A Brief History of Polish Pastoral Care in the United States and Canada
In 1932, the then Primate of Poland, Cardinal August Hlond, founded the Society of Christ with the aim of providing Polish emigrants with pastoral care and every possible additional assistance. This was the culmination of many years of efforts by the Polish episcopate to assure the Polish emigrating masses of a constant flow of Polish priests.
Part I / The Period Preceding the Founding of the Vice-Province
The first Society of Christ Father to land on North American soil was Fr. Jan Otlowski. His task, upon arriving in the United States on 18 September 1957, was to explore the possibilities of the Society carrying out missionary work on the continent. In December of 1957, Cardinal Caroll placed him in charge of the Polish Catholic Mission in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In 1960, Otlowski was joined by another member of the Society, Brother Marian Pankanin, who became his confrere’s organist.
Part II / Pastoral Posts Assumed by the Society of Christ Fathers Parishes
Poles began arriving in the Calgary area of Alberta, Canada, in the period preceding WWI. By and large, these were economic migrants, who found employment as farmers. After 1945, this time for political reasons, another considerable group of Poles settled in the area. In 1955, Bishop Caroll established the Polish Catholic Mission, dedicating it to Our Lady Queen of Peace. Its first priest was Fr. Leon Trawicki. In 1957 he was succeeded by Fr. Wladyslaw Slapa. The premature deaths of both priests set back the Mission’s pastoral activity. Informed of this, Archbishop Gawlina contacted Fr. Franciszek Okroy, the Society of Christ’s Vicar General of Overseas Affairs in Rome, with a request that the Congregation send one of its priests to Calgary. It was a deciding moment for the Society’s missionary work in North America, for it led to the arrival of the first Society of Christ Father on American soil and the assumption of work on behalf of the Polish community at the request of the Church. The first Society of Christ priest to leave for North America in order to minister to the Polish community in Canada was Fr. Jan Otlowski, S.Chr. Sailing from the French port of Le Havre, Otlowski arrived in New York on September 18, 1957. The priest arrived at his post in Calgary on December 8. Shortly afterwards, work was begun on a church building. It was completed in 1968.
Part III / History of the North American Province of the Society of Christ Fathers