What a Day!
West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society Holds First Annual West
Side Detroit Historic Polish Church Pilgrimage & Święconka on Saturday,
April 5, 2008
April 5, the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society held its
first annual west side historic Polish church pilgrimage and Święconka. The
event was graciously hosted by Rev. Anthony C. Richter and the staff of Our
Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church at 4200 Martin Ave., south of Michigan
Ave., and was successful in large part due to the support of Rev. Edward F.
Zaorski, Vicar of the Southwest Vicariate, and co-Vicar, Rev. Anthony C.
Richter. As a result of an invitation by Fr. Tony to hold the opening
program and Święconka in Our Lady Queen of Angels’ church hall, as well as
media coverage in the Michigan Catholic, Polish Times (Warren,
MI), and many other publications including the local Observer
newspapers, the Sterling Heights Sentry, and numerous other local
publications, the society enjoyed a tremendously successful event. We
cannot forget the many local Catholic parishes whose pastors supported us by
posting our ad and flyer in their bulletins. Thank you to all of you and
God bless you.
began with WSDPAHS board member and Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Don Samull,
giving an overview of the society and of the day’s activities. Tour
programs were distributed that contained brief histories of each church
being visited, as well as brief histories of St. Casimir (organized in 1882
and the first church built by Poles on Detroit’s west side; closed
permanently in 1989), and St. John Cantius in Delray, closed permanently in
2007). On the podium were two historic banners awarded to the society by
the Archdiocese of Detroit from recently closed St. John Cantius Catholic
Church in Delray, which closed in October 2007 after 105 years of faithful
service. Ms. Laurie A. Gomulka Palazzolo, Vice President & Executive
Director/Secretary, announced that President Adam Lis, who was to be Master
of Ceremonies, sent his sincere regrets for his absence. Ms. Gomulka
Palazzolo announced that Mr. Lis could not be present due to extreme
illness. She remembered Mr. Staś Wisniach, the society’s late founding
President (1923 – 2007), and made the presentation of a commemorative
tribute to historic St. John Cantius to the church’s last pastor of five
years, Rev. Edward F. Zaorski and to the former parishioners of the church
who were present. The tribute, consisting of framed and matted photographs
of the interior and exterior of the church as well as a historical timeline
of the church, were prepared by President Adam Lis.
opening ceremonies, 184 pilgrims set out on the tour of five historic
churches, beginning with Our Lady Queen of Angels. The pilgrims walked next
door on the gloriously beautiful spring morning and entered the church,
where they were greeted by more relics from St. John Cantius: two angel
fonts bearing holy water in the entranceway, and two candelabra on either
side of the altar. Mr. J. William Gorski, WSDPAHS board member, presented a
history of Our Lady Queen of Angels. Mr. Don Samull led the group in the
recitation of a decade of the Glorious Mysteries rosary, and Mr. Steven
Frayer, former music director of St. John Cantius and current music director
of Ss. Andrew and Benedict and St. Steven – Mary Mother of the World
Parishes in Detroit, led the group in singing a traditional Easter hymn.
This was the format for the visits to each of the remaining churches. The
pilgrims then boarded eight comfortable mini-coaches and set out on the
journey toward historic St. Hedwig Catholic Church at 3245 Junction.
Hedwig, where Rev. Robert J. Wojciechowski is the current pastor,
distinguished WSDPAHS board member Dr. Thaddeus C. Radziłowski gave a
presentation on the history of the church. Upon climbing the steep steps
leading up to the church and entering its doors, the pilgrims were
mesmerized by its breathtaking beauty. Mr. Don Samull reminded the pilgrims
that WSDPAHS President Adam Lis is the historian and archivist at St.
Hedwig, that he decorates the church for all its holidays, and that he was
responsible for the Easter flowers on all of the overflowing altars,
including the high altar.
Next on the
agenda was St. Francis d’Assisi at 4500 Wesson at Buchanan, where Mr. Tom
Rys, church historian, presented the church’s history. St. Francis d’Assisi
is clustered with St. Hedwig, and Rev. Robert J. Wojciechowski is also
pastor there. The pilgrims then headed to St. Andrew at 7060 McGraw, where
Rev. Julian Chmura is the pastor.
pilgrimage leaders informed the group that on the way to St. Andrew they
would be passing by the former Baptist church on Martin Ave., just north of
Michigan Ave. and just north of the former Ukrainian National Temple, which
is now a Hispanic church. During the 1940s through the 1960s, the Ukrainian
National Temple at 4655 Martin Ave. was an extremely popular dance hall in
the Polish community, and virtually every weekend Polish weddings and dances
were held there. As Mr. Don Samull pointed out, the west side Polish
Baptists originally worshipped at a location on 25th Street.
