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St. Mary's Parish - Clinton MA

A short history from the 1938 Jubilee Book

Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may, are yet the fountain light of oil our day." -Wordsworth

As we look in retrospect over the last twenty five years which have passed so rapidly, a microscopic vision of each of the deeds instrumental in building up St. Mary's Parish, Clinton, appears to freshen our minds; and towering over all, remains our lasting sense of gratitude to those who have made our parish all that it stands for today and all that it means to us.

Previous to Jan. 1, 1908, the Polish people belonged to St. John's Parish under Father O'Keefe. A committee composed of the leading Polish men asked Fr. O'Keefe to favor them with a Polish priest to hear confessions and give sermons in their native language. When the bishop visited Clinton, Fr. O'Keefe sent for this committee and an agreement was made for Fr. Cyran to act as curate in St. John's Parish to care for the Polish People.

Fr. Cyran was born in Poland and came to the United States when a mere youth. He was educated in the parochial schools of Chicopee and was graduated from St. Jerome's College, Ontario. He received his theological training in Montreal and was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Bruchasy in St. James' Cathedral, Montreal, Dec. 1907. Shortly after, he came to Clinton and during his stay the census of the Polish people was about 80 families and about 800 souls. He was a very active and devout young priest, an interested, zealous and faithful pioneer who indirectly laid the foundation of our parish. After two years, he left to become Pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, Webster.

With the division of St. John's Parish in 1909, the Polish people were annexed to the Holy Rosary unit and Rev. A. S. Krzywda was appointed to succeed Fr. Cyran. He was of considerable assistance to Fr. Fitzgerald and aided in keeping up the interest among the Poles for the future development of their own parish. After a few months of noble work he departed owing to ill health. His successor was Fr. John J. Jakaitis who served for two years among the Polish people of the Holy Rosary Parish (and was master of ceremonies at the solemn High Mass celebrated in honor of the dedication of the Holy Rosary Church.) His interest aroused the people, who sought to establish themselves as a separate parish at a very early date. One stage in the progress of our development was completed these sturdy pioneers of catholicity had brought about the formation of a new parish.

Our history as a parish begins when the Rev. Theodore Suk came to be our first pastor in 1913 with a potential membership of 600. He bought property on Water St. for a church, but it was later decided not to build there, and a rectory was set up instead. On Sept. 16, 1913, the church was incorporated under, Bishop Beaven and Fr. Suk was appointed pastor. He labored in the interest of the parish for two years and was followed by Fr. Blum. Under the guidance of Fr. Blum, the parish property on Franklin St. was purchased from the Lancaster Mills and the church was erected by contractor Andrew J. Robinson. Fr. Blum remained until June 30, 1917, when he was transferred and Fr. Krzywda took charge of affairs and promoted the work of the parish. He established the Polish School for children on Saturdays and during the summer was assisted in teaching by John Oszajca, a Divinity Student. Fr. Krzywda handed over his duties here to Rev. Anthony Polawski on August 18, 1917.

Father Polawski was born in Poland and came to Clinton from Webster. He was ordained in 1904 and celebrated his first Mass at St. Joseph's Church, Webster, on July 10, 1904. He immediately gained great favor with the parishioners here, and under his direction the present-day rectory was built on Franklin St. and was completed in June 1918. He purchased property back to Pleasant St. and realizing the need of a school and the demand of the people in favor of such, commenced the erection of the $100,000 building which stands in the rear of the rectory and church. Fr. Polawski accomplished considerable among his people and devoted so much of his time and energy to the parish, that as a result, his health was impaired and he obtained leave of absence from the Bishop to return to his native country, Poland, to recuperate. Too much cannot be said of the sacrifices and endeavors he made during his nine years as pastor.

The arrival of Fr. John Oszajca on April 27,1926 was a landmark in the parish history, for it marked the rapid development and recognition of St. Mary's Parish. Fr. Oszajca was born in Poland in 1883 and came to America July 4, 1899. He entered St. Mary's College, Detroit, Mich. in 1903, and after finishing there took up Pharmacy. In 1918 he was graduated from the Seminary of Philosophy, in Montreal, and that same year entered SS Cyrillus and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, MI. He was ordained Dec. 17, 1921 at St. Michael's Cathedral Springfield and celebrated his first Mass Dec. 25, 1921, at SS Peter and Paul's Church, Three Rivers, Mass. In 1926 Fr. Oszajca came to Clinton from Three Rivers, and at once became the organizer and founder of many church societies and activities and carried on the work of the completion of the school building. Through his earnestness and energy he succeeded in obtaining the Bernardine Sisters of St. Francis as teachers and opened the new building with a large registration of pupils from the first to the sixth grades. It is needless to speak of the progress made by the children since the arrival of the sisters, who have an enviable reputation as teachers and promoters of God's work. Previous to their arrival, Father Oszajca took upon himself the duties of teacher and three nights a week he taught a class of over 70 pupils the elements of the Polish language and the fundamentals of Americanization. Besides being a born leader among men, he is a lover of art and literature, an excellent preacher and an ideal pastor. Just when things seemed to turn for the better, a terrible catastrophe occurred with the burning of the church on Sept. 8, 1927. For awhile services were held in St. John's School Auditorium, and on Dec. 25, 1927 the first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Oszajca in the new St. Mary's Chapel, built on the site of the old church. Due to the prudence and foresight of Father Oszajca, this chapel was erected rather than a costly and elaborate church and a large portion of the school debt was paid with the money obtained from the insurance. In July 1929, our pastor was sent to Adams, Mass, and Rev. Stanislaw Zdebel replaced him.

Father Zdebel was born in Poland and educated both abroad and in this country. He served as curate in Gilbertsville, MA., and in 1912 became pastor of St. Mary's Church, Turners Fall. From there he was sent as pastor to Holy Trinity Church, Hatfield, and in July of 1929 came to Clinton. He immediately gained favor with the people owing to his dignified and gracious manner and profound learning. But because of the depression and the fact that many of the Polish people who were employed in the Lancaster Mills left town when the plant closed, Father Zdebel was forced to close the parish school temporarily. Meanwhile, he engaged the Sisters of Nazareth from Worcester to conduct Saturday morning classes in the school. In spite of the handicap under which he labored, he succeeded in lessening the school debt by planning various activities which brought considerable financial assistance to the parish. His six years as pastor leave a glorious memory of accomplishments amid such a trying period.

July 27, 1935, Father Oszajea returned to Clinton as Pastor, and continued the Saturday morning classes in the school until Sept. 1936, when his dream of opening the school with regular classes was realized. There were five grades taught by the Felician Sisters, and in 1937 one more grade was added. It is the hope of Fr. Oszajca that the classes will continue increasing until eight regular grades are held in session. Fr. Oszajca's second term presented countless innovations in view of the silver jubilee: the exterior of the church was improved by the erection of a belfry to house the church bell; the interior walls were rebuilt; the altars, statues, windows and church vessels were renovated; an oil painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa, a true copy of the Miraculous Shrine in Poland, was imported; the school repaired; the parish grounds improved. All this shows that Fr. Oszajca's pastorate is symbolical of hard work and success, and it is the hope of his parishioners that he may continue to guide our parish many more years.

Since to chronicle all our achievements and to express adequately our gratitude to those who have labored in our behalf would require volumes, let it suffice to say at the culmination of our record, that if there is any kind or tender incident we have failed to mention, you may believe, dear friends, that it is written in our hearts.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011