About Divine Mercy Parish
A CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF OUR PARISH
The Nineteenth Century found people leaving their respective homelands for many and variety reasons to start life anew in the New World. In the Palmer area, the Irish were first to arrive about 1831; French-Canadiens about 1855; and the Polish beginning in 1886. These groups brought with them their indomitable faith and deeply-ingrained Catholic traditions. The first Mass in Three Rivers, MA, according to tradition, was celebrated in late 1832 or 1833 by Father James Fitton of East Boston.
1895 - The St. Joseph Men's Society of Thorndike was formed in April of 1895. Father Franciszek Chałupka of Chicopee was instrumental in getting the Polish settlers of Three Rivers, Thorndike, and Bondsville to unite and form this society. Such unification served as an incentive to form a parish for the increasing number of Poles in the area.
St. Joseph Society of Thorndike
1899 - The St. Joseph Society members chose representatives to explore the possibility of a Polish-speaking church. In the meantime, individuals traveled to Chicopee when their needs necessitated ministry in their native tongue. Occasionally, visiting priests of Polish descent ministered to their spiritual needs.
1900 - Among some of the early settlers instrumental in soliciting funds and forming the parish were Stanisław Zięba, Wincenty Roman, Dominik Motyka, Szymon Jorczak, Franciszek Kosinski, Albert Świst, Jan Bielski, Józef Kania, Albert Rusek, Stanisław Zerdecki, Kazimierz Sakowski, Michał Pelczarski, Franciszek Salamon, Michał Motyka, Marian Włodyka, Karol Godek, Albert Kolbusz, Antoni Wilk, Walter Pietryka, Andrzej Krolik, and Michał Frydryk.
1901 - Sixty-three Polish baptisms were recorded at St. Mary's Church in Thorndike and only ten Irish baptisms - thus highlighting the need for a Polish-speaking church.
A young attorney (later judge) David Dillon of Palmer greatly assisted the first Polish settlers and was influential in getting permission from Bishop of Springfield, Most Rev. Thomas Daniel Beaven, D.D. to establish a new parish.
The St. Stanislaus Polish Men's Society was formed in the village of Three Rivers.
St. Stanislaus Polish Men's Society of Three Rivers
1902 - Father Wacław Lenz was appointed by Bishop Beaven as the first Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish.
Fr. Lenz, Pastor 1902-1911
Polish Roman Catholic Congregation Committee, Inc., which had been formed for the purpose of collecting funds and seeking permission from the bishop to establish a Polish-speaking parish, was dissolved, and all records were turned over to Fr. Lenz when Bishop Beaven named him first pastor. According to records of Michał Pelczarski, one of the incorporators, the parish debt was $1.87.
Through the efforts of a committee, which had been gathering funds from among the Polish settlers, eleven acres of uncleared land were purchased at Four Corners for $1,000 from the Talmadge family. In the meantime, St. Anne's Church in Three Rivers was rented for use to have Mass celebrated there. Mass was also celebrated at St. Mary's Church in Thorndike and at a chapel in Bondsville.
Construction of SS. Peter and Paul Rectory began in late 1902.
SS. Peter and Paul Rectory, on which construction began in 1902.
The first Baptism recorded by Fr. Lenz was that of Wiktoria Miga on August 16, 1902. The first marriage was recorded on August 23, 1902 - Jan and Julia Kmon.
1903 - Pope Leo XIII died (Reigned from 1878-1903). Pius X became the new Pope.
The SS. Peter and Paul Holy Rosary Sodality was formed. Katherine Kosinska and Tekla Pobudzynska were the organizers.
Construction of SS. Peter and Paul Church began.
SS. Peter and Paul Church and Rectory, 1905, with a portrait of founding Pastor Father Wacław Lenz.
1905 - Construction of SS. Peter and Paul Church, Rectory, and barn were completed.
On September 24, the cornerstone was laid and SS. Peter and Paul Church was dedicated. Attending was a delegation from a Polish society in Ludlow, dressed in Krakowiak style, with long white coasts and four-cornered hats adorned with peacock feathers. The new parish numbered nearly one thousand members.
Isaiah 56:7 "Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people"
Some interesting statistics are as follows:
Cost of church (including furnishings) and barn - $60,000
Stations of the Cross - $3,500
Organ - $1,600
Individual windows - $50
Mortgage on all property at this time totaled $35,000
Ignacy Paderewski Band, established 1906, pictured with Fr. Lenz.
1906 - Urged by Father Lenz, the Parish organized the Ignacy Paderewski Band. The band played for local and area parades, particularly as a marching band for the Polish organizations participating in church and community functions.
1908 - The Polish Citizens Club of Thorndike was formed to participate in civic and political affairs. This group later disbanded; nevertheless, its counterpart - the Thorndike Women's Club, organized much later, flourished for a number of years.
1911 - Because of turmoil within the Parish, Father Lenz asked for and received a transfer to Sacred Heart Parish in Easthampton, MA. At the time of his departure, the mortgage had been reduced to $28,500. Father Władysław Kiełbasiński was assigned the second Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church.
