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St. Joseph's Parish - Florida NY

A parish history from the 1945 Golden Jubilee Book

Fifty years of faithful, persevering, unremitting labor and of unstinting sacrifices, inspired by the fear and love of God and the deep attachment to their Polish heritage-such is the terse characteristic of the long and glorious history of St. Joseph's Parish, Florida, Orange County, New York. Half a century of great accomplishments for the greater honor and glory of Almighty God and the salvation of immortal souls, achieved through the wholehearted and generous cooperation of both clergy and laity, rightly deserves our commemoration on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the founding of our parish.

St. Joseph's Parish was organized in 1895. However, the Poles had settled much earlier in the environs of Florida and as each year saw the arrival of new families, a small colony was soon formed. The earliest colonists, it is said, were Ignatius Brink and Joseph Wozniak. After them followed John Kurowski, Michael Kosnowski, John Radoms, and others. Henceforth our people emigrated to this section in ever increasing numbers. Desiring to keep united, they organized a society "Towarzystwo Krakusow." Their organization's meetings were held in the home of Joseph Wozniak residing in Durlandville.

Many difficulties were encountered by this small group of settlers. The language barrier was the first and greatest handicap. For a devout and religious people, the necessity of a Polish priest who would minister to their spiritual needs was apparent. Our people at this time attended Mass at St. John's Church, Goshen, N. Y. In time they petitioned the pastor to provide them a Polish priest for Confessions. Therefore. at intervals the Rev. Jerome Klimecki, the Rev. Francis Fremel, and the Rev. John H. Strzelecki of New York City came to Goshen, and later to St. Edward's Mission, Florida, bringing religious consolation. In the meantime other important religious offices were performed in St. Stanislaus' Church, New York City. Here they contracted marriages, sought Baptism for their children, and received the Sacraments.

When the settlement had increased sufficiently, Father Fremel suggested to the Poles that they obtain a Polish priest and organize their own parish. With the common consent a conference was called at the residence of Joseph Wozniak. A committee of collectors to solicit the necessary funds was elected: Joseph Wozniak, Ignatius Brink, John and Bernard Dulski, Anastasius Lipecki, John Radoms, Joseph Armanski, Joseph Andryszak, ,lnd Juhn Majorowski. In a short time almost $2,000 was collected and with the permission of the ecclesiastical superiors the ground for the Church building was purchased on Glenmere Avenue, Florida, N. Y.

The committee petitioned His Excellency, Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan, Ordinary of the Archdiocese of New York for permission to build a church and to appoint a Polish pastor. The Archbishop received favorably their request, gave his consent for the building of the church, and immediately appointed a young, energetic, greatly esteemed, and incomparably sympathetic priest in the person of Rev. Stanislaus J. Nowak.

The First Pastor

Rev. Stanislaus J. Nowak was born April 22, 1867 in Koscianach, palatinate of Posen. He pursued his early studies in Glogowie and later in Cracow, Poland. He came to America as a young man and finished his theological studies in St. Joseph's Seminary, Troy, N. Y. He was ordained to the Holy Priesthood May 19, 1894. His first appointments were as curate in English speaking parishes in Shokan and Kingston, N. Y.

To the great joy of the local Poles, Father Nowak arrived in Florida July 2, 1895, and immediately undertook the construction of the church. According to the financial records, he had on hand $2,145.45. The first Mass was celebrated by him in the upper room of the Florida Fire House on July 7, 189)'. That Sunday's collection amounted to $5.05. In a short time, on September 8, the cornerstone of the new church was blessed by the Very Rev. Dean Penny of Newburgh, N. Y. The Rev. Thomas Misicki delivered a Polish sermon. Also present at this ceremony was a former resident of Florida, the Rev. Joseph Dulski, of Baltimore, Md. Now the faithful gathered for Holy Mass in the basement of the rising church.

The building of the church progressed rapidly, because on the 10th of November of rhc same year, Florida witnessed the beautiful and touching ceremony of the blessing of a new House of God. The blessing was performed by His Excellency, Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan, assisted by the pastor, Father Nowak, Rev. Dr. M. Barabasz, Rev. J. McCarry, Rev. M. Connoly, Rev. Dean Sweeney of Kingston, N. Y. A Solemn High Mass, the first celebrated ill the newly blessed church, was sung by the Rev. Dean Sweeney, assisted by Father McCarry as deacon, and Father Nowak as sub-deacon. The Archbishop preached an English sermon, while the Polish sermon was delivered by the well known speaker, Father Barabasz, of Baltimore, Md. A choir from Kingston sang the Mass in four parts. Miss Helen Wozniak and Miss Pauline Majorowski sewed the first cassocks for the Altar boys serving Mass.

