Parish History

Historical Overview of St. Hyacinth Parish

• 1875 – Land purchased for $350.00. Cornerstone was laid under the patronage of St. Hyacinth. 112 families were registered.
• 1876 – The new church was dedicated thus becoming the second parish established for Polish people in the Diocese of Buffalo. First Baptism and Wedding was recorded.
• 1881 – The first Confirmation class included 79 boys and 47 girls. The first recorded Holy Communion class included 14 boys and 6 girls.
• 1883 – A wooden rectory was built at 12 N. Pangolin St. A school was fully established.
• 1887 – The parish was incorporated.
• 1888 – The Sisters of the Congregation of St. Felix officially took over the teaching and administration of St. Hyacinth School.
• 1890 – There were 300 families registered.
• 1893 – The School was built.
• 1902 – Land was purchased for cemetery and new rectory. St. Hyacinth’s became the mother parish of the newly organized St. Hedwig Church.
• 1912 – A much needed convent was built for the Felician Sisters.
• 1916 – Rev. Michael Helminiak assumed charge of what would be a 37 year pastorate.
• 1917 – First graduation from school occurred.
• 1923 – The congregation agreed to erect a larger church and rectory.
• 1924 – The school reached its peak registration of 716 students.
• 1938 – Parish had 697 families registered.
• 1942 – The cemetery chapel was blessed.
• 1952 – A war memorial was erected at the cemetery to honor all veterans.
• 1952 – The church was renovated and an addition to the school building was erected under the guidance of Rev. John Sliwinski. The Young Ladies Sodality participated in Easter Resurrection Procession.
• 1958 – Rev. John Suplicki became pastor. He finished the renovations of the convent and started a building fund campaign for a new church.
• 1960 – Construction of the new church. Cornerstone was laid.
• 1961 – New church dedicated.
• 1964 – New school dedicated.
• 1967 – Rev. Casimir Zak assumed charge of what would be a 27 year pastorate.
• 1975 – Parish 100th Anniversary was celebrated with Bishop Edward Head. The $750,000 parish debt was paid off with the guidance of Rev. Zak and through the hard work and generosity of parishioners including the Holy Name Society, St. Joseph’s Society, Ushers Club, Bishop’s Committee, St. Vincent de Paul, Holy Rosary, Fatima, Mother’s Club and Choir.
• 1981 – Rev. Casimir Zak elevated to Monsignor. Mother’s Club celebrated 30th Anniversary.
• 1983 – First Dunkirk priest Rev. Michael Parker ordained in his own parish.
• 1984 – The miraculous healing of Lillian Halasinski occurred.
• 1991 – Annual lawn fetes restarted. Mother’s Club celebrated 40th Anniversary.
• 1993 – The Vatican certified the healing of Lillian Halasinski which led to the Beatification of Blessed Mary Angela in Rome.
• 1994 – The parish auditorium was rededicated in honor of Monsignor Casimir Zak.
• 1997 – The Holy Rosary Society celebrated their 100th Anniversary. A new roof was put on the church and auditorium.
• 1998 – Rev. Michael Parker was the first native son to become Pastor for what would be a 10 year pastorate.
• 2000 – The parish celebrated its 125th Anniversary. The Endowment Fund was initiated. An alumni celebration took place for the school and church. The church, including the Stations of the Cross, was painted. The Fatima Society celebrated their 50th Anniversary.
• 2001 – The church exterior was re-painted.
• 2002 – New sidewalks were installed including a handicapped entrance to the church.
• 2003 – The church bells were re-gilded. A new tabernacle was installed as well as outdoor railings.
• 2005- The breezeway was renovated. Rectory office windows were replaced.
• 2007 – St. Hyacinth School closed – 125 students