Fr. Kiełbasiński, Pastor 1911-1913
Children of Mary Sodality was formed under the leadership of Anna Kruczek and Mary Szczepanek. The Sodality members gave religious instruction, maintained, and beautified the church sanctuary, and assisted financially in community affairs.
1913 - Father Kiełbasiński was in ill health during most of his two-year pastorate. In 1913, he retired and returned to his native Poland. At the time of his departure, the church debt has been reduced from $28,500 to $21,250.
Father Andrzej Krzywda was assigned as the third Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church. Before his lengthy pastorate was completed, all indebtedness of SS. Peter and Paul Parish had been discharged.
Fr. Krzywda, Pastor 1913-1947
Sacred Heart Society was formed. Membership included both men and women who worked energetically for God and Country.
Statistics show that of seventy-five students attending Palmer High School at this time, only one was of Polish descent.
1914 - A Meneely bell, weighing 1,225 lbs. was shipped to the Parish. The bell consists of 78 parts copper and 22 parts tin. These metals constitute a genuine cast bronze bell. This was proudly installed and began to toll its message to the community.
Pope Pius X died (Reigned from 1903-1914). Benedict XV was elected the new Pope.
1916 - Because of the resignation of the pastor of St. Adalbert Parish in Bondsville, Fr. Krzywda also directed the building of St. Adalbert Church and headed this mission parish until 1918, when a new resident pastor was assigned.
SS. Peter and Paul Church, Rectory, and St. Adalbert Polish Mission Church, Bondsville
1917 - The United States entered World War I on April 6.
Parish completed payment of mortgage due on church properties.
Fr. Krzywda proposed building a parochial school and was met with resistance from some parishioners. In spite of those objections, a building fund was established for this purpose.
Mary Motyka (Kapinos) became the first Polish girl to graduate from Palmer High School. That Sunday, in keeping with his philosophy, Fr. Krzywda devoted his sermon to the importance of education and urged others to seek as much learning as possible as the only way to progress and prosper.
Fr. Alfons A. Skoniecki, newly ordained, was assigned as assistant pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish.
1918 - On November 11, an Armistice was declared ending World War I. Much joy was felt in the Parish at the conclusion of the "war to end all wars."
After a short tenure as assistant, Fr. A. A. Skoniecki was assigned to serve in another parish.
1919 - Our founding fathers had forethought to plan for the acquisition of a house that was later to become the convent for the Sisters of the Franciscan Congregation. A twelve-room house owned by Philomena and Rose Smith was considered. During the negotiations, one of the Smith sisters died, and the other sold the home to the Parish for $3,312 to memorialize her sister.
The Convent of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, at 2358 Main Street. Fr. Krzywda purchased the convent in 1919.
The parish now had $10,000 available, and construction of the parish school began. Bruno Wozny of Springfield was the architect; John Topor of Easthampton, the contractor.
Construction of the Parish School in 1919.
1920 - Bishop Thomas Beaven, second Bishop of Springfield, MA passed away. (Bishop 1892-1920.)
1921 - A one-story school building containing eight classrooms and an auditorium was completed in August at a cost of $70,000. Outstanding debt was $45,000.
In September, classes began for approximately four-hundred students. Eight sisters of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, a teaching order, staffed the school. Under the direction of Sister M. Aloysius, Principal, the first teaching staff included Sisters M. Victoria, M. Amalia, M. Eusebia, M. Agnes, M. Fabiana, M. Germana, M. Euphrasia, and M. Leandra.
On June 16, Thomas Michael O'Leary was appointed by Pope Benedict XV as the third Bishop of Springfield, MA. On September 8, Bishop Thomas O'Leary was consecrated and installed.
On December 25, Father Jan Oszajca, native of Poland, celebrated his First Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church. This marked the first time in the parish history that a newly ordained priest had celebrated his First Mass in our church.
Fr. Jan Oszajca about to celebrate his First Mass, a Solemn High Mass on Christmas Day, 1921.
1922 - Pope Benedict XV died on January 22. (Reigned 1914-1922.) Pope Pius XI assumed the papacy on February 6.
On March 11, Fr. Franciszek J. Wilk, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Antoni Wilk of Three Rivers, celebrated his First Holy Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church. He was the first parishioner to be ordained a priest and spent his life in God's service in the Diocese of Providence, RI.
Fr. Franciszek Wilk about to celebrate his First Mass, a Solemn High Mass on March 11, 1922.
1924 - Polish Women's Citizens Club of Three Rivers was formed to teach, sponsor, and provide financial assistance to those Poles - particularly women - seeking to become citizens of the United States.
1925 - An Alumni Association of SS. Peter and Paul School was formed by Fr. Jan Oszajca, assistant pastor.
