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St. Stanislaus B&M Parish - Chicopee MA

A parish history from the 1966 Jubilee Book

The history of Saint Stanislaus Parish and its splendid house of worship dates back to the year 1880. It is traced to a small group of young and energetic Polish emigrants unable to speak a word in English, bewildered because they were placed in advertently aboard a wrong train, who arrived in a strange city Springfield, friendless and forlorn.

Unable to Speak English

Through the grace of God, Reverend Patrick Healy, pastor of the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Chicopee at the time, appeared by mere chance at the Springfield Railroad Station and learning of the serious predicament of the Polish emigrants, escorted them to Chicopee. He immediately established them in boarding houses belonging to the Dwight cotton mills, where they soon found work.
Teenage Youngsters

The first group of Polish emigrants, who accidentally found their way to Chicopee, actually were only teenage youngsters. It was at a time when the Poles began to immigrate to the Americas, and in large numbers to the United States, after the final partition of their native land and failure to win independence in 1863.

Country Partitioned

These hardy Polish emigrants came to the United States to escape the oppression imposed their way to Chicopee, were not the early settlers stranded in the Springfield Railroad Station. It is doubtful, however, that Chicopee would have risen as rapidly as it has as a Polish-American community ‑ and that we today would have the advantage of worshipping in such a magnificent House of God ‑ our own Saint Stanislaus Church.

Polish Emigrants Pious Catholics

The Polish emigrants were a Catholic people, consequently they sought to fulfill their religious and moral obligations on arrival to this country. They first attended Holy Mass at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, but they did not understand the English language, therefore they were unable to participate in all the services and privileges the Roman Catholic Church offers its faithful.

Rev. Healy Cared For Poles

Rev. Patrick Healy, pastor of the Holy Name of Jesus Parish at the time, earnestly cared for the religious welfare of the Chicopee Poles, and at least twice a year obtained the services of Rev. Francis S. Chalupka, a Polish priest from Webster, where a Polish community was in existence, and a Polish Parish, Saint Joseph's, was established in 1887. The infrequent appearance of a priest who could address the Word of God to them in their native language was a most touching event in the lives of the early Chicopee Poles.

Advised to Build Church

When the Polish settlement in Chicopee grew to include over seventy families and many single individuals, Father Chalupka, as spiritual advisor, advised them to build their own parish. To this they responded with enthusiasm, and a committee was organized to bring this undertaking to a reality.

Saint Stanislaus Society Formed

The church building project was first undertaken by the Society of Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr which was formed on July 17, 1888. The organizers of this society included the following: Peter Oparowski, William Tuleja, Jacob Sitnik, Andrew Bartkiewicz, Frank Jaworek, Peter Godek, John Ciosek, William Kosinski, William Niemiec, Joseph Maciolek, Karol Gierlasinski, Karol Wojtowicz, John Cebula, Joseph Walczak and John Kmiec.

25 Cents Weekly

These pioneers of Saint Stanislaus Parish first taxed themselves twenty five cents a week for the church building project. As soon as their financial status permitted, they bought land in Front Street, a site midway between Chicopee Center and Chicopee Falls, whereon to build their church. This first plot of land was purchased from Maurice Granfield for a sum of S2000

Obtain Bishop's Approval

A parish committee of three, headed by Peter Oparowski and accompanied by Rev. Chalupka, then called on the Most Rev. Patrick O'Reilly, Bishop of the Springfield Diocese, to obtain permission to build the new Polish church. Their request was cordially granted by the bishop.

To promote the church building program, the members of the Saint Stanislaus Society prevailed on Rev. Chalupka to undertake the role of spiritual leader and also director of the church building project. He accepted graciously this seemingly gigantic task.

First Church Service in 1891

Construction work on the wooden frame church building started early in 1891. Bishop O'Reilly officiated at the laying of the corner­stone that year. Although construction work was far from complete, the first Mass in the new church ‑ a Christmas Midnight Mass ‑ was celebrated by Father Chalupka in 1891.

Church Cost $17,000

The new church, costing $17,000, was dedicated and consecrated on Sunday, October 11, 1895 by Most Rev. Thomas Daniel Beaven, Bishop of the Springfield Diocese.

Saint Stanislaus Bishop‑Martyr

The selection of Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr as the patron saint of the new church is most significant because Saint Stanislaus was the foremost Polish pioneer of the Catholic Church.

This truly great Polish bishop was born in a small village about seven miles from the city of Krakow. He was the only son of peasant parents.

Upon his ordination to the priesthood, he worked zealously and arduously in his native land, spreading the word of God. Upon appointment as a missionary by Most Rev. Lam. bert Zule, Bishop of Krakow, he traveled extensively throughout Poland and became universally known throughout the Polish nation for his church work. In 1072, upon the death of Bishop Zule, he was named his successor as Bishop of Krakow.

