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Albany, NY - Blessed
Virgin Mary of Czestochowa PNCC.
Between 1873 and 1895 various communities of Polish immigrants formed independent
churches throughout the United States. The churches followed the Roman rite and
claimed loyalty to the Pope albeit not to the Bishops appointed to various diocese.
In 1897, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Francis Hodur, emerged as leader for
the disaffected and persecuted Polish immigrants of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Father
Hodur was turned out of the seminary at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow,
Poland after advocating for better living conditions for students. He brought
that same zeal, energy, commitment to God and His people to the coal miners of
Scranton. After repeated attempts to intervene on behalf of his people, up to
and including attempts to meet with the Pope, fell on deaf ears, Father Hodur
moved to a final break with the Roman Catholic Church. The ban of excommunication,
with its attendant horrors, had no effect on Father Hodur who dared to stand
up and denounce the gross discrimination present in the Roman Catholic Church
in the United States.
The PNC Church still followed the Roman rite but adopted the vernacular as the
language of worship. The church also adopted a charter that provided for the
sharing in its management by the laity together with the clergy. Other major
reforms included early advocacy of a married clergy, equality and the rights
of women within the church. Soon other independent congregations joined the Scranton
movement. By September 1904, twenty-four parishes claiming 20,000 adherents in
five states formally united to form a new denomination. At the first synod, Father
Hodur was elected Bishop. Bishop Hodur was consecrated Bishop by the Bishops
of the Old Catholic Church in Holland assuring Apostolic Succession. Under Bishop
Hodur's leadership, the Polish National Catholic Church became a sanctuary for
all those spiritually injured and harmed.
The Polish National Catholic parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Czestochowa
in Albany, New York was formed from a portion of Polonia seeking freedom, but
who did not receive it from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
The Polish immigrants of Albany were of the opinion that they were able to use
the church, hall, and other parochial buildings at St. Casmir's that they had
labored to build. They had drawn up bylaws and other legal documents to allow
them to use those buildings for meetings, cultural events, and educational purposes.
Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic clergy exhibited a judgmental and selfish attitude
towards the needs of their congregation. Along with the mantra of Pray, Pay,
and Obey, the Albany immigrants were not allowed to use these facilities. The
Poles continued to support the church but soon found that their support was no
more than payment of an admission to pass through the doors of the church. After
repeated denials for a pastoral change, the Poles realized they had no investment
in this parish. They realized they had to form a church of their own.
The Poles in Albany knew of the existence of the Polish National Catholic Church
and resolved to break ties with the Roman Catholic Church.
The first meeting of the new church was conducted by the elected incorporators,
Stanislau Radecky, President and Ludwik Wozniak, Secretary on February 23, 1920.
The meeting was held at the Grace Protestant Episcopal Hall in Albany. The meeting
resolved to purchase the congregation's first church at 365 Clinton Avenue in
Albany, New York. The first trustees were also elected at this meeting. They
were: Matthew Czech, Antoni Baranowski, Josef Potzuski, Adam Mnieliwocki, Zacheusz
Roman, and John Tanski. The meeting also resolved to worship under the auspices
of the Polish National Catholic Church (note that the Church did not become an
official member of the PNCC until 1947).
The first service of the new church was conducted in the Polish language in the
Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints, March 20, 1920. For a time, services were
celebrated in a second Episcopal church on Robin Street.
At an organizational meeting held on July 11, 1921 Joseph Chmiel was elected
President and Frank Gasiorowski was elected Secretary. The purchase of the church
at 365 Clinton was finalized at this meeting with the assumption of two mortgages.
This period was a time of great trial for the members of this new church.
Roman Catholics treated the members as traitors. The members of the church
the targets of physical violence and verbal abuse. Often times member's children
were forced to walk on the "other side of the street" while they were
mocked. These insults were borne with Christian charity and in keeping with the
Words of Christ:
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.
If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs
to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:28-30 (NIV)
In 1921, Prime Bishop Francis Hodur visited the new church and blessed its
cornerstone. The day was joyful for those brave and progressive men and
women. The first bishop of the National Church came to bless their cornerstone
and expound for them the word of God.
The parish in Albany began with a register of 800 souls, united in religious,
common, progressive, and patriotic ideals.
On Easter Sunday, 1999 the Church moved to its new facilities at 250 Maxwell
Road in Latham, New York.
Over the years The Blessed Virgin Mary of Czestochowa Church has retained its
religious uniqueness in communion with the Polish National Catholic Church
of America. It continues to support all American and Polish institutions, both
of a secular and sacred nature. In expanding its goals and concerns beyond
even those of Polish ancestry, the parish strives to be of service to the community
as well. Although the parish now consists of third and fourth generation families
as well as new parishioners of every background and ethnicity, the same religious
fervor and respect for human dignity remains.
Visit the church website at www.bvmc.org.