The official founding of St. Adalbert as the ninth Catholic parish in Dayton occurred on January 5, 1903 when Archbishop Elder authorized Father Strzelczok in writing, to act as pastor of the Polish Catholics in Dayton and vicinity. The chapel of the old church building with a capacity of 300 persons was located on the second floor directly above the classrooms for the parish school. The basement was designed as an assembly hall. The residence for the pastor was located in the rear of the building. St. Adalbert Church was dedicated by Archbishop Henry Moeller of Cincinnati on Sunday, April 30, 1905. The new rectory and the grotto shrine were built in 1954. Around 1961, parishioners began to seriously consider the building of a new church. Services in the new church were held for the first time on Holy Thursday, March 23, 1967 and it was dedicated on the Feast of St. Adalbert, April 23, 1967.
The Early History
The growth of the industrial revolution in the United States with expansion towards the western part of the country created a pressing need for manpower. To provide this manpower America opened its gates to vast numbers of European emigrants who came with expectations for improving their living conditions. Thus, did many Poles, at the close of the 19th Century, find themselves employed in the factories and foundries of Dayton. It was natural and necessary for them to cling together to better cope with the various aspects and demands of daily living. This is how the struggle began to worship in a church of their own. At first the difficulties of language caused them to travel to Polish churches in Cincinnati and Toledo. One of these helpful priests was Father Ladislas Lipski, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, a Polish parish in Cincinnati. Through his visits to Dayton Father Lipski was instrumental in establishing St. Adalbert by the following actions: First, he motivated the Polish men to organize a society under the patronage of Our Lady of Czestochowa on September 16, 1902. This was done to better channel their aspirations and efforts towards a parish of their own. Second, he gained the support and assistance of Father Carl J. Hahne, pastor of Emmanuel Church, who so magnanimously made available without any remuneration the school chapel where the Poles were able to worship together from the time Father Boleslaus Strzelczok came in October 1902 until St. Adalbert Church was constructed and dedicated in 1905. The Polish people were very appreciative of Father Hahne for his friendship and great help to them. Third, he knew Father Strzelczok, a young Polish priest in Pittsburgh, and recommended him to Archbishop William Henry Elder of Cincinnati as a pastor for the Polish people of Dayton.
Founding the Parish
On October 17, 1902 Archbishop Elder requested Father Boleslaus Strzelczok in writing to go to Dayton, visit the Polish families, celebrate Mass with them at Emmanuel School Chapel, and report his findings to the Archbishop. On October 19, 1902 Father Strzelczok came to Dayton with Father Lipski and was introduced to Father Carl J. Hahne and the Polish people at Emmanuel. During his stay of two weeks Father Strzelczok lived at St. Elizabeth Hospital and offered Masses in the Emmanuel School Chapel. At the end of this period Father Strzelczok reported that there were about forty Polish families and about sixty single men with an additional number of Lithuanians who knew the Polish language. Father was authorized to continue administering to Dayton’s Polish people and zealously set to work planning and raising funds. The official founding of St. Adalbert as the ninth Catholic parish in Dayton occurred on January 5, 1903 when Archbishop Elder authorized Father Strzelczok in writing, to act as pastor of the Polish Catholics in Dayton and vicinity. Following receipt of that letter, operations moved with great vigor. House collections were made, and on March 1, 1903 a Society for the Poor Souls in Purgatory was organized for women. This and a men’s society functioned as centers of activity to spur the gathering of funds needed for church and school construction. A one and one-half acre parcel of land in the vicinity of Troy and Leo Streets in North Dayton was offered by Mrs. Catherine E. Allhoff as a site for the Polish church. The Poles in jubilation raised $600 and offered it as a gift for the land. However, the pastor and many members of the nearby Our Lady of the Rosary Parish became fearful of the closeness of a Polish church on this site and complained to Archbishop Elder who acquiesced to the complaints and on September 18, 1903, withdrew Father Strzelczok from Dayton. The Polish people were very unhappy with this action and sent a delegation to the Archbishop to express their dissatisfaction at losing their pastor. The Archbishop was so impressed that on November 9, 1903 he requested Father Strzelczok, who was then serving in Marche, Arkansas, to return to his Polish flock in Dayton and resume his duties. Compassion for his struggling compatriots and his ardor to establish a new parish brought Father Strzelczok back to Dayton.