King Boleslaus the Bold

The king of Poland at the time was Boleslaw the Bold. As Polish king he fought the power held in the hands of Polish nobility. During his tenure on the Polish throne, Poland was one of the strongest nations in Europe.

Bishop Stanislaus Murdered at Altar

His dislike of Bishop Stanislaus because of the latter's influence with the pious Polish people, led King Boleslaw the Bold, crazed with jealousy, to murder Bishop Stanislaus in cold blood on April 11, 1079, while the bishop was celebrating Holy Mass.

For this dastardly act, King Boleslaw the Bold was excommunicated and deposed by His Holiness, Pope Gregory VII. He went into exile in Hungary where he died in 1082.

May 8th Feast Day

The body of Bishop Stanislaus was laid to final rest in the Cathedral of Krakow where it lies to this day. Bishop Stanislaus was canon­ized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on September 8, 1253 in the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Rome by His Holiness Pope Innocent IV, who proclaimed Saint Stanislaus the patron saint of Poland and designated May eighth as a Holy feast day in his honor.

Rev. Chalupka Named Pastor

Father Chalupka, who served as spiritual leader for the young parish from its inception, and commuted from Webster to administer to the spiritual needs of the Chicopee parishioners, accepted the pastorship of the Saint Stanislaus Parish in February 1895. At the same time, Rev. Chester Lenc became the first curate.

When Rev. Chalupka assumed pastorship in 1895, a parish census he undertook, showed about 800 souls ‑ men, women and children ‑ as members of the parish. They included not only Polish people living in Chicopee but also those living in neighboring communities since Saint Stanislaus Church was the only Polish Catholic church in existence at the time.

First Parish School

The first parish school was opened by Father Chalupka in the basement of the church in September of 1897. The services of three nuns from the Felician Order were obtained as the first teachers. They were Sisters Mary, Davida, and Felicia. The first parish school consisted of two classrooms with an enrollment of 67 pupils.

In 1898 Father Chalupka purchased twelve adjoining lots from Dennis Murphy and Patrick O’Rourke for a sum of $3000, to enlarge the parish property.

Franciscan Fathers

It was early during the administration of Father Chalupka that the first Franciscan Fathers came to Chicopee to conduct a mission for the parishioners of Saint Stanislaus Church. The first Franciscan Fathers to preach here were Rev. Jacek Fudzinski and Rev. Felix Baran, both of whom later served as Provincials of the Franciscan Order.

After almost a decade of faithful pastoral service, Father Chalupka was transferred to Saint Joseph's Parish in Webster, and the administration of Saint Stanislaus Parish was assumed by the Franciscan Fathers in 1901.

Rev. Czelusniak First Franciscan

Rev. Stanislaus Czelusniak succeeded Rev. Chalupka as pastor of Saint Stanislaus Parish in 1901. Rev. George Jaskolski became his curate. The first Franciscan nuns arrived in Chicopee to assume teaching positions in the Saint Stanislaus Parish school shortly after Father Czelusniak undertook the pastoral duties.

Upon assuming his new pastoral office, Rev. Czelusniak set upon to reduce the parish debt, and in this task he was most successful. Once the parish debt was dissolved, Father Czelusniak was instrumental in building a new wooden‑frame convent for the nun‑teachers in Front Street at a cost of $15,000.

New Church Built in 1908

With the influx of new Polish emigrant families, it was found the small wooden frame church first erected was no longer able to accommodate all the parish faithful. Under the guidance of Rev. Czelusniak, a new and magnificent church of cathedral like proportion, with two huge spires, of brown sandstone, was built in 1908.

The new church was constructed on an adjoining site, about 100 yards east of the first church. At the time, the new church edifice was the largest Polish house of worship in the country.

Bishop Beaven Officiates

Most Rev. Thomas Daniel Beaven, Bishop of the Springfield Diocese, officiated at the dedication and consecration of the new Saint Stanislaus Church in 1908. Most Rev. Paul P. Rhode, Bishop in the Chicago, Illinois, Diocese, the first Polish bishop in the United States, delivered the dedication sermon, commending the Polish people of chicopee for their devoted religious work in building this magnificent structure.

The total cost of the new church was $125,000, a vast amount of money at the time. It is conservatively estimated the construction of a church of similar design in the present period of economic inflation and high costs would exceed one million dollars.

Rev. Czelusniak, after eleven fruitful years, left his pastoral duties at Saint Stanislaus Parish in 1912, and Rev. George Jaskolski, his curate, succeeded him. Illness, however, terminated Rev. Jaskolski's tenure and Rev. Cypryan Adamski assumed pastorship in 1913, and Rev. Nicholas Wybraniec became curate.

