History of St.
Mary Czestochowa Parish
Contact: Leon G, Konieczny
----Sources: This history is transcribed from the 1983 Diamond Jubilee book of St. Mary Czestochowa Catholic Church, (Junction) Stanley, WI
Parish history and photos
St. Mary Czestochowa Congregation at Junction, located one and one-half miles east of Stanley or five miles west of Thorp, Wisconsin and four miles north of Highway 29 dates back to the early 1900's for its origin, but is comparatively young as far as the history of the La Crosse Diocese is concerned.
The original settlers, exclusively of Polish descent, began their residence in the Junction area around 1901. Migrating from Poland by way of Pennsylvania and Chicago and trained in hard work, they cleared the wooded and rocky area for their future homes and began the task of earning their living from the soil. The future looked bleak and difficult, but the people filled with initiative and aggressiveness of sturdy pioneers, succeeded in their endeavors with the help of God, for their land is now productive and stands as a monument to their hard labors.
God and the Catholic Church always played an important role in the lives of the Polish people. Since their conversion centuries ago, they have always been faithful to the true church as the history of Poland attests to that. The settlers of Junction were no different from their forefathers. They immediately attached themselves to the nearest Catholic Church which happened to be located in Stanley, dedicated to the Mother of God, St. Mary's Church. By horse and on foot they went to divine services in all types of weather. Father Byrne at the time was pastor of St. Mary's Church and was well liked by the Polish people of Junction. However, in a nationalistic era, language was a difficult barrier to overcome. St. Mary's, Stanley, was a predominantly English speaking congregation. The settlers, therefore, sought out a Polish-speaking priest, where they could be better understood and could more fully participate in the work of the Church. St. Hedwig's Church at Thorp, Wisconsin seemed like a solution to the problem, but it was a little too far to travel, especially in inclement weather. Nevertheless, many of these people made the journey to Thorp and joined the Polish parish. Father F. X. Pudlo, pastor of St. Hedwig's, received them kindly and always had a sympathetic ear to their troubles and ministered to their spiritual needs.
By 1906 the community grew rapidly. This gave rise to the thought of establishing a new parish and erecting a church, thereby eliminating the difficulty of travel and giving the Polish settlement an opportunity to increase their faith by more active and frequent participation in the Divine Sacrifice as well as the reception of the Sacraments. A meeting of the community was called. The first group met around December 8, 1906 and the proposition for the new church was made. Unfortunately, dissension broke out on a minor issue, that of the location of the church. Mr. Paul Zapisek offered two acres of land for the church, followed by the offer of six acres by Ignatius Wisniewski and two acres by Anthony Misiewicz. Since the gifts of land were scattered widely around the settlement, no agreement could be reached. Commenting on the dissension, the author of the original parish history writes: "It seems that everyone wanted the church near his home." As a compromise, John Janik offered five acres which seemed most suitable at the time, but this also was rejected. It now seemed that disagreement would prevent the cherished wish to be fulfilled.
Another meeting was called Sunday, June 9th, 1907 to reconsider the issue. A large number of the people attended at the old public school located then on the present Joe Leja farm "to end the dissension and give God a home in Junction." The author of the parish notes writes as follows: "It was a momentous day and God was with us. Mr. John Janik made another offer; this time he was willing to give ten acres. It was received with joy and accepted unanimously. It was decided to build a wooden frame church on that location. The group thanked Mr. Janik, and Mr. John Kot immediately offered four acres of land for the cemetery which was also accepted." Others volunteered their help and Mr. Stephen Pluskwa offered the necessary stone for the foundation of the building. A committee was chosen for the first time. To head the committee, Mr. Paul Zapisek was elected, followed by Mr. Joseph Kapuscinski as treasurer, Mr. John Janik as financial secretary and Mr. S. Pluskwa as recording secretary.
