For the first three years
after their arrival in the town of
Maple Grove in 1877, the first Polish settlers did
not see a Catholic priest in Hofa
Park. Until the number of families increased, there
could be no consideration of building a church of their
own. Furthermore, before the settlers could afford to
do this, they were in the meantime busy laboring
strenuously for their daily bread and the support of
their families. Thus, six years elapsed before anything
resembling a church was constructed at Hofa Park.
Hofa Park Settlers Attend Seymour
As a result, the early Hofa
Park Poles at first attended the nearest Catholic church
in the vicinity. This was
St. John the Baptist Church, then composed mostly of
German parishioners, at Seymour. Since the pioneers of Hofa
Park originally came from western Poland,
most of them understood the German language used in the
With today's improved
outlay of roads, Seymour
is only nine miles distant from Hofa Park. But in 1877
and for some years before any resemblance of good roads
was constructed, the distance was much longer and the
round trip usually took three days. The Hofa Park
Catholics would leave their homes on Saturday morning,
some walking, some (mostly women and children) riding
the ox cart. They would have to by-pass deep swamps or ford the
shallower ones carrying their women and children on
their backs. For some, this roundabout trip amounted to
twenty-four miles one way.
Route of Travel to
The first route taken,
according to John Lepak, started from their homes to
Frazer's Corners, then to Angelica and on the Military Road
to Laney. Here they followed the higher land wherever
possible on to Seymour. The record time, at least for
the Michael Lepak family, was made when they left their
home mid-Saturday morning and arrived at 5 o'clock in
the afternoon at Seymour.
Taken along on such trip was the following equipment: a
sharp axe, a hay fork (used against bears and wolves), a
saw, a supply of food for the settlers and fodder for
Attending Mass, receiving
the sacraments and taking part in the Vesper services
on Sunday, they usually returned to their settlement on
Monday. However, when weather conditions were bad, the
settlers would remain at Seymour
longer. On one occasion, during a siege of heavy rains,
they remained in Seymour five days!
Gracious Hospitality of
Having a filial devotion to
the Queen of the Holy Rosary, the first families at
Hofa Park made their initial trip to Seymour
on the first Saturday
of October, 1877. Because of the long trip and the
difficulties entailed, they could make this trip but
once a month. When they did, they were graciously hosted
by the pastors of St. John's Church,
particularly Father Schoell, of whom all the old-timers
of Hofa Park spoke
with high respect, love and praise.
genial hospitality included housing the women and
children overnight in the extremely large rectory at
Seymour while the men and boys slept in the spacious hay barn. In the morning,
breakfast was served to all in the rectory. Father
Schoell and his elderly and kind housekeeper would offer
helpful hints in preparing the meal. Hofa Park men
never forgot how Father Schoell taught their wives how
to stir fresh eggs into the coffee in order to enrich
its taste and value.
Religious Services at
other Sundays of the month, the settlers would gather in
one particular home. There they recited the rosary,
litany and other prayers, and sang the Little Office of
the Blessed Virgin
Mary (called "Godzinki" in Polish) which they all knew
from memory. After this, they listened attentively as
the teen-aged John Lepak, who completed the third
reader at St. Hedwig's School in Milwaukee, read
the Gospel in Polish. Following this, these pious
pioneers watched whether the sun was directly overhead
in the skies. Judging that it was then high noon, they
would complete their Sunday services with the singing
of the Angehis.
preserved in the Lepak family is a small, wooden Calvary shrine, about 20
inches high. Beneath the crucifix, in a box-like
structure, there were enclosed miniature stations of the
Way of the Cross with English titles. The stations
revolved on a turntable. During the years before the
first church was built and a resident pastor provided,
these Polish settlers would place the shrine on a table
in a large room of their homes, meditate on each station
and recite the prayers of the Way of the Cross, These
were their private, Lenten services.
Mass Once a Month at Hofa
Once-a-month attendance at
Mass in Seymour and religious services at home on the
rest of the Sundays continued thus for the first three
years. Towards the end of the third year, in 1880,
Bishop Krautbauer was present at Seymour to confer the
sacrament of confirmation. He saw a group of people
coming into the churchyard with oxen, and supplies laden
in the ox carts. Surmizing that they came from a
distance, the good bishop asked the pastor who these
people were. After receiving the reply that these were
the Poles of Hofa Park and that they made the long and
difficult journey to Seymour every month, Bishop
Krautbauer instructed the pastor of St. John's Church to
ride to Hofa Park once a month and celebrate Mass there
in a private home for these settlers.
