117-Year-Old Polish Catholic Church Closes This Month | State News

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — New Bedford’s first Polish Roman Catholic church is set to close this month after 117 years, following years of declining membership and the death of its pastor.

Fewer than 30 people attended a recent Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, said John Kearns, spokesman for the Diocese of Fall River. A retired priest held the position until the church doors closed on January 30, following the death of the Reverend Conrad Salach in October, the Standard-Times reported Thursday.

“I hope it’s not torn down,” said Cecelia Cowell, 99, who was married in the church. Parishioners only discovered that it was closing last month.

The church was built in 1905 and had a school for the town’s Polish children. Inside hung a painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, imported from Rome and endowed with numerous privileges by Pope Pius X.

The church fell on hard times during the Great Depression and nearly went bankrupt in 1932, but decided to have parish operations taken over by a religious order, which kept the doors open.

In the 1970s, concerns arose about the future of the church, as declining attendance combined with increased funerals and fewer new members.

Yet the heart of the church for years was Reverend Roman Chwaliszewski, the senior pastor. From the early 1980s it stimulated social activities such as an annual Polish festival with traditional food, as well as bingo games, seasonal bazaars and food sales.

“It was a lot of work, but somehow we got through it,” Cowell said.

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