History of St. Hyacinth Parish, Dunkirk, New York (1875-1966)
The second parish for the Polish people in Western New York was founded in 1875 in Dunkirk.The building of the Erie Railroad and prospects of lake trade attracted many of the early Catholic settlers to the vicinity. Among them were Polish immigrants, some of whom came to this are as early as 1848. Many of the Polish settlers, who in their homelands were villagers or tillers of the soil, established their homesteads on the fertile land along Lake Erie.
In 1868, there were about forty Polish families residing in the city or its vicinity. Many of them belonged to St. Mary's Church, a parish organized in 1851, mostly by settlers of Irish descent. When the Sacred Heart Parish was organized in 1857, some Polish families became affiliated with it. However, when in 1861, the Passionist Fathers undertook the administration of St. Mary's Parish, most of the Polish people attended services there, taking advantage of the ministrations of Father Stanislaus Parzyk, C.P. one of the pioneer Passionist Fathers in the United States. In the early 1870's Father Charles Lanz came to this church to conduct services for the Polish people.
In the late sixties and early seventies, Father Szulak, a Polish Jesuit from New York City, visited the section regularly. He held services for
the Polish people in the old frame church of the Sacred Heart which was later removed and converted into the Reding Hotel.
In 1870, the Polish people were were ready to organize their own parish. They sent a committee headed by Theodore Weiss to Bishop Stephen Ryan to petition for a pastor and for permission to build a church. The bishop received them cordially and assured them that he would try to secure for them a priest when he would go to Rome, Italy, for the Vatican Council.
In the meantime, Father John Pitass, after organizing his parish (St. Stanislaus B & M Church) in Buffalo in June 1873, commuted regularly for two years to St. Mary's Church where he held services, preached in Polish and heard confessions.
St. Hyacinth's Cemetery, Dunkirk, New York
(Lake Erie can be seen on the horizon.)
Jadwiga's Crossing: a story of the Great Migration
It was in 1875 that Father Charles Lanz formally joined the Diocese of Buffalo. He was appointed pastor and sent to Dunkirk to organize the parish Upon his arrival he found that the committee had already organized 107 families and collected an initial fund for the church. On August 5, 1875, Father Lanz purchased a site on Lake Shore Drive and Pangolin Street and worked with his parishioners to lay a stone foundation for the new edifice. September 12, of the same year, the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone took place, and six months later, March 12, 1876, Bishop Ryan dedicated the new church.
Since the parish had no school, Father Anthony Klawiter, the fourth pastor, organized one and with the help of the organist conducted classes therein. It wasn't until Father Victor Zarecki became pastor in 1888 that three Felician Sisters came from Detroit, Michigan, to teach in St. Hyacinth School. They occupied quarters on the upper floor of the school.
Father Anthony Lex who became pastor in 1892, built a brick school building with a parish hall two years after assuming his position.
Under the able administration of the next pastor, Father Bartholomew Swinko, the parish acquired more property. In 1902, Father Swinko purchased about twenty acres of land beyond the city line for a parish cemetery.
He also bought a corner lot and a house on Lake Shore Drive and Jerboa Street. In 1902, Father negotiated for the purchase of the property which lay opposite the Church on Lake Shore Drive. When the deal was completed, Father Swinko moved his residence to the brick building on the new property. He reconstructed his original rectory into a convent for the sisters. In 1912 he proceeded to construct a school and a new convent.
For thirty-eight years, beginning in 1915, the parish was in the care of Father Michael Helminiak. He ably administered to the spiritual needs of his flock, at the same time improving the parish property. For his devotion to his Church, Father Helminiak was made a domestic prelate in 1943. His health began to fail in the late 1940's and September 5, 1953, Monsignor Helminiak died.
On September 22, 1958, Father John Suplicki became pastor. He first completed the renovation of the convent and then put into full swing the fund-raising campaign for the construction of a new church. In 1960 the building of a beautiful modern edifice began. It was completed and dedicated by the the late Bishop of Buffalo, Joseph Burke on April 23, 1961. The old church was demolished and in its place a new modern convenient school was erected.
It was blessed on January 6, 1964. As soon as the children transferred to the new structure, the old school building, except for the annex built in the 1950's was torn down and on the same site a parish social center was built. As a result of this extensive building program, the physical layout of the parish was completely changed. Nor did Father John Suplicki neglect the spiritual progress of the parish. Under his guidance, the Mass attendance and the reception of the sacraments has increased tremendously.
- Source: "Millennium of Christianity of the Polish People, 966-1966, Buffalo Diocesan Observance"
Editor: Rev. Milton J. Kobielski; Associate Editor: Rev. Stanley J. Ogorzaly
St. Hyacinth's Parish, the second oldest Polish parish in Western New York, was established in 1875.
The new church was dedicated on April 23, 1961
Blessed Mary Angela Parish
324 Townsend St
Dunkirk, NY 14048-3131
In 2008, the parishes of St. Hyacinth and St. Hedwig were merged, and the parish renamed “Blessed Mary Angela R.C. Parish of Dunkirk, N.Y.” in honor of Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowski, founder of the Felician Sisters