At first, Mass was
celebrated in the home of the Michael Lepak family. When
this home became too small, the Valentine Peplinski
residence was selected. Then, according to the testimony
of the late John Peplinski, he and other children of the
settlement received their first Holy Communion from the
hands of Father Schoell in the Jacob Jaskolski home in
After the Ziarek family
moved from Hofa Park, their unoccupied home was
temporarily used for Sunday Mass and services. Finally,
services were also celebrated for a time in Hof's
temporary land office. Thus, from 1880 to 1883, Hofa
Park was a station of the Catholic parish at Seymour.
Building of a Log Church
During the latter part of
1882, Valentine Peplinski, Michael Lepak and Michael
Schmitt traveled to Green Bay to petition Bishop
Krautbauer for permission to build a church at Hofa
Park. Private homes and Hof's land office were
becoming too small to accommodate the growing number of
settlers. The bishop of the Green Bay diocese promised
to grant his permission when there would be sixty
families at Hofa Park. He added that at such a time he
would also personally donate $60 towards the building of
the first church.
Evidently the required
number of sixty families was reached in the early part
of the year 1883, for on Jan. 11 of that year Bishop
Krautbauer accepted the grant of twenty-three acres
donated by John J. Hof for a church site. Three acres of
this grant was temporarily reserved by Hof for a mill
With a grant of land from
Hof and permission from the bishop, the settlers now
prepared to build their first church. Hof also donated
the timber and Bishop Krautbauer contributed the
promised sum of $60.
St. Adalbert, Name of
First Church at Hofa Park
The first church at Hofa
Park, built in the spring of 1883, was actually a log
chapel sufficient to accommodate the number of families
there at the time. It was located about forty feet north
of the present rectory. The limited financial means of
the Hofa Park Poles did not allow them to build a larger
church as yet. How little money the parishioners
possessed is proven by the fact that the pew rent
assessed upon them was $3 a year, yet not all could
afford to pay this amount.
Father Michael Schoell now
celebrated Mass once a month in this log chapel. From a
station, Hofa Park now became a mission of Seymour.
According to Father
Kruszka, the first church at Hofa Park was dedicated to
St. Adalbert. Furthermore, the parish is listed under
the name of this patron in the Catholic Directory until
1889 inclusive. On the other hand, the church records at
Hofa Park, beginning with the year 1884, are entered
under the name of St. Stanislaus Church.
Here a few explanatory
remarks are necessary to clear up the confusion. Father
Luke Pescinski succeeded Father Schoell as pastor of
Seymour and Hofa Park in 1884. In the Hofa Park record
books, Father Pescinski noted that he began to keep
separate records for Hofa Park in 1886. However, before
doing so, he first copied the baptisms, marriages and
burials covering the years 1884 to 1886 from the Seymour
records into the new Hofa Park books. Thus, it was
sometime between the years 1884 and 1886 that the name
of the parish was changed from St. Adalbert to St.
Stanislaus. The Seymour records never listed the names
St. Adalbert or St. Stanislaus, but simply state "Hofa
Park" or "Maple Grove."
Evidently the change of
patrons of the Hofa Park parish was not reported to the
editors of the Catholic Directly until 1889. Therefore,
they continued to list it under the title of St.
Another odd fact is why
Father Pescinski copied the records at Seymour only from
the year 1884 and not 1883? The testimony of the early
settlers, Hof's grant of land to Bishop Krautbauer,
Fathers Kruszka, Stanislaus Jeka and Francis Manel, the
latter two being some of the earliest Franciscan pastors
at this parish — all claim that the parish was founded
in 1883. There appears to be no logical reason why the
records of Hofa Park should not have been copied from
the year 1883, except perhaps that Father Pescinski
chose to copy them from the year in which he came to
Seymour, namely 1884.
Log Church Used as School
No other direct
information has survived in regard to a more precise
description of the first log church at Hofa Park.
Personal interviews among the older parishioners today
disclose contradictory information as to size, seating
capacity, etc. In addition, some claim that the log
chapel was used on week days as a school from the year
1883; others claim that the log chapel served as a
school house after the second church was built in 1888.
