St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish history begins with our parish patroness. In 1892, a small group of Polish immigrant families desired to worship God in their own language. They approached Father Ladislaus Miskiewicz, Pastor of St. Adalbert Church, South Side, Pittsburgh, begging him to intercede with Bishop Phelan (Diocese of Pittsburgh) on their behalf. It was through Father Miskiewicz's guidance that the Society of Our Lady of Czestochowa was formed.
In 1893, men of the society sought help from the Burrell Improvement Company and two lots located on Kenneth Avenue were donated. A small frame church was constructed, facing the alley in order to face Eastward, and St. Adalbert's clergy continued to minister to the needs of the newly formed parish. In November of 1893, the Diocese of Pittsburgh assigned our first resident pastor, Father Henry Cichocki . Our first annual report noted 63 families, 259 parishioners, 29 baptisms, 8 marriages, 3 deaths and 30 children receiving catechetical instruction.
The parish continued to grow, and in three years, an addition to the church structure was built with basement classrooms for a school. Over the years, additional lots were purchased under the guidance of the various clergy. Construction of the present church building began in 1911 under the pastorship of Father Francis Pikulski and was completed in 1912 under the pastorship of Father Francis Poszukanis . Once again, four classrooms were furnished in the church basement. The bell from the old church was placed into the South tower of the new church, and a second bell, although from a different foundry, was purchased and mounted in the North tower.
The school was originally staffed by lay teachers
and in 1913 Father Poszukanis
petitioned the Felician
Sisters for help to staff the school. A convent was built and a
year later, the sisters had full charge of the school. In February of 1914, a
fire slightly damaged the new church, but the old church (which had been
used as a parish social hall) and the rectory were completely destroyed. As a
result of the fire, a new rectory (present-day convent) and a new eight
classroom school (present structure) were built. The school was dedicated in
In 1927 the parish acquired land for our present cemetery under the leadership of Father Anthony Baron. Father Casimir Orlemanski began the grand task of liquidating the parish debt in 1942 and added an addition to the convent. In 1957 Father Edward Sierocki oversaw the building of the present rectory. In the 1970's, Father Anthony Wozniak undertook the church renovation. In 1986, Father Thaddeus J. Kaczmarek was named pastor and served in this capacity during the centennial year. Father Richard P. Karenbauer served as pastor of St. Mary from 1997 until 2008, and as administrator of St. Mary Church from 2008 - 2010. Under Father Karenbauer's pastorate, the church interior was repainted, the statues refurbished, the organ facade pipes repainted, and the altars professionally cleaned and regilded. In October, 2008, Father Alan W. Grote was named part-time parochial vicar. The present administrator is a parish son, Father John S. Szczesny.
The parish has seen many changes and challenges. We have survived a dissent which formed St. Peter and Paul Polish National Catholic Church. We ministered to a mission parish in Harwick, Our Lady of Victory. We opened our doors to house the Hungarian Community, who, as St. Elizabeth Parish, sought worship in their own tongue. (The wood-paneled former "school library" was their "church.") We sent our Felician sisters to provide religious instruction for students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Natrona Heights and students at All Saints Church, East Vandergrift. The last priest to serve as full-time parochial vicar under a parish pastor, Fr. Andrew Kawecki, was transferred in 1990 and not replaced. The parish school was closed in 1994, due to insufficient enrollment. In 2008, diocesan restructuring partnered St. Mary Church with St. Joseph Church (New Kensington), placing pastoral care of St. Mary Church the administration of St. Joseph Church, although with the assistance of a parochial vicar.
Statuary in the Marian altar:
MAIN ALTAR REREDOS:
Statuary in the Sacred Heart altar:
CHURCH INTERIOR COLOR SCHEME FROM 1992 - 2006,
prior to altar regilding
HOW THE CHURCH APPEARED WITH TWO PIN OAK TREES IN FRONT OF IT (1993 - approx. 2005)
THE PARISH MEN'S CHOIR (between 1937 and 1978)
FIRST ROW (seated l. to r.) - J. Bentlejewski, A.
Kowal, Fr. Orlemanski, J. Grzelewski, J. Cebula
SECOND ROW (l. to r.) - J. Janosky, C. Wroblewski, F. Perdeus, S. Golon, unknown, J. Dibas, A. Masnick, S. Koscianski, Sr., S. Kasprzyk
THIRD ROW - I. Siuta, T. Stanek, J. Dawidowski, V. Staniszewski, C. Dudzinski, T. Koscianski, T. Sowol
Director: Joseph Konkolewski
Parish Polish Glee Club at a performance on the old stage in Friendship Hall, February 19, 1950.
The "bride" (seated, L center) is Dorothy Kordzi (Perdeus) and the "groom" (seated, R center) is Frank Perdeus. Mother-of-the-bride (left of bride) is Bernice Tracz.
This is how the sanctuary looked decorated for Christmas, prior to the 1978 renovation. The pillars in line with the front pews are where the sanctuary now begins. The main altar was one step higher than it is now, and contained the plaster relief sculpture of the Last Supper that is part of the present altar table. The metal altar rail replaced the original wooden one. The murals of the Annunciation and the Nativity above the side altars have been removed.
Photo credit: Bobshosky Studios
This is how the altar looked during a parish
mission in 1912, when the present church was newly-built.
Note the wooden altar rail, the hanging perpetual light, and an ornate chandelier.
A copy of a very old photo taken in 1911 of the
present church being built.
The original church, facing the alley, can be seen at left.
The original church served as a social hall when the new church opened, until it was destroyed by a fire.
The present school was built on the site in 1922.
The church bell from the original church is the higher-pitched bell in the present church, in the northern tower (rectory-side.)
© Copyright 2013, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, A Pennsylvania Charitable Trust