The committee immediately contacted Father Francis Pudlo of Posnan in order to consult him on methods to be employed for bringing the cherished dream to completion. Father Pudlo was overjoyed with the choice and lent a sympathetic ear to the project. He attended the next meeting of the group and delivered an "elegant sermon." He inspected the area, commended the people on their choice and zeal, and promised to apply for permission to the Most Rev. Bishop James Schwebach to organize a parish and erect a new church.
In the fall of 1907 permission was granted by the Most Rev. Bishop to build the church. The people were elated. A campaign for funds was begun. Mr. John Staszko offered to build the church for $125.00 with labor provided by the men of the locality. Before any project can succeed, obstacles must be overcome. Unfortunately, dissension again broke out concerning finances and it seemed as though the building of the new church would be delayed. Once more the committee sought the advice of Father Pudlo. Very zealously and untiringly, the pastor encouraged the people to complete the house of God. Donations were coming very slow, and the cost of the church increased. The committee, therefore, borrowed six hundred dollars from the local bank. Finally after hard work and many tears, the edifice to God was completed on November 13, 1907. It was a glorious and happy day for the Polish people of Junction, for now a wooden frame church, seating a hundred, would be their house of prayer, standing in the midst of their community, ringing the "Angelus" and guiding their thoughts to the Creator of heaven and earth. St. Mary's Czestochowa 1907-1950 Main Altar in Original Church.
Immediately a request was sent out to the Most Rev. Bishop of the Diocese for permission to have the Sacrifice of the Mass offered in the new church. His Excellency, the Bishop, graciously granted the request, and the first Mass was offered on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1907 by the priest who had so much to do in guiding the people of Junction, Father Pudlo, the pastor of St. Hedwig's, Thorp.
In February, 1908, the parish was officially incorporated by the Bishop, The Most Rev. James Schwebach, and Father Pudlo was appointed pastor of the new church which was attached as a mission to St. Hedwig's, Thorp, Wisconsin. According to the papers of incorporation, John Janik and Steve Pluskwa were the first legal trustees. Others to follow in the same capacity for the next fifty years were: Stanislaus Ciolkosz, W. Pozdzial, Anton Mnikolaicik, Joseph Staron, John Slowiak, Jacob Kula, Paul Bania, Joseph Straszkowski, Charles Katala, Stanley Slowiak, Adam Mnikolaicik, Walter Bania and Walter Pogodzinski.
Late in the summer of 1908, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, August 15th, the church was solemnly dedicated under the title of St. Mary of Czestochowa, by a representative of the Most Rev. Bishop Schwebach and assisted by the pastor, Father Pudlo.
The parish flourished and progressed spiritually. The first marriages solemnized in the new church were those of Stella Wozniak and John Pacholski and Anna Slowiak and Michael Symbal on May 13, 1908. Constanty Zapisek, who accidentally drowned at the age of 22, was the first to be buried from the church on July 8, 1908 and his remains rest on St. Mary's cemetery located near the church.
Records are not very clear on the first baptism; therefore, it is difficult to pin-point the first, because records in the first year were kept in the books of St. Hedwig's, Thorp. It suffices to mention those who were baptized from the 25th of January to the 13th of May, 1908. They are Antonina Ignaszak, Joseph Szyrzen, Apolonia Markowski, Walter Nowak, Albert Leja and Stanislaus Kot. St. Mary Czestochowa records show Victoria Gutowski, daughter of Stanislaus Gutowski, baptized on December 26, 1908 as the first entry.
From 1907 to 1913, St. Mary's was a mission attached first to Thorp, then to St. Mary's, Stanley and then back to St. Hedwig's, Thorp. During this period it had the following pastors: Father Pudlo, Father Joseph Mueller, Father F. C. Ciszewski, and Father J. Orlowski.
The year 1913 was a fortunate period for the steady growing parish. His Excellency, the Bishop, designated it as an independent parish and appointed a newly ordained priest, Father Francis Earszczak, as its first resident pastor. The young priest temporarily resided at Stanley, but immediately set to work in planning a new rectory near his Church in Czestochowa. With the cooperation of the people the rectory was completed within a year at the cost of $6,000.00. It was a stone building. Father Barszczak worked energetically with the people during his short term, and the parish continued to grow both in body and spirit.
