OUR FIRST ONE HUNDRED YEARS AS A PARISH FAMILY
St. Joseph Parish, Webster, MA First Polish American Roman Catholic Parish in New England
ST. JOSEPH PARISH CENTENNIAL 1887-1987 Webster, MA
History of St. Joseph's Parish -- 1887-1937 Webster, Mass.
The Poles began to emigrate to the Americas, and in large numbers to the United States, after the final partition of their native land and after the failure to win independence in 1863. They came here to escape the oppression imposed upon them by their enemies, to improve their lot and to enjoy the freedom as well as the opportunity this country offered them.
Some of these who came to the United States settled permanently in New York. Many went deeper into the country. A number of these reached the town of Webster and became active members of the community.
According to the town records of 1862 the name of Herman Pawlowski is entered as a taxpayer. This fact makes him the first officially established Polish resident of Webster. The first children of Polish descent born in this town were: Louis Pawlowski b. March 17, 1862, Anna Pawlowska b. May 3, 1863 and Alexander Szymanski b. September 3, 1865. The first weddings took place among the following: Joseph Reglinski and Frances Kreft in 1871, Nepomucen Sikorski and Casimira Kruzewska, W. Janakowski and Antonina Kreft in the same period. Among the first to die in the new land were the three-year-old daughter of the Reminski family, December 26, 1865 and Josephine Frawidynska, aged 25, June 21, 1874. The earliest families to settle permanently in Webster were the Kreft, Pokraka, Paradowski, Reglinski, Borzestowski, Brzezniak, Ignasiak, Krystofiak, Kullus, Lubowszczyk, Malinowski, Rezner, Santor, Klejman, Szymanski, Woznicki, Wilda, Gorski, Zurawka, Brylowski, Aleksandrowicz, Bembenek, Biskup, Dudek, Janakowski, Kasienowski, Kasprzak, Makowski, Okupniak, Sikorski, Szymowski, Radzik, Wieloch, Gowinas, Zatorski, Monckiewicz, Gawronski, Buretta, Czechowicz, Glijka, Kozlowski, Kloss, Janczewski, Lechert, Pakulski, Stochaj, Stozyna, Stefaniak, Teclaw, Wroblewski, Gapski, Chlapowski, Gogolinski, Kubiak and Zielinski.
These settlers were a Catholic people and so they sought to fulfill their religious and moral obligations. They attended Holy Mass at St. Louis Church, but they did not understand the English language and so were unable to partake of all the services and privileges which the Roman Catholic Church renders its faithful. Father James Quan, the incumbent pastor of St. Louis parish, earnestly cared for their welfare and at least twice a year obtained the services of Father Marcinkowski, a Polish priest from Brooklyn. The infrequent appearance of a priest who could address the Word of God to them in their own language was so touching an event in their lives that it moved them to tears and as many relate "they were wont to cry like children when they saw him and heard him speak to them after their own fashion." Each visit awoke a new hope in them.
When the settlement grew to include over seventy families and many single individuals, Father Marcinkowski advised to build their own parish. To this they responded with joy and a committee was organized to bring this about. John Stochaj was elected president, Joseph Reglinski, treasurer, and Josephine Paradowska, secretary. The chosen trustees were J. Sikorski, N. Kasprzak and W. Iczakowski. The first collectors were August Bembenek, John Kozlowski, S. Stanek and Felix Wojciechowski. They taxed themselves two dollars per month. When their financial status permitted they bought land on Whitcomb Street, whereon to build their church, for it was said that this spot was a chosen one for the House of God. An old woman used to pray there fervently; an old stone was known to lie there on which the moss had grown in the form of a Cross. To them these were signs and there they would build.
A committee of three, Joseph Reglinski, Joseph Pokraka and Josephine Paradowska, then went to Bishop P. T. O'Reilly of the Springfield Diocese for permission to build the church. Their quest was cordially granted by the Bishop, who admitted their small numbers but told them to build with the help of God.
Now only the financial obstacle remained. A wooden church would cost $2,700.00, not including accessory costs. The treasury contained only $900.00. The Bishop supplied the needed balance with a loan. The men in the parish agreed to work cooperatively and a fine of 40 cents was charged to any member each time he failed to appear; thus the foundations of the church was laid, and the corner stone was blessed on Aug. 14, 1887. Mr. Corbin was then contracted as builder and Joseph Reglinski served as architect. The church was completed and, soon after, the rectory. On April l, 1888, Bishop Patrick T. O'Reilly blessed the Church and the Rectory.
To obtain the services of a priest in command of the Polish language, a request was sent to Father Joseph Dabrowski, the founder and then rector of the Polish Seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Detroit, Mich. Such a candidate was obtained in the person of Father Francis Chalupka, though a sum of $600.00 had to be paid for his tuition at the Seminary. This money was collected in two weeks and among the largest offerings were separate $100.00 gifts by three Americans, Messers. George Tracey, John W. Dobbie and Louis E. Pattison. With the financial obstacles removed, Father Chalupka came and celebrated the first Mass April l st, 1889. Joseph Paradowski and Theodore Bembenek served at this first Mass; Charles Gelenau was the organist and August Sikorski was the sexton. The choir included the following members: Joseph Woznicki, Michael Stefaniak, __ Chojnacki, Mary Eppa, Catherine Janczewska, Josephine Kozlowska, and Francis Kraus. This event was further blessed by gifts, a statue of the Holy Mother from Father Marcinkowski and a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a bell from the youth of the newly organized parish.
