[Dutkiewicz  Picture]

Rev. Dr. Michal Dutkiewicz

(August 13, 1875 -- Sept. 23, 1934)

Parish organizer. The first Mass for Roman Catholics in Rhode Island was probably held under a tent when French troops under Count de Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, July, 1780, to join General George Washington during the American Revolution. The French troops, including Polish officers and soldiers, encamped at Newport and Providence. Without Catholic churches or barracks, as they had in France, the chaplains with Count de Rochambeau said Mass wherever it was convenient.

Over the years, Fort Adams, known by various names since Queen Anne's war in 1703, brought a few Catholics to Rhode Island. In the 1820s the Army hired hundreds of Irish laborers to dig ditches, carry stones, and do other work to make Fort Adams bigger than it had been. These Irishmen established the first Catholic church in Rhode Island and completed their work at Fort Adams, opposite Newport, in 1841. It was immediately garrisoned by two companies of the Second U. S. Artillery under Major Matthew M. Payne, and although the number of troops stationed there varied, some of them attended the Catholic church in Newport. One of these days someone will pour through old military records and find the names of Polish soldiers who were present in both places.

By 1900 Rhode Island had 1,843 persons from Poland. Not all of them were Catholics. The number also included Jews. These people were scattered in eighteen colonies, but Bishop Matthew Harkins, who ruled Rhode Island from 1887 to the First World War, authorized only four Polish parishes, compared to 20 out of 79 for French Canadians. The first Polish priest assigned to Rhode Island was the Rev. Adalbert Duczmal in 1900. He said Mass for Polish Catholics in the basement of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Providence until St. Adalbert's parish bought an old church and moved it. Within months after the Polish church was consecrated on Feb. 2, 1902, it became too small. The parish built a brick church in 1909.

On Dec. 12, 1907, Bishop Harkins appointed the Rev. Michael Dutkiewicz, who came from Poland the same year, pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in Coventry (Quidnick), Kent County. He was the second or third Polish priest at Quidnick in two years. For some reason, whether the colony was too small, lacked money, or weak by internal divisions, the Polish colony did not have its own house of worship for several years. Working with Father Dutkiewicz, two weavers in a cotton mill -- Thomas Buba, who was married to a French Canadian, and John Szarek, who came from Poland in 1896 -- and other Poles to a lesser extent were sucessful in their efforts to set up Our Lady of Czestochowa -- also known as St. Mary's -- parish on March 1, 1909.

Father Dutkiewicz's life before he set foot in Rhode Island did not exactly fit him for a diverse country. Hw was born in Szrensk, surrounded by farms in Northern Mazovia, the son of Leopold and Josephine Dutkiewicz. He graduated from high school in Warsaw and studied for the priesthood at Plock in Poland. Owing to the destruction of church records during the Second World War, it is impossible to furnish details. He was ordained in 1900 by Bishop Rossowski of Wroclaw, but continued his studies at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, where he earned a Doctor of Theology degree and S. T. L.. Of the 568 students at Fribourg in 1908-9, 86 were from Poland and Lithuania. Then he did three years of parish work in the land of farms southwest of Mlawa, Poland. He gave up a small but harmonius parish in Szrensk and tried to get along with people in Quidnick who did not speak Polish.

After spending his first years in a remote spot of Rhode Island, Father Dutkiewicz left in April 1914, supposedly when the archbishop of Boston offered him a better post. Two years later, on August 19, 1916, he returned to Providence, Rhode Island, and organized St. Hedwig's parish in an affluent neighborhood. At first the second Polish parish of Providence was surrounded by Jewish merchants who sold poultry, dry goods, shoes, clothing, office supplies, and other merchandise, but gradually the ownership of these stores changed hands. More Polish names appeared on store windows. The families who lived in the north end of Providence were no better or richer than the rest of the Polish population. St. Hedwig's was eventually liquidated.

Father Dutkiewicz's next move was to Woonsocket, fifteen minutes from Providence, on June 1, 1928, when he became pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church. It was established in 1905. Like Providence, the Polish National Catholic Church also had a church in Woonsocket, now a city of 43,877, which meant that the Polish people had their religious differences in the past, either because St. Stanislaus was not convenient to all Poles in Woonsocket or they wanted more control of their church. Still, St. Stanislaus parish grew from 250 members in 1905 to 1600 in 1930. The city, once a dense warren of textile mills, was on its last legs as a textile center in 1930 when it had 619 persons from Poland, compared to 4,896 from Canada, and Father Dutkiewicz's work was done more in English than in Polish. He died of a heart attack while leading his parish delegation in a Holy Name parade.

Author: Edward Pinkowski

Rev. Dr. Michal Dutkiewicz Pastor at Our Lady of Czestochowa, Quidnick (Coventry), RI (from 1907 to 1914)

Fr. Michal Dutkiewicz was born in the year 1875 in Szrensk, in the Plock area. He finished high-school in Warsaw, and the seminary in Plock, ordained as priest in 1900. After his ordination he studied in the Theological Department of the Catholic University Fryburg, Switzerland for four years. After returning home he did three years of parish work. In 1907 he came to the United States and on December 12 became pastor in Quidnick.

On March 1, 1909 the Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish was recognized as a lawful corporation. The first lay trustees were Tomasz Buba and Jan Szarek who together with the St. Michael Society worked for the establishment of a Polish parish. This organization then took on the name of the Fraternal Aid Society of Our Lady of Czestochowa which in 1911 joined the Grupa Zwiazkowa [Alliance Group ?] and because of this, to this day, they have a beautiful home in Anthony, RI. In April 1914 Fr. Dutkiewicz moved to the Boston archdiocese and his place was taken over by Fr. Malecki. The parish debt was 8,000 dollars.

From: Golden Jubilee of the Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa 1907-1957, Quidnick (Coventry), RI

Dutkiewicz, Rev. Michael, S.T.L.
Former pastor of St. Hedwig's Church in Providence, R. I. Now pastor of St. Stanislaus' Church, Woonsocket, R. I.
Residence: 188 Harris Ave., Woonsocket, R. I.

From: "Who's Who in Polish America" by Rev. Francis Bolek, Editor-in-Chief; Harbinger House, New York, 1943