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 Church, 1877-1880

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 Seymour church.

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 Seymour

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 the oxen.

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 Seymour Pastors

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.

His 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 Private Homes

On the 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.

Still 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 Park

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 1882.

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 in 1883

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 site.

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. Adalbert.

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!

Pulaski Settlers, 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 Park Church

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 California

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 of 1888.

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 church.

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, 1888.

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 of Pulaski.

Father Erasm's Death and Father Jerome's Succession

Overwork, financial 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 cemetery.

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 Swiecichowski Store.

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 of Debts

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 the new 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 Polish Colonies

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 shepherd."

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 Felician 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 Improved

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 furnace purchased.

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.

Franciscan Novitiate 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, Next Pastor

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 Second Term

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 Menasha parish.

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 repairs.

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 social affairs.

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.