Father Chalupka, though a Czech, spoke the Polish language well and devoted himself to his flock. Here he patterned himself after the historic St. Adalbert, a Czech too, who was the first apostle among the Poles.
Father Chalupka soon paid off the debts of the parish and bought land for the parish school. This was opened in Sept. 1892 with four Felician Sisters as teachers. By 1906, 500 children were in attendance at this school. Among the first pupils were Victoria Teclaw, Pauline Belgrim, Agnes Chuda, Joseph Paradowski, Matilda Reglinska, Anthony Rezner, Mary Zatorska, Stanislaus Marszal, Joseph Chudy, Josephine Kozlowska, Catherine Chuda, Felix Reglinski and others.
In the first year of his arrival Father Chalupka bought land for a parish cemetery on Worcester Road.
In 1888 Valerian and Louis Kreft organized a band and its first recitals were given in the church auditorium. Later this group built its own hall on Clark Street.
Also in 1888, the first mission was given by Jesuit Fathers and on this occasion the Society of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was established. The following year the St. Joseph Fraternal Society began to function. The first homes built in the parish were those of Alexander Kreft and Joseph Reglinski on Whitcomb Street in 1875, of John Kreft on Granite Street in 1880, of Joseph Reglinski on Whitcomb Street in 1881. The Malinowski and the Struzynski families built their homes on Poland Street in the same period. In 1895 Father Chalupka was transferred to the newly organized Polish St. Stanislaus Parish in Chicopee. In the meantime, other pastors served at St. Joseph's Parish. These were: Fathers Stanislaus Laczynski, Wenceslaus Lenz and the Franciscan Fathers. Tarnowski, Czelusniak, Bok and Jaskulski. In 1902 Father Chalupka returned to Webster, where he remained for six years more.
The St. Joseph's Society numbered 450 members in 1902. Following certain misunderstandings they divided into three groups, and one of these broke away to organize its own National Church in 1903, while the two remaining parties remained with St. Joseph's Parish. These are known as the St. Joseph's Society and the Society of King John Sobieski. As a result of this Father Chalupka resigned from the parish and in 1908 Father M. Kopytkiewicz was installed as pastor. He remained for two years.
In January of 1910 Father Anthony Cyran was appointed pastor of St. Joseph's Parish. His youthfulness and energy in cooperation with the enthusiastic support of his people resulted in many concrete achievements. In the year of his arrival the convent for the Felician Sisters was built. By 1914 a new church was completed. In 1924 the new school was finished and the number of pupils reached 1090 as the school year opened; at this event Bishop 0'Leary of Springfield officiated. Finally, Father Cyran was responsible for the building of the new rectory. One must readily admit that Father Cyran came to a parish built of wood and left it molded in brick.
Father Cyran's devotion to his calling resulted in his promotion to Monsignor by His Holiness Pope Pius the Eleventh; this was received as a great honor by the parish and by the Poles of New England. It was the first distinction of this nature bestowed upon the Poles in New England. Unfortunately the many years of hard labor had exhausted Msgr. Cyran, and he died September 14, 1933.
For the two following years the parish was administered by the curate, Father John Klekotka.
In July 1935, Bishop O'Leary appointed Rev. Dr. Andrew Lekarczyk, then in charge of the Sacred Heart Parish in Easthampton, Mass., as pastor of St. Joseph's Parish. Father Lekarczyk immediately set to work with good will and enthusiasm. Although he has been pastor for only two years and during a period of difficult economic stress and unemployment, he was able to complete repairs in the parish plant and to reduce the parish debt by several thousand dollars. In addition, he purchased twenty-five more acres of land for the cemetery on Worcester Road.
The value of the parish property is now in the vicinity of one half million dollars. The outstanding debt does not exceed 30 percent of this value.
It remains to mention the assistant priests who have participated in the growth of St. Joseph's Parish. These were: Fathers Conlin, Kubec, Kielbasinski, Lenz, Krzywda, Polawski, Lipka, Szczukowski, Meleniewski, Hanyz, Stanczyk, Rys, Nasiatka, Wieloch, Mieczkowski, Kuszaj, and Oszajca. At present Father Lekarczyk's assistants are Fathers C. Chwalek and T. Janeczek.
The parish is proud of the number of sons it has given to the Roman Catholic Church. These are: Father Santor, a Franciscan; and Fathers Chlapowski, Teclaw, Wieloch, Szczepaniak, Kokocinski, Radzik, Maciejewski, Sitkowski, Lewandowski and Kochanowski.
To further the cause of Roman Catholic Education the parish gave seventy-two nuns.
Among the lay parish members who have obtained higher degrees are Drs. Stochaj, Piasta, Szwarc, Zurawka, Lawyer Jablonski and Engineer Kleczka. Many others have received college and commercial training. Over twenty young women have nursing degrees.
The parish has a number of laymen in business. Among the first to embark upon a business enterprise was W. Kreft, a grocer, and other fields were successfully exploited by Messers. Kulas, Hub, Marszalek, Jeziorski and others of later date. Polish farmers number in the vicinity of fifty. The Polish community also has a casket factory, two spinning factories, two soda factories, one fire insurance agency, three funeral directors, a major interest in the Webster Credit Union, tailor shops, bootshops, barbershops, a hand printing press, four automobile dealers and candy stores.
The first members of the parish to receive their citizenship papers were Joseph Pokraka in 1878, Joseph Jezewski in 1879, John Struzyna in 1879, and August Szymanski in 1880.