The church was completed, but there still was no rectory for the pastor. It was necessary for him to reside in rented apartments a distance from the church. Consequently the construction of a home for the pastor was begun beside the church.

In 1896 a section of land in the locality known as Union Corners was purchased for $300 from D. Parkhurst and set aside as a Catholic cemetery. It was solemnly blessed October 24, 1897.

After such exacting organizational work, Rev. Stanislaus]. Nowak departed for New York City in 1898 in order to assume the pastorate of St. Adalbert's parish in the Bronx, and to build a new brick church on 15' 6th Street. He also had charge of the St. Joseph's Polish Immigrant Home on Broad Street, New York City. In the meantime in St. Joseph's Parish, Florida, first, the Rev. Michael Slupek and next the Rev. Joseph Kloss functioned as pastor.

In the year 1902, Father Nowak returned to Florida as pastor of St. Joseph's and renewed his indefatigable labors on behalf of the flock committed to his care. He purchased from Fred Heinzelman the house and lot beside the rectory for $2,800, to be used as a home for the organist.

The Parish Grows

Since the present church building proved too small for the growing parish, which during the span of thirteen years increased amazingly, an addition was built in 1908. For that reason our church has such great length for its width. Two years later, Rev. Ignatius J Bialdyga was appointed the first curate of the parish to assist Father Nowak.

Because St. Joseph's Parish could not satisfy the religious needs of the numerous Poles residing around Pine Island, it was decided, with the counsel and aid of Father Nowak to have a church of their own. On June 29, 1912, a parcel of land was bought for $500, and the construction of a new Temple of God was begun. St. Joseph's Parish lent St. Stanislaus' Parish $4,750 without interest. To the credit of that small and scattered handful, it -must be mentioned that the debt was paid in three years. The blessing of the Church of St. Stanislaus B.M. in Pine Island, took place May 18, 1913. This church was served by the priests from St. Joseph's until 1924 when His Excellency Archbishop Patrick J Hayes, appointed Rev. Thaddeus E. Kaminski as pastor.

This did not terminate the diligence of Father Nowak. In 1914 the parishioners of St. Joseph's Church contributed voluntarily $7,382.76 toward the erection of a parochial school. Among the contributors Mr. Andrew Andryszak is singled out for his gift of $4,000. A house and lot were bought from John Piasecki for $3,950. The house was prepared to serve as a Convent for the Reverend Felician Sisters, who henceforth have worked continuously and fruitfully instilling in the children a love for God and Country.

The work on the school building consisting of four classrooms and an auditorium was begun. The blessing of the cornerstone took place July 11, 1915, and the solemn dedication of St. Joseph's School by His Eminence, John Cardinal Farley, followed on December 5, of the same year.

The living quarters at the rectory proved inadequate for two priests laboring in the parish, and an addition of four rooms was made in 1921.

Mindful of the great achievements and many sacrifices for God, the Church, and his people, the Holy See elevated the Rev. Stanislaus J Nowak to the dignity of a Papal Chamberlain of Pope Pius XI, with the title of Very Reverend Monsignor, in 1924.

In 1926 it appeared that the church needed exterior and interior repairs, improvements, and redecorating. The interior walls and coiling were covered with a decorative tin-plate, while the outside walls were stuccoed. Thanks to the generous gifts of the parishioners new electric chandeliers were hung in the nave of the church; a new tabernacle, statues, sanctuary carpet, votive lights, etc., to embellish the sanctuary were provided.

Desiring to afford the Reverend Sisters more comfortable quarters, Monsignor Nowak added in 1928 a large kitchen and five small cells to the Sisters' Convent.

Death of Monsignor Nowak

It was on the seventeenth day of November, 1929, that the Angel of Death summoned the Very Reverend Monsignor Stanislaus J. Nowak to his eternal reward. Sixty-two years of age, he spent 32 years of his priestly life laboring in the Master's Vineyard in Florida, New York. His funeral was· a solemn manifestation of love, esteem, and gratitude for a man who was Priest, Citizen, Founder, and long term Pastor of St. Joseph's.