Later, they relocated to the current site on Martin Ave., which was designed
by Lane, Davenport & Peterson. It currently serves a Hispanic
congregation. A sad note and one that is perhaps reflective of this entire
area of the City is that the building once had a tall white steeple that
gave it a New England church appearance, and which was reflective of its
Baptist heritage. It is uncertain as to why the steeple had to be removed,
but it is agreed that its removal has strongly detracted from the beauty and
overall appearance of the church structure.
Andrew, Mr. Don Samull gave an introduction and informed the group of many
interesting characteristics of the church’s architecture, which otherwise
would have gone unnoticed, such as the architect’s incorporation of “X’s”
throughout. St. Andrew is always depicted bearing a cross in the shape of
an “X,” and he was crucified on this shape of cross at his request as he
felt unworthy to be crucified on a cross such as the one on which Christ was
crucified. Mr. Samull pointed out that this unique “X” feature is present
in the architecture of St. Andrew Church, even on the interior door
handles. Mr. Samull also gave some insights into the history of St. Andrew
and the reverence Poles and other East Central Europeans have for this
saint, as it is believed that he was responsible for bringing the faith to
C. Radziłowski, who is an extremely popular lecturer and historian and whose
presentation at St. Hedwig was very well received, gave a most interesting
and intriguing history of the parish. In his unique way, as he did at St.
Hedwig, he situated the parish historically, asking the pilgrims to take a
look at the map in their tour guides and giving those present the foundation
of the immigrants’ influx during the early part of the twentieth century.
He explained why so many Poles came to America and traced their paths, which
coincidentally were the paths of many of the parents, grandparents, and
great-grandparents of those present on the pilgrimage: from Poland—in many
instances, the Galicia Region in southeastern Poland—to the coal mining
communities of Pennsylvania, to the “better” jobs of the automobile plants
and their numerous consequential industries in Detroit, including the paint,
glass, steel, and rubber industries, as well as a multitude of automotive
component industries that once made this one of America’s great industrial
cities. Dr. Radziłowski added that when he was in high school in Hamtramck,
St. Andrew was a rival basketball team, and many in the tour group recalled
that St. Andrew was noted for its superior, award-winning basketball team.
St. Andrew, the pilgrimage headed for St. Cunegunda at 5866 St. Lawrence
St., where Rev. Zygmund Grankowski is the current pastor. Prior to arriving
at St. Andrew, the pilgrimage group passed by the historic former Our Savior
Polish National Catholic Church at 5272 Chopin St., founded in 1911. As Mr.
Don Samull pointed out, this was the first and mother church of all
Detroit’s P.N.C.C.’s. The P.N.C.C. is a Christian church founded by Polish
Americans who were Roman Catholic but who differed with the Church’s
theology and administrative policies. Our Savior P.N.C.C. inhabited the
building on Chopin until approximately 1970, when they relocated to their
current location at 610 North Beech Daly Road, Dearborn Heights.
Afterwards, a group of Romanian Pentecostals inhabited the structure on
Chopin for many years. It is currently inhabited by an African-American
congregation. Two other P.N.C.C.’s in the Detroit area are Holy Cross
P.N.C.C. in Hamtramck (founded in approximately 1916) and All Saints P.N.C.C.
in Sterling Heights.
May 17, the WSDPAHS will hold its second annual joint membership meeting
with the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan in Dearborn Hts. (see
advertisement elsewhere on this Web site). The presentation will be on the
history of the Polish National Catholic Church.
greeted by Sr. Alexis of St. Cunegunda and our presenter, Rev. Gary Michalik,
WSDPAHS board member and current pastor of St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish
in Westland. It was truly amazing to see the number of pilgrims who rushed
to embrace Fr. Gary and to realize how many remembered him from past parish
ministries or from old neighborhoods. He was a crowd pleaser to say the
least. Fr. Gary gave an extremely thorough and vivid history of St.
Cunegunda, commenting in minute detail about the various architectural and
structural details that were added throughout the years, remarking at one
point that he remembered going to confession there as a child, although he
and his family were members of St. Andrew. A unique part of the St.