Historical Overview of St. Hedwig Parish
• 1900 – Dunkirk begins to expand & prosper: New arrivals to the city settled in the northeast district which was popularly called “the Gorki” which is now known as the Fourth Ward.
• 1902 – St. Hedwig’s Parish founded: A committee presented a formal request to establish a new parish to serve the Polish speaking people of this area to His Excellency, the Most Rev. Charles Colton, Bishop of the Buffalo diocese. Saint Hedwig's was sponsored by an older Dunkirk parish in the First ward-St Hyacinth's. Bishop Colton agreed and a new parish was established. Bishop Colton appointed Rev. P. Szulc as the first pastor. Father Szulc bought a large tract of land that bordered on Roberts Road, Townsend and Doughty streets. Here he built a provisional wooden frame church on Doughty Street. It was Christmas Eve in 1902 when Father Szulc and the parishioners gathered and celebrated the First Mass, a Midnight Mass, in the new St. Hedwig’s Roman Catholic Church. This building burned to the ground in 1903.
• 1905 – New Church Constructed & Destroyed: Under the guidance of Rev. T. Stabenau, a new church constructed from brick, stone, and wood was erected in 1905, only to see it destroyed by fire that same year.
• 1907 – St. Hedwig’s is rebuilt with a school & Church: A new building, housing both a church proper on the second floor and a school on the first floor was erected and completed. The large basement in this church was used for school plays and social functions. Succeeding Pastors, Rev. Letocha and Rev. C. Slizewski, reconstructed the old church building into a convent for the Felician Sisters who were engaged as teachers in 1905.
• 1912 - St. Hedwig’s Cemetery is established: St. Hedwig’s cemetery was established on its present site on Bennett Road and in 1933, the present cemetery chapel was erected.
• 1926 – Rectory & Church renovated & Convent built: Rev. J. Slazyk made necessary repairs at the rectory, had the church renovated, and built a new Sisters’ convent in 1928 at a cost of $45,000. Under the guidance of the next pastor Rev. J. Klimek, all parishioners worked diligently to pay off parish debts and maintain the buildings.
• 1952 – Golden Jubilee Celebrated: The parishioners joyfully celebrated the 50th Anniversary of St. Hedwig’s parish. Parish officials, organizations, city representatives and societies gathered to celebrate Mass. After the death of Father Klimek on September 22, 1958, Rev. Carl Drews was named administrator until the installation of Rev. John Hrycyna on March 9, 1959.
• 1972 – Groundbreaking for new Church: On May 21, 1972, ground breaking for a new church took place. On Easter Sunday in 1973, as Father Hrycyna offered the first Mass in the new sanctuary, parishioners rejoiced in the Risen Christ and thanked the Lord for their new house of worship. The Most Rev. Bishop Head and the Most Rev. Bishop Benincasa were present when St. Hedwig’s new church was dedicated on Tuesday, May 22, 1973, very much spiritually alive and debt free. Rev. Hrycyna retired in 1974 and Rev. Edward Synowiak became pastor. Under his leadership the parish continued to grow and prosper financially as well as spiritually. Renovations had been made to the rectory and the Sisters convent.
• 1975 – Social Center erected: A beautiful Social Center was erected on church property and dedicated on December 21, 1975 for social and educational programs. Father Synowiak retired in 1985. In February, 1985, Rev. Thomas Crane was appointed pastor at St. Hedwig’s Church. With his guidance, the prosperity of the parish continued. Additional renovations were made to the rectory, the Sisters’ Convent and also the church Chapel.
• 1988 – Dedication of St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel: On October 13, 1988, the parishioners celebrated the patronal feast day of Saint Hedwig and the dedication of the new Saint Maximilian Kolbe Chapel. Rev. Thomas Crane was elevated to Monsignor during his tenure at St. Hedwig’s Church. He encouraged the vocations of young seminarians by inviting them to study under his leadership at the parish. Our current pastor, Rev. Matt Nycz, had his first experience in Dunkirk working with Msgr. Crane. Rev. Joseph Janaczek became pastor on January 6, 1995. A large project under his supervision was the replacement of the carpeting in the church. While this was being done, daily Mass was celebrated in the Social Center. He also replaced the Church roof as well as the roof on the Social Center.
• 2003 – 100th Anniversary of St. Hedwig’s Parish: In 2003, St. Hedwig’s Church, under the direction of Rev. Joseph Janaczek, commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the parish. The Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell celebrated the Anniversary Mass. The societies and organizations of the parish participated in gratitude to God for the many blessings received during the 100 year history of the parish. After Mass, all gathered at the Social Center to continue rejoicing through a delightful parish dinner. In 2007, as part of the Diocese of Buffalo’s Journey in Faith and Grace restructuring project, it was announced that St. Hedwig and St. Hyacinth parishes would soon be merged and that both worship sites would be utilized.