For several months after the death of Msgr. Nowak, the Rev. John Smykla, now pastor of St. Clement's Church, New York City, administered our parish.

In March, 1930, Rev. Ignatius J. Bialdyga was named pastor of St. Joseph's Parish. He immediately devoted himself energetically to improvements in the school building, rectory, and cemetery. An additional classroom was made available in the school auditorium, and as required under the new demands, lavatories for the school children were installed in the school basement. He purchased for $4,000 land adjacent to the school playground, where the youth of the parish may indulge in athletic activities. He enlarged and thoroughly renovated the rectory, installed a new furnace and radiators, improved the plumbing facilities, and purchased the necessary utensils and furnishings. At the cemetery a receiving vault was built above which was erected a concrete altar and a large Calvary group. A roadway was fixed and suitable gateways for driving in and out were provided. The parish bazaars then enjoyed great success and because there was almost $12,000 in the parish treasury, Father Bialdyga in the comparatively short time of two years accomplished much good for the parish.

In April, 1932, Father Bialdyga by the will of the ecclesiastical authorities was transferred to St. Francis Church, Newburgh, N. Y. His successor for fourteen months was Rev. Casimir A. Nowosadko. Memorials after him are the grotto in back of the parochial school and the pulpit in the church. Because of ill health, Father Nowosadko was given sick-leave on July 2, 1933, and Rev. John S. Felczak, the assistant pastor, became administrator for three months.

Pastorate of Father Raith

The present spiritual leader of St. Joseph's, the Rev. Vincent J. Raith, was appointed pastor by the incumbent Ordinary of the Archdiocese of New York, His Eminence Patrick Cardinal Hayes, on October 7, 1933.

Father Raith was already known in Florida, since for the previous six years he was pastor of the neighboring parish of St. Stanislaus in Pine Island. Because he is "all things to all men" he has the undivided devotion of his people, while harmony and the most cooperative spirit prevail in the parish.

Organizational and financial matters of the parish first occupied his attention, next the church choir, the youth of the parish, and the cemetery. He urged parents to enroll their children in the parochial school; he secured donors for needed altar and church supplies; he had built another confessional for the greater convenience of the parishioners. The liberality of his worthy people enabled him to payoff within four years outstanding accounts amounting to $8,000.

In the year 1935 it was necessary to install a new $845 furnace in the church.

The school grounds were landscaped with a lawn and shrubbery, and suitable driveways were provided with the help of 84 volunteers. A few improvements were made in the Sisters' Convent, the roofs of the parochial buildings, the church, rectory, school, and convent were painted.

Because the church sacristy was too small to contain the vestments, altar linens, and other sanctuary supplies, it was enlarged in 1936 and a commodious vestment case was installed therein. Another exit at the side of the church was provided, a basement was dug and cemented underneath the sanctuary, where now are found the cabinets for the altar boys' vestments and a convenient workroom for the Sisters in charge of the sacristy. Due to the fact that 82 men of the parish responded to the pastor's call for volunteers, these improvements were made at a nominal cost.

St. Joseph's School

At that time St. Joseph's School consisted of five classrooms with a registration of 175 pupils. When the new State law made free bus transportation available to parochial and private school children, the pastor foresaw an increase in the enrollment of St. Joseph's School. While the Rural School Districts were deliberating the closing of their schoolhouses, Father Raith forcefully and effectively urged consolidation with the Florida School District. The voters of Union Corners, Big Island, and Mt. Eve School Districts voted overwhelmingly to consolidate with Florida, while Durlandville centralized with Goshen.

At a conference of the members of St. Joseph's Parish on July 14, 1937, it was decided to enlarge the school building. And on the next day the men of the parish began the conversion of the auditorium on the second floor into four new classrooms. The work progressed so rapidly that the 233 pupils entering school on September 7, now had the advantage of eight classrooms instead of five.

Next came the task of building a new, spacious auditorium with two large clubrooms in the basement. Two hundred eighteen men, some during the day, others in the evening after hard field labor, worked excavating, hauling gravel, stone, bricks, etc., laying the foundation, and performing numerous other jobs gratis. This enthusiastic response on the part of the parish was much admired by outsiders. Through their labors and generous gifts of almost $10,000, the people acquired a school building which is an ornament of our parish holdings and an object of general favorable comment.