There is no doubt but that it served as a school from
the years 1888 to 1902. All are in agreement on this
fact. The log chapel was also used for catechetical
instruction of the children of the parish.
In 1902, the log school
was converted into a utility building for the pastor
after a new brick schoolhouse was constructed. In the
early 1930's, the first house of worship at Hofa Park
was sold at an auction to Stanley Maroszek, a
parishioner, and was later dismantled.
A photo of this log chapel
and school was in the possession of the Frank Gorecki
family in the parish. Unfortunately it was loaned to a
relative whose home burned three years ago and the photo
of the historic chapel perished with it!
Temporary Parishioners of Hofa Park Church
The construction of a
church at Hofa Park spurred the growth of the parish.
Hearing that a temple of God was now in the midst of the
settlement, more Poles were willing to come to the Hofa
Park area. By the end of 1884, 104 families were members
of the growing congregation.
In addition, Poles
settling in the Pulaski area in 1883 joined the Hofa
Park parish until they could afford to build their own
church. They paid their share of the pew rent and
contributed to the upkeep of the church and pastor. For
this reason, Hof advertised the Hofa Park church as the
"Hofa Park-Pulaski Church or Convent."
From the beginning it was
planned that only one large church should be built for
both of these settlements. Hof himself was in favor of
this idea. But the Pulaski people desired a church of
their own and refused to belong permanently to Hofa
Park. They began to gather materials and funds for their
own church at Pulaski. But the forest fire of 1886
destroyed the lumber for the first Pulaski church, which
oddly enough was also to be named after St. Adalbert.
After this tragedy, Hof
offered his land office in Pulaski as a temporary chapel
for the Pulaski settlers. After the necessary permission
was granted by the bishop, services were held in this
chapel once a month. Fathers Luke Pescinski from Seymour
and John Maczynski from Menasha celebrated Mass for the
first time on Pulaski soil. In between these times,
Brother Augustine Zeitz, O.F.M., held religious services
consisting of the rosary, the Little Office, and a
homily on the Gospel, until two Franciscan Fathers
arrived in April, 1888.
Father John Maczynski,
Next Pastor at Hofa Park
On February 28, 1885, John
J. Hof and Maria von Hoverden Hof, his wife, conveyed to
Bishop Kraut-bauer and the Hofa Park parish an
additional three acres. These were reserved by Hof in
the original grant of 1883 for a possible mil site.
Since Hof's agent, Thorace Thompson, built a saw mill at
Hofa Park, further south of the church grounds, Hof
released the three acres to the bishop and the parish.
It is interesting to note that Hof, being a widower,
listed as single in the warranty deed of 1883, was
married again sometime before 1885.
In November, 1886, Hofa
Park parishioners welcomed their new pastor in the
person of Father John Maczynski, who was also pastor of
St. John's Church in Menasha. Father Pescinski's
successor at Seymour was again a German priest. And
while the first Poles at Hofa Park understood German,
many of the more recent Polish settlers originated from
other sections of Poland and did not understand the
German language. Thus, Bishop Katzer appointed Father
Maczynski, the better to administer to the religious
needs of the Poles at Hofa Park.
Father Maczynski was an
ex-Franciscan from the Polish Reformed Province of
Western Poland. Forced to leave his native land because
of religious persecution by the German government, then
occupying that section of Poland, Father Maczynski came
to the United States and served in a number of Polish
parishes as a diocesan priest. He is remembered by the
Hofa Park and Pulaski parishioners for his
good-heartedness and pleasant disposition. Joseph
Mencikalski usually drove by horse and buggy to Menasha
to transport the affable pastor to Hofa Park for
religious services on Sunday.
Hof Collects for New Hofa
In the meantime, during
the first half of the year 1886, Hof was collecting
money for a new and larger church at Hofa Park. This
money was deposited with Messrs. Kosmicki and Galanski
in the village. In a letter to Bishop Katzer, dated May
10, 1886, the founder of Hofa Park wrote that "120
Polish families have bought land in Hofa Park proper; in
other words, have bought land west of the Green Bay and
Shawano (Military) Road. West of
the Park are small and large bodies of nice farming land
and many small improved farms so that if a good Polish
Church is built in the Park, several hundred Polish
families will patronize that Church and School."
