Saint Stanislaus Church is where Buffalo’s Polonia began. It’s steeples still stand tall in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. In 1873, the parish was established by the Rev. Jan Pitass and the Society of Saint Stanislaus as the Polish population on Buffalo’s east side began to explode. The original church was a two-story, wood frame church that was built in 1874. That church was converted to a school shortly after the present-day church was completed in 1886. In 1904, the church’s parish was among the largest in the U.S. with close to 20,000 parishioners and nearly 2,000 children were enrolled in the school.
Fast forward 144 years, and the Mother Church of Buffalo’s Polonia faces significant challenges.
Broadway-Fillmore Alive reached out to James Nowicki, the current parish council president, with a several questions about Saint Stan’s to help gain some insight on the current state of the parish,
What are the biggest obstacles Saint Stan’s faces for long term viability?
[JN] Our biggest challenge is to encourage both Polish and non-Polish Catholics to participate in our weekly mass. The Mass is the cornerstone of a parish, and encourages faith based social activities. Our rich history does not preclude us from maintaining a viable church community. Misperceptions about crime and commute time also hinder mass attendance. I live in North Buffalo, and I only have a 15 minute commute to St. Stan’s. As for crime, there is much more activity where I live than where I pray! If you want to be a part of something special, join us!
With some reflection on Saint Stan’s being the “Mother Church of Polonia,” what message would you want to send to the community about the church?
[JN] The “Mother Church” would love to see her children more often! If everyone who could trace their family history back to St. Stan’s, visit us just once a month, every mass would have Mass Mob-like attendance! But of greatest importance, our church doors are open to everyone.
We are blessed to be in close proximity to neighboring parishes Corpus Christi, and St. John Kanty. We really are “One Community-One Polonia”, and look forward to more collaborative efforts (e.g. Corpus Christi procession, Pulaski Day Parade). There is always something going on in the neighborhood!
We have a beautiful church and campus, and are looking at ways to utilize some of our space, to serve our community, and promote our history and culture.
If someone would ask you why they should join the parish, how would you answer?
[JN] We have a small, dedicated group of parishioners and volunteers, who have stepped up to promote our church, faith and community. We have room to grow, and welcome your prayers, ideas and talents. If you have an idea or suggestion, let’s talk (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Anything else you would like to add?
Though the neighborhood has seen a lot of its old churches close over the last couple of decades, we are lucky enough to have a few left. I have said this before, but places like Saint Stan’s are living breathing historic links to the past. These churches are still open, and they need our support.