Building of the Church
The congregation’s search for a more distant church site culminated with the purchase of an .8-acre of land on Valley Pike in North Dayton from Martin and Hattie Wolf for $2,000. Title was transferred on January 26, 1904 and shortly after plans were drawn up by the pastor and approved by the Trustees and Building Committee for a combination chapel-school-residence building with Mr. Frank Sutter engaged as architect. Archdiocesan approval was obtained on March 28, 1904. The initial estimate for construction was $12,000 but the lowest bid turned out to be $15,800. However, the final cost of the new brick building together with equipment and furnishings was about $40,000. The style of construction was Romanesque for the exterior with Gothic for the interior workmanship and decoration. The chapel with a capacity of 300 persons was located on the second floor directly above the classrooms for the parish school. The basement was designed as an assembly hall. The residence for the pastor was located in the rear of the building. Three separate solemn ceremonies in which the Archbishop of Cincinnati officiated were conducted during the construction of St. Adalbert Church.
Laying of the Cornerstone
This took place on Sunday, September 4, 1904. Forming at Holy Trinity Church in East Dayton, a long procession of groups marched two and one-half miles to St. Adalbert Church. They were led by three commanderies of Knights of St. John from Piqua, Versailles and Dayton; Knights of St. George; the German Catholic fraternal organization, Geselien Verein; the Slovak Society and the Polish societies. Riding in horse drawn carriages were Archbishop Henry Moeller of Cincinnati, the clergy of Dayton, the visiting priests from Pittsburgh, and various local dignitaries. Archbishop Moeller officiated at the blessing of the cornerstone and preached a wonderful sermon. Other addresses were made by Father C. Tomaszewski of Pittsburgh who spoke in Polish, Father Charles H. Hahne of Holy Trinity who spoke in German, and Father J. Wilms C.S.Sp of the Holy Childhood of Pittsburgh who spoke in English.
Blessing of the Church Bells
Located in the twin towers of St. Adalbert were three bells weighing a total of 1,700 pounds. These were donated by the John Kosater family. This gift to St. Adalbert was blessed on Sunday, December 11, 1904 by Archbishop Henry Moeller. The largest bell was christened John Adalbert, the medium one, Pauline Mary, and the smallest one, Jesus. Thereafter these bells rang out daily summoning Polish families to worship for more than sixty years. Other large gifts to the new parish were the original pipe organ and Stations of the Cross, which were donated by Chrintina and Josephine Schwind. The Gothic altar was donated by Adam and Crescentia Zengel. The painting of St. Adalbert above the altar was the gift of the Young Men’s Society. The six-foot statues of the Sacred Heart and the Crowned Madonna, hand carved by the father of Sister Raymunda, was the gift of Sister while Superior of St. Elizabeth Hospital.
Dedication of the Church
St. Adalbert Church was dedicated by Archbishop Henry Moeller of Cincinnati on Sunday, April 30, 1905 with many of Dayton’s clergy in attendance. The day was warm and pleasant for the great procession, which took place around the church. German, Lithuanian, Slovak and other Catholic nationality groups marched along with the various Polish societies. In his sermon Archbishop Moeller gave credit to the Poles for their determination and singleness of purpose in building their church. He related how their efforts had increased his appreciation of their intense faith. Great was the joy of the pastor, Father Strzelczok, the Polish people and their good friends throughout the city who rejoiced with them in the completion of the gigantic task the congregation had undertaken. Thus, did St. Adalbert join the ranks of the eight other Catholic churches serving Dayton. These were Emmanuel, Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, Holy Trinity. St. Mary, St. John, Our Lady of the Rosary and Holy Angels.
