(Host) For years, Polish culture thrived in a few Vermont towns, where churches helped immigrant families adapt to a new place. Now in northwestern Vermont, immigrants are hoping to establish a Polish Catholic Church to support their community.
VPR’s Patti Daniels reports.
(Daniels) The U.S. Census estimates that 380 Vermonters were born in Poland, and several thousand Vermonters claim Polish ancestry.
Like many Polish immigrants in Vermont, Stanley Borowi spent his first years in the United States living in New York City’s large Polish community. He wants Polish culture to thrive in Vermont, too:
(Borowi) “When I move to Vermont, I always thinking about, ‘Do something for Polish community.’ And you know, the Polish people are very close to the tradition, culture, church. And I think the church is the center to get people together.” (Sound of congregation praying.)
(Daniels) Recently, Borowi helped arrange a Polish Catholic mass in Burlington. He hopes the service will help people of Polish background create a more permanent community:
(Borowi) “This is not you gonna be Mass, just one-time shot. We are planning to make a Polish Catholic congregation, to do some – like Polish church, to working together even on Saturdays. Saturday, a Polish language and culture school for the kids.”
(Daniels) Polish families in northeastern Vermont often worship in English-speaking Catholic churches. They’ve even incorporated their own traditions into Easter and Christmas services. But some Polish immigrants hope to establish their own church to sustain their faith and their culture.
(Sound from homily, priests speaks about culture, children.)
(Daniels) St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral hosted the special mass last weekend; about 200 people were in attendance. The entire service was conducted in Polish language, and some people followed along with a printed text. Seventeen-year-old Monika Kucharek says the service brought back memories for her:
(Sound of singing from the church service.)
(Kucharek) “Just going to religion classes and singing them in church every single Sunday when you attended. And my first communion – two of those songs we sung on my communion back when I was nine in Poland. So it’s different. And getting those memories back – pretty emotional.”
(Daniels) After the mass, people crowded into the parish hall to socialize, share paczki cakes and enjoy each other’s company. It’s the kind of gathering they hope will become commonplace.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Patti Daniels in Burlington.