History of St. Francis PNCC, East Meadow, NY
1932 — 1972
The year 1972 is a very important one in the history of the Polish National Catholic Church as it marks the 75th Anniversary of the organization of our beloved Church. This historic year also marks a momentous occasion in the life of our parish, namely the 40th Anniversary of its founding.
The elements of a free Apostolic, Catholic, and National Church were born on Long Island at the beginning of the 20th century amongst a group of Polish immigrants. The first protest against domination and degradation by the Roman Church’s German-Irish hierarchy as well as the unscrupulous tactics of certain Roman Catholic clergy took place in Manhasset, Long Island. An independent Polish Catholic parish came into being. However, due to the lack of proper leadership and continued attacks by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the parish was dissolved.
The Polish people did not accept defeat and shortly thereafter organized another independent parish in Glen Cove, L.I. The depression of the 20th century not only affected the members of the parish, but the parish itself. After suffering at the hands of defrocked and dubious priests, the people of Holy Spirit parish sought the guidance and support of Prime Bishop Francis Hodur. Prime Bishop Hodur answered their plea, as he had done on so many other occasions in cities and towns throughout the United States, Canada, and Poland. Holy Spirit parish came under his jurisdiction. Unfortunately the damage was already done. The priests who preceded those of the Polish National Catholic Church had undermined the parish, causing factions to evolve. After many hardships and a legal battle, the parish of the Holy Spirit, in Glen Cove, was closed.
Although two attempts were unsuccessful in establishing a free Apostolic, Catholic and National Church on Long Island, the spirit of the Polish people was not dampened. A group of dedicated people gathered to organize St. Francis Polish National Catholic Church in East Meadow in 1932. These people offered of themselves, their skills, time and finances to erect a beautiful brick edifice. In June of 1932, Prime Bishop Hodur blessed the corner stone after breaking ground for the new church. In November of the same year, Prime Bishop Hodur returned to East Meadow to consecrate the completed church building to the glory of Almighty God. Since that time, St. Francis Parish has been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Central Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church.
Times were not easy for the members of St. Francis Parish. The nation still found itself in the grips of the depression, one of many hardships the people had to bear. During these defeating times the faith of the Polish people in God’s Divine Providence gave them the strength to continue forward. Under the standard of “TRUTH, WORK, STRUGGLE – VICTORY” (the motto of the P.N.C.C.) the people united and fought with all their might to keep the standard of a free Apostolic, Catholic and National Church alive on Long Island. Through their efforts the parish became a center of unity for the Polish people on Long Island.
In the name of brotherly love, the parishioners pooled their resources to help their brethren who had just arrived in America. The parish served as a House of Worship and also as a place where the traditions of the old country were propagated. Both young and old gathered under the banners of the various parish organizations. A Polish school was organized, where the children and youth of the parish were taught the language of their forefathers and the history and customs of Poland. The younger generation found further solidarity in their own organizations such as The Polish Cadets and the Children of Mary.
In 1954, following the teachings and ideals of Prime Bishop Hodur the Women’s Society of the Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament (ANS) came into being. The first president was the late Rose Gniewek, who served until her death in 1971. Within a short time, the newly established society began to fulfill a vital role in parish life. Today, when 95% of the women of the parish belong to this society, their activity and involvement has yet to be excelled. On November 29th, 1971. for the first time in the history of our parish, the Adoration Society of the Blessed Sacrament hosted the 33rd Annual Convention of the Sub-Central of the New York-New Jersey Seniorate.
On the 11th of November, 1956, the solemn consecration of the new main altar took place. A gift to the parish from Rev. Carl Dembowski, then the parish pastor. The act of consecration was performed by the successor to Prime Bishop Hodur, the Most Rev. Leon Grochowski. Of important mention is the holy relic of our main altar, the inscription which we quote “… clod of earth taken from under the gallery of the Citadel of Warsaw, where the Polish Patriots, fighting for the independence of Poland, were hung and from under the chestnut tree where they were shot by the Russians.”
The building of a new parish rectory in 1957 was another step forward for the parish. This project was undertaken after approval at the annual parish meeting in 1955. Of notable mention is the generosity of the parishioners who made loans, outright offerings and helped in the fundraising activities. The parish is especially grateful to the late Mr. & Mrs. Louis and Rose Gniewek, who co-signed the mortgage for the rectory, thus allowing a long time dream of the parishioners to become a reality.
Time also played its part in the life of St. Francis Parish. Many of those who were the vanguard of the parish have departed from this earthly pilgrimage to eternal rest. Ever with us is their memory. With the passage of time, new families have become active in parish life. With the dedication and enthusiasm of those who have gone on before them, they have continued the work of God amongst mankind.
In September, 1971, the parish greeted a new pastor. A young, energetic and dedicated man of God, Fr. Joseph brought about a revivification of parish life. Under his spiritual guidance, the parishioners have begun needed renovations to the church buildings and surrounding property. At the April meeting of the Parish Council and parishioners a motion was passed to remodel the church interior and make necessary corrections to the building’s construction. More than the material improvements, Father Joseph was responsible for the increase in parish membership.
The dedication of the faithful of St. Francis Parish is endless. They have offered their ideas, their time and their resources and they have been of vital importance to the renewal and growth of the parish.
To the successes of St. Francis Parish, a few words must be written concerning the common labor between our parish and Christ the King Episcopal Church of East Meadow. It was in our parish that Christ the King parish had celebrated its first services until such time when the newly organized parish could build its own edifice. Rev. Jerome J. Nedelka, Pastor of Christ the King has acquainted our Pastor with the community and extended his co-operation to St. Francis Parish.
Glancing back through the history of our parish, we find that the month of November has been predominantly a month of numerous joyous occasions. November 12th, 1972 is added to the joyous occasions as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of our parish under the invocation of St. Francis.
Looking forward into the future, each of us as members of the Polish National Catholic Church must realize how limitless is our commitment to the Church. If we, as loyal members of the Church, will always look towards the future of our parish, steadfastly supporting our parish and conscientiously fulfilling our obligations to her, then our parish will follow a road of growth and expansion with an even better future in store.
Let us not delight in the successes which we have attained thus far. Always moving forward towards our heavenly goal, let us ardently follow the guidance and teachings given to us by our great religious reformer and leader, Prime Bishop Francis Hodur, which will unite us with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Kingdom of God.