A N.J. parish that began celebrating Mass at the local municipal building has grown in 70 years to serve 2,300 families, many of them Polish, Nowy Dziennik reported. The article was translate from Polish.
It started with Mass being celebrated at the municipal building and a small chapel on the site of a former deli and a tire shop. Now 70 years later, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Wallington — one of the most Polish towns in New Jersey — has 2,300 families and is one of the most thriving in the area.
Last Saturday, the parish celebrated its 70th anniversary with a Mass in various languages: Polish, English, Italian and Spanish, and a reception in the newly renovated auditorium below the church.
“The way the chapel looks after the remodeling is a surprise,” says the parish vicar, Rev. Jerzy Pikulinski.
There are eight masses celebrated in Most Sacred Heart on weekends: five in Polish and three in English. But it hasn’t always been that way.
The history of Wallington dates back to the 17th century, when the village was populated mostly by protestant Dutchmen. The name of the town itself comes from Walling Van Winkle, one of the first farmers from the Netherlands. However, by the beginning of the 19th century, there were already Polish names among the inhabitants of Wallington.
In 1925, the Polish National Church established its chapel here. But Catholics attended Mass on the other side of the river. The plans of opening a separate parish emerged in 1937, when the Diocese of Paterson was carved out from the Newark Diocese, with the Passaic River serving as its limit. As a result, Passaic churchgoers found themselves in a different diocese.
“Our parish wasn’t originally established as an ethnic one. It was meant to be a territorial one,” said Pikulinski. However, all four consecutive priests: Rev. Alexandr Fronczak, Rev. Stanley Adamczyk, Rev. Walter Gorski and Rev. Felix Marciniak had Polish roots.
“Almost from the beginning, there were sermons in Polish, but naturally, the entire liturgy before Second Vatican Council was celebrated in Latin,” added Pikulinski.
Masses in Polish were celebrated in Most Sacred Heart relatively late. They were introduced by Adamczyk in 1980.
The parish grew very fast. In the beginning, city officials allowed Mass to be celebrated Sundays and holidays in the municipal building at Hathaway St., under one condition, the altar had to be cleared by 1 p.m. At the same time, a building at 194 Maple Ave. was purchased and a building with an old deli on the corner of Paterson Ave. and Bond St. was adapted into a chapel. Then construction of the school building and the present church began.
The lower level of the church began being used in 1947. In September of the following year, first grade children started attending the parish school. In 1955 the upper level of the church was completed. After it was remodeled in 1979, the church acquired an organ, which was placed behind the main altar.
The 1980s and 1990s is when Polish immigration in Wallington boomed. People from all over Poland came and settled in the area, but primarily from the southeastern part of the country – from Stalowa Wola, Rzeszów, Sandomierz, Kolbuszowa and many other towns from the region. “The mother would bring the daughter, the brother would bring a brother or a friend,” says Rev. Pikulinski.
The influx of Poles did not mean marginalizing the English-speaking parishioners. “The communities are very close together, which shows during preparations for holidays or parish picnics,” he adds.
Pikulinski explains the parish is home to many Italian, Spanish and Arab-speaking families. Therefore all parish activities, especially during holidays, are geared towards satisfying both the Polish and the English-speaking parts of the parish.
Today, the parish has three priests: Marciniak, Pikulinski and Rev. Steven D’Andrea, plus two lay deacons and three Felician sisters.
“The parishioners actively participate in the life of the church,” the priests say. Some 250 children attend the Catholic school (pre-K to 8 grade) and 240 participate in the Polish Language Saturday School. The parish is also home to a couple of charity organizations.