St. Adalbert School
Once the new building was completed, classes were scheduled for the 1905-1906 school year. Beginning with a handful of pupils, the enrollment increased to 33 (17 boys and 16 girls) by 1909. The two large classrooms were doubled into four by converting the adjoining social room into two additional equal size classrooms. Since that time the number of students grew steadily to extend beyond the capacity of the four rooms available, and additional classrooms were necessary in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Mr. Vincent Chalecki was the first teacher and organist. Lay teachers were employed from 1905 until the coming of the Polish Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from St. Louis, Missouri in 1915. These Franciscan Sisters played a key role in the primary education and religious training of the sons and daughters of St. Adalbert. The school maintained a high scholastic record among all of Dayton’s schools, both parochial and public. The people of St. Adalbert owe the Sisters their deepest gratitude for a job well done. Without their guidance the parish would not possess the wonderful spirit of community, which has been enjoyed in the parish over the years. More than fifty Franciscan sisters have devotedly taught our children during more than sixty years at St. Adalbert. Furthermore, they so inspired some of our daughters that sixteen of them joined this religious group to better serve their God. It was learned, with deep regret in December 1977, that the Sisters would not return to St. Adalbert after the current school year ending in June 1978. When the Franciscan Sisters agreed to provide teachers in 1915, a residence for them was needed. A substantial rectory of red brick containing eight rooms was constructed by August 15, 1915 across the street from the church at a cost was $7,500. As soon as the second pastor, Father Rufin A. Baranski, moved to the new rectory, the residence at the rear of the church was prepared for the use of the Sisters. It was more conveniently located and served as the Sisters’ convent for the next 63 years. There were now 58 boys and 60 girls in a congregation of 206 families. For the benefit of the school children, Father Baranski had a sturdy heated lavatory building constructed in 1925 at a cost of $4,300 from bricks recovered from Dayton streets. This period was a trying one for both pastor and parishioners. It was a difficult period that included the Dayton Flood (1913) and World War I (1914-1918). It was a period in which the parish staggered under a large church debt, witnessed an influenza epidemic, and saw struggle and uncertain working conditions. But, undaunted priest and people persevered through it all, making no spectacular history, but moderately living their lives with confidence in God.
Golden Age of the Parish
Under the guidance of the third pastor, Father Paul B. Frydrych, beginning April 16, 1926, in spite of the misfortunes and hardships of World War II, the people met their obligations paying off the remaining debt of the church. Also, in 1926 a prefabricated frame building of two classrooms was erected at a cost of $3,100 to meet the needs of the expanding school enrollment. Peak enrollment was reached in 1927 when 283 pupils attended. After about five years of use as classrooms, the temporary building continued to be used until 1949 as Boy Scout meeting rooms and as the janitor’s workshop. In 1927 Father Frydrych acquired twelve adjoining lots for St. Adalbert at a cost of $2,700 extending the parish land westward on the side of St. Adalbert Avenue. This land became the site for the new church in 1966. Many repairs and improvements on the church-school-residence building were made since it began to show the wear and tear from years of use. Besides remodeling the church-school entrance with a matching brick canopy, more modern facilities were installed such as a new organ, new boiler, and a garage. Father Frydrych was an ardent baseball promoter and bird lover. As a result, many of the parish youths soon were organized into baseball and football teams, bringing to St. Adalbert much glory and many trophies. These rewards came from spirited play and competitions in Dayton’s athletics. Through his deep interests Father Paul came to be widely known in the Dayton area not only among religious but also the sports and business communities. After working devotedly and energetically for more than twenty-one years in the service of his beloved parishioners. Father Frydrych was stricken with a heart attack and died on November 5, 1947. With the lifting of World War II restrictions on the economy, a program of repairs and improvements was initiated. In 1949 the prefabricated school building was razed and replaced with a cement block janitorial residence and utility building. This was constructed through the cooperative labor of parishioners and friends. In addition, the church grounds received a face lifting by cutting down the old trees, replacing them with young maples near the street, extending the length of the property, and by having the schoolyard blacktopped to also serve as a parking area.
St. Adalbert’s Golden Jubilee
In 1953 St. Adalbert celebrated its Golden Jubilee. This was commemorated with a Clergy Day on April 23, 1953 and a Social Day on April 26, 1963. The Golden Jubilee Banquet was held in the Polish-American Democratic Club Hall. Special tribute was paid to nine living members of St. Adalbert who participated in the dedication of the church in 1905. These were: Mr. Frank Tarczynski, (Trustee, 1909) Victoria Dziadula, Sigmund Ksiezopolski, Alice Kunka, Adelia Piekutowski, Joseph Piekutowski, Sr., Apolonis Piekutowski, Helen Sobieski, and Valentine Szymczak.
In December 1953 Father Sulkowski was given an opportunity to purchase for St. Adalbert the 5.35 acres of land adjoining the church on the north. This was accomplished in April 1954 for $25,000. About the same time the old rectory was sought for conversion to a funeral home. Hence, plans were quickly drafted to construct a more suitable new rectory on the acquired land. A new brick rectory and garage were constructed for $31,000 within the next four months. The old rectory was sold for $24,000 on September 20, 1954.
Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes
The year 1954 brought yet another proud addition to St. Adalbert. Parishioners, Mary and Joseph Piekutowski, recognized in the acquisition of the five acres of ground an excellent opportunity to see their dream of a Lourdes Grotto materialize. They approached Father Sulkowski who obtained chancery approval and work began in the summer with all cost borne by the donors so that a beautiful grotto was erected and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in October. 1954. Consequently, the Poles possess an inspiring shrine for not only the devotions to Our Blessed Mother in May and October but during all times of the year.
