Saint Joseph Basilica, 53 Whitcomb Street, Webster MA

On Being Polish-American

Part of the homily of Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski, Bishop of Orlando
At Saint Joseph Basilica in Webster MA
11 September 2005

"Today, we celebrate one hundred and fifty years of the first permanent settlement of Polish immigrants in this country at Panny Maria, Texas. In every case whether it was that of those Polish artisans that organized the first strike on American soil, the valiant heroes of the American Revolution, Generals Pulaski and Kosciuszko, Father Moczygemba's brave band of settlers in Texas, the former peasants that streamed into America during the Great Wave of Immigration beginning in the 1880's, the post World War II D.P.'s resettling in America, or the most recent immigration from Poland that began in the 1980's; in every case, Poles may have been obligated to flee their native land because of hunger or oppression.

But in so fleeing, they never fled from their "Polishness". It is a holy pride that the angry winds of poverty and prejudice could not conquer.

To protect those roots of Polishness, Poles in America have built new institutions: fraternal societies, newspapers, insurance cooperatives, schools, seminaries - and our own national parishes. These institutions were not designed to isolate us Poles from the new society in which we found ourselves.

On the contrary, in the face of hostile forces that would marginalize us unless we would deny our Slavic identity and our Roman Catholic religion, these institutions were designed to give us the position of strength that could allow us to not to assimilate but to integrate. If we had to leave behind Poland, we would not leave behind our Polishness."


Background Music: Chopin, Opus 28, "The Polish Dance"

Dennis Benarz, Chicagoland USA 2006