Evidently it was the
intention of the bishop and the Pulaski people already
at this time to build separate churches: one for Hofa
Park (a larger one) and another for Pulaski. On this
account, Hof continued in the above letter:
"However, I would have
been financially better off if only one church could
have been made to answer, because it costs immense
outlays of money to do what I have done in these two
centers (Hofa Park and Pulaski) ; but surely there are
no helps for it. Pulaski will be content for the present
with what you promised me."
Thus, Hof and the Hofa
Park settlers resumed raising funds for a larger church
to replace the overcrowded log chapel.
Contribution from Poles of
Nevertheless, both Hof and
Brother Augustine Zeitz who came to the Pulaski area in
early 1887 advertised the Hofa Park-Pulaski settlements
as a unified site for a Franciscan monastery and church
in the Polish and Lithuanian newspapers of the country.
It was not until Hof donated 120 acres of land for a
monastery and church to Brother Augustine and the
Franciscan Fathers in April, 1887, that the problem of
two separate churches was definitely solved.
An unusual result of the
publicity given to Hofa Park by Brother Augustine was a
donation sent to him as late as January, 1888, by the
Polish Society of California. It was
earmarked "for the benefit of the Convent at Hof Park,
Wisconsin." Nineteen Polish men and women from San
Francisco, California, gathered and sent a modest sum of
$26 for this purpose. Though a small contribution, it
was a touching fraternal gesture of help. The secretary
of the Polish Society of California who sent the money
and list of donors was Alexander Bednawski, 1235 Market
St., San Francisco.
This contribution was made
towards the building of a Polish Franciscan monastery in
the Hofa Park-Pulaski area. The monastery was finally
built in Pulaski, not Hofa Park, during the latter part
Dedication of Second
Church at Hofa Park
Father Maczynski and the
Hofa Park parishioners decided to build a larger frame
church in the spring of 1888. True to his promise, Hof
offered the choice white pine he had saved for the
construction of the new church. Again the settlers
furnished all the labor for excavation, hauling of logs
to the sawmill and lumber to the site of the church.
Substantial donations were also made by their relatives
and friends of Milwaukee and Chicago.
The new church was built
in an east-to-west direction, with the front entrance
facing west, and stood closer to the corner of the two
streets which intersect at the site of the present
By April, 1888, the
scaffolding was up and around the rising church building
at Hofa Park. In the meantime, two Franciscan Fathers
from Poland arrived at Pulaski in the latter part of
April, 1888. They were Fathers Erasm Sobocinski and
Stanislaus Jeka. Bishop Katzer appointed Father Erasm
pastor of the Pulaski and Hofa Park parishes while
Father Stanislaus was sent to administer Sacred Heart
Church at Polonia, Wisconsin. Father Erasm thus
succeeded Father Maczynski at Hofa Park and supervised
the completion of the new church.
On Sunday, December 2,
1888, and by delegation of Bishop Katzer, Father
Sobocinski blessed the new church and bell, then
celebrated Mass during which Father Jerome Schneider,
O.F.M., who had arrived at Pulaski in July of the same
year, preached the sermon.
The new church bell was
donated by Mrs. Walter Dyniewicz, wife of the publisher
of Polish books in Chicago. It weighed 560 lbs. and was
christened in honor of St. Hedwig.
St. Stanislaus Church, a
Mission of Pulaski
Due to the fact that the
parishioners at Hofa Park could not as yet build a
rectory and support a resident pastor, St. Stanislaus
Church became a mission to Pulaski. Father Erasm, who
was also superior of the Pulaski monastery and the first
Commissary Provincial of the Franciscan Fathers, visited
Hofa Park twice a month to celebrate Mass and extend
other spiritual care. In addition to the offices
mentioned above, Father Erasm was also Master of
Novices, served as a missionary and solicited funds
among various Polish parishes of Wisconsin to complete
the building of the Pulaski monastery and church. He
succeeded in partially achieving his goal by September,
Next there was the task of
clearing the brush, pulling stumps and preparing the
land around the monastery for cultivation in order to
provide food for the Fathers and Brothers. Aiding their
pastor as well as the Franciscan Brothers in this work
were the parishioners of Hofa Park, besides the settlers
Father Erasm's Death and
Father Jerome's Succession
worries, extremely primitive living conditions in the
first monastery at Pulaski and the resulting illness
brought Father Erasm to an early grave. On the morning
of February 4, 1890, Hofa Park and Pulaski lost their
beloved Pastor, who died in a saintly manner surrounded
by his brethren in St. Francis in the Pulaski monastery.