1926 - On January 29, the Parish was visited by Archbishop Jan Feliks Cieplak of Poland who, at one time, was sentenced by the Bolsheviks to die as an enemy of the regime. Archbishop Cieplak, the Metropolitan of Vilnius, a venerable arch-priest and martyr for his faith and homeland, visited our parish on his tour of America. He died in New Jersey on February 17, and his body was transferred to the Cathedral of Św. Kazimierz in Vilnius.
Archbishop Jan Cieplak, Servant of God, visiting our church during his 1926 trip to the United States. He passed away nineteen days later in New Jersey.
A singing group called "Echo" was formed to foster the tradition of singing Polish songs.
1927 - Fr. Andrzej Krzywda continued his pastorate with Fr. Józef Sitkowski serving as his assistant.
Just one decade after the first Polish student had graduated, one hundred and one graduates of the Parish school were now attending Palmer High School.
On October 23, our parish observed its Silver Jubilee. Bishop Thomas O'Leary celebrated a Pontifical High Mass (Missa Solemnis Pontificalis) at 11 a.m. with Rev. Msgr. John Conlin as Archdeacon; Fr. Józef Tomikowski and Fr. Edward Fitzgerald - Honorary Deacons; Fr. Wawrzyniec Cyman - Deacon of the Mass; Fr. Stanisław Feresz - Subdeacon; Fr. Robert Ahearn - Master of Ceremonies; Fr. Antoni Cyran - Homilist. At 4 p.m., the Bishop confirmed 400 children.
The Parish School in 1927. Pictured in front are the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph with the entire student body.
1929 - The Stock Market crashed on October 29, marking the end to postwar prosperity as stock prices plummeted. The United States entered the Great Depression that was to last almost a decade. Severe economic economic hardship curtailed Parish activity, but the faith and devotion that had always characterized the Polish spirit never wavered, bringing people closer than ever to the Church.
1931 - On January 31, a play, "The Polish Wedding", was presented by the Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers. The cast included parishioners only and was directed by Michał Olearczyk. It was one of the most successful productions presented and later played in several nearby towns.
1932 - Fr. Józef Szczepaniak arrived as assistant, serving our Parish for many years and later as administrator, in 1947, after Fr. Krzywda's death.
1935 - Fr. Władysław S. Golas, son of Mr. and Mrs. Paweł Golas of Three Rivers, was ordained to the priesthood on June 6. After attending the local elementary school, he attended St. John Cantius High School in Erie, PA. Following the completion of studies at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, MI, Fr. Golas was ordained in Detroit by Bishop Michael Gallagher. After celebrating his First Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church, he remained on assignment in Michigan during his priestly life.
1936 - Because of the severity of the economic crisis, the Church played an important role in the social life of the Parish during this decade. A tennis court, adjacent to the church, provided exercise and a meeting place for the young. Basketball games were played at the Old Town Hall, and local baseball teams were supported enthusiastically. Picnics and lawn parties on the church grounds were an integral part of the summer scene.
1939 - Pope Pius XI died on February 10, 1939. (Reigned 1922-1939.) On March 2, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli assumed the Papacy and took the name Pope Pius XII.
On September 1, Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II.
1941-45 - A state of war was declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt one day after the infamous attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7. On December 10, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and Congress replied in kind. World War II had encompassed us all. Wartime conditions curtailed the activities of the Parish. Men and women joined the various service branches, while those at home were concerned with victory gardens, mock air raids, war bond sales, and swing-shifts to accelerate war production. Prayers were said for the safety of those at war, but soon a scroll appeared in church, listing the young men of our Parish killed in action. These included:
Paul P. Bobowiec Joseph S. Konopka Augustine F. Smoła
Joseph J. Brożek Stanislaus J. Kuliś Adam J. Topór
August F. Dominik, Jr. Albin W. Leś Stanislaus Wilk
Frank Frydryk John S. Mosio Stanislaus J. Wrzesień
Joseph P. Giza Ignacy S. Pobiegło Walter B. Zaleński
Frank A. Hryniewicz Joseph A. Roman
Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine: et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
("Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.")
1944 - On June 3, Fr. Eugene Dranka, M.S., son of Albert and Mary (Mikowski) Dranka, was ordained to the priesthood in Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Albany, NY. He attended local schools and continued his studies at LaSallette College in Altamont, NY. After celebrating his First Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church on June 4, 1944, Father Dranka served various parishes in TX; NH; Westfield, MA; and Bondsville, MA, where he remained until his death in 1974.
1945 - On May 7 (Victory in Europe [V-E] Day), Germany surrendered, marking the conclusion of the war in Europe. With the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, the world entered a new era - the Atomic Age. Soon after, V-J Day was declared on August 15, marking an end to the war in Asia. The joy within SS. Peter and Paul Parish was compounded as family members were finally reunited, some after several years of separation.
1946 - Eight acres of land were purchased, at a cost of $5500, from the Strycharz family for use as a cemetery in Bondsville, near Crystal Park. The balance of land and a home were purchased by Fr. Krzywda, who then left it as a retirement home for Mrs. Pasierb, his maid for many years.
1947 - On March 29, 1947, Mrs. Apolonia Kincius was the first parishioner buried at this cemetery.
