. Joseph's parish for the past 25 years is by no means a complete history. It was not intended to be an exhaustive study. Many facts had to he sacrificed for lack of space. While it was an impossibility to record the invaluable assistance given to the parish by individual parishioners, God will not forget their generosity. The parish will be forever grateful for their sacrifices and hard work. In all truth it can be said that St. Joseph's parish really belongs to its parishioners. They have contributed toward its growth not only by their lavish financial assistance but by the sweat of their brow.

May St. Joseph, the heavenly Patron of this parish, obtain from God the joys of heaven for all the deceased priests and parishioners who have worked so hard to lay the foundations of this parish, and new strength and blessings in the years ahead from the present priests and parishioners of St. Joseph's parish.

Rev. Julian Szumilo, C. M.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011