The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Henry O'Carroll, Dean of Orange and Rockland Counties, blessed the cornerstone on October 24, 1937, and on February 28, 1938, this splendid auditorium was opened with a "Bal Paczkowy" attended by nearly one thousand people.

The cost of the new building amounted to $37,000. It is a pleasure to state that the entire cost is now liquidated. Under the particular guidance of Father Raith whose. solicitude for his school is unusually zealous, and the diligent teaching of the Felician Sisters, St. Joseph's School enjoys a high reputation among the parishioners, as well as the State and Archdiocesan Boards of Education.


The cemetery is a haven of peace and sacred hope for those who live for Christ and devoutedly expire in Him. The cemetery is God's Acre, where rest the beloved remains of our parents and children, our relatives and our friends. Fittingly, we are mindful of its appearance, for just as the church is a temple for the living, thus the cemetery is a temple for the dear departed ones.

It was difficult to maintain St. Joseph's Cemetery in proper order, since the field work occupies everyone's time during the summer. Upon the appeal of the Pastor a number of men gathered from time to time to mow the grass, temporarily at least, improving its appearance.

In 1936 upon the initiative of Father Raith, the grave mounds were leveled and the "lawn plan" was adopted. A gasoline lawn mower was purchased and the cemetery is now kept in constant good order to the great satisfaction of the entire parish. The unused Union Corners School building with one acre of land, adjacent to the cemetery, was bought for $800 in 1938.

Death of Father Kosiarek

The church choir and church music incite devotion in the hearts of the faithful, and the organ adds brilliance to the divine services. When our old church organ, in constant need of repairs, often became discordant during services, and Father Raith suggested the purchase of an electric "Hammond" organ, the people eagerly donated $2,228.76 in a short time. It was installed in December 1941.

The parish was plunged into deep sorrow on May 20, 1942, at the death of our beloved curate, the Rev. Francis C. Kosiarek. An assistant pastor in our parish barely one year, he won the respect, love, and cooperation of all. Young, capable, dedicated to his calling, he is remembered in ardent prayers for the repose of his soul. The Solemn Funeral Mass, His Excellency, Bishop Stephen J Donahue and numerous clergy in attendance, was celebrated in our church, and the burial took place in St. Mary's Cemetery, Yonkers, N. Y.

Mission Church of St. Andrew Bobola

The motherly solicitude of St. Joseph's Church for the salvation of souls did not cease with the opening of a new church in Pine Island. The sixty Catholic families living in the locality known as Pellets Island belonged to St. Joseph's Church. Due to the distance some people refrained from regular attendance at Mass in Florida. When the public school building in Pellets Island was put up at public auction, Rev. Vincent J. Raith with the permission of His Excellency, Archbishop Francis]. Spellman, bought it on July 1, 1944, for $3,025.

Sixty-five persons, jubilant over the idea of their church, on November 10, attended the first gathering in the lower rooms of the school. Plans were formulated to convert the school into a church immediately. Sixty-eight men and ten women in that vicinity volunteered their help in this undertaking.

Rt. Rev. Msgr. Henry O'Carroll, Dean of Orange and Rockland Counties, blessed the new Church of St. Andrew Bahola on May 20, 1945, and addressed the faithful

111 English. Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph C. Dworzak, D.D., of Yonkers, N. Y, delivered the sermon in Polish, while the first Holy Mass was celebrated by the pastor, Rev. Vincent J Raith.

St. Joseph's Parish extended a loan of $3,350.65 to St. Andrew's Mission, and the donations for the new church totaled $4,328. St. Andrew's is presently served by the priests of St. Joseph's in Florida.

Golden Jubilee

Plans for the Golden Jubilee of St. Joseph's Parish were considered as far back as 1943. It was decided to redecorate the nave of the church, the altars and the sanctuary, to regild the sacred vessels, refinish all brass articles of the sanctuary, and to procure a complement of liturgical vestments. The plans also included the painting of the outside of the parish buildings as well as the classrooms and basement in the old school building. All of these and other plans have been realized.

Because of World War II, the Golden Jubilee celebration which rightfully should have been observed in 1945, was deferred till 1946.

Thus we come to the end of our narration.

This brief history of St. Joseph's Parish, Florida, New York, from its infancy to its present growth, is published by the present generation, as a tribute to those who pioneered, and as an incentive to those who shall follow.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011