In the political field the activities of the Poles were numerous: Joseph Szymkowski was the first policeman; John Makowski, assessor; John Borski, road commissioner; Dr. Joseph Stochaj, selectman. For the year 1937 the following individuals participate in town and government office: John Iwaszczyn is chairman of the board of selectmen; Stephan Bardy and Robert Wajer are road commissioners; Casimir Szczepanski is on the school board; Dr. Anthony Szwarc, health commissioner; Alexander Starzec, town cemetery and commissioner of parks; W. Kozlowski, assessor; Leo Pinarski, sewer commissioner; John Klos, police sergeant; Frank Kokocinski, Anthony Hojnacki, Stanislaus Biadasz, John Zmetra, Joseph Czechowski, Joseph Kulas, policemen. S. Prokuski and Victor Szwarc work in the post office. There are other members of the parish on the fire department and in lesser town positions.
The parish youth has always interested itself in American sports from various ball teams to boxing. Special attention can be referred to Aniela Twardzik, who holds her own on a man's baseball team. In the present year there are three baseball teams in the parish: the Z.P.R.K., the Boosters, and the St. Joseph's A.C.
The parish members did not restrict themselves to local activities, they took active part in the national problems of this country and of Poland in time of need. The World War found 250 Polish boys in the American army, a number of these did not return. Over 100 went to France to join the Polish army. Two thousand dollars were sent to Poland directly for relief and about twenty-five thousand dollars to Chicago to aid the National Fund for Polish Freedom. Polish bonds were bought in the sum of fifty thousand dollars and American Liberty bonds for one hundred thousand dollars.
The following list contains the societies connected with the Parish. The feminine organizations include: the Society of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Rosary Society, St. Ann's Society, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Society, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Children of Mary, the Polish Women's Alliance, the St. Theresa branch of the Z.P.R.K., the Polish Women's Political Club and the Daughters of the Z.P.R.K. The men's organizations are: the St. Joseph's Society, the King John Sobieski Society, the Polish Guard, the Library of Adam Mickiewicz, the Polish National Alliance, the Falcons, the Cadets, the Polish Amalgamated Council, the Polish-American Citizens Club and Scout Troop 173.
There are now approximately 5000 Poles in Webster. St. Joseph's parish embraces nearly 1000 families and the parish school lists about 1000 pupils. The town of Webster honors Polish traditions of patriotism and loyalty with Pulaski Square and Kosciuszko Square.
Apart from this list of facts, the Poles in Webster have always maintained a high standard of morality. They are devoted to their church according to tradition and to their faith according to example. In the fifty years of their active life in this community they have never lost sight of their historic relation to the best values in the Polish culture. They have not lost their language, the Polish speech which crystallizes the genius of their fathers and keeps their own spirit rich and potential. These loyalties have helped to create a deep love for a free, democratic United States, of which they are now a rooted part. Though the vast majority labor in industry and farming, they own 60 percent of the homes they live in, which bears witness of their permanent attachment to this country. The youth of the third and the fourth generations has not lost its respect and honor for the Polish language, nor has it lowered the standard of conduct of their antecedents. A large part of this is due to the unselfish spiritual and educational work of the parish priests and the Felician Sisters. Each generation brings firmer confidence and deeper insight into the past and with that greater hope for the future. Those who live in close contact with these people dare to prophesy that the future will not lessen their faith nor undermine their strength and that God's Providence will continue to keep them good Christians and good citizens of these free United States.
In conclusion we may say, that not only in Webster Poles grew in number in so short a time, but throughout the United States, out of a handful of immigrants, Polish Catholic people grew in number to five million, so today we possess nearly 1,000 Catholic churches in this country alone, some of them more magnificent than our edifice in Webster.
Committee on History:
Francis Grzebieniowski, Pres.
November 14, 1937
In Commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Blessing of the Corner Stone of St. Joseph's Parish.
The Past 25 Years -- 1937-1962In July, 1935 Dr. Andrew Lekarczyk was appointed pastor of the Saint Joseph Parish in Webster. His extensive accomplishments during this twenty-five year period are an eloquent testimony to a task well done. God in His goodness granted Father Lekarczyk the joy of witnessing the commemoration of two parish jubilees -- the Golden Jubilee in 1937 and the Diamond Jubilee in 1962.
The history of the past twenty-five years is a history of devotion to duty. The glory of God and the good of the parish are the two beacons that led Father Lekarczyk on the path of duty. His life is influenced by the principles which were implanted in his heart by his mother who blessed him as he departed from his native Poland. Is it merely coincidental that the 75th anniversary of the parish and the 75th anniversary of his birth are observed this year?
The initial years of pastorate in the Saint Joseph Parish were by no means easy. On the national scene it was a period marked by economic stress, unemployment and depression. The parish was not spared in this general situation. Externally, all the parish buildings (church, school, rectory and convent) presented a beautiful picture. However, there lay a heavy debt on this property. In addition, the buildings were in need of immediate repair. The enthusiasm of Father Lekarczyk and the understanding and cooperation of the assistant priests and parishioners were instrumental in the payment of debts and restoration of the buildings. In addition twenty-five acres of land were purchased near Worcester Road. Thus, the area of Saint Joseph's Cemetery was doubled.
It would seem that after paying off the mortgage, which was approximately a quarter of a million dollars, Father Lekarczyk would rest on his earned laurels. This, however, was not the case. The idea of constructing a new church took birth during the burning of the mortgage. The parish grew in number and in spiritual strength. The territorial boundaries expanded and prosperity was slowly but surely returning. Gradually there was an increase in the number of parishioners in civic posts, in the town, in the state and even in the nation.
