Although the census for 1890 showed only 3,615 Poles in New Jersey. Bishop Wigger in his report for the same year listed 5,000 Poles in the Newark Diocese alone. By 1910, the census listed 69,244 Poles in New Jersey, most of them coming from the small villages in Galicia, the Southern part of Poland. These immigrants were attracted to the mills in Passaic and Paterson, and particularly in Passaic, where German companies had established woolen and worsted mills. Poles and other nationalities were brought directly by the mill owners from Ellis Island to Passaic. Other Polish immigrants were experienced miners and they were attracted to the iron mines in Hibernia and the zinc mines in Franklin and Ogdensburg.
For the most part, the Poles were overwhelmingly Catholic and devout in the practice of their religion.
The earliest Polish Catholics in Passaic were forced to travel to
St. Stanislaus Church, established in 1872 on East Seventh Street in Manhattan, N.Y, and later to St. Anthony's Church, established in 1884 in Jersey City.
Rev. Canon Stanislaus J. Kruczek
Holy Rosary Parish
The idea of establishing the second church in eastern Passaic (the parish of St. Joseph has existed since 1892) was formed in 1908, because the Polish population had grown to the point that St. Joseph’s church could not contain all the faithful.
In 1913, a parish by the name of Mary, Queen of Poland was formed, but without the official permission to establish a formal church. Ten years passed until the borders of the new church were established under Mary’s name and on February 19, 1918
Fr. Stanislaw Kluczek became the first Rector.
Many difficulties awaited the new Rector, the largest of which was enabling the disenchanted Polish population to attend mass and support the church. On the day the new Rector was nominated, he rented a house at the rectory and the Crystal Ballroom on 8th street for a temporary place of worship. The Crystal Ballroom chapel was anointed on March 5th, 1918 by Fr. Kerman, and despite the freezing temperatures, a large amount of faithful participated in the celebrations. From that moment, enthusiasm rose to the point that by Easter of the same year, the faithful donated $10,000.00 for the building of a new church. Thanks to this offering, the Poles garnered trust from both the church officials as well as local banks, which were now inclined to approve loans to the community.
After Easter of 1918, everything was done to speed the building of the new church. F.J. Schwarz, an architect, was chosen to draw up the building plans. Each night, the Rector visited with the parishioners with the shared goal of obtaining further funds to build the church.
Starting to Build the Church
After obtaining the proper building licenses, as well as a loan from a bank in Passaic, on July 18, 1918 Fr. James Mooney, The Rector of the Diocese Seminary blessed and broke the ground. The work moved along quickly, so much so that on February 9, 1919, Bishop O’Connor blessed the first-built room under what was to be the church as a temporary chapel.
In the spring of 1919, construction began on the main church to house 1,000 people as well as 17 classrooms. The Parish School was opened on February 1, 1920. The Rectory was donated for church use on October 16, 1920. The completed church building was officially blessed for use on January 2, 1921 by Archbishop Felix Guerra from Santiago, Cuba. Wojciech Kossak, a famous Polish painter took part in the opening celebrations, and Adam Didur, a famous singer, sang during the celebrations.
The Year 1922, A Year Of Joy And Tragedy
The year 1922 was a year of joyful spirit and parish tragedy. The joys were consisted of children putting on a show to commemorate the January Uprising, named “Miracle on the Vistula” and the collection of funds for Gen. Haller’s army.
On May 22, 1922 Fr. Kruczek visited with the then-President of Poland, Master Ignacy Paderewski, who played the piano for the parish and the church staff. On June 11, 1922 Fr. Franciszek Kowalczyk presided over celebratory mass.
The Church Fire
Everything was expected to go as well as the building of the church including parishioner growth. God had other plans- the church fire on June 12, 1922. The fire started in a neighboring house, and in one hour, only the brick walls were left.
Aside from the material loss, which numbered roughly around $150,000.00, the parish suffered a moral blow. The parishioners were left without a church and without a school, and the faithful fell into disorganization and depression. Under the Rector’s leadership, the parish shook off the drama of the moment, and the spark of the life returned to them.
Within a few weeks, the parishioners were able to collect $6,000.00, which, compared with the insurance settlement, helped quickly to re-build the church and the school. On December 10, 1922 new church bells were blessed for use. They were named St. Stanislaw, St. Michael and St. Francis of Assisi.
On April 8, 1923 the new church building was blessed for use by Archbishop Ernest Koppo from Kinberley, Austria.
The new church organs, costing $15,000.00 were installed and blessed for use on October 4, 1924 by Fr. Puchalski from Brooklyn, NY.
Archbishop Jan Feliks Cieplak
One of the most important events in church history was the arrival of Fr. Jan Cieplak to Passaic on November 10, 1925; who came to reside in the Holy Rosary Rectory.
Fr. Cieplak was a hero and suffered to the same extent as well in his life. Fr. Cieplak was named Bishop of St. Petersburg, Russia, were he not only limited his duties to central Russia, but all the way to Siberia’s notorious gulags where Polish political dissidents were held. In 1917, the Bolsheviks captured him and sentenced him to death. However, the great manifestations of the faithful enabled his freedom after a few years. He was taken to the Polish border near Bialystok and left in the snow. After reaching Poland, he left for Rome, Italy, and then to the United States. On November 10, 1925 he decided to stay with our Holy Rosary Church in Passaic. The official welcoming ceremonies occurred on January 25, 1926. At this time, he was also nominated for the position of Archbishop of Wilno, a town which is now located in Russia. His plans for a return to Wilno were compromised sickness. On February 10, 1926 Archbishop Cieplak was struck with illness and was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital, in Passaic. Archbishop Cieplak passed on February 17, 1926. The funeral was three days later at Holy Rosary Church. The requiem mass was presided over Bishop Shrembs from Cleveland, Ohio. Archbishop Cieplak’s remains were sent to Poland.
The Statue of Jesus’ Heart
After Pope Pius XI declared the “King Christ’s Day”, Fr. Kruczek decided to give over the entire spirit of the parish for care to Jesus’ Heart. It was decided to erect a bronze statue of Jesus’ Heart. It is standing on a massive granite base with the words “Jesus Bless Our Entire Parish”. The statue was made possible by the family of Walenty and Maria Walter, and located in the garden between the Rectory and the Church. The statue was blessed on June 12, 1927.