St. Mary Polish American Society
The Schuylkill River corridor in Montgomery and Chester Counties in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA has been home to a vibrant Polish population for more than 100 years. Four communities in particular had particularly strong Polish concentrations that were centered around the Catholic churches in their locality. These included- St. Mary’s Church in Conshohocken, Sacred Heart Church in Swedesburg and Bridgeport, Holy Trinity Church in Phoenixville, and Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Pottstown.
In recent years, each of these communities have been impacted by changing neighborhood demographics, a diminishing supply of priests, and fewer people practicing their faith; which has resulted in a wave of parish mergers in recent years. Many of the original parishes which were founded on a basis of shared ethnicity have been consolidated and reorganized as territorial ethnic-neutral parishes. Out of all the Polish Churches within the Schuylkill River corridor, only Sacred Heart in Swedesburg remains open as a territorial parish for the Bridgeport/Swedesburg Catholic community. As a result, Polish Catholics throughout Montgomery County and the surrounding area no longer have a home to celebrate and observe the beautiful Polish customs and traditions which are so near and dear to so many people and have served to unite generations of families.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church served as a landmark for the Conshohocken community for more than 100 years, as the first Polish parish in Montgomery County. It was lovingly built and nurtured by Polish immigrants and their descendants for generations, serving the spiritual and cultural needs of parishioners and visitors alike. The architectural beauty of St. Mary’s Church building represents the tremendous love for and devotion to the Catholic faith of the Polish people.
In July 2014, after 109 years of service to Conshohocken’s Polish community, St. Mary’s was merged into a single consolidated St. Matthew’s Parish, along with Sts. Cosmos and Damien and St. Gertrude Parishes. With nowhere to formally celebrate our Polish heritage in Montgomery and since St. Mary’s Church was no longer used by St. Matthew's Parish, a group of Polish Americans from throughout Montgomery County and former parishioners of St. Mary’s Church formed St. Mary Polish American Society, under the patronage of Mary, Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of the Polish Nation.
St. Mary Polish American Society is an official 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit corporation dedicated to the two-pronged mission of promoting awareness and appreciation of our Polish history and cultural heritage and raising money for the upkeep and maintenance of St. Mary’s Church so it can serve as the cultural and religious heritage site for Polish people throughout Montgomery County and the surrounding area.
In March 2016, St. Mary Polish American Society successfully delayed an attempt by St. Matthew's Parish to relegate St. Mary’s Church, which would have taken away St. Mary’s status as a Catholic church and led to the eventual sale and demolition of St. Mary’s Church if no action was taken. Our group’s mission provides another path forward, one in which St. Mary’s can remain a Catholic church, while not being a financial burden to St. Matthew’s Parish. As of April 2016, St. Mary Polish American Society is responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep costs for St. Mary’s Church, including much needed gutter, roof, and electrical work. We have undertaken a capital campaign to replace the roof at St. Mary’s Church, since the current roof is quickly approaching the end of its life span.
Within the context of our mission, our goals include:
• To finance the regular upkeep and maintenance of St. Mary’s Church so it can still be used for occasional worship services which incorporate Polish customs and traditions
• To promote the identity of St. Mary’s Church as a Polish historic and cultural site for the people of Montgomery County and the surrounding area, paying homage to its legacy as the original Polish parish in the county
• To carry out a calendar of events that will integrate programs of social, civic, and cultural enrichment of Polish customs and traditions which are deeply rooted in our Catholic faith
• To hold meetings and socials
• To sponsor activities that will recognize the contributions of Polish Americans and thereby enhance a sense of ethnic identity and pride
• To inspire the next generation of Polish Americans to be more mindful and respectful of their ethnic and Catholic heritage as having practical and real value in their lives
We humbly strive to protect St. Mary’s Church, out of love for our Catholic faith and Polish heritage, and respect for the sacrifices and achievements of our ancestors. All are welcome to come to our events and to volunteer their time, talents, or treasure in any way they can to help us achieve our mission and goals.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Mary under the title Our Lady of Częstochowa, Patroness and Queen of Poland, we pray that our efforts will be successful in celebrating the Catholic faith as a beautiful and integral part of our Polish heritage in Montgomery County and the surrounding area with St. Mary’s Church as our home.
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Friends, we are thrilled to announce that St. Mary Polish American Society has OFFICIALLY received TAX EXEMPT status. ALL future donations made to St. Mary Polish American Society and those retroactive to June 24, 2015 (our date of incorporation in Pennsylvania) qualify as eligible tax deductions. This is HUGE news, as it also enables us to pursue government grants, and solicit donations from business and other organizations. Please spread the word about this wonderful news!!!!
A special thanks in particular to Sandy Radaszewski for coordinating the basket drawing donations and leading the cooking efforts, to Dorothy Swedkowski for handling ticket and babka orders. We also thank our food vendors, including L & M Bakery in Delran, NJ who provided the babkas, to Krakus Market in Port Richmond who made the gołąbki for Polka Fest, and especially to Czerw’s Kiełbasa in Port Richmond who DONATED all 55 pounds of kiełbasa for Polka Fest. Be sure to check out the photo album and video from Polka Fest on our Facebook page or Shutterfly page ( https://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=9f50dee3928ad272&sid=0AcuWjlw0Yt3Lqg), and feel free to send additional photos and videos from Polka Fest for us to add to our collection. We’re planning to hold our next major fundraising event, likely something similar to Polka Fest, in September. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.
A reminder that we will resume our weekly prayer vigils at the Mary statue outside St. Mary’s Church this Sunday at 12:30 pm. All are welcome to join us as we will gather to pray a Novena to Our Lady of Częstochowa.
Our most recent estimates place the roof and electricity work combined at under $5,000 and the yearly operating costs at between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. No amount is too small, please consider making a contribution to St. Mary Polish American Society.
A sincere thanks to all for their ongoing generosity and support of St. Mary Polish American Society. May God bless you and your families. Bóg Zapłać!
Also, As part of Polka Fest, we'll be taking orders for plain/crumb babkas and cheese babkas from L & M Bakery in Delran, New Jersey. The price will be $15 per babka. Advance babka orders must be placed by Wednesday June 15th. To order a babka, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org