The usual administrative ability, expansiveness in action, courage in decision, untiring energy, a true love of God and people urged Father Lekarczyk on to further accomplishments. An advisory committee was formed, the purpose of which was to discuss the possibilities of constructing a new church for the Polish-speaking Catholics in Dudley, due to an increase of he Polish population, to select a location and to prepare the initial steps.
The members of the first committee were: Reverend Andrew Lekarczyk, Pastor; Rev. Charles Chwalek, assistant at St. Joseph's Parish; Joseph Grzyb, Chairman of the Dudley School Board; Lawrence Christopher, Chief of Police in Dudley; Charles Skladzien, State Representative of Webster; George Gromelski, Jr., Dudley Town Treasurer; John Ruda, Jr., a Dudley businessman; Joseph Szkutak, a resident of Dudley; Helen Sielawa, Francis Laskowski, and Josephine Jarzabski, representatives of the Polish Women's Political Club of Dudley; and Mary Androlewicz, Registrar of Voters in the town of Dudley. The Secretaries of this committee were Jessie Wisniewski and Regina Sielawa.
The first organizational meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Helen Sielawa; the second meeting was at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Androlewicz, and the third at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Benny Laskowski.
The parishioners were informed of the new project only after the permission of His Excellency, Bishop John J. Wright, was obtained and the land bought. Land on West Main Street, Dudley, was purchased from the Crawford family for $5,000 and this was the site for the first Catholic Church in the town of Dudley -- the first in the 200 years of its existence as a township. Funds for the project were raised by pledges.
The dedication of the grounds took place on June 26, 1952 by His Excellency Bishop John Wright. Right Rev. Msgr. Felix J. Burant, pastor of Saint Stanislaus Parish in New York City, delivered the sermon. Rev. Martin Hanyz, pastor of Saint Hedwig Church in Southbridge and Rev. Michael Bielak, acting Provincial of the LaSalette Fathers in America and editor of "The Messenger of Our Lady of La Salette," assisted Bishop John Wright. The Rev. Alphonse Skoniecki, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Three Rivers and Rev. Joseph Niedzwiecki, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in West Warren, assisted the Right Rev. Msgr. Felix J. Burant.
Present at the ceremonies were: Rt. Rev. Msgr. Boleslaus Bojanowski, pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester; Rev. John Kochanowski, assistant in the Saint Joseph Parish in Webster; Rev. John Aubertin, assistant at the Sacred Heart Parish in Easthampton; Rev. Charles Chwalek and Rev. Peter Samorajski, assistants at the Saint Joseph Parish in Webster, and many Polish organizations witnessed the ceremony.
Within two years the church was completed for the sum of two hundred forty thousand dollars which, incidentally, was the identical sum of the paid-off mortgage on the Saint Joseph Church.
The architect was Cornelius Buckley from Worcester, and the contractors the Innamorati Brothers from Clinton.
The ceremonies of the dedication of the new church took place on February 21, 1954. Bishop John Wright laid the cornerstone, blessed the church and celebrated a Pontifical High Mass at 10:30 a.m. The High Priest during the Mass was Rev. Louis Gallagher, S. J., from Georgetown, former rector of Boston College. It was he who transferred the relics of Saint Andrew Bobola from Moscow to Rome. The honorary deacons were: Rev. Martin Hanyz from Southbridge and Rev. Ladislaus Radzik from Gardner. Rev. Charles Chwalek, pastor of St. Stanislaus B. M. Church in West Warren, was deacon and Rev. Stanislaus Kubik from Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester was sub-deacon. The thurifer was Rev. John Szamocki from Gilbertville and the Master of Ceremonies was Rev. David E. Bushey.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. Ladislaus Sikora, pastor of Saint John the Baptist Parish in Salem, preached an inspirational sermon on this occasion. In it he lauded Bishop John Wright for such an apt choice of a patron saint, Saint Andrew Bobola, for the newly dedicated church.
The Webster and Dudley Choirs under the direction of Edward Wojciechowski and organist Joseph Rogus sang Loesch's Mass in honor of Saint Elizabeth.
A very solemn moment during the Sacrifice of the Mass was immediately after the Elevation when the voices of the entire congregation joined in singing in the vernacular, a hymn in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, "Badz-ze Pozdrowiona Hostjo Zywa." This vocal rendition, in which rang a strong profession of faith, moved His Excellency Bishop John Wright to tears.
The Saint Andrew Bobola Church, built under the direction of Father Lekarczyk, remains up to date under his administration. It is the first church in America and in all probability outside of America that was given this name. Lately, some periodicals carried the information that two churches with Saint Andrew Bobola as patron have been built, one a Manitoba, Canada and the other in London, England.
The Church of Saint Andrew Bobola is constructed of red brick. Its exterior is beautiful, but the interior is even more so. With the exception of the pews, all other wooden items in the church are hand carved. The main altar and the two side altars were imported from Italy. These and all other wooden furnishings were carved by a family of famous artists, who through generations did work for the Vatican. The main altar was a donation of Father Lekarczyk, who purchased it with his personal funds. The side altar of the Immaculate Conception was purchased by the Dudley Women's Political Club, and the side altar of the Sacred Heart was purchased by Dr. Anthony Wojciechowski.
Other donations were: baptistery by Rev. John Kochanowski, confessional by Rev. Ladislaus Radzik, electric bells by the Chwalek Family, sanctuary lamp by the Helen Sielawa Family of Dudley, the statue of Blessed Bronislava and the candlesticks for the main altar by the Ladislaus Aniszewski Family. The names of the donors are engraved on plaques and attached to the particular items.