Healing Miracle accredited to Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowski
On January 4, 1984, Lillian Halisinski sat in the living room of her home on Jerboa Street in Dunkirk, New York. She was crying from the extreme pain in her leg and praying for relief. It was at that time that Lillian felt the presence of Mary Angela. She experienced a beautiful sense of quiet and peace, and suddenly was well. Lillian suffered from diabetic neuropathy, a condition that was medically incurable.
Lillian Halisinski was born on March 19, 1913. She was a lifelong resident of Dunkirk, New York and a member of St. Hyacinth Roman Catholic Church. She lived at 124 Jerboa St. with her husband Barney and her two children James and Geraldine.
It was Sister Mary Leocretia Laskowski, CSSF, who introduced Lillian to Mary Angela Truszkowska. Sister Leocretia regularly visited Mrs. Halisinski in Brooks Memorial Hospital and brought her Holy Communion. During one of her visits, Sister gave Lillian a picture and encouraged her to pray to Mary Angela. According to Lillian, she prayed to Mary Angela every day from that time on.
The church certified the healing of Lillian as a miracle which led to the beatification of Blessed Mary Angela on April 18, 1993 in Rome, Italy. Lillian and her daughter, Geraldine were present at the beatification ceremony.
Lillian Halisinski, recipient of the only Vatican-certified miracle in the Diocese of Buffalo up to date, died Thursday, April 17,2008 in Dunkirk, New York at the age of 95.

Parish Merger Process
On Wednesday, May &, 2008, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec issued a Decree that stated “the canonically erected parishes of Saint Hyacinth (Dunkirk) and Saint Hedwig (Dunkirk), be hereby merged canonically on accord with Canon 121 of the Code of Canon Law into one parish under the title of Saints Hyacinth and Hedwig Parish, Dunkirk, N.Y. The jurisdiction of the merged parish shall be as follows: For those of Polish nationality living in or near Dunkirk, N.Y. All personalty and realty of Saint Hyacinth (Dunkirk), and Saint Hedwig (Dunkirk), becomes the property of Saints Hyacinth and Hedwig Parish, Dunkirk, N.Y. Both churches will continue to be used as worship sites. The decree is effective as of May 30, 2008.”
The title of “Blessed Mary Angela R.C. Parish of Dunkirk, N.Y.” was issued through a Certificate of Amendment (Change of Name), by all Trustees namely: the Most Reverend Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, Msgr. David S. Slubecky, Vicar General, Rev. Czeslaw M. Krysa, Pastor, Laura Markham and Richard Prechtl, lay members and Trustees of the parish, under sections 2b and 91 of the Religious Corporations Law and Section 803 of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law of the State of New York on October 3, 2009.

On Sunday, October 11, 2009, our new parish gathered around the Lord’s Table to inaugurate our common life under Blessed Mary Angela’s guidance. Guest priests, Felician Sisters, Deacons, Trustees, Society members, Steward Council, Liturgical Ministers, Fourth Degree Knights, and parishioners, gathered and joined together in one “great thanksgiving” to God for our new patroness and renewed parish mission. It is worth noting that our parish is not only the first but the only parish in the world to have Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska as their patroness.

As we look to the future we should also remember the past. From the beginnings in 1875 for St. Hyacinth, 1902 for St. Hedwig’s, to our present day merged parish, both parishes have always been special places of worship.

New Parish Today and Tomorrow
Rev. Thomas Wopperer was named temporary administrator for Blessed Mary Angela parish in November, 2009. He served our parish until the appointment of our current pastor, Rev. Matt Nycz, who arrived at our parish on February 15, 2010. Rev. Nycz has encouraged the growth of the new parish. Under Rev. Nycz’s direction, the former convent at the St. Hedwig worship site has been converted into a new Youth Center for middle school and high school youth ministry and faith formation.

Blessed Mary Angela parish continues to grow as it takes a new shape as a unified parish. The recently merged Rosary Society leads by example of prayerful collaboration of the former separate groups. We will try to keep the best of the traditions, customs and rich heritage from both of the former parishes, and grow many new ones, as we chart a new course for the new parish in the future. Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska will keep interceding in heaven for the success of our new parish.