In March 1892, a small group of Polish-speaking people petitioned Brooklyn’s first Bishop, John Loughlin, for a parish where their own language was spoken and their customs and traditions would be kept alive. He responded by asking Father Joseph Fyda to form a Polish parish.
Last weekend, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Brooklyn’s seventh Bishop, visited and was the main celebrant as St. Adalbert parish observed its 125th anniversary with a Mass.
“We are here to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the parish,” noted Bishop DiMarzio. “It is certainly an amazing history because the Franciscans have been here for 120 years, a record for them.
“It is good to take stock of where we have come from so we can look to the future. Of course we can’t forget the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who have been here almost since the beginning of the school.
“You as a parish are very blessed to have the Franciscans and the Sisters here to serve and make such a stable parish. So we ask the Lord to help us live this grace of the Resurrection and we pray like Thomas so that we truly believe. We thank you as a parish for your wonderful work.”
Immediately after its founding, the need for a school was evident. While plans for new buildings were being made, classes started in the church basement. St. Adalbert School officially opened Nov. 18, 1892. It will celebrate its own 125th anniversary in the fall.
In recent years, while the parish has held on to its strong Polish heritage, it has also grown with the neighborhood. Today, the parish has a strong Filipino influence; the anniversary Mass saw people of all backgrounds come together with prayers of the faithful offered in English, Polish and Tagalog. Mass is said in Polish at the 10 a.m. Mass every Sunday and the last Sunday of the month has a Filipino Mass.
In 1896, Father Fyda was replaced by Msgr. Boleslaus Puchalski, who remained only a short time, until the Conventual Franciscan Friars were invited to the diocese and charged with the care of St. Adalbert. Father Felix Baran, O.F.M. Conv., was the first Franciscan pastor.
In 1896, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth arrived to conduct the school. Mother Frances Siedliska (Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepard), C.S.F.N., came to the parish and founded the local convent for the sisters.
“We started as a village and very devout Polish people believed in the need for a church,” said the current pastor, Father Miroslaw Podymniak, O.F.M. Conv. “We give thanks to the Lord for our founders and to all the people who have come to Elmhurst from all the corners of the world.
“We have so many Friars returning to help celebrate with us today because their hearts are here as they gave their hearts to so many of us. Thank you to my brothers and sisters and to all my parishioners, you have always been here with me in joy and love.”
The principal of the school, Sister Kathleen Maciej, C.S.F.N., added, “This is a great celebration because today it is unheard of for the Friars and Sisters to have two congregations here for so many years without an interruption.
“It shows the faith of the parish. We are a parish that truly represents our community of multi-cultural people of faith who can all come together to celebrate. Today shows the love of the people and how welcoming they all are.”
Linda Gatti, the parish secretary and member of the parish for 34 years, explains that the strength of the parish is represented by its motto, “One Family Living in Faith and Love.”
“Today we prove that because the demographics of the community have changed over the years yet we all still can come together in love,” she said.
Friar Franck Lino, O.F.M. Conv., originally from West Africa, and now studying at The Catholic University of America was present at the celebration.
“This is my first time to New York and this is one of my communities my province has been involved with for some time, so I wanted to come and join in the celebration,” he said.
“We want to be with the people. To be able to celebrate with them today gives me great joy. Being here for the first time and to learn some of their great history shows how much love is here and I am just happy to see it and join in.”
The Pastors of St. Adalbert’s
Rev. Joseph Fyda, 1892-1896
Rev. Msgr. Boleslaus Puchalski, 1896-1896
Fr. Felix Baran, O.F.M. Conv., 1896-1906
Fr. Anthony Romanski, O.F.M. Conv., 1906-1908
Fr. Casimir Cwiklinski, O.F.M., Conv., 1908-1911
Fr. Stanislaus Tarnowski, O.F.M. Conv., 1911- 1916
Fr. Anthony Witkowski, O.F.M. Conv., 1916- 1923
Fr. John Kaplinski, O.F.M. Conv.,. 1923- 1939
Fr. George Roskwitalski, O.F.M. Conv., 1939- 1957
Fr. Josaphat Piasta, O.F.M. Conv., 1957- 1957
Fr. Alfred Stopyra, O.F.M. Conv., 1957- 1966
Fr. Benvenute Hakalski, O.F.M. Conv., 1966- 1967
Fr. Alfred Stopyra, O.F.M. Conv., 1967 -1970
Fr. Henry Senft, O.F.M. Conv., 1970-1973
Fr. Marion Tolczyk, O.F.M. Conv., 1973-1976
Fr. Cyril Augustyn, O.F.M. Conv., 1976- 1982
Fr. Herman Czaster, O.F.M. Conv., 1982 – 1991
Fr. Timothy Pasek, O.F.M. Conv., 1991- 1999
Fr. Paul Miskiewicz, O.F.M. Conv., 1999- 2011
Fr. Russell Governale, O.F.M. Conv., 2011- 2014
Fr. Mirek Podymniak, O.F.M. Conv., 2014 – Present