Saint Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church
Over a century of faith and service
Depression and Triumph
In 1919, the dream of a dedicated group of Polish immigrants in the Bristol area was realized when the parish of Saint Stanislaus Kostka was dedicated. At last, the Polish people had their own parish and their own priest, Reverend George Bartlewski, who would remain as their pastor for 49 years. Along with this rudimentary “basement” church, this close-knit community also built a parish school in the difficult Depression year of 1930. Staffed by a Polish order, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Third Order of Saint Francis, the sisters even lived in the school until a convent could later be built.
Tradition and Transition
Church organizations flourished. Polish customs were celebrated and preserved even as the community began to integrate fully into the adopted country and welcome American citizens. A new dream emerged, that of transforming the humble and simple basement church into a larger structure, requiring that the early building be demolished. When the dream became reality in 1956, a beautiful new church reflecting a modified Gothic architectural style stood on the old site ushering in a new chapter in the history of the parish. Progress continued with the addition of a new rectory, a much-needed convent, as well as a parking area behind the church. So, too, the life of the parish flourished. Parishioners of varied ethnic backgrounds entered; and through marriage or simply the desire to belong to the church, an evolving blend of cultural backgrounds emerged while the church’s proud and cherished Polish traditions remained as strong and evident as in the past. Each year families continue to celebrate the Pasterka (Shephard’s Mass) at Christmas, the Wigilia (Christmas Eve Meal), and shared oplatek (Christmas wafer). Lenten traditions include Gorzkie Zale (Bitter Lamentations), Stations of the Cross, and the blessing of Polish Easter food on Holy Saturday.
The economic realities of the late twentieth century led to the demolition of the aging parish school. The former convent became a thriving parish center, named for Monsignor George Bartlweski, the founding pastor. With a new influx of immigration from Poland in the 1980’s, the Polish ethnicity of Saint Stanislaus experienced a renewal of tradition and the desire of new Polish parishioners to actively celebrate special events such as Dozynki. This harvest festival brings together all groups in our parish family to embrace our Catholic faith at Mass then to enjoy good food (Polish and otherwise), fun, music, and fellowship on the church grounds. Processions which accompany ceremonies such as Forty Hour Devotions in both Polish and English reflect an honored heritage and richness to our liturgies.
Today, Saint Stanislaus Kostka, under the leadership of our current pastor, Reverend Tomasz Sztuber, continues to honor a rich past and to underscore our Catholic tradition of faith, good works and service to our community. With our ministries, we’re able to reach out and support organizations and individuals each day and bring the light of hope and spirituality for tomorrow.
Edited from an original manuscript by Elaine Brzezenski Lewandowski