St. Stanislaus Shines as ‘Beacon of Polish Religion, Tradition’ in East Village

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As St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr parish in Manhattan’s East Village celebrates its 150th jubilee, it remains close in charity and prayer to the people of Ukraine who have endured relentless suffering since Russia’s invasion three months ago.

St. Stanislaus serves as the patron of the parish and of Ukraine’s neighboring Poland.

Father Karol Jarząbek, O.S.P.P.E., the pastor, told CNY that his parish is praying for the Ukrainian people and providing aid through various collections. “We are trying to help,” he said. “They are our friends, also our neighbors.”

St. Stanislaus, located at 101 E. Seventh St., is known as the oldest Polish parish in the Archdiocese of New York. The parish is staffed by the Pauline Fathers (the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit).

“One hundred fifty years ago, through our ancestors’ efforts and their longing for a place where they could pray to God in their native language,” the parish was founded, the pastor said in remarks at the jubilee Mass Cardinal Dolan offered at the church May 8. 

Five days earlier, the cardinal returned to New York after leading a New York Church delegation to visit and express solidarity with Ukrainian refugees, including those displaced in their native land and in the bordering countries of Poland and Slovakia.

“It was a beautiful celebration,” Father Jarząbek told CNY of the anniversary Mass.

A jubilee year “is so important” to a parish, the pastor said. The population of Polish people in New York is decreasing “but the church is still like a beacon of Polish religion, tradition, heritage, here in Manhattan.”

“For many of us Poles, it’s very important that there’s still a place where we can pray in Polish. Every nationality, every ethnic group,” he said, wants to pray “in their own language because they can express their feelings, their emotions, straight to God by the language which means everything.”

The only Polish parish in Manhattan dates to 1872, according to its documented history.  Two years later, the first church was built at 318 Henry St. The present church was consecrated May 19, 1901.

There are more than 800 registered families in the parish and 350 active parishioners, according to the pastor.

The Mass schedule is 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, in Polish; Saturday at 8 a.m. in Polish, and the 7 p.m. vigil Mass is bilingual, Polish and English. Of four Sunday Masses, three are in Polish (8 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon) and the other, 9 a.m., is in English.  “We cannot have less than that because the church is not big,” the pastor said.

After World War II, “many of our countrymen came to the United States from all over the world,” Father Jarząbek said. “They were looking for their new home. The first steps led them to New York and St. Stanislaus Church. At that time, the Immigrant Council organized at this parish helped over 20,000 people to find shelter and a new job.”

The idea of a Polish school first surfaced in 1911, but it did not come into existence until 1915. “In historical documents, we can find information that The Supplementary School of the Polish Educational Council was the oldest Polish school of that kind,” Father Jarząbek said. “It was a seed from which grew the idea of Polish Supplementary Schools throughout the United States. Over 25 years ago, the school was renamed Augustyn Kordecki Polish School, which still functions at this parish. We can see how unity and hard work can bring many beautiful initiatives.”

The school is in session Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for children in the first through eighth grades. Subjects include the Polish language, history, geography and music, as well as religious education instruction.

“We have a beautiful and very rich background,” Father  Jarząbek said. “We want to tell the children” about their heritage that they can be proud of and pass on to others, and about the Polish historical figures in the Church, including St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

From this parish marched the first Pulaski Parade, which today gathers groups from three states: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the pastor said. “This year we will be marching on Fifth Avenue passing St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the 85th time,” he added.

Father Jarząbek, a native of Poland, has served as pastor since September 2019, and earlier was a parochial vicar there. Father Michał Czyżewski, O.S.P.P.E., is the parochial vicar.

When the coronavirus pandemic closed in-person attendance at churches in March 2020, St. Stanislaus immediately livestreamed its Masses and offered the Rosary via Zoom. “The people were very supportive to us,” he said. “They wanted to be in touch with their own priests.”

The pastor appreciated the ability of his parishioners to adjust to the circumstances. “They are real believers. Their faith even increased during the pandemic,” he said.

Father Jarząbek, in concluding remarks at the jubilee Mass, said, “Let St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr’s intercession unite and inspire us to serve God, the Church and the people for the next generations. United, we can do more for God’s glory.”

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