On December 18, 1947, Father Andrzej S. Krzywda, Pastor, died. His body lay in state in the parish church where he had served for 34 years. Parishioners paid their respects and gave tribute to a man whose stewardship had successfully weathered periods of prosperity and depression, including two World Wars.
1948 - Fr. Józef Szczepaniak served as administrator until he was assigned to Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish in Turners Falls.
Father Alfons A. Skoniecki became the fourth Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish with Fr. Kazimierz Świtalski assigned as his assistant. Fr. Skoniecki came from Turners Falls, where he had directed the construction of Our Lady of Częstochowa Church, dedicated in 1929.
Fr. Alfons Skoniecki, Assistant Pastor 1917-1918 and Pastor 1948 to 1972.
During the year, repairs to church properties were undertaken. Over 10,000 hours of free labor were donated by parishioners to clean, paint, and repair the various church properties. When school opened in September, hot lunches were served to students for the first time due to the efforts of the Mothers' Club.
The December 31 financial report showed that the Parish was now mortgage-free with a total of $7,139.94 in the savings and checking accounts. At this time, the assessment of all church property was listed at $203,000.
1949 - Fr. Konrad Daugiełło, native son, was ordained to the priesthood by Most Rev. Thomas O'Leary at St. Michael's Cathedral, Springfield, on June 11. The following day, Fr. Daugiełło celebrated his First Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Church, followed by a reception at St. Stanislaus Hall in Three Rivers.
Fr. Henryk Kreczko replaced Fr. Kazimierz Świtalski as assistant pastor.
Bishop Thomas O'Leary passed away at age 74. (Bishop 1921-1949.)
1950 - On January 28, 1950, Christopher J. Weldon was appointed the fourth Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts by Pope Pius XII. His episcopal consecration took place on March 24 by Cardinal Spellman, Cardinal Cushing, and Bishop Stephen Donahue serving as co-consecrators.
On June 27, President Harry S. Truman ordered the U.S. Air Force and Navy to Korea. This "police action" lasted for several years, with members of our Parish serving in this conflict.
Renovations and improvements to Parish buildings continued; sidewalks were repaired and church grounds were improved.
The decade began with a total of $30,474.79 in savings and checking accounts.
1952 - Fr. John Aubertin replaced Fr. Kreczko as assistant pastor.
1953 - Through the efforts of the Mothers' Club, the kitchen and dining room in the school were equipped with many needed items.
Some interesting statistics of this year follow:
Census - 1,538 adults; 306 children
Parochial school students - 203
Baptisms - 43
First Communion children - 25
Total savings and checking account - $78,514.94
1954 - New altars (St. Mary and St. Joseph) were donated by the Rosary Sodality and St. Joseph Society. Further church improvements were undertaken, including the painting of the church interior and new lights. A new Communion railing and pulpit were installed.
On April 17, Fr. Skoniecki was honored by the Legal Polish Government in exile in London, England with the title "Commander of Polonia Restituta," the highest honor bestowed by the Polish Republic. He was commissioned a colonel in the Polish Armed Forces by General W. Anders, Chief of Staff. On November 20, a testimonial dinner was held at St. Stanislaus Hall to acknowledge these new honors.
1955 - The Fiftieth Anniversary of our Parish was formally observed on September 11, with a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Most. Rev. Christopher J. Weldon, Bishop of Springfield. On September 25, a banquet observing the Fiftieth Anniversary was held in a tent erected on the Parish grounds.
Coincidentally, the One Hundredth Anniversary of Catholicism was celebrated in the town of Palmer.
The Pontifical High Mass celebrated on September 11, 1955 by the Bishop of Springfield in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Saints Peter and Paul Parish.
1957 - On June 2, the Fortieth Anniversary of Fr. Skoniecki's ordination to the priesthood was observed with a High Mass in SS. Peter and Paul Church, followed by a banquet that evening at the Ware Armony, Ware, MA.
Valuation of all church property at this time was set at $365,477.21. Total savings and checking accounts amounted to $175,428.30.
Fr. Skoniecki, during the "Ecce Agnus Dei", at his 40th Anniversary Mass in 1957.
1958 - A new vigil light was donated to the church by Frank Salamon of Thorndike, one of our first parishioners. Altars and statues, as well as Stations of the Cross, were repainted.
In thanksgiving for successful surgery and recuperation, Fr. Skoniecki endowed the Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. Consecration of this chapel was held on June 1, 1958 at the Vatican.
Fr. Skoniecki celebrates a Low Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa in the Vatican Grottoes - the chapel which he endowed.
Pope Pius XII died on October 9. (Reigned 1939-1958.) Pope John XXIII became the next Pope on October 28.
Fr. Skoniecki with Pope Pius XII
In late 1958, Pope John XXIII bestowed the official title of “Prelate of Honor of His Holiness” on Fr. Skoniecki, with the spoken title of Monsignor.