A special chapel in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa, located on the right side from the entrance, was dedicated on November 11, 1954. In it is found a painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa by Vincent Mondo. The dress is ornamented according to design with pearls and precious stones.
Father Lekarczyk, keeping the present and future needs in view, planned and constructed the Saint Andrew Bobola Church. It serves the Poles of Dudley. It is a monument which proclaims the generosity of the Polish people.
One of the great and unusual treasures which it houses are the significant relics insisting of soil brought from Poland from various historical places, also ashes and bones from the Oswiecim concentration camp. This soil was brought from Poland, from the fields of heroic glory, from the fields of royal glory, from the sanctified places and from the fields of martyrdom. This soil is a symbol of the ties between Poland and America, a symbol which through the centuries was expressed in the motto -- "Polonia Semper Fidelis," Poland Always Faithful." Soil from the fields of Legnica, Wawel, Czestochowa (Jasna Gora), Szczepanów, the place where St. Stanislaus Bishop was martyred, and dust from the martyrs of Oswiecim -- all these are deposited in special urns which are found on the altar the side chapel. In this manner, the entire 1000 year history of Poland is represented -- the history of Glorious Poland, the history of Religious Poland, and the history of Martyred Poland. We find in the history of Poland the following account. In April of 1241, on the fields of Legnica, in Slask, a great battle with the Tartars was fought. These barbaric hordes crossed eastern and southern Europe, destroying in the march entire nations. At that time, in Legnica, the Polish Army, under Henry the Pius, son of St. Hedwig, opposed the Tartars. The battle was a fierce and bloody one. Both armies, the Polish and the Tartar, fought valiantly to sheer exhaustion to the end. The battle ended when the Poles lost their commander in the person of Henry the Pius. However, the invasion of these barbarians was checked and thus Europe was saved. It is the soil from the fields of Legnica which seems to proclaim that Poland was and is the bulwark of Christianity and liberty.
The soil from Czestochowa carries a similar message. There Father Kordecki with handful of Pauline Fathers forced the Swedes to retreat and thus saved northern Europe from Swedish invasion.
The soil from Wawel speaks of the glorious history of Poland. The soil of Szczepanow, the place of martyrdom of St. Stanislaus, Bishop of Cracow, and the dust from Oswiecim, where in this concentration camp four and a half million poles perished innocently, is a symbol of the suffering Poland. The dust from Oswiecim represents not only the Polish nation but also twenty other nationalities. This dust seems to cry out: "Remember Oswiecim, be cautious in the face of madness, pave the road of love and not hatred amongst nations. We all live under one roof, we are all children of God and belong in His eternal abode."
The Church of Saint Andrew Bobola is a masterpiece of the noble ideas of Father Lekarczyk. In 1952 Pope Pius XII imparted a special blessing to its parishioners. In recognition of the magnificent accomplishments, Pope Pius XII made Father Lekarczyk a Papai Chamberlain with the title of Very Reverend Monsignor. In 1961 Pope John XXIII elevated Monsignor Andrew Lekarczyk, bestowing upon him the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. This honor conferred upon Monsignor Lekarczyk was also conferred upon the parishioners of the Saint Joseph and Saint Andrew Bobola parishes. All can be justly proud that they possess such an able spiritual leader and administrator. It is little wonder that Monsignor Lekarczyk enjoys the deep respect of all his parishioners.
In 1951, thanks to Divine Providence, Monsignor Lekarczyk saved the Saint Joseph Church from complete ruin. Late in the evening, in July of the same year, Monsignor, as was his custom, made a visit to the church in order to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. On opening the door, Monsignor found the church in smoke and the rear section under the choir in flames. Together with Father Chwalek, he managed to put the fire under control before the arrival of the Fire Department. By this action Monsignor Lekarczyk prevented about a million dollars worth of possible damage.
The stained glass windows, depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, are one of the outstanding ornaments in the Saint Joseph Church. Today, the renovated Saint Joseph Church together with the Saint Andrew Bobola Church, the Saint Joseph School, Rectory and Convent are a source of pride for the parishioners. Elsewhere in this book are accounts of the many active parish societies and organizations.
On the occasion of this Diamond Jubilee, the parishioners petition Almighty God that He, in His goodness, bless Right Reverend Monsignor Andrew Lekarczyk, so that he may for many more years to come continue to serve his parish by deed and with advice, since the work is still incomplete.
Committee on History:
Rev. Stanislaus A. Lipinski
Parish History -- 1962-1987The last quarter century of this parish was ushered in by Msgr. Andrew Lekarczyk and his assistants, with grace and dignity. The parish had been spruced up for the 75th anniversary and everything was in order. The school and the cemetery was running well and the faith of the people of St. Joseph's parish was a point of pride on the part of the priests working here. Msgr. Lekarczyk was in this parish for the 50th and the 75th anniversaries but he did not live long into the last 25 years. In 1965, on July 23rd, assisted by the Sacraments of the Church Msgr. Andrew Lekarczyk was given into the hands of almighty God and commended to His mercy. He was the 32nd entry in the parish register of deaths for that year. Msgr. Lekarczyk, the son of Peter Lekarczyk and Cunegunda Wdowiak returned to God as a faithful servant in the 77th year of his life. To this day he is remembered fondly and frequently by the people he loved and served so well.