He was buried on February 7 in the Pulaski parish
On his deathbed, Father
Erasm delegated Father Jerome Schneider to succeed him
as Commissary Provincial, local superior and pastor of
the Pulaski and Hofa Park parishes. The Most Reverend
Father General of the Franciscan Order and Bishop Katzer
confirmed Father Schneider in his various offices.
Father Jerome celebrated
Mass two or three times a month at Hofa Park as
conditions would allow him. With Father Jeka still at
Polonia, Father Jerome was the only Franciscan priest at
Pulaski. On his pastoral visits to Hofa Park, he taught
catechism to the children of the parish, prepared them
for Holy Communion and for confirmation. He also
initiated the movement for the building of a rectory at
Hofa Park in the hope that more Franciscan priests would
soon be available and that Hofa Park could have a
resident pastor. The fund-raising for a new rectory
began in 1890. With the generous help of the Hofa Park
parishioners, Father Jerome's efforts were successful
and a rectory was finally built in June, 1892.
Father Stanislaus Jeka
Becomes First Resident Pastor
With the provision of a
rectory at Hofa Park, Bishop Sebastian G. Messmer of
Green Bay replaced Father Jeka at Polonia with a
diocesan priest and together with Franciscan
authorities appointed Father Stanislaus as the first
resident pastor at Hofa Park. St. Stanislaus now became
a parish in the full, canonical sense of the word, and
received full-time spiritual care. Mass and other
devotions were celebrated every Sunday for the first
time in the history of the parish! Given to aid in
domestic work at the rectory was a religious brother
from the Pulaski monastery.
The first rectory,
supplanted by the present one in 1915, stands slightly
remodeled but still used as a home by the Urban Drella
family today. It is the fourth house south of the
Bishop Messmer Defines
Status of Franciscan Fathers and Parish
Although the Franciscan
Fathers offered spiritual care to the parishioners of
St. Stanislaus Church since April, 1888, they only
served as administrators of the parish. The church,
rectory and the 23 acres of land belonged to the bishop
of Green Bay. St. Stanislaus Congregation was not as yet
incorporated in the state of Wisconsin until 1902 and
therefore legally could hold no property.
Financial arrangements for
the support of the Franciscan pastors were therefore
established by Bishop Messmer on July 15, 1892. St.
Stanislaus Parish was to pay a salary of $600 a year to
its pastor and furnish free board both to him and the
religious brother. Parish meetings were to be held under
the supervision of the Franciscan Fathers and trustees
elected at these meetings needed the approval of the
bishop in writing. Prior to this the parishioners were
wont to meet under the leadership of a president elected
by themselves, and this did not always make for smooth
relationships between the people, the pastor and the
bishop of the diocese.
Improvements and Payment
After relations between
the bishop, the Franciscan Fathers and the parish were
clearly defined, Father Jeka seriously delved into his
pastoral work. Obtaining the good will and cooperation
of the 133 families in the parish in 1892, he
immediately exerted his efforts towards clearing the
heretofore outstanding debts incurred in the building of
church and rectory.
Next the pious Franciscan
furnished the sacristy with beautiful new vestments and
sacred vessels. His report for the year 1893 lists the
sponsoring of the first parish picnics in the history of
Saint Stanislaus Church. The market value of the parish
property in 1893 was revealed to be $7,980 at a time
when wages were low and the value of the dollar high.
Parish property then included the church, rectory, log
school, cemetery which Father Jeka blessed, and
twenty-three acres of land.
Further improvements to
the church were made in 1894 in the form of oil
paintings of St. Stanislaus and St. Joseph, more new
vestments, candelabra and other articles conducive to
more devoted performance and attendance at religious
services. These articles were principally the donations
of the Holy Rosary Society.
Vicar-General Fox Praises
Returning with Bishop
Messmer from Hofa Park and Pulaski where the sacrament
of confirmation was conferred, Father Joseph J. Fox,
Vicar-General and later Bishop of the Green Bay diocese,
gave the following glowing report to the Green Bay
Gazette on October 10, 1894, in an article entitled
"3000 Persons and No Saloon":
"Can you imagine a
settlement of nearly 500 families, which means about
3000 persons, without a saloon or public drinking place?