Msgr. Skoniecki with Pope John XXIII in 1961
1959 - New confessionals, tabernacle, and monstrance were included in the continuing renovation project. Parish statistics indicated further growth and prosperity:
Census - 1488 adults; 594 children First Communion children - 46
Parochial school students - 249 Total savings and checking accounts - $222,452.09
Baptisms - 29
1960 - Fr. Aubertin was transferred as Pastor of St. John Cantius Church in Northampton after serving our Parish for more than eight years. Fr. Zygmunt Kwiatkowski replaced Fr. Aubertin as assistant pastor. At this time, several gifts were donated to the church including a ciborium, a crucifix for the altar, and a candelabra.
In early December, the United States announced support of rightist rebels in Laos, marking the beginnings of United States involvement in what became the Vietnam War. Again, members of the Parish left to serve in this conflict.
1961 - A new boiler was installed in the school, which now had 233 students. A set of sedilia was given to the church by Edward and Wiktoria Lech.
1962 - The Second Vatican Council opened during the year, and continued until 1965. The many changes of the Council have had far reaching consequences.
The Parish observed the Sixtieth Anniversary of its organization with a Mass of Thanksgiving.
1963 - Pope John XXIII died on June 3. (Reigned 1958-1963.) Pope Paul VI became the next Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ.
1964 - In August, Msgr. Skoniecki met with Pope Paul VI in a Private Audience.
Msgr. Skoniecki in a Private Audience with Pope Paul VI in 1964
1965 - Sixty years had now elapsed since the cornerstone was laid and our church consecrated.
1966 - Msgr. Skoniecki submitted plans for approval by the Bishop for church renovation, sanctuary enlargement, new flooring and rugs, sacristy enlargement, new pews, and aluminum siding for the exterior. Cost for the project was estimated at $100,000.
On May 6, Msgr. Skoniecki attended the Holy Mass for the Freedom of Poland celebrated by Pope Paul VI during the 1000th anniversary of Poland's conversion to Catholicism. This Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, the chapel funded by Msgr. Skoniecki.
1967 - The Fiftieth Anniversary of Msgr. Skoniecki's ordination to the priesthood was celebrated with Mass and a banquet at the Ware Armory on June 11.
Parochial school enrollment began to decline - 183 students were registered.
Rev. Msgr. Skoniecki walks to church to celebrate his 50th Anniversary Mass
1968 - In September, the Bishop granted permission to undertake renovation plans requested two years previously. A new church roof, steeple repairs, new siding, stained glass window repairs, new pews, carpeting and lighting were among the main projects.
Fr. Kwiatkowski was given a new assignment and Fr. Eugene Ozimek replaced him as assistant pastor.
1969 - Fr. Eugene Ozimek was transferred from the Parish as assistant pastor.
The church interior was partially painted.
The Novus Ordo Missae (the New Order of Mass) was promulgated by Pope Paul VI. On September 25, 1969, Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci sent a document to Pope Paul VI entitled "Short Critical Study on the New Order of Mass", which had been prepared by Catholic theologians under the direction of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
1970 - Because of declining enrollment and shortage of teaching Sisters, a decision was reached not to build a new school. The money reserved for this purpose ($154,307.02) was included with regular church funds.
St. Joseph Society celebrated its Seventy-fifth Anniversary with Mass and a banquet on September 5.
Painting of the church interior was completed.
During the summer, the mensa was removed from the high altar and Mass changed from being celebrated ad orientem/ad Deum (to the East/towards God) to versus populum (facing the people). Statistics continued to show a decline:
Census - 1385 adults; 365 children First Communicants - 13
Parochial school students - 158 Marriages - 10
Baptisms - 13 Deaths - 22
1972 - Fr. Władysław Golas, native son and Pastor of St. Helena Church in Wyandotte, MI, died on March 15. He had spent his lifetime serving in various parishes in the Detroit area.
On October 22, Rev. Msgr. Skoniecki retired from his Pastorate of SS. Peter and Paul Church. "Father Pastor" Skoniecki, at age seventy-eight, had served SS. Peter and Paul Parish almost 25 years and was honored by the parishioners at a reception and tea.
Father Robert J. Ceckowski was assigned as the fifth Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church.
Fr. Ceckowski, Pastor 1972-1997
1973 - On April 29, a reception was held at St. Stanislaus Hall to welcome Fr. Ceckowski as Pastor of our Parish. A $1,000 check was presented to Fr. Ceckowski who, in turn, established a burse to be used in scholarship aid to those pursuing a religious vocation.
With deep regret, the parochial school was closed in June due to a lack of teaching Sisters. Sisters Cecilia Nadolski, Superior, and Sisters Edna and Mary Jane were assigned to other areas. To show their appreciation and deep admiration, the Parish honored the Sisters at an open house and coffee hour. The Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph (FSSJ) left our parish.
Sisters Joanna Pelczar and Jadwiga Skalec of Little Servant Sisters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception (LSIC) arrived in August to work in the Parish. The Mother Home of this order is located in Stara Wies, Poland, while the Provincial Home in the United States is in Woodbridge, NJ.