In September of 1914, Father Barszczak was succeeded by another young priest, Father F. J. Brzostowicz, who continued to work zealously for the good of the flock. It was Father Brzostowicz who organized the first choir for voices, which rendered beautiful music in the service of God. Under his paternal eye the Rosary Society was established with Anna Ciolkosz and Catherine Leja as its first officers. Ever since then the Society has teen a bulwark to the parish rendering outstanding service in the work of God.
In 1921 Father Barszczak returned as pastor and for the next twenty-five years the parish was served by zealous priests. Father Karcz followed until 1926. Then in turn Father S. T. Szymczak, Father A. Kulig, . Father Edmund Krystyniak, Father Louis Slisz, Father Stanislaus Andrzejewski, Father Louis Sobieski and Father Roman Papiernik.
Father Stanley Andrzejewski, well-liked by the people, established the Holy Name Society which still flourishes in the parish and serves as the right hand of the pastor. Under Father Louis Sobieski the parish property was improved. A new garage was built Parish Hall and the building standing on the southwest corner of the church, formerly owned by John Dobicz, was purchased for the sum of $325.00 to serve as a parish hall and recreation building. It still serves as the parish hall.
In 1944 the people of Czestochowa began to visualize the need for a new church to replace the old frame building which served their needs for thirty-seven years. No action was taken until at a parish meeting, on September 15, 1946. a building committee was chosen to make the necessary plans for a new church. Father Jerome Kamla was then guiding the destiny of the "Junction" parish.
After all the preliminary preparations were complete, permission was granted by the Most Rev. John P. Treacy, Bishop of La Crosse, to proceed with the building of the new church. The people, as in the past, set to work on this large project even though the group was small, 60 families in all.
In the month of May, 1949, the ground was broken for the new church by the pastor, Rev. Jerome Kamla, with the assistance of Rev. Ernest Kaim and Rev. Thaddeus Szczerbicki. Work was immediately begun and the parish was overjoyed with the thought that the first step was taken to give Almighty God a new and more beautiful home.
Coincidentally, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, 1949, the cornerstone was laid in the wall of the new church. Rev. Francis Brady, Diocesan Consultor and pastor of St. Patrick's, Eau Claire represented His Excellency, the Bishop. He was assisted by the Rev. Francis Piekarski, Rev. Ralph Geisler, Father Jerome Kamla, the pastor, visiting clergymen and the people of the parish. The ceremony took place at 3:00 P. M.
Quoting excerpts from the document encased in the cornerstone of the new church we read the following: ". . . the parish was organized. . . by the Most Rev. Bishop Schwebach, Bishop of La Crosse, and Rev. Francis Pudlo, pastor of St. Hedwig's Church, Thorp. To this date, the parish has been administered by fourteen priests. Some of the pioneers of this church were: Stephen Pluskwa, Boleslaus Zapisek, Joseph Staszko, John Janik, Paul Bania, Anthony Mnikolaicik, Hyacinth Leja, Anthony Gutowski, Ignatius Wisniewski, Martin Ignasiak, Joseph Slowiak and others. Dedication of the new church will take place in the spring of 1950. God grant to this Parish and its people continued blessings of His loving Providence, particularly: Willingness to hear and to do His Holy Will, Peace in the Parish, Peace in their families, a continued spirit of cooperation and finally the salvation of their immortal souls."