Rev. Cyman Named Pastor

On October 11, 1914, Rev. Lawrence M. Cyman became pastor of the parish. This young and energetic priest immediately won the esteem of all the parishioners for his leadership and faithful pastoral work.
Solemn 25th Anniversary

In 1916 the parishioners joined with Father Cyman in a solemn Twenty Fifth Anniversary observance of the founding of the parish. It was a joyous affair since many of the early pioneers of the young parish were still living, and they rejoiced in this silver anniversary.

Rev. Cyman, recognizing the need of additional classrooms to house the growing parish school enrollment, in 1916 engaged Bruno Wozny, the first Polish architect in Springfield, to prepare plans and specifications to provide classroom space in the abandoned first church. Once these plans were made available, work on this project was undertaken.

New Altar Built

In 1919, an addition was added to the convent for the teaching nuns of the parish, along with the building of a new altar in the church. Father Cyman was able to obtain the services of an outstanding Polish sculptor, Francis Szumal, to come to Chicopee from Zakopany, Poland, to do the artistic sculpture work on the altar. This talented Polish sculptor spent a year and a half on the altar project, giving Saint Stanislaus Church the distinction of possessing one of the most artistic church altars in the country at the time.

Extensive renovation work on the interior of the lower level church was also undertaken under the able guidance of Father Cyman at that time.

Buy Land for Cemetery

In 1924, Father Cyman recognizing the need of a suitable cemetery, purchased approximately 125 acres of land in Montgomery Street, Chicopee Falls, for the parish burial grounds, giving the Saint Stanislaus Parish the distinction of possessing the largest Catholic cemetery in the city.

New Parish School

To meet the challenge of an ever growing parochial school enrollment, Father Cyman in 1925 instituted a building campaign for a new parish school. A parish committee headed by former Mayor Walter M. Grocki was organized to promote the school building project. Plans and specifications for the new school, originally initiated by Bruno Wozny, were completed by George F. Dion, a Chicopee architect, upon the sudden death of Mr. Wozny.

The new $75,000 parish school, with its 25 classrooms and a spacious auditorium, was dedicated with proper ceremonies on September 9, 1926. Upon opening of this modern school, there was an enrollment of approximately 1,000 pupils.

In 1926, upon completion of the new parish school, the total valuation of the land and all the buildings in the Saint Stanislaus Parish was placed in excess of one million dollars.

Rev. Cyman Named Provincial

In recognition of his outstanding religious and civic leadership, Rev. Cyman in 1939 was elected to the office of Minister Provincial of the Saint Anthony of Padua Province Order of Friars Minor Conventual.

The Very Rev. Cyman succeeded Very Rev. Justin Figas as Minister Provincial, the founder and longtime conductor of the popular "Father Justin's Rosary Hour."

By his election in 1939 Very Rev. Cyman became the fourth Minister Provincial of Saint Anthony of Padua Province which was founded in 1906 by Polish‑speaking Franciscan Fathers. It was at the election of Very Rev. Cyman in 1939 that the pronouncement was made of the canonical formation of a filial Province under the patronage of Saint Bonaventure. The Very Rev. Felix Baran, who at one time preached at Saint Stanislaus Church in Chicopee, became its first Minister Provincial.

Up to the year 1939 Saint Anthony of Padua Province administered 37 parishes with convents attached, two homes for the Missionaries, a High School, a Novitiate and a Seminary for the philosophers and theologians. Its friars worked in four chaplaincies and edited a periodical and a newspaper. Division of the Province was made on a boundary basis: Saint Anthony of Padua Province retained all convents east of Buffalo, inclusive, while Saint Bonaventure Province was assigned all the convents west of Buffalo.

Upon assuming the position of Minister Provincial in 1939, Very Rev. Cyman established the Saint Stanislaus Parish in Chicopee as the residential headquarters of the Minister Provincial of Saint Anthony of Padua Province.

Rev. Piasecki Named Pastor

In 1939 upon the election of Very Rev. Cyman to the office of Minister Provincial, Rev. Eugene Piasecki was named administrator of Saint Stanislaus Parish. In 1940 Rev. Piasecki was appointed pastor and held this office until 1945.

Rev. Piasecki upon assuming the post of pastorship faced the struggle of liquidating the debt on the parish which because of the newly built school was approximately $300,000. It was during Rev. Piasecki's tenure that over 2000 young men and women of the parish entered the Armed Forces and fought in the defense of our country. To them he gave much personal attention. To their parents and loved ones at home he carried the message of hope and consolation.

