New Castle News

June 7, 2014

Holy Trinity Polish National Catholic Church members prepare for 100th anniversary

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Intentions were good.

A new place of worship for parishioners of Holy Trinity Polish National Catholic Church in the Sheep Hill area of New Castle was to be designed in 1939.

But World War II came and those plans got pushed aside.

Nearly 15 years later, there was a new home for the church. And members didn’t have to move far.

The dedication took place in November 1954.

The congregation was organized and chartered in June 1914 as the Polish Catholic Church of Holy Trinity to meet the needs of the Polish immigrants who lived in the Sheep Hill neighborhood of New Castle.

Now 100 years later, there is cause for celebration as the church observes its centennial anniversary Sunday. A Pontifical High Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated at 3 p.m. followed by a banquet. A program of traditional Polish hymns will open the festivities about a half hour prior to the start of the Mass.

The interior has been painted, and cleaning and repairs have been finished so that everything shines.

The Very Rev. John A. Rencewicz II said that, “As I reflect back to 1914, when Holy Trinity Parish was first organized, we realize that the organizers and members must have been faced with many tribulations and hardships that had to be overcome, sacrifices that had to be made, and the challenges must have seemed at times, insurmountable. But, with the help of Almighty God, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they persevered.”

MEMORIES

With its beautiful altar, glistening candleholders and 10 stained glass windows, the sanctuary is a place of reverence and peace, said longtime member Jane Wasilewski, who now lives in South Carolina with her husband, Walter.

“I don’t feel as much peace anywhere else in the world as I do there,” Wasilewski said. “I miss the church so much.”

For years, the couple owned a market across the street from the church

According to Wasilewski, who joined the church in 1950, the church personifies hard work and dedication of its members.

She recalls the original wooden church.

“My first child was baptized there in 1950 by Father Daniel Driscoll,” Wasilewski said.

Lifetime member Rose Marie Anthony continues to play an active role in the church, being involved in just about every aspect including helping to plan the centennial celebration with a committee of about 12. She is also president of parish council.

Anthony is proud of her 100 percent Polish heritage and continuing the traditions of that ethnicity.

She recalled that youth participated in Polish dances called Krakowiaki and classes in speaking the language were taught at the church.

Anthony is especially proud of all the “wonderful cooks of the church” and dinners that members have prepared including making cabbage rolls, nut rolls, breads

“Everything is made by hand.”

At Christmas, visits are made to shut-ins from the church and those who are in nursing homes, and they are presented with a poinsettia, she said, adding that at Easter, classes for pysanki or egg decorating and making palm crosses are taught.

THROUGH THE YEARS

The church continued to grow and prosper in the predominately Polish neighborhood.

“The parish always extended itself to the surrounding community,” Rencewicz said, adding a  playground was named in honor of President Woodrow Wilson at the corner of Miller Avenue and South Jefferson Street in 1930.

When 1964 rolled around, there was more cause for celebration.

The Very Rev. Marcell W. Pytlarz arrived from Canada, infusing new spirit and enthusiasm into the congregation, said Wasilewski who recalled that era as a time of change.

“The enthusiasm Father Pytlarz portrayed to our church and his dedication put a ball of fire under all of us. He was like a sheep who came to take over his flock. While serving as pastor in New Castle, Pytlarz met and married his wife, Mary Ann.

“The church sparkled with both of them. They were a credit to our community.”

It was under Pytlarz’s leadership that plans began to build a new annex, which would include a social hall, Sunday school classrooms and modern new kitchen. Work started in June 1966.

Thus also began the years of fundraising bake sales, bazaars, dinners and pierogi sales that the church still holds the first week of the month every month.

“Our bakers were next to none,” Wasilewski enthused.

Fran Huff participates in the pierogi project.

She grew up in the church and remembers special events such as plays that the kids presented for Mother’s Day.

Huff, who sang in the choir and was a Sunday school teacher, left for 35 to 40 years and returned five years ago.

“It was like I never had left,” Huff said, adding she was welcomed heartily. “I love it because of the closeness and friendliness. It’s family. You feel like you belong.”

Her grandfather, Victor Zakrzewski, was at the church from 1924 to 1943, serving as organist and sexton, and taught at the Polish school.

THE FUTURE

“The centennial anniversary is a milestone in the life of a parish,” Rencewicz said.

During the Mass, he plans to tell the congregation that, “We must first give thanks to God for the priests and laity who, over these past 100 years, through their faith, work, love, dedication and sacrifice, have made this joyous day possible. What they began, we have inherited.”

Hard work and generosity of members and friends of the parish have been sustaining, Rencewicz explained.

When the former Madonna Church closed, some of its members joined Holy Trinity.

“Over the years we have had our struggles, but our faith in God is unwavering. With the help and support of a little over 100 adult members, we have sustained our labors in this community, remain committed to our presence here, and will always reach out to help others where and when we can.

“Members of the church are hard working and loyal, and have a tenacity to see a task through,” Wasilewski noted.

It’s an exciting time for the church, Anthony pointed out.

“I know this will be a beautiful service. It will be so nice to see the church filled with people. And I thank everyone who helped in any way with the 100th anniversary.”

Community involvement continues with such projects as cooking dinners for Habitat for Humanity workers, and work with Operation Lifeline and Beds for Little Heads.

Rencewicz noted, “Yes, we take deep pride in our ethnic heritage, customs and traditions, but we respect and embrace the varying ethnicities of all those who comprise our parish family.”

The centennial anniversary is also a milestone to mark the beginning of the next 100 years of service and dedication to the Lord and Savior, he said.

(Email: lhudson@ncnewsonline.com.)