The Polish Independent Church

What began with a little misunderstanding turned into a schism which still exists to the present day in the area. Many reasons may have their validity for the rise and growth of the schism. In the opinion of the writer, the primary cause could have been the turbulent period of nationalism, ignorance, the new life in this country, the antagonism towards the clergy due to the feudal system in Poland as well as the language difficulties. The dissenters first met at the Valentine Malecki log cabin as recalled by the daughter Elsie. Mrs. Malecki was very hurt with the whole idea, but the plight of women in those days was submission completely to the will of the husband. The daughter relates the frequent prayers of the mother to return to St. Hedwig’s Church, prayers that were answered in later years, as the mother and children returned to the true church.

The small group of about 25 families finally built a small wooden church. They petitioned the Most Rev. Schwebach to make this a Catholic Parish and send them a priest. Even in those days it was not logical for the Bishop to accede to their wishes with St. Hedwig’s Church, a mission at the time, only two miles away. Angered at the unwillingness of the Bishop to work in their favor, they finally build a small wooden church, two miles east of the present St. Hedwig’s country church, on the land that now belongs to the Hoffman family. For two years they tried desperately to locate a priest but failed. In the meantime, a Mr. Glish and Mr. Feliks Mikolainis carried on the “worship service.” Finally on May 30, 1897 they became known as an “Independent Church.” The first President of the group was Philip Jasinski, secretary, John Kurtinaitis; treasurer Feliks Mikolainis. The little parish was first named “All Saints Roman Catholic Church” but later became “All Saints Independent Church.” Land for the church was donated by Anton Malinowski to the amount of two acres. The following were the first parishioners of the Polish Independent Church: John Glish, Philip Jasinski, Anton Raczykowski, Joseph Bogumil, Anton Malinowski, Valentine Malecki, Mike Marcinkowski, John Grajkowski, Joseph Prymas, John Gurbacki, Leon Prawineski, Paul Polanszek, Frank Nowobileski, Frank Zwolinski, Clement Holaburta, Joseph Gaska, L. Glamkowski, Felix Mikolainis, Joseph Ryterski, Marcely Karpinski, John Zuzelski, Anton Pendriegalski, Frank Pasternacki, Peter Glysz, Julian Fijalkowski, Jacob Biskupski, Julian Luzinski, (information received from Mr. Hucker from the original books of the Independent church. Fortuanately with the grace of God and the many prayers of families, many of these returned to the original and mother church, St. Hedwig’s, by 1909.

The first Bishop of this church was Anton Kozlowski, of Chicago, the first priest to visit the church was Vincent Zaleski of the Polish national Church. The Thorp Courier early editions record weddings and funerals that took place from this church. The Independents also had their own cemetery which still exists west of the Ted Papierniak farm. One may still read the tombstones that stand near there. Mrs Hucker who has a farm near by, cares for this cemetery. Mr. Valentine Malecki is buried on this cemetery. The Independent church ran dances and other events to raise money for its support. During the week of Nov. 25, 1897, the Thorp Courier reports: “about $35 being realized by the large attendance” at a dance.

At this time also it is worth mentioning as quoted in the April 26, 1900 edition of the Thorp Courier, “a celebration in honor of an ancient personage named Pusias, who preached to the Lithuanians over 2000 years ago was held at the home of Felix Mikolainis in the Town of Withee on Sunday last. Speeches, declamations, dancing, singing, and a social dinner was the order and enjoyed by all present.” The paper continued: “The attendance was about 30 persons.” One can gather from this news item that the Lithuanian community was strong and enjoyed their traditional and native customs in the new land.

As many people who temporarily left St. Hedwig’s began to return to their mother church, the funds and support of the Independent Church decreased and it was difficult to maintain it. By 1925 the church and rectory were moved to the Leneski farm at Sterling Corners, where it was used for a granary. In 1940 the buildings burned to the ground. About this time St. Mary’s Polish National Catholic Church in Lublin began its operation as the handful of members from this area became members of the Lublin church. Small religious articles were taken by Rev. Klos to Washington, Pennsylvania, while the organ, pews and books were moved to St. Mary’s Polish National Catholic Church in Lublin, Wisconsin.

One elderly person, who today is deceased, told the author that many of the families that joined the Independent Church returned quickly to St. Hedwig’s Church in 1897 because they were shocked and horrified at a sermon preached by a visiting priest from Chicago at the National Church. The preacher condemned the Catholic Church by screaming: “Precz Rzymem – Away with the Catholic Church of Rome.” Many of the people could not have their heart and soul in a church that was condemning the Catholic Church they loved so much. Only one thing remained for them, namely to reconcile with the true church.

Meantime as the split developed in 1895, Father Jachminiak continued to attend to the needs of St. Hedwig’s Parish and offering the sacrifice of the Mass and other services twice monthly.

During his administration the first recorded burial in the books took place at the parish and cemetery. On March 1, 1894 Holy Mass was offered for the repose of Stephen Rutkowski and burial took place at St. Hedwig’s cemetery. One July 25th of the same year, Anna Moronczyk died at the age of 38 and was buried on July 28th in the new cemetery. On December 1st, 38 year old Michael Deniszkiewicz, killed by a falling tree, was buried by father Jachminiak.

In March of 1896, Father Jachminiak, who for almost three years served St. Hedwig’s Parish, was relieved of his duties sad and disappointed. He was succeeded by Father Constantine Frydrychowicz as pastor of St. Hedwig’s. The parish lost its status as a mission and now officially became a parish with a resident Pastor.


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