Rev. Piasta Becomes Pastor

On August 1, 1945, Rev. Josaphat J. Piasta was named pastor at Saint Stanislaus Parish. During his regime as pastor, with the assistance of the assigned Fathers and the good people of the parish, the debts were entirely liquidated. Rev. Piasta served as pastor and superior of the parish until July 1957.

Father Piasta also undertook the difficult task to completely renovate and beautify the sanctuary of the lower church. The magnificent outdoor shrine of our Blessed Mother, Krolowo Polski," was erected under the direction of Rev. Piasta and is a source of inspiration to all who pass by. It will be a lasting monument credited to his efforts. It was also during Father Piasta's pastorate that the interior of the parochial school was repainted.

Golden Anniversary Observed

The golden anniversary of Saint Stanislaus Parish was solemnly observed on Sunday, November 9, 1941, under the joint direction of Very Rev. Cyman, the Minister Provincial, and Rev. Eugene Piasecki, the pastor. Most Rev. Thomas M. O'Leary, Bishop of the Springfield Diocese, celebrated the Golden Anniversary High Mass of Thanksgiving before a crowd that filled every nook and corner of the church. During a brief Golden Anniversary sermon, Bishop O'Leary praised the spiritual and material progress of Saint Stanislaus Parish since its humble founding in 1891.

Saddened by Sudden Death

On February 22, 1949, the parishioners of Saint Stanislaus Parish were deeply saddened by the untimely death of their beloved spiritual leader, Very Rev. Cyman, who at the time of his death was in his 10th year of service as Minister Provincial of Saint Anthony of Padua Province and 35th year of continual service to the parishioners of Saint Stanislaus Church.

Very Rev. Cyman died in 1949 during his third term as Minister Provincial. He was succeeded by Very Rev. Anaclete M. Kaczmarek, who became the fifth Minister Provincial of Saint Anthony of Padua Province.

Rev. Kaczmarek Becomes Pastor

In July 1957, Rev. Simeon Kaczmarek, brother of Very Rev. Anaclete M. Kaczmarek, Minister Provincial, became pastor of Saint Stanislaus Parish. It was under the administration of Rev. Kaczmarek that adjoining property at the southwestern part of Cyman Drive was purchased and a beautiful new convent for the nuns of the parish was built at a cost of $375,000. This functional convent was dedicated and blessed on December 1, 1962.

When Father Kaczmarek introduced the envelope system for regular and extraordinary offerings, the parish income grew appreciably higher. This enabled Rev. Kaczmarek to have the upper church redecorated and to install new confessionals. All the parishioners, particularly the elderly, are grateful to Rev. Kaczmarek for removing the cumbersome stairs leading to the communion rail and lowering the communion rail to ground level to enable the parishioners to receive the Blessed Sacrament with ease and convenience.

It was also during Father Kaczmarek's tenure that extensive repairs and installations were made on the roof and towers of the church structure, and the old bowling alleys in the basement of the parochial school were removed and a modern cafeteria for the parochial school children was constructed in that location. The latter project was carried out at a cost of $25,000.

Rev Majchrzak Named Pastor

Rev. Kaczmarek held the reins of pastorship at Saint Stanislaus Parish until 1963. In that year he was succeeded by Rev. Emil Majchrzak, an energetic and popular churchman, who at once set up as pastor to plan for the necessary repairs and renovation of parish property.

In August of 1963 when Father Majchrzak assumed the pastorate of this growing parish there was a membership of some 10,090 souls and a total parish indebtedness of $289,213.55. Despite the overwhelming debt, through the concerted efforts of church societies, generosity of parishioners, and untiring sacrifices of priests and sisters, much by way of repairs and installations had been accomplished in the parochial school, church and rectory. Landscaping about the newly built convent was completed; and the Sisters were provided with a much needed automobile and their own garage, built of brick.

During the past three years of the administration of Father Majchrzak the parochial indebtedness has been reduced from $289,213.55 to $115,000. The total number of souls enrolled in Saint Stanislaus Church at this time is 11,500.

     The spiritual growth of the parish can be noted from the ever‑increasing number of parishioners who frequent the Holy Sacraments. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program has added immeasurably to the spiritual growth of the parish. Approximately 70 lay people of the parish give of their time, talents and ability in the implementation of this all important spiritual program.

It was under the able guidance and leadership of Rev. Majchrzak that the Diamond jubilee observance of the founding of Saint Stanislaus Parish was launched and carried out to a successful fruition.

From an historical standpoint it can be said that from a most humble beginning seventy five years ago, Saint Stanislaus Parish has grown to become one of the largest in Western New England. Saint Stanislaus Church presently serves as the house of worship for about 11,500 parishioners.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011