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Albany, NY - Blessed Virgin Mary of Czestochowa PNCC.

Between 1873 and 1895 various communities of Polish immigrants formed independent churches throughout the United States. The churches followed the Roman rite and claimed loyalty to the Pope albeit not to the Bishops appointed to various diocese.

In 1897, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Francis Hodur, emerged as leader for the disaffected and persecuted Polish immigrants of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Father Hodur was turned out of the seminary at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland after advocating for better living conditions for students. He brought that same zeal, energy, commitment to God and His people to the coal miners of Scranton. After repeated attempts to intervene on behalf of his people, up to and including attempts to meet with the Pope, fell on deaf ears, Father Hodur moved to a final break with the Roman Catholic Church. The ban of excommunication, with its attendant horrors, had no effect on Father Hodur who dared to stand up and denounce the gross discrimination present in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

The PNC Church still followed the Roman rite but adopted the vernacular as the language of worship. The church also adopted a charter that provided for the sharing in its management by the laity together with the clergy. Other major reforms included early advocacy of a married clergy, equality and the rights of women within the church. Soon other independent congregations joined the Scranton movement. By September 1904, twenty-four parishes claiming 20,000 adherents in five states formally united to form a new denomination. At the first synod, Father Hodur was elected Bishop. Bishop Hodur was consecrated Bishop by the Bishops of the Old Catholic Church in Holland assuring Apostolic Succession. Under Bishop Hodur's leadership, the Polish National Catholic Church became a sanctuary for all those spiritually injured and harmed.

The Polish National Catholic parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Czestochowa in Albany, New York was formed from a portion of Polonia seeking freedom, but who did not receive it from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

The Polish immigrants of Albany were of the opinion that they were able to use the church, hall, and other parochial buildings at St. Casmir's that they had labored to build. They had drawn up bylaws and other legal documents to allow them to use those buildings for meetings, cultural events, and educational purposes.

Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic clergy exhibited a judgmental and selfish attitude towards the needs of their congregation. Along with the mantra of Pray, Pay, and Obey, the Albany immigrants were not allowed to use these facilities. The Poles continued to support the church but soon found that their support was no more than payment of an admission to pass through the doors of the church. After repeated denials for a pastoral change, the Poles realized they had no investment in this parish. They realized they had to form a church of their own.

The Poles in Albany knew of the existence of the Polish National Catholic Church and resolved to break ties with the Roman Catholic Church.

The first meeting of the new church was conducted by the elected incorporators, Stanislau Radecky, President and Ludwik Wozniak, Secretary on February 23, 1920. The meeting was held at the Grace Protestant Episcopal Hall in Albany. The meeting resolved to purchase the congregation's first church at 365 Clinton Avenue in Albany, New York. The first trustees were also elected at this meeting. They were: Matthew Czech, Antoni Baranowski, Josef Potzuski, Adam Mnieliwocki, Zacheusz Roman, and John Tanski. The meeting also resolved to worship under the auspices of the Polish National Catholic Church (note that the Church did not become an official member of the PNCC until 1947).

The first service of the new church was conducted in the Polish language in the Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints, March 20, 1920. For a time, services were celebrated in a second Episcopal church on Robin Street.

At an organizational meeting held on July 11, 1921 Joseph Chmiel was elected President and Frank Gasiorowski was elected Secretary. The purchase of the church at 365 Clinton was finalized at this meeting with the assumption of two mortgages.

This period was a time of great trial for the members of this new church. Roman Catholics treated the members as traitors. The members of the church were often the targets of physical violence and verbal abuse. Often times member's children were forced to walk on the "other side of the street" while they were mocked. These insults were borne with Christian charity and in keeping with the Words of Christ:

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:28-30 (NIV)

In 1921, Prime Bishop Francis Hodur visited the new church and blessed its cornerstone. The day was joyful for those brave and progressive men and women. The first bishop of the National Church came to bless their cornerstone and expound for them the word of God.

The parish in Albany began with a register of 800 souls, united in religious, common, progressive, and patriotic ideals.

On Easter Sunday, 1999 the Church moved to its new facilities at 250 Maxwell Road in Latham, New York.

Over the years The Blessed Virgin Mary of Czestochowa Church has retained its religious uniqueness in communion with the Polish National Catholic Church of America. It continues to support all American and Polish institutions, both of a secular and sacred nature. In expanding its goals and concerns beyond even those of Polish ancestry, the parish strives to be of service to the community as well. Although the parish now consists of third and fourth generation families as well as new parishioners of every background and ethnicity, the same religious fervor and respect for human dignity remains.

Visit the church website at www.bvmc.org.

 
   
 
 

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