St. Stanislaus in Chappell Hill celebrates 125 years
By Mary P. Walker
“Dozynki” is a Polish harvest celebration of thanksgiving that began in the Middle Ages. For the last six years, St. Stanislaus Parish in Chappell Hill has revived this tradition with Mass, music, feasting and dancing. This year’s “Dozynki” on Sunday, Nov. 23 was an especially joyful celebration of the feast of Christ the King, the 125th anniversary of the parish, the 90th anniversary of the building of their church, and the blessing of new stained glass windows by Bishop Joe Vásquez.
“We also thank our ancestors for their faith, hope and love that they have given to us — for their hard work to develop the Chappell Hill community and the building of this beautiful church and parish facilities, ” said Salvatorian Father Jozef Musiol, pastor and native of Poland.
Polish immigrants came to Texas to be free and to farm their own land. With great sacrifice, they built St. Stanislaus Church in 1894. However, six short years later, that church was destroyed by the same hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1900.
Persevering, the 225-family parish completed another church in 1902 and a school in 1910. In 1921, fire destroyed the second church. Once again, the community rallied and completed the current church in 1924. The parish is engaged in restoration and maintenance projects, which include the installation of new stained glass windows.
In his homily, Bishop Vásquez praised the parish and their ancestors for their resilience, stating, “Each time your community was presented with a challenge, you have worked together and prospered.”
The “Dozynki” was both a celebration of the current parishioners and a homecoming for those who now live elsewhere. Many others came to honor the contributions of Polish Catholics to Central Texas. In his youth, Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz of St. Joseph Parish in Bryan was a member of St. Stanislaus, where he and his wife Kathy were married. His parents are parishioners, and he returns to share his passion for Polish Catholic history.
Mass began with a procession of men, women and children in traditional folk dress and with the Marian hymn “Stainless Mother.” Dr. Mazurkiewicz explained that its melody came from “God Save Poland,” a national hymn. When Poland was partitioned between Austria, Prussia and Russia, political constraints kept the people from using the name “Poland” in the song. They adopted lyrics asking Mary to help them, making the song the “unofficial” anthem of the occupied Polish people.
Bishop Vásquez blessed the church’s new stained glass windows, which include images and symbols of the saints and Christ. Janis Kmiec served on the committee that worked with the stained glass artists and sponsors of the windows. She explained that much consideration was given in choosing which saints to feature. The parish wanted to honor its ethnic heritage, represent the heroic virtue of both men and women, and respect the wishes of the sponsors of the windows.
Three windows reflect the Polish history of the parish. Because the Polish settlers of the Chappell Hill area were farmers and farming continues to be important to the community, there is a window showing St. Isidore the Farmer standing in a field. Two recently canonized Polish saints are honored in the windows: St. Faustina Kowalska, who fostered devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, and St. John Paul II.
Msgr. John Malinowski, chaplain of St. Joseph Health System in Bryan, grew up in Chappell Hill and attended the parish school. When relatives wanted to sponsor a window in honor of the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, he asked that St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, be represented.
“It is an honor to be back here for the Dozynki. I hope St. John Vianney watches over the parish and asks God to always provide holy priests to serve at St. Stanislaus and throughout the diocese,” Msgr. Malinowski said.
As the congregation left the church, they observed another Polish custom. Each person was offered a small piece of bread and pinch of salt, which had been blessed by Bishop Vásquez. The bread symbolizes gratitude for the bounty of the earth and the hope of prosperity, while the salt serves as a reminder that we will face trials in life.
After Mass, the “Dozynki” continued in the parish hall with delicious ethnic and American food and dancing. Wawel, a Polish folk dancing group from Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Houston performed, and Dr. Mazurkiewicz explained the significance of each dance. A proclamation from the governor of Texas was read, which praised the parish for worshiping together for 125 years and asked them to “remember that your enduring legacy is neither your building nor your distinguished history, but the grace of the Lord in allowing you to be free to worship, pray and serve together.”
Parishioner Evelyn Krolczyk echoed the enthusiasm of attendees who want to pass on the Polish tradition of remembering and celebrating this grace to future generations, saying, “This is the best Dozynki we’ve ever had!”
For more information on St. Stanislaus Parish, call (979) 836-3030.