. . . Bishop Messmer and I returned from a visit to
Pulaski and "Hofa Park and there we found this anomalous
state of things.
"Pulaski and Hofa Park are
two settlements in Shawano County (Pulaski was not yet a
village. The southwest and northwest portion of the
present village were then in the towns of Maple Grove
and Angelica, Shawano County), closely adjoining each
other, and were founded by a Milwaukee real estate man.
He had some land up there and conceived the idea of
colonizing it. The colonists all came from Poland
(originally), and the result of their labor can now be
seen in the fact that they are all happy and prosperous
people. Their small farms are in good condition, their
homes are tidy and neat, and an air of health and
prosperity permeates everything.
Healthy and Prosperous
Conditions Due to Absence of Saloons
"Much of this, I have no
doubt, is due to the absence of saloons. The men have no
opportunity of squandering their money for nothing,
except a probable and natural injury to their health,
and the other baneful influences of the dramshop are
likewise rendered impossible. The men, old and young,
take their money instead and improve their farms,
increase their stock, expend more for clothing and
furnishings of their homes, pay more attention to the
education of their children, and so forth. This state of
things, I am glad to say, goes far to disprove the truth
of many of the allegations that have been made
concerning the Polanders. Give people an opportunity,
follow it up with advice and direct help, and you will
soon rejoice at the results.
Franciscan Fathers Do Grand Work
"These Poles there,
however, are no total abstainers. I understand that, off
and on, they have their little jollifications when they
club together and purchase some beer which is then
consumed by them in a rational manner. I know that to
wish that even this would be done away with, would be
too radical. The cure and change from long established
customs must be gradual, and with that in view the
Franciscan Fathers, who are the spiritual advisers in
the settlement, conduct their work among the people.
"The Franciscans came from
Poland, joining the colonists, and have done really
grand work since they have been there."
Although there were no
saloons in Pulaski and Hofa Park in 1894, these were
established there eventually. Today, the village of Hofa
Park has three and Pulaski has thirteen taverns.
Father Lopatto Administers
Parish for Brief Period
During the last two years
(1895-1896) of Father Jeka's first term as pastor, the
church was repainted, more pews were added, a new
furnace was purchased and the debt on the church and
rectory completely cleared. Father Stanislaus had indeed
administered the parish to the universal satisfaction of
all parishioners. He was to them in truth "a good
For a brief term of six
months, from January 1 to July 1, 1897, Father A.
Lopatto was administrator of St. Stanislaus Church. The
Franciscan Fathers at Pulaski were in great need of
priests. Father Stanislaus Jeka, who left Hofa Park in
December, 1896, was the only priest at Pulaski and
served from January 1, 1897, as superior of the
monastery and pastor of the Pulaski parish.
Bishop Messmer had
appointed Father Jerome Schneider as chaplain to the
Sisters and St. Mary's Hospital and Orphanage at
Manitowoc, Wisconsin. In return, the bishop supplied
Hofa Park with one of his own diocesan priests for the
time being until two young Franciscan clerics would be
ordained to the priesthood in June, 1897.
First Mass of Newly
Ordained Priest Celebrated at Hofa Park
The parishioners of St.
Stanislaus Church were treated to a preview of their
next pastor who succeeded Father Lopatto. On June 12,
1897, Fathers Francis Manel and Anthony Wisniewski,
Polish Franciscans, were ordained by Archbishop Kain at
St. Louis, Missouri. After ordination they came directly
to Pulaski where on Thursday, the feast of Corpus
Christi, Father Anthony celebrated his First Mass.
On the following Sunday,
Father Francis Manel celebrated his First Mass at Hofa
Park where the external observance of the feast of
Corpus Christi was transferred to that day. Thus, the
parishioners of Hofa Park witnessed for the first time
in the history of St. Stanislaus Church the celebration
of his First Mass by a newly ordained priest.
Unknowingly, they gazed at the saintly priest who would
begin his ministry as their pastor in a few weeks.