St. Adalbert’s 60th Anniversary
The parish celebrated its 60th Anniversary on April 28, 1963. The Solemn High Mass was held in the morning and in the evening three living charter members of the parish, Frank Tarczynski, Apolonia Piekutowski and Helen Sobieski, were honored at the Anniversary Dinner held in the Polish-American Democratic Club Hall.
Planning for a New Church Building
With continued good management, a surplus began to accumulate and by 1961 this totaled $57,000. Around this time parishioners began to seriously consider the building of a new church. Discussion arose and Archdiocesan approval was sought. However, the dwindling parish count, location and other aspects weighed against approval. Instead the Archbishop proposed a territorial parish about three miles distance from St. Adalbert. In the meantime, the parish savings had risen to $88,000 by 1964. The hopes of parishioners grew stronger.
Millennium Celebration of Poland’s Christianity
Father Ernest A.J. Lucas became pastor June 17, 1964 and busied himself with his parishioners in organizing for the Millennium of Poland’s Christianity (966-1966). This religious and cultural program lasted two days. Dayton’s Mayor Frank R. Somers proclaimed May 23, 1965 as Millennium Sunday and urged persons of all faiths to join in the celebration. On May 22 and 23 an extensive exhibit of Polish artistic, cultural and historic items furnished through the courtesy of the Polish Museum of America and others, was held in the Polish-American Democratic Club Hall.
More than 4,000 persons viewed the exhibit. The presence of Bishop Kowalski at St. Adalbert’s celebration of the millennium together with the heartwarming attendance and devotion of the Poles of Dayton apparently had considerable impact and influence on Auxiliary Bishop Leibold for he became convinced that such strong expressions of faith should be cultivated and, evidently, he so recommended this to Archbishop Karl J. Alter of Cincinnati.
Faith of Poles Leads to Construction of New Church
It was in this fashion that the climate for a new church was established. Seeing this change, Father Lucas continued throughout the summer to advance the cause of a new church for Americans of Polish descent in the Dayton area. By September 1965 the Archbishop approved the construction of a new church building.
With $100,000 already on hand, more than $110,000 was pledged and collected in the following two years for the new church. Blessing and groundbreaking ceremonies were conducted in the afternoon of May 8, 1967. The cornerstone laying ceremonies occurred on February 23, 1967. Services in the new church were held for the first time on Holy Thursday, March 23, 1967. Solemn dedication of the new St. Adalbert Church took place on the Feast of St. Adalbert, April 23, 1967.
The new church is of red brick construction with a seating capacity of 300. The sanctuary is fan shaped with the altar located in the small end of the fan and facing the congregation in accordance with the new liturgical requirements. The congregation is located on both sides of the sanctuary and obliquely facing each other. Mr. W. W. Wurst was the architect. The painting of the Black Madonna exhibited in the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa installed at the side altar was originally done by Miss Mary Ann Wurst. The cost of the entire structure and furnishings was about $200,000. Later the church was air-conditioned and electronic bells were installed in the bell tower. The stained glass windows in the front doors of the church were designed and executed by the Botti Art Glass Company of Chicago, Illinois. They were installed in 1981. There are four panels. The center two doors show male and female figures in native Polish dress against a background of red and white, the Polish colors. The greeting on these windows follows: NIECH BEDZIE POCHWALONY JESU CHRISTUS (Praised be Jesus Christ). NA WIEKI WIEKOW, AMEN (Forever and ever, Amen). The left door panel as you face the building represents the feast of Christmas. The greeting WESOTYCH SWIAT translates loosely as Merry Christmas. The right door panel as you face the building represents the feast of Easter and the words WESOTEGO ALLELUJA loosely translates as Happy Easter.
Customs and Traditions
Some of the old and beautiful customs and traditions of the Poles are still practiced and perpetuated: The Christmas Eve Supper (Wilia); the exchange of the unleavened bread (Oplatek); Midnight Mass with the Kolendy; the annual house blessing following Epiphany; the Lamentations during Lent (Gorzkie Zale); the blessing of food on Holy Saturday (Swiencone). The term Polska derives from the Polish word for field: pole. It was originally associated with the Polanie (field-dwellers), a West Slavic tribe that inhabited the central reaches of the River Warts, or what is now the Great Poland region, an area of fields and flat plains. The name Poland was first used to designate the Polish state in the 11th Century and the Polish nation in the 25th Century.