Cunegunda experience was that WSDPAHS member Mr. Chet Szerlag and his wife
Judy, who came to the pilgrimage all the way from Woodridge, Illinois (a
suburb of Chicago), was a student at St. Cunegunda in the 1950s. WSDPAHS
members can look forward to his story on St. Cunegunda in the forthcoming
late April edition of the e-Newsletter, and we will be posting his
historical scanned postcard images of St. Cunegunda on our Web site in the
returning to Our Lady Queen of Angels for our Święconka, at which 206
individuals partook, the group was greeted by our distinguished guest, Most
Rev. Francis R. Reiss, who performed the traditional blessing of the Easter
eggs and other food. Bishop Reiss is formerly from St. Andrew Parish. The
guests shared the blessed eggs (jajko poswiecony) and then partook of
the wonderful meal prepared by Ms. Diane Grunas and her staff at Our Lady
Queen of Angels: Ms. Eileen Antal, Ms. Angie Barket, Ms. Sue Kotyk, Ms.
Helen Micklash, Ms. Vickie Rangle, Ms. Gene Zmuda, and Ms. Mary Anne Zylla.
meal consisted of kiełbasa, ham (szynka),
potato salad (sałatka kartoflana), deviled eggs (jajka na twardo),
beet horseradish (ćwikła), bread (chleb), butter lambs (baranek
z masla), and a variety of cakes, or babkas, plus coffee (kawa)
and fruit punch.
As a special
feature, traditional Polish and English Easter hymns were provided during
the meal by WSDPAHS member, keyboardist/vocalist Steven Frayer.
after the meal, Ms. Irene Pilch, former parishioner of St. John Cantius
Catholic Church and volunteer secretary of the parish for 40 years, was
presented with a certificate of recognition by the WSDPAHS for her years of
community service and for the role she played in assisting the society in
communicating with the Archdiocese of Detroit to acquire the artifacts from
the church when it closed.
As a special
presentation, during dessert WSDPAHS member Mary LaDrigue demonstrated her
traditional butter lamb making art as done in the Polish villages. Mary was
featured in the March 14, 2008, edition of the Michigan Catholic.
She explained that she learned her technique in the 1940s from her mother,
who was from the St. Hedwig parish. Her mother’s parents owned a grocery
store near the church, and the lambs were one of the most popular items.
She does not use a mold, and a separate stick of butter is squeezed through
a piece of cheesecloth to make the lamb’s “fur.” A red ribbon around the
lamb’s neck symbolizes the blood of Christ.
tickets (50/50 and general) were sold by WSDPAHS board members Dr. Alina
Klin and Mr. Richard Sokolowski, with gorgeous items on the raffle table
donated by Mr. Don Samull, including many beautiful items from Poland. The
bonus item was a beautiful, hand-made, mounted Polish eagle donated by
artisan Bob Baranski of Dearborn, which will be raffled off at our joint
meeting with PGSM on Saturday, May 17. A special incentive was offered for
those attendees joining the society that day, and as a result, over a dozen
new Membership Applications were received.
churches being considered for future pilgrimages are St. Casimir, St. Hedwig
(repeat), Former Our Savior P.N.C.C., St. Stephen, St. Barbara, Ss. Peter &
Paul, New Our Savior P.N.C.C. (Dearborn Hts.), Felician Sisters Motherhouse
Chapel (Livonia), Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (Wyandotte), St. Helena
(Wyandotte), St. Stanislaus Kostka (Wyandotte), Mariaviate Catholic Chapel,
St. Stephen (New Boston, founded 1874), and St. Hedwig Cemetery Chapel
expresses its sincere appreciation to Mr. Sebastian Szczepanski of Polish
Times, 3940 Morrissey, Warren, MI 48091, (www.mypolishtimes.com)
and Ms. Kristin Lukowski of the Michigan Catholic, 305 Michigan Ave.,
for their coverage of our event, and to Ms. Joan Bittner of the Polish Art
Center, 9539 Jos. Campau in Hamtramck (www.polartcenter.com),
a treasury of Polish heritage, for its donation of an item for our raffle.
The society also sincerely thanks each of the pastors who opened their
churches for us, as well as each of our presenters at those churches: Mr.
J. William Gorski, Rev. Gary Michalik, Dr. Thaddeus C. Radziłowski, and Mr.
thank Rev. Edward F. Zaorski and Rev. Anthony C. Richter and his staff for
making our first annual west side Detroit historic Polish church pilgrimage
and Święconka the success that it was. We are
indebted to you and look forward to next year’s event!
The Board of
Directors of the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society