1974 - On March 24, twelve adult members of the Parish, as well as two junior members, were elected to the first Parish Advisory Council. The membership included: Fred Brozek, John Dyl, Louise Church, Raymond Church, Boguslaus Grzywna, Edwin Olearczyk, Joseph Marchelewicz, Robert Dranka, and Mary Jajuga; Junior members were Mark Lech and Thomas Zelazo; John Garstka, Horace Tippett, and Frederick Tyburski were appointed by Fr. Ceckowski. At an organizational meeting of the council, Joseph Kszepka was elected chairman; Stanley Światłówski, vice-chairman; and Anna Krulig, secretary.
The Parish was offered the first opportunity to purchase the 31 acres of land and home of the Pasierb estate, adjoining the Parish Cemetery. The land was considered valuable for future expansion, and the Parish Council voted to acquire the property at a cost of approximately $35,000.
Fr. Ceckowski presented plans and sought permission from the Bishop to enlarge the sacristy, with a new addition to include a room for the altar boys and restrooms. Repairs made to church property included a new roof at the rectory, new furnace in the convent, and interior refurbishing of the rectory and office. Fr. Robert Ceckowski also announced his plans to install an icon and a painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa at Mary's altar within our church.
1975 - In January, the Bishop of Springfield approved preliminary sketches for the sacristy addition. Final drawings and specifications were prepared for bids with approximate cost of the project set at $225,000 with the architectural firm of Tessier Associates.
Parish Council approved the purchase of robes for choir members. Parish Council Chairman Joseph Kszepka spoke at all Masses on June 28-29 to stress the need for consistent weekly giving by all parishioners to maintain and upgrade the Parish.
Seminarian Raymond Soltys, parishioner, completed preliminary studies and was accepted at the University of Louvain in Belgium for four years of theological study in preparation for the priesthood. Parishioner Michael J. Wostena attended school with the Franciscan Fathers in anticipation of entering religious life.
On July 26, former Pastor Rev. Msgr. Alphonse A. Skoniecki died. His legacy of deep devotion to our Lord and great love of Poland is remembered by many.
In October, the Parish observed a "Week of Remembrance" in commemoration of Polish lives taken during WWII. Rev. Canon Bronislaus Szymański and Rev. Father Chaplain Stanislaus Wójcik, who had been prisoners in various concentration camps, took part in the observance.
1976 - In January, a replica of the altar in Częstochowa, Poland was under construction at the side altar of St. Mary. SS. Peter and Paul Church was awaiting a replica of an icon and painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa in progress by an artist in Poland. The formal unveiling and dedication of the Our Lady of Częstochowa altar took place on May 23. Eight elderly parishioners were honored to participate in the historic unveiling. These included: Mrs. Agata Frydryk, Mrs. Franciszka Bukowska, Mrs. Teofila Kostrzeba, Mrs. Józefa Gryszówka, Mr. Feliks Misiaszek, Mr. Władysław Gruszczyński, Mr. Antoni Kempesty, and Mr. Wojciech Wójtowicz.
Historical Parish records, photographs, and other pertinent data was placed in a time capsule and buried in the yard of the Town Administration Building. The material, prepared by Anna Kulig, is to be uncovered in 2076.
Fr. Ceckowski announced that a new organ was donated to the Church in memory of George and Nelli Motyka by their four children - Chester, Mrs. Constance Kucewicz, Mrs. Dorothy Luzi, and Mrs. Alice Amell. The new organ, known for its rich tone and quality, was built by Casavant-Frères of Quebec, the world's largest organ manufacturer. Installation of the organ finished in 1977. Our organ is as follows:
Casavant-Frères pipe organ, opus 3339:
22 ranks. 1,172 pipes. 3 divisions. 2 manuals. 20 stops. 16 registers.
Under the guidance of Charles DiMascola of the Palmer High School Art Department and with the assistance of Parish Council Chairman Joseph Kszepka, 29 students from CCD classes volunteered to prepare a float that was entered in the Town of Palmer Bicentennial Parade on May 2. The float won second prize in the religious category.
1977 - In March, work began in the basement area underneath the sacristy addition to be converted into a chapel and meeting room. The chapel was dedicated to St. Maximillian Kolbe who sacrificed his own life at Auschwitz so that a fellow prisoner, Franciszek Gajowniczek, might live.
On June 5, dedication of the new Casavant pipe organ was held. Dr. W. Raymond Ackerman, a member of the music faculty of Bromfield School at Harvard College, played at the dedication. A varied program was chosen to display the power and versatility of the organ. Later, choir members hosted a reception at the school.
On August 21, Mr. Charles DiMascola, Palmer High School art teacher and CCD teacher at our Parish, was presented with a gift from the Parish burse in recognition of his work with the youth of the Parish and community. He entered St. John Seminary for Delayed Vocations in Weston, MA to study for the priesthood.
On October 15, Bishop Weldon resigned as Bishop of Springfield. (Bishop 1950-1977.) Bishop Joseph Maguire was named the fifth Bishop of Springfield, and installed on November 4.
