Dear Editor: My sincerest gratitude for your centerfold tribute to the centennial of the parish of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish, Greenpoint, which was literally the heart and soul of the first decades of my life, as surely for many, and which formed in me the Polish identity which I still cherish.
I was born and raised in Greenpoint, living through my college days on India St., a short walk to the church. My grandparents, among the founders of the parish, lived on Eagle St., just across Manhattan Ave. from the church, and I would spend all my Saturdays with them, often wandering across the Avenue for Saturday confession.
The church was the epicenter of family and friends. \ Though my parents were both born in this country (my mother in Greenpoint, my father in the Bronx), our family culture was decidedly Polish – our sausages and desserts, our celebrations and devotions, our songs and hymns all from the land of the White Eagle. I was a pious boy, and Corpus Christi processions and 40 Hours Devotions were events that I anxiously awaited every year, and I recall as though it were yesterday kneeling with my babci before the reposing Christ in His elaborately flower-bedecked tomb on Good Friday.
Church events were central to the life of the Polish community. I remember how awed parishioners were when the new church was opened, and the elation when the beloved Father Mieczyslaus Mrozinski, pillar as well as pastor, was named a monsignor.
I attended the parish school for nine years, kindergarten through eighth grade. I remember fondly the wonderful Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. While at the moment a few names escape me, Sisters Philip, Charles, Georgia, Rosella, Artemia, Pontiana, and Fides immediately come to mind. Sister Fides graduated me at the top of the class (I add modestly), and then it was on to Bishop Loughlin Memorial H.S., where for the first time I encountered a multi-ethnic culture and realized that there was a world out there for whom being Polish was not the focus of everything good and wholesome.
Sadly, after college, as I began my career as an educator and moved to Bayside and then on to Whitestone, and as my family dwindled, I slowly evolved away from my old neighborhood and parish, over the decades returning only for the funerals of first my parents, then other family members.
Coincidently, just a couple of weeks ago, nostalgia drew me back to Greenpoint for the first time in a decade, taking the opportunity to stock up on Polish foods as I prowled the shops along that same Manhattan Ave.
I saw that some streets as I knew them are thankfully little changed from the way I knew them as a child, though here and there a trendy new house might appear sandwiched amidst a row of old and modest shingled dwellings.
Signs of gentrification are evident in eateries and hip shops, again on Manhattan Ave., and what they’ve done to Kent Ave. certainly inspires shock and awe.
My recent visit to Greenpoint was a pilgrimage of sorts but, coming on a weekday, when I stopped by the church it was closed, the gates padlocked as I remember them in my youth. I could not see SS. Cyril and Methodius Church full of worshippers as I’m sure it would be on the following Sunday and every Sunday. I can only hope that for at least another hundred years the parish will serve as the nucleus of a thriving Polish community in Greenpoint. Sto lat.
THOMAS G. STRACZYNSKI