The successor to Msgr. Lekarczyk was Msgr. Stanislaus J. Kubik. Doctor of Sacred Theology and Doctor of Canon Law, Msgr. Kubik came to this parish from the diocesan Curia where he labored in the Marriage Tribunal. He had been the Administrator of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester, after Msgr. Boleslaus Bojanowski was relieved of his duties because of sickness and old age. Father Charles Chwalek, who in his earlier years of priesthood was a curate here, was assigned to be the pastor in Worcester and Msgr. Kubik came to Webster, to carry on the work of Christ amongst us.
Msgr. Kubik was not the builder of the parish as was Msgr. Cyran nor was he the one to pay off the debt for the church, school and rectory as was Msgr. Lekarczyk but it fell to Msgr. Kubik to be a rebuilder. It was in his first few years that the rest rooms in the school were modernized and it was his task in the early seventies to completely renovate the heating system in the convent. Both of these projects were major improvements to the parish property. Both were executed in major part by the Kokocinski Plumbing Company which is run by a faithful parishioner, Mr. Edward Kokocinski. The renewal of the Convent also included new bathrooms and showers for the Sister's from Enfield, Conn., the Felician Sisters, who staff the parish school.
Msgr. Kubik not only brought about many physical changes in the parish plant but he also brought much pride to the people of St. Joseph's. Msgr. Kubik is a contributor to the new Catholic Encyclopedia and his name will long be remembered for the contribution that he made to that scholarly reference work.
In the past 25 years three organizations have been outstanding in their prayerful zeal. They are the Rosary Sodality, The Sacred Heart Society and the St. Anne's Society. The president of the Rosary Sodality for the past 25 years has been and still is Mary Wojcik. The President of the Society of St. Anne was Mary Woznicki but in this Centennial year Mary was replaced by Mary Szynal. When this quarter century started, Pelagia Kos was the president of the Sacred Heart Society but Stasia Pleshka has led that organization for the last 18 years.
On June 20th 1973 the parish Council attended the final meeting of the season in the Colonial Restaurant on Thompson Road. A gift was presented to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Kubik at this time to commemorate his 30th year in the priesthood. This date is especially important because at this meeting the members voted to establish committees to arrange for various parish activities. This group was named "The Friends of Saint Joseph's" and Anthony Makulski of Slater Street was elected General Chairman of the new group. Among those present at this historic meeting were John Bukowski, Mrs. Alfreda Cimoch, Mrs. Constance Czechowski, Mrs. Pauline Dziembowski, Mrs. Joseph Jolda, Theodore Kokocinski, Francis Kubicki, Anthony Makulski, Mrs. Joseph Nalewajk, Joseph Sienkiewicz, Anthony Sitkowski, Mr. & Mrs. Vincent Szwarc, Charles Szczepanski, Mrs. Edmund Tremblay, Mrs. Henry Walker, Mrs. Stanley Zlotnick, Sister Mary Benjamin, Sister Mary Adria and Msgr. Kubik. This one organization, started under the guidance of Msgr. Kubik is responsible for the starting up of the annual parish festivals which have been the major funding organization for the parish school for the past 13 years. Unfortunately Mr. Makulski died on December 19, 1973 and was not able to lead the organization very long but his contribution to the beginning of the Friends of Saint Joseph's will always be remembered. He was 66 at the time of his passing.
The first year of operation for the "Friends" was full of activities. There was a Swedish meatball supper on September 22, 1973 and the following week the Friends held a parish reception in honor of Rev. Father Joseph Szwach on his appointment to Pastor of Our Lady of Jasna Gora Parish in Clinton. Father Szwach was a curate here for nearly ten years. In November of 1973 the Felician Sisters celebrated their Centennial in the United States. They were honored by the Parish by a special program. Members of the Order serving in St. Joseph's parish and guests from other convents and the Mother House in Enfield, Conn., were escorted into the church service, the 10:30 A.M. Mass., by presidents of the various parish organizations.
Rt. Rev. Stanislaus Kubik, pastor; Rev. Thaddeus X. Stachura and Rev. Joseph Bielonko, assistants welcomed the guests at a banquet in the school hall. About 60 Sisters were invited, including the Provincial Administrator Mother Mary Landeline; and members of the Provincial Administration, Sr. Mary Presentia, Sr. Mary Florentime. Sr. Mary Alda, Sr. Mary Alexander, Sister Mary Regis and Sister Mary Victima. The 13 members of the Order who staffed the St. Joseph's School at the time of the Centennial in 1973 were Sister Mary Benjamin, principal, Sister Mary Euphrosein, Sr. Mary Adria, Sister Mary Edward, Sister Mary Paulinette, Sister Mary Jacqueline, Sister Mary Christine, Sister Anna Maria, Sister Mary Celistia, Sister Mary Maximia, Sister Mary Pauline, Sister Mary Gerard and Sister Mary Dolorita.
The committee for the Sisters event was headed by Msgr. Kubik but the rest of the committee was right out of the Friends. Mr. Anthony Makulski, Mrs. Constance Czechowski, Mrs. Anthony Molis, Mrs. Pauline Dziembowski, Mrs. Agnes Kwasniewski, Mrs. Bessie Tremblay, Mrs. Mary Wojcik. Mrs. Czechowski was the chairman for that event.
The Friends of St. Joseph's sponsored a Polish Supper on March 16, 1974 in the school cafeteria. The Honorary Chairman of that event was Msgr. Kubik. The chairwoman of the event was Mrs. Pauline Dziembowski, the co-chairwoman was Mrs. Stasia Krowczyk. Ticket chairman was Albert Chlapowski with Mrs. Rita Wasielewski a co-chairwoman. Many meetings were held during the last month of '73 and first months of '74 in order to prepare for the 1974 Parish Festival.