Following votes which failed to garner a 2/3 majority in 1975 and 1976, the USCCB, under the leadership of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, voted again, and barely passed an indult allowing reception of Holy Communion on the hand for the first time. Though Holy Communion reception on the tongue remains the ordinary means, Communion in the hand was now permitted too.
On November 30, an organ recital was given in our Church by Jean-Guy Proulx, Organist of the Cathedral of St. German, Rimouski, Canada.
1978 - On May 5, Most Reverend Joseph Maguire, Bishop of Springfield, confirmed 47 individuals.
The St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel was dedicated on June 8 at 4 p.m. The new facilities include a complete, new kitchen with major appliances and custom-made cabinets. In the Chapel area - custom carpentry, tabernacle, pulpit, and altar were styled after those in Zakopane, including a hand-painted ceiling executed by Charles DiMascola. A new bathroom was installed; all areas were air-conditioned; and there is a motorized projector, movie screen, stereo, and ceiling speakers.
Fr. John Aubertin, former assistant pastor, suffered a fatal heart attack.
On September 24, a Day of Prayer for our infirm and elderly parishioners was held, with Mass at 4 p.m., followed by a reception.
Pope Paul VI died on August 6. (Reigned 1963-1978.) Albino Cardinal Luciani was elected as Pope John Paul I on August 26; he died on September 28, having occupied the Chair of St. Peter for only 34 days. Pope John Paul II was elected as Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ on October 16. He was Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, Archbishop of Kraków, Poland, the first pope of Polish heritage and the first non-Italian pope in 450 years.
1979 - On January 15, the first Mass was celebrated in the St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel by Fr. Ceckowski at 6:45 a.m.
Renovation of the school began with installation of a kitchen and a library at a cost of $58,000.
On September 8, Fr. Raymond Soltys was ordained to the priesthood by Most Rev. Joseph Maguire, Bishop of Springfield, in our Church. This was the first time an ordination was performed at SS. Peter and Paul Church. The following day, Fr. Soltys celebrated his First Mass, with a reception following at Pathfinder Regional Vocational High School. The entire Parish shared in the joy and blessings of the two-day celebration.
On September 24, a Day of Prayer and Tribute to our infirm and elderly parishioners was observed with Mass at 4 p.m. followed by a reception.
On October 1, Pope John Paul II visited Boston, the first stop in his historic visit to the United States. Two buses filled with parishioners and local friends journeyed to Boston to attend the Mass celebrated the Pope at Boston Common.
The first organizational meeting of interested parishioners was held on October 10 to lay the groundwork for the observance of the 75th Anniversary of the Parish. Genevieve Janosz and Charles Pelczarski agreed to serve as chairpersons.
The church sanctuary was enlarged and remodeled. An altar table was donated by Joseph Kszepka and installed. Carpeting was removed in the sanctuary to expose again the beautiful parquet floor. The entire interior of the church was repainted in anticipation of the Jubilee celebration. The contractor was William Twarog of Holyoke, well-known artist and church decorator. Anthony Amato was commissioned to paint two murals - one, of the conversion of Poland to Christianity (in 966 A.D.) - and the other, of our early parishioners starting construction of the church building seventy five years prior (in 1905).
Construction started on a new outdoor fieldstone grotto dedicated to the Divine Mercy.
Fr. Stanislaus Wójcik, retired, came to reside at SS. Peter and Paul Rectory. Fr. Wójcik had come to the United States after World War II during which he had been held prisoner in various concentration camps.
1980 - The Diamond Jubilee Year (75th anniversary) of SS. Peter and Paul Parish lived up to its promise of being one of the busiest and most enjoyable years for the parish. Numerous functions were planned throughout the year - occasions which united the parish in prayer as well as play.
To begin the Jubilee celebration, on January 12th a Jasełka Bożonarodzeniowe (Nativity play) was presented by students from the CCD classes, joined by several adult parishioners. After the performance, traditional foods of the Wigilia were served, followed by the old Polish custom of breaking opłatki and exchanging best wishes ("health, wealth, and happiness").
On February 9, the Ladies Guild sponsored a highly successful Mardi Gras at St. Stanislaus Hall
In early March, a Parish Mission was conducted for a week by Fr. Sylvester Makarewicz O.F.M., who reaffirmed the need for unwavering spiritual and moral values in the life of every healthy parish.
On April 2, Fr. Zygmunt (Sigmund) Kwiatkowski, former Assistant Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church (and later pastor in Housatonic, MA) passed away.
On April 20, the parish was privileged to host the highly acclaimed St. Paul's Boys Choir of Cambridge, MA in concert. The St. Paul's Boys Choir is a product of the only Roman Catholic boys' choir school in the United States.
From September 19-21, the parish observed the Forty Hours Devotion, giving parishioners an opportunity to renew their interior lives by spending time with our Eucharistic Lord.