Hofa Park, First Field of
Labor for Father Francis Manel
Father Francis Manel
became the new shepherd of souls at Hofa Park on July 8,
1897. He administered to his flock in a zealous manner,
both spiritually and materially. He strengthened the
spiritual life of the parish with the organization of
six new societies. Up to this time, only the Holy Rosary
Society, founded in 1884 by Father Pescinski, was
active. The Third Order of St. Francis fraternity begun
in 1890 by Father Jerome Schneider was dormant.
In 1898, Father Francis
introduced the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, the societies of St. Cecilia (for choir members),
St. Stanislaus Kostka (for young men) and the Sacred
Heart of Mary. He recognized the Third Order fraternity
and helped to found a benevolent society, St. Joseph's,
which issued sickness and death benefits.
Church Property Very Much
During his pastorate, the
church property was very much improved. Wooden sidewalks
were laid on the church premises which were also
encircled with wire fences. He also planted a beautiful
fruit orchard between the rectory and the church. With
the arrival of more families at Hofa Park, more pews
were installed in church by Father Francis and a new
Father Francis loved
sacred music and was a talented musician himself.
Apparently low Masses were predominantly celebrated at
St. Stanislaus Church up to this time because in 1897
Father Francis hired the first organist in the history
of the parish in the person of Anton Lulewicz. A new
reed organ was purchased for him for the sum of $136.50.
Planned at Hofa Park
In January, 1899, plans
were made to reopen the novitiate of the Franciscan
Fathers which had been discontinued at Pulaski in 1894.
Since both Bishop Messmer and the Franciscan Fathers
were in need of Polish priests, it was proposed that
land be purchased from the Hofa Park parish by the
Franciscan Fathers and a larger building be constructed.
This would accommodate the Franciscan pastor and the
novices of the Polish Franciscan Commissariat. In this
manner, Father Francis, who was proposed as Master of
Novices, could double in that capacity and as pastor of
St. Stanislaus Church.
However, the parishioners
of Hofa Park were undecided in their attitude towards
this proposal, once approving, then rejecting it. As a
result, the novitiate was reopened in the frame
monastery at Pulaski on September 17, 1899. Father
Francis was impelled by circumstances to leave Hofa Park
and assume his duties as Master of Novices despite a
petition by the people of St. Stanislaus Parish to
Bishop Messmer to retain the saintly Franciscan.
Father Romuald Byzewski,
Fortunately, a new member
entered the Franciscan Commissariat at Pulaski in the
person of Father Romuald Byzewski. He succeeded Father
Man-el at Hofa Park. Father Byzewski was a former member
of the Reformed Franciscan Province in Poland. He came
to the United States as a refugee from Chancellor
Bismarck's Kulturkampf and May Laws promulgated against
the Catholic Church in Germany and Western Poland.
Having served as pastor of
St. Stanislaus Church in Winona, Minnesota, from
1874-1890, and then shepherding two other Polish
parishes in Detroit, Michigan, in the capacity of a
diocesan priest from 1890-1899, Father Byzewski came to
the Franciscan monastery at Pulaski at the request of
His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII.
At this time, he was
approaching the 60th year of his life. A veteran of
twenty-five years of spiritual labors among the Polish
immigrants of America, he drew the parishioners of St.
Stanislaus Parish to himself with his kindness, sage
advice and ready wit. He resided at Hofa Park for only
one year. Thus, he could not accomplish much in regard
to the temporal affairs of the parish which were in very
good condition anyway.
Father Byzewski is
remembered also as a very eloquent preacher, being one
of the foremost Polish Franciscan missionaries in the
United States in the last quarter of the nineteenth
century. He was called another Chrysostom by the Polish
clergy of the country. In addition to this, he was a
very educated man, having received a doctorate in sacred
theology at Louvain University in Belgium, and having
the command of seven different languages.
Father Jeka Returns for
In September, 1900, Father
Manel replaced Father Jeka as superior of the monastery
and pastor of the Pulaski parish. Father Stanislaus was
in turn again appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Church
at Hofa Park, the parish which held a beloved place in
his heart. But his second term at Hofa Park lasted only
thirteen months. Events of the past two years effected
his transfer elsewhere.
Already in December, 1899,
Bishop Messmer had offered the Pulaski Franciscans a
Polish parish at Green Bay in exchange for Hofa Park.