The Festival I was a great success. It was held on June 7, 8, and 9. Msgr. Kubik was the honorary Chairman and Mr. John Bukowski was the Chairman with Mrs. Alice Richard and Mrs. Constance Czechowski as co-chairwomen. Steering Committee members for that historic first Festival were Rev. Thaddeus X. Stachura, Mrs. Pauline Dziembowski, Mr. Al Chlapowski, Mr. Stanley Lenky, Mrs. Rita Wasielewski and Mr. Edward Wasielewski, Mr. Bernard Gelineau and Mr. Albert Richard. Other committee members were Mrs. Jennie Rzeszutko, Mrs. Mary Nawrocki, Stella Gumowski, Mrs. Josephine Nalewajk, Celia Rivers, Clem Starosta Jr., Frank Biadasz, Ron Poulin, Barbara Grochowski and Edmond Breault.
The first Parish Festival netted a little over $21,000.00. The Festival of 1987, the Centennial Year Festival, grossed over $92 thousand and put $63,000.00 into the school treasury.
The Friends of St. Joseph's sponsored the Munich mystery play "The Mystery of the Holy Mass" on Sunday January 19, 1975. That was the first of several special religious-cultural events that were held in the church during the first years of the Friends.
The first parish Festival is history now. For the record the automobile, first prize, was won by Mr. Thomas Bowen of Holyoke and the mini-bike was won by Kristin Wajer of Dudley.
In 1976 the Friends of Saint Joseph's put into motion another program of great importance to the parish school. The Saint Joseph's School Memorial Fund was started with a board of directors which included Bernard Gelineau, Sally Wajer, Dorothy Dabrowski, Theresa Jankowski, Albert Chlapowski, John Bukowski and Carl Kaliszewski. From the modest beginning of this fund which added up to only two thousand and one hundred dollars in the first year the fund has grown to $118,000.00 in the Centennial year and in this year ten thousand dollars was given to the school. None of the monies donated to this fund is ever used, only the interest and dividends generated by the donated money is used. Many thoughtful members of this parish have asked to have the St. Joseph School Memorial Fund as their favorite charity at the time of death of family members.
The Saint Joseph's School Memorial Fund is a testament to the good sentiments of parishioners towards the parish school. In this the Centennial Year, the Board of Directors of the Fund is Bernard Gelineau, Sally Wajer, Dorothy Dabrowski, Theresa Jankowski, Albert Chlapowski, Edward Kozlowski, and John Hester. The success of this Fund is due to the foresight of the above mentioned Board Members but once again it must be stressed that the monies collected by the Board were donated by caring parishioners wishing to make a lasting memorial to their loved ones.
During this last quarter century a 1/20 Club was started. This is handled as a part of the Friends of Saint Joseph's but was started before the Friends started. At present it is a 1/25 Club and has two roast beef dinners a year with a money drawing on a weekly basis and also at the time of the banquets. The Friends handle the banquet for this Club but the weekly work is done by Alice Szwarc and Stasia Zlotnick. This Club has generated tens of thousands of dollars for the parish school.
During this last twenty-five years many priests have served as associates or curates. When the diamond jubilee was celebrated Rev. Father Henry S. Banach, S.T.L., J.C.D., Rev. Father Stanislaus A. Lipinski and Rev. Father Casimir J. Kurzawski were working in this parish. They were followed by Rev. Father Chester J. Janczukowicz, Rev. Father Peter Hamernik, Rev. Father Joseph Szwach, Rev. Father Joseph Bielonko, Rev. Father Thaddeus X. Stachura, Rev. Father Richard Lewandowski, Rev. Father Francois Piechocki, Rev. Father Anthony Kazarnowicz and Rev. Father Thomas M. Tokarz. Rev. Father Bernard Grochowski who is now a chaplain with the United States Air Force, was here at St. Joseph's for a few months before going back into the service. Rev. Joseph Pijanowski never served here as a priest but he did his internship as a deacon, at St. Joseph's.
During the last 25 years there have been six ordinations to the priesthood from St. Joseph's. Father Bernard Grochowski was ordained on May 23, 1963 in St. Paul's Cathedral in Worcester. Father Charles E. Borowski was ordained on May 19, 1966 in the Cathedral. The next parishioner ordained was Father Joseph Bialoncik who was ordained in our Church in May 12, 1973 and is currently serving with the Franciscan Fathers in Philadelphia. Father Francis Piechocki was ordained in our parish Church on May 10, 1975. Father Thomas M. Tokarz was ordained on June 4, 1977 at Saint Paul's Cathedral. The last ordination in this parish was ten years ago on November 19, 1977 when Father Paul M. Bomba was ordained by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan in the Cathedral.
Priests who came from this parish are as follows:
Fr. Austin Maciejewski, Franciscan
Msgr. John Wieloch
Fr. Joseph Szczepaniak
Fr. Joseph Sitkowski
Fr. Joseph Szynal
Fr. John Aubertin
Fr. Francis Prout
Fr. Bonaventure Santor, Franciscan
Fr. Stanley Chlapowski
Fr. Valentine Teclaw
Fr. Stanislaus Kokocinski
Fr. Walter Radzik
Fr. Maximillian Lewandowski
Fr. John Kochanowski, Living at the Vianney House for retired Priests
Fr. John Szamocki, Pastor of St. Andrew Bobola parish Dudley, Mass.
Fr. Joseph Szwach, Pastor of Jasna Gora parish, Clinton, Mass.
Fr. Bernard Grochowski, Chaplain with United States Air Force
Fr. Charles E. Borowski, Assistant Pastor of St. Andrew Bobola parish Dudley, Mass.
