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St. Stanislaus Parish - Chelsea MA

A short parish history from the 1955 Jubilee Book

There is no known record of the first Polish settlers in our community. However, names of unmistakably Polish origin appear in the city's records as early as 1864 followed by a gradual increase in the suceeding years. Each year after 1880 there appears to be a greater number of these new arrivals, many of whom history tells us fled their homeland because of oppression and impoverishment, bringing with them an astounding capacity for hard work and a flaming desire for the freedom denied them in their homeland which was under partition and rule by three foreign powers.

Hardly had this new group adjusted itself when in 1902 the organized Lodge 584 of the Polish National Alliance. Of the first eleven candidates who made application at a meeting held at the Salvation Army building at Chelsea Square only seven were accepted and thus was instituted the first local Polish fraternal body a member of the national organization with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.

These people were devoted to their religion and during the early years were attended by the late Rev. William F. Power of the St. Rose Parish, also by the late Rev. John Chmielinski, pastor of St. Mary's Church in South Boston, also the late Very Rev. Hyacinth Fudzinski, Provincial of the Franciscan Fathers who came to the city very often and administered the Sacraments and celebrated Mass at the St. Rose Church for the Polish residents. It was during one of these visits of Father Fudzinski who came to hear confessions at Christmas time, that Father Power realized the fervent desire of the people for a Polish parish, who in spite of a downpour, 250 strong waited in the rain without umbrellas and drenched to the skin, to welcome the invited priest from Buffalo, N.Y. Immediately after the parish building fund was started, to which the residents contributed generously and which was held in trust by Father Power, the money collected became the nucleus for the first payment on the purchase of the Chestnut Street Congregational Church. During the purchase of the property by Patrick Coughlan under the instruction of Father Power, the late Dr. Joseph Lewandowski of South Boston represented the Polish people.

On July 2, 1905, the church was officially opened with great ceremony at which time the Polish people took possession. The following Sunday, the late Father George Jaskolski, O.M.C. arrived and took charge.

With the loyalty and help of the people, Father Jaskolski did some great work in organizing the parish and in a short time opened a school consisting of two classes in the basement of the church. He taught one class himself and the organist of the church, the late Thomas Grabowski, taught the other.

The St. Stanislaus B. and M. Society was founded the year before the great Chelsea Fire. It became the second local fraternal group which on many occasions later added to the pageantry of the church during religious and patriotic ceremonies, dressed in uniforms of historical Polish Knights.

On Palm Sunday, April 12, 1908 the great Chelsea Fire reduced the church, the rectory and all the church property to ashes. The city as a whole became a scene of desolation, sorrow and appalling distress as a result of the conflagration with loss of life, buildings and churches.

The following month, on May 6th, the ladies of the parish organized the Holy Rosary Society, setting as its aim and purpose, wholehearted cooperation to parish and church functions and participation in national and communal affairs.

As the embers of the great Chelsea Fire died, simultaneously it rekindled within the people a desire for a new church. With renewed vigor and courage under the leadership of Father Jaskolski, the people began to work hard and patiently. For more than a year the pastor celebrated Mass in the old Scenic Temple on the corner of Second and Chestnut Streets during the building of the present edifice, overcoming almost insurmountable difficulties to keep the congregation together.

One year after the fire, on Easter Sunday, the first services were held in the basement of the incomplete church among bricks, mortar and lumber. On September 19, 1909, the new church was finally completed and High Mass was celebrated by Father Jaskolski.

The following year, the St. Anthony Society was founded, making it the fourth Polish organization in the community.

During the construction of the new church, Father Jaskolski first lived in the basement at 72 Broadway and later at 4 Chestnut Street, where he lived until he was succeeded by the late Father Alphonse Figlewski. Father Jaskolski died when he was scarcely 35 years old. The cause of his death was unquestionably due to exposure and the lack of care for himself brought about by overwork during the building program the new church.

