Polish Community and Parish "Our Lady of Poland," Southampton, New York

A Brief Historical Outline

The first Polish immigrants to come to Southampton, New York were mostly farmers. The first settlers gravitated to the farm area of Southampton and used skills of farming to earn a livelihood. In 1886, a Polish immigrant named Francis Kruszewski settled in Riverhead, moved to Bridgehampton in November of 1889, and finally settled in Southampton in 1890. In 1895 Kruszewski was joined by Joseph Butanowicz , Aleksander Krzyewski, Antoni Zieliski, Leon Kryziemian and Isidore Roszko. By 1901 six families were located in Southampton and by 1910, this grew to 29 families and some young adults.

Mr. & Mrs. Frank Kruszewski, the first Polish settlers in Southampton
Isidore Rosko, one of the first parishioners
Francis Kruszewski's daughters on the Kruszewski Farm in Southampton; Jay, May, and Agnes.

The church was an integral part of the immigrant's life. Many of the traditions of Poland were practiced in the new homeland, the blessing of bread and colored eggs at Easter time, and the blessing of homes each year.  Father Joseph Cizmowski replaced his brother as pastor in 1923 and stayed here until he passed away in 1934. In the early years, the priests taught religious instruction and prepared the children for First Communion.

Southampton, at the turn of the turn of the century, was an area containing several score luxurious estates and much rich farm land. As the population grew, the industrious Polish immigrants were well equipped to work at the wealthy summer residences as gardeners and caretakers. This offered seasonal employment for many to supplement their farm income. A building  boom in the early 1900's offered still another source of income for the Polish settlement and many worked as foremen, mechanics, carpenters, masons, painters and small building contractors.

It was about this time, 1910, that the St. Anthony Benevolent Society was formed. The first meeting was held on May 24th, 1910 with 17 charter members in attendance. They were: Peter Balnis, Stanley Bruzdowski, John Andruszkiewicz Peter Butanowicz, Alexander Krzyżewski, Stanley Chmielewski, Stanley Zieleński, Matthew Rewinski, Juliusz Zyczkowski, Aleksander Lango, Michael Chopliński, Peter Kapral, Peter Zubrzycki, Alexander Kuczeński and Peter Babiel. By the end of 1910, membership rose to 37 individuals

The goal of this organization was to assist those in the Polish-American Community in the time of crisis, illness, or death. In addition, it served to propagate the Catholic Faith and Polish culture. Dues were fifty cents for a month, and seven dollars was paid to a member during illness. In case of death, the organization contributed $100 plus $1 per member to the bereaved family. The first meetings were held in the home of  Aleksander Krzyzewski.

By 1918, 331 families of Polish origin had settled in the area from Remsenburg to Montauk. These families traveled on Sunday to St. Isidore's Church in Riverhead; they came by railroad, horse and buggy, and bicycle to receive the Sacraments of the Church from Pastor, Father Rysiakiewicz. The St. Anthony Benevolent Society, with the assistance of Rev. Rysiakiewicz, petitioned the Most. Rev. Bishop McDonell, to establish a Polish Church and parish in Southampton. Permission was granted and Rev. Aleksander Cimowski was appointed to be pastor of the Polish Parish to be called Our Lady Queen of Poland. On Sunday, June 30, 1918, the first Mass was celebrated by Rev. Ciżmowski at Schwenk's Arcade, the building opposite the old Southampton Post Office, with about 100 people in attendance.

The Drew property on Maple Street was to be the site for the Church. It was purchased for $13,325. The present rectory was included in the sale. This site was chosen for its proximity to the railroad station, since parishioners had to journey from as far as Montauk by train. The task to raise the founds for construction etc., was the job of the newly organized Our Lady of Poland Parish. St. Anthony's Benevolent Society contributed $1250 to the Building Fund. Five farmer families, some of the oldest Polish settlers in Southampton contributed $100 each to the fund. (...) To raise money, the Polish sold livestock, home made cakes, breads, and cut flowers.

Due to World War 1, restrictions on building materials, no new building were being constructed. By using an existing building, it was possible to proceed. Ground was broken on October 21, 1918 and a "Temporary" church was completed on December 24, 1918. William Sandlewski, Michael Armusiewicz, and Frank Kruszewski were some of the men who helped in the construction. At 6 a.m. Christmas Day 1918, the first Mass was said in the new Church by Rev. Alexander CIżmowski. The first marriage was solemnized January 12, 1919, between Peter Kisiel and Bronislava Sokolovska. The first mission service was held on January 22, 1919 by the Redemptorist Fathers.

Rev. Cizmowski taught catechism to the younger members of the parish. He would travel from town to town and teach groups of children at various homes. One home that was made available was that of Anthony Musnicki.

On the right: First Communion class of 1922

Father Joseph Cizmowski replaced his brother as pastor and taught the children until his death in 1934.  His brother. Reverend Alexander Cizmowski returned as pastor and arranged with some Felician Nuns from Brooklyn to teach the children on weekends.  Thus, they traveled each weekend not only to teach religious instruction but also, the Polish language and folk dancing.  During those years, the children periodically presented a pageant for the benefit of the Church as well as the enjoyment of our parishioners.

In 1919, spiritual societies were formed by the women of the parish.  The Rosary Society and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Society.  Paying homage to the Blessed Mother of God, the young girls of the parish belonged to the "Children of Mary" or the Blessed Virgin Sodality. Numerous organizations were formed in the ensuing years:

    • Polish American Political - 1923
    • Club Incorporated - 1928
    • St. Wojciecha Z.P.R.K. - 1926
    • Marie Curie Sklodowski Soc. - 1934
    • Polish War Veterans
    • Auxiliary to the Polish War Veterans - 1935
    • Polish Falcons - 1934
    • United Societies - 1935

Other pastors of the parish included Reverend Stephen Biedrzcki 1939-1943, Reverend Joseph Paprocki, 1943-1948; Monsignor Anthony Zasowki, 1948-1953; Reverend Theodore Wegrowski, 1953-1963; Monsignor John Cwalina, 1965-1967; Reverend Matthew Wisniewski, who celebrated the Golden Anniversary with our parishioners.  Monsignor John Mirecki was pastor from 1978 to 1986 when Reverend Bruno Swiatocha became the pastor. Monsignor Edward A. Fus was the first assistant pastor in 1943, succeeded by several others.  The present pastor is Reverend Stanley Kondeja.

All of our Pastors devoted a great part of their ministry to the interests of the children.  For many years, the young girls of the Parish belonged to the "Children of Mary" Society and assembled monthly in Church with their Marian Banner for Mass.  There were also two choirs at the same time - the children's choir of young girls and the adult women's choir. Changing times, however, brought about the dissolution of these groups.  Today, we are proud of our Polish Choir which sings beautiful Polish hymns at the eight o'clock Mass each Sunday.

When dwindling enrollments and a strained economy necessitated dire changes, the Regional School of Our Lady of the Hamptons was organized.  This was the successful merger of the facilities of three parishes: Sacred Hearts and Our Lady of Poland in Southampton and St. Rosalie's in Hampton Bays. The Regional School of Our Lady of the Hamptons was the forerunner of the numerous regional schools now located throughout our Diocese.