Father Joseph Bialoncik, Franciscan, serving in Philadelphia, Penn.
Fr. Francis Piechocki, Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Czestochowa parish, Worcester, Mass.
Fr. Thomas M. Tokarz, Assistant Pastor at Saint Joseph's parish Webster, Mass.
Fr. Paul M. Bomba, Chaplain with the United States Army.
This parish has been blessed by many vocations in its one hundred years and this is a visible proof of the quality of Saint Joseph's parish.
On April 6, 1983 Msgr. Stanislaus Kubik stepped down as Pastor of St. Joseph's and began his much deserved retirement. Msgr. Kubik makes his home in Wilbraham, Mass. and although he does not enjoy good health he is still serving the Church on a limited basis.
April 6, 1983 is also the date when the present pastor of St. Joseph's took over the responsibilities and joys of running this parish. Rev. Father Thaddeus X. Stachura came back to St. Joseph's after being away for four and a half years. He had served here as a curate for seven and a half years and was sent in September of 1978 to Our Lady of Czestochowa in Worcester. His being made Pastor of Saint Joseph's was his first assignment as a Pastor but he was not new to Saint Joseph's. He came to us fortified with a knowledge of the goodness of the people of St. Joseph's, Webster.
From the very start Father Stachura received enormous support from the parishioners. Within months of his arrival he initiated a special fund drive for the school. The school was in need of new windows and window frames. Also some brick work needed to be done on the Church. By the following January all the money for the project had been not only pledged but also collected and there was enough left over in funding that the following year saw new storm windows go on the convent and the rectory. These renovations have accounted for huge savings in the amount of fuel used in the cold New England winters.
Father Stachura also made one addition to the Church building itself. Our parish was never blessed with in-church rest rooms and that was often a problem. The school was left open on many occasions so that the rest rooms there could be utilized. Many times people would come to the rectory in order to use the facilities. Since his arrival here however, and with the help of some of the parish organizations, two rest rooms were built in the ample room that is called the altar boys sacristy.
Father Stachura worked very hard in the years that he has been with us and his accomplishments can hardly be seen as only physical. This parish boasts of First Friday devotions to the Sacred Heart every month. Every Saturday for an hour there are First Saturday devotions to Our Lady of Fatima. Every Sunday except in the Summer there are devotions on Sunday. There are daily May and October devotions. Also we have special Fatima devotions on the thirteenth of each month from May to October. All of the Sunday, First Friday, May and October devotions are in Polish with a few exceptions. Every year on the third Sunday of May we celebrate Forty Hours devotions. The first day, Vespers are in Latin, the second day they are in Polish and the third day, with its litany and procession, is in Polish. We also have an outdoor procession on Corpus Christi and we have a marvelous procession in the parish cemetery in October. That event involves the people from Saint Andrew Bobola parish and the priests from there join us for prayers for our deceased loved ones. This is always a very well attended rosary procession. The parish has two scheduled Masses every day and there are six week end masses, two of which are in Polish with Polish sermons. Thus far in 1987, as of the beginning of December there have been 41 baptisms, 18 weddings and 56 funerals in the parish. The parish cemetery in 1986 had 108 interments and 1987 should be about the same. This parish is very much alive and well in the centennial year.
To celebrate the centennial a Mission was held in the parish from March 15 to March 22. The first four days of this mission to the Mercy of God were in Polish and the preacher was Father Bernard Backiel, MIC and the second four days were in English with Father Roger L. Wojcik, MIC leading us in prayer and speaking to us. These priests came to us from Stockbridge, Massachusetts and helped us in dedicating the parish to the Mercy of God.
A special medalion was struck in bronze to commemorate the Centennial. There is a picture of the church on one side and a picture of Saint Joseph and the child Jesus on the other. One side announces the centennial in Polish and the other in English. Every parishioner and every student in the school and every youngster in the CCD program received a medalion as a memento.
To commemorate the centennial and also to fill a need, this October saw the erecting of a new solid granite sign in front of the Church. The sign is six feet long and four feet high and is a very simple and beautiful reminder of the centennial.
The parish Centennial Mass was held on Sunday September 20, 1987. Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan and Bishop George Rueger plus many priests and nuns helped to fill the church for the Mass. Father Henry Banach had the Centennial sermon in Church in Polish and English. Preceding the Sunday ceremonies, there was a special Mass for the school children on Friday the 18th of September and there was another special Mass on Saturday morning September 19th, for all the people who would not be able to attend on Sunday afternoon. These extra Masses made more room for parishioners and friends on Sunday. The Mass started promptly at 2:00 P.M. and we were leaving the Church at 3:30.
The banquet was the first event held in the new Webster Elk's Hall and Bishop Flanagan blessed the new building at the start of the Centennial meal. There were five hundred people at the banquet, and everything went smoothly. Mr. Joseph Werbecki, who has been the chairman of the parish festival for the past few years, was the master of ceremonies.
The centennial year has gone by rapidly as it should. We give thanks to almighty God that we live in such a lovely place as Webster, Massachusetts and that we have the family life that the Church affords us at Saint Joseph's parish. As the story oft his parish continues into the second century, may almighty God continue to bless us and love us as He has in the past. May we continue to be blessed with vocations to the priesthood and religious life and may the people of Saint Joseph's Parish Webster, Massachusetts always be proud and happy children of God and heirs of heaven.
From: "Our First One Hundred Years As a Parish Family" Centennial Book of St. Joseph Parish, Webster MA, 1987