By AnnaMarie Prono
Polish-born Father Grzegorz Stasiak, parochial vicar and assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Forest Hills, was honored by New York City Comptroller, Scott Stringer, and the local Polish community honored at a Polish Heritage Breakfast Oct. 12. The event was held at the Polish & Slavic Center in Greenpoint.
Various state and local elected officials attended and spoke at the event after a robust, buffet breakfast that included hot food, muffins, pastries, fruit and yogurt. Many raved about the Polish sausage as they chatted in Polish and English.
Comptroller Stringer greeted nearly 100 people from the podium. He joked about how many other city and state organizations issue proclamations, but that this proclamation from the comptroller’s office is more significant because it is often referred to as the “money proclamation.”
Comptroller Stringer introduced Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who both addressed the Polish community as being a strong backbone of their respective congressional and assembly districts before the awards were presented.
Sabina Klimet, general consulate and Mateusz Gmura, vice General Consulate, of the Republic of Poland in New York also spoke of the vast achievements made by Polish immigrants.
Also honored at the event was Frances X. Gates, who has dedicated her life to representing the Polish-American community.
Before all of the speeches, the honored priest said that he was shocked when he learned about this award a few days earlier. The Comptrollers’ Office called him and congratulated him for his ministry that resulted in a commendation from the comptroller.
The award cited Father Stasiak’s “years of exceptional work as a spiritual and educational leader of New York City’s Polish community, for his leadership as coordinator of the Ministry of Polish Immigrants at the Diocese of Brooklyn and Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church, for his services as Assistant Pastor at St. Catharine of Alexandria Roman Catholic Church and Holy Cross Church, for serving with distinction as a teacher and community leader; bringing members closer to their faith.”
Father Stasiak was touched by the recognition.
After an introduction and a firm handshake, Comptroller Stringer presented the humble priest with the award. Father Stasiak addressed the audience, with a few words in Polish, followed by a short, heartfelt speech read in English.
“This year, several events have marked my life; all very important. Today is one of the events. However, something else occurred. My grandfather, who was a great influence in my life, passed away,” he said.
“He was very proud of living through all the events of the last century here and in Poland, including World War II and the rise and fall of communism. He remained proud of his faith and his Polish heritage. He was proud that he was able to come to America to be with his family, as countless other Poles had done for centuries. He was proud that he and his family, became citizens of this great country.
“To honor my grandfather, and his pride in both Poland and America, we must remember three words that have marked my grandfather’s entire life, and hopefully the lives of all Polish brothers and sisters:
“God is first in all our lives;
Honor is paramount to living with respect and faith;
Homeland is both Poland and America…”
Father Stasiak hopes to continue his relationships with Polish immigrants and help them overcome struggles they face. In closing he blessed all immigrants, Poland, their homeland and America.