Father Figlewski, shortly after taking charge, had, with the help of the people, built a substantial parish house on the south side of the church property, on the site of the old parish house.

In December of 1912, the Polish Political Club was organized and the following year the Polish Falcons were founded, each having specific aims and purposes.

In September 1914, Father Figlewski was transferred to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to the grief of the Polish people and especially to the school children. He was succeeded by the late Very Rev. Cyprian Adamski, O.M.C., a young priest of exceptional executive ability, who labored hard to continue the building program of the parish.

Deeply interested in his native land, he worked hard in this city for Poland's defense during World War I, by selling thousands of dollars of Polish bonds. He also organized a very active relief committee which raised funds to aid the Polish widows and orphans in Poland.

With the growing population, new groups were founded. In 1916 the St. Casimir Society was organized, two years later the Polish Roman Catholic Union, No. 293, a branch of the national organization. In the next four years the Polish Political Club outgrew its quarters. It purchased the White Eagle Hall building, which soon became the center of many Polish-American social activities.

During the summer of 1919, ground was broken for the new memorial school. Children and grown-ups alike pitched in and helped in the digging of the foundation, rallying behind the leadership of Father Adamski. On November 30, 1919, only four months after the school construction program was undertaken, the building was dedicated as a memorial to the American soldiers and sailors of Polish birth or ancestry who offered their lives in the service of the United States during World War I. A fitting memorial to those heroes so that the children of the parish may be educated to become God-fearing, loyal Americans.

In 1921, diplomas were presented to the members of the first graduating class of the St. Stanislaus School. The same year, the young men of the parish organized the St. Stanislaus Social and Athletic Club and in the field of competitive sports, this group gave an excellent account of itself.

The St. Stanislaus Parish in 1926, under the leadership of Father Adamski took an active part in the construction and dedication of the Koseiuszko monument at the Public Gardens in Boston. Chelsea residents played a great part in the honors to Kosciuszko, contributed $1,900 and during the parade, which preceded the dedication, more than 1,200 from the city participated.

In 1927, the Falconettes were organized and the following year the Polish Workingmen's Aid Society, Polish Civic Association and the Polish United Societies were founded - all noteworthy groups having specificaims and purposes. The Polish United Society, since its founding, has been the coordinator of the civic and patriotic affairs of the Polish group in the community, with the full cooperation of all the Polish organizations.

Again, under the leadership of Father Adamski, in 1931 the Polish residents dedicated and presented the Pulaski monument to the city, a granite shaft, 15 ft. high, surmounted by a silver eagle with outstretched wings, bearing a bronze plaque with the General Pulaski Revolutionary War hero and Polish patriot, on November 22. Local city government, high officials of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Polish consul-general graced the occasion with their presence.

In 1933, the St. Stanislaus Alumni was founded, and three years later the Polonia Club and the Union of Polish Women.

During the week of January 23, 1939, a highly impressive Polish Book and Art Week was held at the Chelsea Public Library, under the auspices of the Polonia Club, a member of the Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women's Clubs. The exhibition rooms were opened during the day for the public, and lectures were given in the evening by outstanding authorities in Polish art and music. It was one of the most successful programs of its kind ever held in the city, with people from surrounding communities taking part, viewing the exhibits and attending the lectures.

On May 31, 1939, the tolling of the St. Stanislaus church bells announced the passing of the Very Rev. Cyprian Adamski, one of the outstanding clergymen in Greater Boston, intensely interested in his parish for which he labored hard. The St. Stanislaus church and school is an outstanding monument to his memory.

The late Father Marcel Szymanski, who succeeded the late Father Adamski, became pastor in August 1939, and was officially installed on October 9, 1939. The pastor was deeply interested in the welfare of the young people of his parish. Although he had been in the city but a comparatively short time, he endeared himself to the members of the church. His untimely death came as a shock to the members of the parish and the community.