Included also in the cornerstone deposit was a list of names of parish members who gave a special gift to the new church for that purpose. Listed were the following names:
Rygiel, Mary; Staron, Joseph; Rudawski, Anton; Jakubowicz, Paul; Mazur, Jan; Slowiak, Mrs. Anton; Pogodzinski, Walter; Brodacki, William; Slowiak, Alex; Gutowski, Veronica; Bartkowiak, Mike; Mnikolaicik, Adam; Gutowski, Felix; Blaszczyk, Stanley; Staron, Josephine; Mroz, Anna; Ignasiak, John; Rudawski, John; Artabasy, Alex; Blaszczyk, John; Slowiak, Peter; Urbas, Stanley, Jr; Mnikolaicik, Paul; Leja, John; Mnikolaicik, Catherine; Szczech, John; Bania, Walter; Kalata, Marcyanna; Gutowski, Stanley; Kalata, Sophie; Leja, Joseph; Slowiak, John; Chura, Stanley; Olichwier, Edward;
The new Church was completed in March of 1950. It was constructed at a cost of $74,946.26 under the architectural firm of E. F. Klinger & Associates of Eau Claire and the Paulson Construction Company of Medford, Wisconsin. New pews and the altar were installed a few years later. Much of the labor was supplied by the men of the parish. A detailed listing of hours each member of the parish offered may be found in the "Annual Church Report for 1951." The work of Mr. Walter Bania, a member of the parish, received public recognition from Father Kamla for installing the plumbing and electricity with no charge for labor. He has continued to make the necessary repairs around the church buildings and property at no cost to the parish for these many years. May God bless such people for their kindness and sacrifice.
Sunday, July 9th, 1950 will be long remembered by the people of Czestochowa. A cherished dream had been fulfilled. On that day, His Excellency, Most Rev. John P. Treacy, Bishop of La Crosse, solemnly blessed and dedicated the new church.
The occasion was beautifully described by the Stanley Republican in the July 13th (1950) edition. We quote: "The new church of St. Mary Czestochowa was filled to capacity by visiting clergy, parishioners, and friends, Sunday for the dedication services.
"Mingling in the crowd preceding the service, one detected an atmosphere of pride in the accomplishment as parishioners looked at their new building and spoke of it; there was a spirit of homecoming as relatives and friends greeted each other, and there was a tying together of the past and present as words attempted to bridge time.
"One professional man from a nearby town proudly remarked: 'My father served at the first Mass in the old church and that was a long time ago, I guess.'
"There was a thought of those who built the old, and helped with the new, as exemplified in the solicitude with which folks made way for a little old grandma in a brown dress and babushka. She was escorted to the front line waiting for the bishop to pass by on his way from the rectory to the church, to begin the dedication services. "Her lined face, untouched by cosmetics, reflected a nobility of character, there was a rugged beauty in her obliviousness to the crowd, her hands were folded in devotion, gnarled hands but strong looking, as befits the hands that mother a household and help conquer wilderness. Now the wilderness was gone and the church that served its purpose then was almost falling apart and there was the new church of St. Mary Czestochowa, the patron that united the old world shrine with new homes in Wisconsin, the patron that linked generations in faith.
"Here at Junction was a day in her honor that brought Poland and America very close.
"Little children, in Sunday best or first communion dress, were eagerly waiting to lead the procession from the rectory to the church. 'There was no pushing or shoving and each child knew where he belonged, such was one of the evidences of the training given by the Sisters of St. Joseph."
His Excellency, Bishop Treacy, offered a solemn Pontifical Mass. He was assisted by Rev. Francis Piekarski, Thorp, Assistant Priest; Rev. Ted Sczerbicki, Cassel, deacon; Rev. Ernest Kaim, Thorp, subdeacon; Hon. deacons were: Rev. Paul Pitzenberger, Stanley and Rev. Daniel O'Reilly, Eau Claire; Hon. subdeacon., Rev. Ralph Geissler, Stanley; Master of Ceremonies, James Finucan, La Crosse; Assistant Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Francis Przybylski, Wausau; candle bearer, Rev. Arnold Mucherheide, Thorp; thurifer, Rev. John Pinion, Edson; acolytes, Rev. Edward Sobczyk and Rev. Chester Moczarny, La Crosse.
Father Stanley Andrzejewski preached the sermon in the Polish language. The Mass of Our Lady of Fatima was sung by the choir directed by Miss Helen Slowiak. Altar boys of the parish who assisted on the altar were: Larry Staron, Ray Slowiak, Stan Pogodzinski, Richard Navarre, Leonard Ciolkosz, Gerald Olichwier, Fred Wisniewski and Ronald Ciolkosz.