St. Mary of the Angels, then composed of about one
hundred families, had just been organized in 1898. As
the local superior of the monastery, Father Stanislaus
rode by horse and buggy from Pulaski to Green Bay and
administered to this temporary mission from December,
1899, to September, 1900. With the Green Bay offer came
another from the Bishop of Green Bay, namely, the care
of St. John's Church, a Polish parish at Menasha,
Wisconsin. Before definite arrangements were completed,
Father Jeka remained at Hofa Park from September, 1900,
to November, 1901. He then was appointed pastor of the
First Parochial School
Built at Hofa Park, 1902
Thus, the Franciscan
Fathers again left Hofa Park in 1901, this time for a
longer period than before. Bishop Messmer supplanted
them at St. Stanislaus Church with diocesan priests.
Father Theophil Malkowski, who had organized St. Mary of
the Angels Parish at Green Bay in February, 1898, came
on November 1, 1901, to Hofa Park after Father Jeka's
departure. A very energetic man, Father Malkowski made
many improvements in the church and rectory and
continued Father Manel's avocation by planting more
fruit and other trees on the parish property. In the
early months of 1902, a fire damaged the chimney and
roof of St. Stanislaus Church. However, the $650
received from the insurance company covered the cost of
But the greatest project
undertaken by Father Malkowski was the building of a
parochial school. This matter had already been
previously broached by Bishop Messmer and the Franciscan
Fathers but with no success. In 1902, Father Malkowski
convinced the parishioners of the importance of a
Catholic education for their children and a
two-classroom school building was constructed before
September, 1902, at a cost of $4,000. It had a basement
and a second flooor auditorium for parish meetings and
This was still not the
ideal parochial school which was then generally found in
other Catholic parishes. For the next twenty-one years,
there was no community of Sisters teaching in this
school. Instead, a layman, usually the organist,
conducted classes in secular subjects while the pastors
instructed the children in religion. One classroom was
used by the parish, the other room was rented to the
local district as a public school. Whatever its merits
or drawbacks, this was the beginning of a Catholic
school, a quasi-parochial school, at Hofa Park. More
will be written in reference to this institution in the
chapter on schools at St. Stanislaus Parish.
Incorporation of Parish in
State of Wisconsin
Next in importance was the
final incorporation of the parish in the state of
Wisconsin. This took place on August 28, 1902. The Hofa
Park parish was incorporated as "St. Stanislaus
Congregation, village of Hofa Park, town of Maple Grove,
Shawano County, state of Wisconsin." The incorporation
papers were notarized on September 3 and recorded at the
Register of Deeds Office, Shawano, on September 4, 1902.
Appearing as the first
officers of the newly incorporated parish were: Bishop
Sebastian G. Messmer, president; the Rt. Rev. Joseph J.
Fox, Vicar-General and member of the corporation; Rev.
Theophil Malkowski, vice-president; John Politowski
(succeeded in the same year by John Lepak), secretary;
and John Czajkowski, treasurer.
First Mission Held at St.
Stanislaus Church, 1903
Stressing the spiritual as
well as the intellectual and material welfare of the
parish, Father Malkowski scheduled the first mission
ever held at Hofa Park. Lasting for a week, this mission
was conducted during May, 1903. Records of the parish
fail to disclose who preached the mission. In all his
undertakings, Father Malkowski had the wholehearted
support of his parishioners. Evidence of greater
prosperity enjoyed at this time by the Hofa Park Poles
is seen in the fact that many of them now made loans to
the parish. Amounts of from $500 to $900 were loaned to
St. Stanislaus Church at a time when "a dollar was
dollar and no less," as the old-timers love to recall.
Wages were about a dollar a day in those years! Such
sums of savings loaned to the parish therefore
represented a fair measure of wealth in the farming
community of that day.
There is no doubt but that
Father Malkowski gave St. Stanislaus Parish the
proverbial "shot in the arm" which it needed. He
accomplished very much in the three short years of his
tenure as pastor.
In October, 1904, Father
Stanislaus A. Elbert arrived as the next pastor. He
barely had time to become acquainted with his new
parishioners when he was transferred to St. Adalbert
Church, Marinette, Wisconsin. His stay at Hofa Park
covered the period of October, 1904, to January, 1905.
Nevertheless, Father Elbert, who is still alive and is
approaching the 90th year of his life, holds many
pleasant memories of his three-month pastorate of St.
Stanislaus Church. He was the last of the diocesan
priests who were pastors at this parish.