The month following the arrival of Father Szymanski, World War II broke out. The residents rallied to the aid of their relatives across the ocean and among the first acts of the pastor, was to join with them in the organization of the Polish Relief Committee. This group raised funds to aid the Polish widows and orphans in Europe. During its period of existence, the committee had shipped over 2,000 packages overseas and contributed about $10,000.00 to the Polish Relief Agency. Polish veterans and refugees also received assistance from this group and among the chief recipients were the orphanages in Warsaw and Poznan, Poland. Since its inception, the committee was under the auspices of the Polish United Societies and worked in collaboration with the parish, having headquarters in the St. Stanislaus' Memorial Building. In February 1943, the St. Stanislaus Church bells tolled again, as a parting farewell, as the body of the late Rev. Marcel Szymanski left for Elmhurst, Long Island, to his final resting place. A civic minded priest, and one deeply religious, who took a keen interest in Chelsea as a city, as well as being a devoted shepherd of his flock.

During the progress of World War II many young people of the Parish served in the Armed Forces. The names of these Servicemen have since had a place of honor in the vestibule of the church.

Two youth groups, the C.Y.O. and the St. Stanislaus' Scouts were organized during the pastorate of the late Rev. Marcel Szymanski.

Rev. Callistus Szpara, pastor of the Holy Rosary Church in Taunton, MA, for 13 years, was appointed pastor to succeed the late Rev. Marcel Szymanski. With the zeal of his predecessors and the loyalty of the parishioners, Father Szpara, besides caring for the spiritual needs of his flock, undertook the continuance of the building program of the parish. He took a great interest in the noble work of the Polish Relief Committee and served as an honorary chairman. The patriotic Pulaski Day parades and the 3rd of May celebration conducted by the Polish United Societies each year, have been in a great measure successful, due to his full cooperation, inspiration and guidance.

At the end of World War II, the city outdid itself conducting a parade, one of the most colorful and largest parades ever held in the community. It was Chelsea's contribution to the end of the war and return to peace. The St. Stanislaus Parish and the Polish organizations, headed by the Polish United Societies, turned out en masse and made an excellent showing, having one of the largest groups in the parade. The Polish United Societies, with the cooperation of the parish, also presented a historic float, a Revolutionary scene captioned, "Contributions of Polish Americans." A series of very successful "Welcome Home" banquets were held under the sponsorship of the Polish United Societies with 'the cooperation of Father Callistus Szpara, to honor the hundreds of young men and women of the parish who served in the Armed Forces of the United States.

In 1944, the Young Ladies' Sodality was reorganized and the Children of Mary Society reactivated. Father Felician Plichta is serving as the spiritual director of the Sodality and the Franciscan Sisters are in charge of the Children of Mary. The following year, the Holy Name Society of the parish was founded with Father Anthony Konieczny acting as its spiritual director. Since the inception of the Sodality and the Holy Name, both groups have given invaluable assistance to the parish. Former parish Holy Name president, Roman F. Pucko, served as deanery president and as a member of the Archdiocesan Holy Name Executive Committee. At present, former parish Holy Name president, Edward Socha, is serving as deanery president and a member of the Archdiocesan Holy Name Executive Committee.

In the past years a number of Polish Americans have served on appointive commissions in the city. All those who have served in the past have served well and those currently holding commissions are following the example set by their predecessors.

Within the past year, several new organizations have been founded, namely, the St. Stanislaus Guild, the Council of Catholic Men and the Council of Catholic Women. Other noteworthy groups organized were, the Polish American Veterans and Auxiliary and the Polish Political Club Auxiliary, each group fulfilling a specific purpose for the growing Polish American population in the community.

In this Jubilee Year of the St. Stanislaus Parish, with continued God's blessings, the St. Stanislaus Parish and the Polish American residents under the spiritual guidance and leadership of Father Callistus Szpara will continue on the road of greater progress in the service of God and Country.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011