Wednesday, October 11, 2023
This October is a special one for the Polish parish of Holy Rosary in Edmonton. This year, the parish is celebrating the 110th anniversary of its founding.
On this occasion, the Oblate missionaries from Poland, Fathers Janusz Napierała and Pawel Gomulak, were invited to preach missions for a week to prepare the parishioners spiritually for this jubilee. The most important celebration took place on October 8 - a thanksgiving Mass presided by Archbishop Richard W. Smith and attended by a large number of parishioners, numerous Polish organizations. Present also were Mrs. Aleksandra Kucy, Consul General of the Republic of Poland from Vancouver, and Mr. Janusz Tomczak, President of the General Board of the Canadian Polish Congress.
I invite you to view a photo gallery of the event and learn more about the history of our Polish parish of Holy Rosary in Edmonton:
And a bit of parish history…
HOLY ROSARY PARISH – THE BEGINNINGS
The first Polish settlers arrived in the Edmonton area around 1895. They came as part of the Federal Government’s Immigration Policy when the then Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton began a widespread campaignto populate and develop the vast regions of the Canadian Prairies.
Most of these Polish settlers were Roman Catholic and deeply devoted to the Church. Their faith was not just limited to church attendance; it was an important part of their identity, traditions, rites of passage, and everyday life. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate of the two Roman Catholic churches in the Edmonton area at the time, St. Joachim’s and Immaculate Conception, ministered to the needs of the Polish immigrants. Most of them knew very little English or French, and experienced many hardships understanding the priests and confessing their sins/partaking in the sacrament of Reconciliation. This hardship was especially felt by the older people.
Around 1898, two brother priests, Fathers Wojciech and Jan Kulawy, OMI, residing in Winnipeg, would begin travelling to Alberta, once or twice a year, to tend to the welfare and spiritual needs of the Polish pioneers. Nonetheless, the absence of a familiar place of worship and a Polish-speaking priest, with whom they could communicate, created a deep void in their lives.
Bishop Emile Legal, OMI, realizing the need for a Polish speaking priest in his diocese, assigned Fr. Paweł Kulawy, OMI, to look after the spiritual welfare of the Polish settlements in central and southern Alberta. Fr. Paweł Kulawy, OMI, the third and youngest of the Kulawy brothers, arrived from Poland in the late fall of 1903, and for the next eighteen years, would serve Polish Catholics across the province, concentrating mainly on the Polish settlements in the Edmonton area. Fr. Paweł Kulawy, OMI would make long journeys between these settlements at all times of the year, to preside over Catholic Mass, communions, weddings, funerals. He was the only connection most settlers had with other Polish settlements and the outside world. (In the early 1920’s, Fathers Paweł and Jan returned to Poland to help found the Polish Province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. They would later perish in Auschwitz in 1941).
As Edmonton began to grow, so did the number of Polish settlers to the area. The Polish community began to consider building its own church where they could sing and pray in their own language, and have a Polish speaking priest to keep their faith and traditions alive. On October 27, 1911, one hundred families met for the first time to discuss such a project.Since the first meeting was held in October, Mr. Jan Sagan suggested that the name of Holy Rosary be chosen as the name of the future parish. In 1912, Father Paweł Kulawy, OMI, received permission from Bishop Emile Legal, OMI to build a church. The building firm of Holmes and Christoferson Company was contracted to build the church for $1,500 with a promise to have it completed by Christmas.
The first Mass in the new Polish Church, on the corner of 95A St & 113 Ave, was celebrated on January 1, 1913. The church was canonically erected as the spiritual centre for Polish people in Edmonton and area on August 1, 1913. For the first twenty years, Mass at the parish was celebrated twice a month as the priests also had to tend to the Polish Missions in the surrounding areas. In 1914, a house was purchased next door to the church.
(elaborated by Barbara Filipowska)
Fr Paweł Kulawy OMI (first pastor)
Fr Stanisław Wachowicz OMI
and the visit of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla recorded by the press
review and correction - Fr D.Janulewicz OMI