On September 21, the year-long Jubilee celebration culminated in a Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated by Very Rev. Joseph Maguire, Bishop of Springfield. Approximately thirty priest, monseignori, and canons attended in choir. The procession was formed by various parish groups including the choir, parish organization delegates, and children in traditional Polish dress who greeted the Bishop. Rose and Fred Tyburski, representing the parishioners, presented the Bishop with a statue of St. Joseph made by Polish artists in Kraków.
Flowers and banners filled with newly-painted church. Particularly beautiful and meaningful were the two paintings added to the church by Fr. Ceckowski - one, depicting Poland's conversion to Christianity with Mieszko I in 966 A.D. - and the other showing the dedication of SS. Peter and Paul Church in 1905. The inspired singing of the choir and soloists, the joyous sound of the new organ, the eloquent homily, and the fervent voices of the congregation raised in prayer and thanksgiving contributed to making the Mass a most moving experience.
That evening a gala banquet took place at Pathfinder Vocational/Technical High School with Fr. Eugene Ozimek, former Assistant Pastor, serving as master of ceremonies. Among the attendees were clergy, sisters, elderly pioneers of the church, local and state government officials, as well as honored guests and speakers Bishop Maguire and Congressman Edward Boland. Soloist Beverly Martowski presented musical selections and an orchestra provided a varied program of musical selections.
On October 5, SS. Peter and Paul Parish witnessed the blessing of the Divine Mercy Grotto by Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, M.I.C., rector of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy (Stockbridge, MA) and vice-postulator for the Canonization Cause of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. The mosaics which decorate the grotto interior were made by artists in Rome.
Of particular interest are the stained glass windows which portray St. Faustina, to whom Christ appeared in a convent chapel in Kraków; Pope St. John Paul II, who canonized Sister Faustina in 2000; Dismus, the penitent thief who, while he hung on a cross beside Christ, knew His Divine Mercy; and St. Kateri Tekawitha, the first of the Mohawk people to reach sainthood - who shows that the Divine Mercy calls all souls to be saints in the One True Church, the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr. Ceckowski thanked the parishioners for their generous financial support of this project, as well as those who contributed hours of labor, particularly Frank Zabawa and Stanley Majewski, who did much of the masonry work.
On October 12, the blessing and formal opening of the SS. Peter and Paul Nursery School was held in the renovated Parish School. Sisters Mary Nowicka and Elizabeth Potuczko L.L.S. of the Immaculate Conception conducted classes for young children from the age of 3-5 years.
On the night of December 28, tragedy struck Three Rivers when the neighboring St. Anne Church was destroyed by arsonists. Fr. Levesque and his parishioners gratefully accepted Fr. Ceckowski's offer to use SS. Peter and Paul Church until St. Anne Church was rebuilt.
1997 - On Christmas Day, Fr. Robert Ceckowski, Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church, passed away.
1998 - Father Stefan Niemczyk was appointed the sixth Pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church.
Fr. Niemczyk, Pastor 1998-present
2005 - The One-Hundreth Anniversary of our church was formally observed.
Pope John Paul II died on April 2. (Reigned 1978-2005.) On April 19, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was elected as Pope Benedict XVI.
2007 - On June 7, Pope Benedict XVI published the apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, in which he allowed for more widespread use of the 1962 Missal of the Traditional Latin Mass (Tridentine Mass). Each priest may now celebrate the Extraordinary Form without permission from the bishop.
In Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the Traditional Latin Mass (promulgated by Pope St. Pius V and re-issued by Pope St. John XXIII in 1962) was never abrogated. Pope Benedict XVI also declared the Mass of Paul VI (also known as the "Novus Ordo") as the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and the Tridentine Mass the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
2009 - The Bishop of Springfield, Very Rev. Timothy McDonnell, closed St. Anne Church in Three Rivers, MA as part of his "Pastoral Planning" project. SS. Peter and Paul and St. Anne Parishes were merged together and adopted the name Divine Mercy Parish. SS. Peter and Paul Church continues to serve the Roman Catholic faithful in Three Rivers, MA.
2012 - The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Fr. Stefan Niemczyk's ordination to the priesthood was celebrated with Mass and a banquet at the Parish Hall on January 28.
2013 - On February 11, Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly resigned the Papacy. (Reigned 2005-2013.) His resignation became effective on February 28. On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio S.J. was elected, and took the name Pope Francis.
2014 - On June 19, Bishop Timothy McDonnell resigned as bishop of Springfield. Upon Bishop McDonnell's resignation, Very Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, was appointed the eighth Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts by Pope Francis. Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski was installed on August 12.
2019 - Fr. Niemczyk oversaw the repainting of the interior of SS. Peter and Paul Church.
2020 - On June 10, Bishop of Springfield Mitchell Rozanski was appointed as Archbishop of St. Louis. Upon this announcement, Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, MA was named Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Springfield.
On October 14, 2020, Father William D. Byrne of the Diocese of Washington D.C., was appointed the tenth Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts by Pope Francis. The episcopal consecration and installation of Bishop Byrne took place on December 14 at St. Michael's Cathedral.