The existence of the Polish National Catholic Church in the Capital district of New York is a testament to the hard work, dedication, perseverance and love of a group of Poles who desired to establish a democratic and Catholic Church, which was based on the principles, teachings and practices of the undivided Christian and Catholic Church.
The times were difficult. The ecumenical spirit did not exist; the pressures and barriers these Poles encountered were numerous. The organizers were common people; they possessed little formal education; they were not wealthy in a materialistic sense; but they possessed a most valuable asset – - their Christian faith, which as profound. This faith guided them every moment of their lives.
In 1891 the first Roman Catholic Parish serving Polish immigrants was established in Schenectady, NY. A German Parish was initially used for services until St. Mary’s1 and St. Adalbert’s were erected in 1903.
As in other immigrant communities, the people found the Pastor’s assigned them to be difficult, seeking rather to command the complete obedience and support of parishioners in both religious and secular affairs, than to shepherd them in their walk of faith. Those efforts led to dissension among parishioners. As early as the 1890s, Schenectady’s Evening Star reported a series of violent disputes between factions. During World War I, a parishioner of St. Adalbert’s expressed his dissatisfaction with the “regime” by exploding a three-inch shell (manufactured at General Electric) in the rectory. Friction continued in the parish because of the Pastor’s “dictatorial” methods. Reacting to methods more in line with their experience of German and Russian occupiers in Poland, at least fifty families left St. Adalbert’s to organize a Polish National Catholic Parish in Schenectady.
Holy Name of Jesus Parish was originally established and founded as the Parish of St. Joseph in 1921. The Parish founders worked quickly to build a beautiful stone church on Raymond Street in Schenectady, equipping it with everything necessary for the worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A rectory was acquired and the Parish founded a cemetery.
The founding of the Parish was not without its difficulties. Due to the flow of emigration through the area, and conflicts with Roman Catholic clergy, the Parish had difficulty attracting a permanent and stable group of Parishioners. With foresight, however, the National Church founders faithfully persevered in through these critical moments, including a fire which destroyed the interior of the original church2 . The founding members were willing to take on any job just to ensure victory for their good cause – a Church that is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and democratic.
By 1930 the Parish was on solid footing, having been rebuilt on Pearl Street in the Mount Pleasant area. The permanent pastor in 1930 was the Rev. Joseph Michalski, who for some time was the head of the National Church parish in Amsterdam, NY. It was said that in accordance with the principles of the National priesthood, Fr. Michalski carried the heart of his parishioners, and their experiences, within himself.
Fr. Michalski worked with the members of the Parish Committee, Siegfried R. Maul (President), John Grzywaczewski (Vice-President), Robert Fritz (Financial Secretary), Francis Rybak (Recording Secretary), J. Bałous (Treasurer) and Trustees Józ. Kopeć, Jan Kopeć, J. Nagórka, K. Bartosiewicz, J. Szymański, and W. Pacowski in founding a Parish supplementary school, established to educate children in the faith of the Holy Polish National Catholic Church under the guidance of the Pastor. Other Parish societies were formed including two choirs, two relief societies: the Men’s St. Joseph Society and the Women’s Maria Konopnicka Society, an educational group: “Ognisko,” The Girl’s — Children of Mary and the Young Men’s — Defender’s Society, a Mother’s Club, and a Branch of the Polish National Union, Spójnia.
By 1971, the Parish’s fiftieth anniversary, the National Church Parish of Holy Name contained about 175 parishioners.
We thank our original organizers, both those who are still with us and those who rest in Christ, for their faith, work, love and generosity. We, the recipients of the legacy, must continue the great task, which our Lord Jesus Christ continues to entrust to us. May our faith and love for the Lord and the Polish National Catholic Church inspire us to work diligently and selflessly, and may we work together to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastors serving the Holy Name of Jesus Parish since 1922:
Rev. Augustyn Krauze
Rev. Bolesław Szepczyński
Very Rev. Roman Pawlikowski
Rev. E. Brzozowski
Rev. Joseph Michalski
Rev. J. Jakubowski
Rev. E. Wożniak
Rev. John Toporowski
Rev. E. Kozłowski
Very Rev. Joseph L. Zawistowski
Rev. Joseph Klimczak
Rev. Roman Jasiński
Rev. Walter C. Poposki
Rev. Frederick Mechowski
Rev. Marian Góra
Rev. Stephen Krawiec
Rev. John Neyman
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Trela (longest tenured)
Rev. Stanley J. Bilinski (1997-Present)
Based in part on the following:
Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, N.Y., 1880-1930, Chapter 2: Fraternal Societies and Churches, Pascucci, Robert R., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, Department of History, 1984.
Księga Pamiątkowa “33″, Polish National Catholic Church, 1930.
The Polish National Catholic Church, Fox, Paul, PhD., School of Christian Living, undated.
85th Anniversary Booklet, Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Schenectady, NY, 2007
1 Closed July 1, 2009.
2 The original building still stands, attached to what used to be St. Anthony R.C. School in Schenectady.