After the Church services a dinner was served for over 500 people. Other visiting clergy who took part in the celebration were: Rev. A. J. Ausman and Rev. Emil Hodnik, Cadott; Rev. Dominic Eichman, Stevens Point; Rev. Francis Brady, Eau Claire; Rev. Stanley Krakowiecki, Pine Creek; Rev. Raymond Rucki, Hatley; Rev. Jos. Andrzejewski, Arcadia and Rev. Chester Wrzaszczak, Bakerville.
His Excellency was so pleased with the work of the people, that on July 12th, 1950, he wrote the following letter from which we quote:
"Dear Father Kamla: "May I ask you to read the following letter to your congregation at both Masses on Sunday, July 16.
"My dear Father Kamla and your devoted parishioners:
"Although I expressed my gratitude and appreciation to you all last Sunday at the close of the Solemn Pontifical Mass, I wish to put in writing for the records of your parish my grateful appreciation for all that everyone concerned has done toward bringing to completion the beautiful new Church of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The Church is surely worthy of our Blessed Mother and of the fine people of the parish. My prayer as I offered the Holy Mass for you all last Sunday was that our Lord and His Blessed Mother may continue through all the years to bless your efforts in behalf of our holy religion.
"When I last visited your congregation in the old church I promised to give you a donation toward the building of the new church. As you know, my calls are very great but I am happy to send to you this check for $20100 as my own personal offering to be applied toward the debt of the new church. In return I ask you all to constantly remember me and my many needs in your good prayers.
". . . May the charity of Christ be with you through all your lives and may the happiness which only serving Him can give any man live in your souls now and forever."
Very Gratefully in Christ, [signed] JOHN P. TREACY Bishop of La Crosse
It was a beautiful tribute His Excellency paid the people of Czestochowa for the manifold labors in the vineyard or the Lord. The new church, forty-two by ninety feet in dimension, seats 240 persons and contains a choir, and baby room which increase the seating capacity. The main altar originally was of dark walnut in pleasing contrast to the over-all accent on blond oak throughout the church proper. Side altars are of blond oak. The inside walls are of cinder block while the outside walls are of brick veneer. Below the church is a well appointed hall for parish activities. The Church is of modern gothic design.
Although St. Mary's is situated in what is locally known as "Junction", the more popular name for the district derives from the famed shrine in Poland known as Our Lady of Czestochowa. The national shrine in Poland is world famous. The word "Czestochowa" in Polish might be translated as "intermittently disappearing." The shrine in Poland is alleged to be so named because the devout church goers there, walking over hill and dale, intermittently lost sight of the shrine as they descended into the valleys enroute to worship. A beautiful painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa, brought from Poland in 1907 by Mr. Paul Zapisek was placed first in the original church and now hangs over the main altar in the new church. The picture is also called "The Black Madonna."
During the transition from the old church to the new==it is well to recall that Walter Pogodzinski and Theresa Potaczek were the last to be married in the old church while Victor Depa and Mary Burzynski were the first to enter into matrimony in the new church. Paul Bania was the last to be buried from the old church while George Nowak, the first, in the new church.
The Most Rev. Bishop, on July 9th, 1952, appointed Father Ernest Kaim to succeed Father Kamla as pastor of St. Mary's. Energetic and zealous as he was, Father Kaim did much to improve the church and rectory in his three years. With the generous support of the people and friends he completely remodeled and refurnished the rectory. He installed drain tile around the outside of the church to solve the water problem in the basement of the church. Always interested in making God's home the most beautiful, he managed to buy new pews, a new altar and tabernacle, plus decreasing the debt on the church to $39,000.00. Generous support of the people of the parish and the following friends from Chicago: Dr. F. J. Bonick, Mrs. J. Madura, Mrs. J. Kaim and Irene Kaim, made all this possible. Msgr. Skrzypinski of East Chicago donated the cassocks for altar boys, vestments and candelabras for the main altar. Father Kaim's pastorate was worthy of his zeal for bettering the parish spiritually and financially.
