The long-standing St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church on Chestnut Street held its last public Masses last week after 115 years of perseverance – surviving two conflagrations – in serving the faithful in the Polish language.
Parishioners held a bittersweet remembrance of all the history and hard work put into the Parish over the decades – particularly thanking Pastor Andrew Grelak, a Polish priest who came to the Parish in 1996 and has served tirelessly with time, devotion and his own money.
“It is with the same Bóg zapłać that I turn to you, the most faithful parishioners,” read a letter spoken aloud during the last Mass on Sunday. “You maintained the Parish spiritually with your regular participation in the Holy Mass as well as financially paying your dues and contributing your hard-earned money to various renovation projects over the years. For you this was simply a holy obligation that will never be forgotten.
“Today, the long and glorious history of St. Stanislaus Parish in Chelsea come to and end,” it continued. “The doors to our church will be closed forever. Among those of us for whom this church was a place of prayer in our native language and a bastion of Polish culture, this awakens in us deep anguish. Leaving this church for the last time, we will fondly recall what a unique place this truly was. But, we must also carry with us the disappointment that we were unable to fulfill the promises of our forefathers and maintain this Parish longer.”
It was as sad an ending as it was joyous in its beginning.
St. Stan’s, as it is affectionately known in Chelsea, began in 1903 when Polish immigrants settled in Chelsea and wanted respite from their long hours of manual labor by being able to go to a Polish church. When asked at the time by the Archdiocese of Boston if they wanted their own church and would bore the costs of maintenance, records show they said, “We want God in this country, in the Polish language and tradition…”
Over the next two years, Polish families in Chelsea contributed 25 cents a week for the Parish Fund. They finally purchased the former Congregational Church on Chestnut Street and consecrated it as a Polish Roman Catholic Church on July 2, 1905. In 1908, the Great Chelsea Fire hit the building and burnt it down. One year later, the church had been rebuilt.
It’s height came in the 1930s when the Parish had assets of what would today be $4 million and a thriving religious community. They added a convent to the campus, and also built a school.
A big part of the last services was thanking Pastor Andrew, who in a phone call with the Record, declined to comment on the matter – clearly sad to see the community dissolve.
“Father Andrew, we are thankful for your tireless service at the altar of Christ, for our sick and for our deceased over the past 24 years,” the wrote. “You prepared us for the jubilee year that was the 100th anniversary of the parish in 2005 and have been with us in good as well as in difficult times.”
About eight years ago, St. Stan’s sold the school, which was developed into housing and is now operated by TND in Chelsea for housing units.
It is uncertain right now what will happen with the church building, but that will likely be discussed in the near future. Parishioners seeking Polish language Masses are being directed to a Parish in South Boston.