Father Sobczyk replaced Father Kaim, August 31st, 1955. He continued the wonderful work of his predecessors. During the two years of his pastorship, he decreased the church debt by $10,000.00, that at the end of his term it stood at $29,000.00. He labored untiringly for the spiritual welfare of the people of Czestochowa.
On September 3rd, 1957, Father Edward A. Masalewicz was appointed ,to take charge of the flock which he has been doing until the present time. During his short term the debt was decreased to $28,000.00 and the future does look bright to payoff a few thousand more this year. With the help of the Rosary Society and the Holy Name Men the heating system in the church was improved. New tableware and cooking utensils were purchased by the Rosary Society for the church basement. With the continued support of the good people of St. Mary's and their friends more improvements are in store so that Czestochowa may stand as a beautiful monument to God, the Church, and the pioneers who founded and labored throughout the first fifty years in the area known as "Junction."
A point to note is that during the first half century, the records of St. Mary Czestochowa show 702 baptisms, 138 marriages and 141 burials. The parish has constantly decreased during the last twenty years due to the fact that young people left the rural areas for large cities as is shown in the national statistics of rural populations. St. Mary Czestochowa shows evidence of that trend.
On Sunday, June 1st, 1958, the parish of St. Mary Czestochowa, Junction, celebrated a milestone in its existence. The Lord was good to the people of the beautiful little church by blessing them with a beautiful dav. Friends from far and near, pioneers and alumni of the parish partook in the Golden Jubilee celebration of the dedication of the original church. The day's activities began with a Solemn High Mass at 11:00 a. m. Father Francis Brzostowicz, the oldest living former pastor, celebrated the Mass of Thanksgiving. He was assisted by other former pastors, Rev. Jerome Kamla, deacon, Rev. Ernest Kaim, subdeacon and Father Edward Sobczyk as Master of Ceremonies. Father Stanley Andrzejewski preached the sermon recalling memories of Junction, as well as encouraging the people to continue their zealous work in the vineyard of the Lord. A message from His Excellency, Bishop John P. Treacy, who could not be present, was read expressing his congratulations and praising the people of Czestochowa for their deep faith and solicitude for the things of God and His true Church.
Seated in the sanctuary were Father George Mathieu of Stanley, Father Edward Masalewicz and seminarian Lawrence Zawadzki of Thorp. Altar boys of the parish served the Mass. St. Mary's choir under the direction of Mrs. Bernice Symbal sang a voiced Mass which served as a further external expression of gratitude to God for the blessings received. The altar was very picturesque, decorated in gold for the occasion by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Thorp, Wis.
To complete the memorable day, the women of the Rosary Society prepared a delicious dinner for the members of the parish and their friends. Over 300 people attended. The parishioners were also honored by the presence of Rev. Norbert King, Rev. Francis Piekarski, Rev. Herbert Hoffman, Rev. Russel Tremblay, local area pastors who joined the priest on ceremonies at the dinner. The oldest members of the parish in age, namely, Mrs. Veronica Gutowski, 83; Mrs. Mary Rygiel, 83; Mr. Ambrose Fijalkiewicz, 91; Mr. Jan Rudawski, 85; and Mr. Mike Bartkowiak, 83, received gifts from the pastor, Rev. Edward Masalewicz, as a rememebrance of this great and memorable occasion. Most of these people are still active in parish activities.
In closing this brief history of the parish may we part with these few thoughts. To look back over the past fifty years, particularly you of the younger generation, you cannot help but feel that God has indeed been good and you should feel proud of the inheritance that has come down to you from your forefathers.
Great has been their faith to inspire them at the outset and enable them to carry on despite the numerous hardships they have encountered. The strong Faith and zeal that lived within their breasts have been instilled into your hearts, and have given you the will to carryon in their footsteps. Keep ablaze the true Faith, zeal and courage of the devoted pioneers so that the parish of St. Mary Czestochowa may flourish spiritually and materially and stand as a shining example of Christian virtue to others.
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