Local legend holds that Poles began to settle in Baltimore around 1868, and by 1870 there were approximately ten families who had settled in Fells Point. In 1877, there were approximately 50 Polish immigrant families in Baltimore and by 1880 this number increased to approximately 110. Although this was modest when compared with other cities, by 1880 it was evident that geographically there was an emergent Polish Colony center on nine streets in Fells Point.
Baltimore was an active transit point for Poles immigrating to the United States. The majority of Polish immigrants who arrived at Locus Point stayed in Baltimore only briefly before heading to the Midwest, Pennsylvania, or Western New York State. Generally, those who settled in Baltimore were financially unable to travel further than the port of entry.
These first immigrants found not only affordable housing but also opportunities for work. There was a need for unskilled workers in port-related activities, such as stevedores and carters as well as for new industries in canning, slaughterhouses, and fertilizer plants. Once established, these immigrants wrote those they left behind to immigrate to this “land of opportunity.”
Regardless of where they settled, Polish immigrants, like other transplanted Europeans, sought to establish their cultural identity in America. They worked to establish small businesses, voluntary associations, and churches to achieve this goal. These structures sustained a sense of community into which even transient Poles could fit themselves. The growth and development of this infrastructure was in direct correlation with the size and resources of the immigrant group.
Polish immigrants organized St. Stanislaus Societies in 1875 as mutual-aid societies. The groups were organized, in part, as a response to the economic depression of the 1870s. The members of the St. Stanislaus Society at Holy Rosary R.C. Parish sought further changes in Parish governance and a more responsive attitude toward their community’s needs from the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, they desired a more national character to the Church, Holy Masses in the language of the people, and lay self-government and control over Parish property and finances. Their appeals to the Roman Catholic Church went unheeded. The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church responded by telling representatives of the association that they were ‘leaning toward a Church built by the devil and were devils themselves subject to arrest if they did not leave the premises of the rectory’ at Holy Rosary Parish. Therefore, these courageous souls left the Roman Church on March 12, 1898. At a meeting in Harugari Hall on East Baltimore Street approximately 451 men and their families founded Holy Mother of Unceasing Help Independent Catholic Church. The first Parish Committee was elected by the people – each having a voice and a vote in the organization of the Parish. The elected Committee included John Nortman, John Kluczynski, William M. Doyas, Thomas Zawodny, John Machulcz, John Ziolkowski, Joseph Skolarski, Michael Piasecki, and Kazimierz Murawski as President.
The first Pastor of the Parish was the Rev. Valentine Gawrychowski, assigned by Bishop Kaminski of the Independent Polish Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York. The Parish purchased property, built a church and established a cemetery on June 14, 1898, located at 7110 German Hill Road in Baltimore.
Tragedy struck in 1904 when the first church was severely damaged by a catastrophic tornado and hail storm which hit Baltimore. Under pressure from the them presiding Cardinal of the Roman Church, the City building Inspector declared the Parish unfit for habitation.
Until 1913 the group remained as the Independent Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Mother of Unceasing Help. In 1913 they became affiliated with the Polish National Catholic Church, which had been formed earlier in Scranton, Pennsylvania and changed the Parish name to Holy Cross.
– Courtesy of Thomas L. Hollowak.
Rt. Rev. Walenty Gawrychowski, 1898 – 1903
Rev. Ludwik Wrzesiński, 1903 – 1904
Rev. Wojciech Olszewski, 1904
Rev. Franciszek Mirek, 1904-1907
Rev. Antoni Błażewski, 1907 – 1908
Rev. Stanisław Cieckiewicz, 1908
Rev. Józef Zielonko, 1908 – 1911
Rev. J. Franciszek Zajączkowski, 1911
Rev. A. Ryczek, 1911 – 1912
Rev. Aleksander Witemberg, 1912 – 1915
Rev. Franciszek Kłos, 1916
Rev. Marcin Jabłonowski, 1916 – 1917
Rev. Bronisław Krupski, 1917 – 1919
Rev. Jan Wróblewski, 1919 – 1920
Rev. Jan Wojtyś, 1920
Rev. Jan Siembida, 1920 – 1922
Rev. Romuald Ostrowski, 1922 – 1923
Rev. Walenty Cichy, 1923 – 1924
Rev. Ambroży Bączewski, 1924 – 1925
Rev. Jan Tomaszkiewicz, 1925 – 1926
Rev. Juliusz Jabłonski, 1926 – 1929
Rev. Klemens Sienkiewicz, 1929 – 1932
Rev. Karol Ernest, 1932 – 1934
Rev. Józef Rękas, 1934 – 1946
Rev. Wojciech Pietras, 1946 – 1955
Very Rev. Rene L. Zawistowski, 1955 – 1959
Rev. Bishop Elect Józef Jaworski, 1959 – 1966
Rev. Louis J. Victor, 1966 – 1972
Rev. Albert Pietras, 1972 – 1973
Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Gnat, 1973 – 1978
Rev. John Andrew Simajchel, 1979
Rev. Stanley M. Bilinski, Jr., 1979 -1980
Rev. E. Owen Groman, 1980 – 1997
Rev. Edward Czudak, 1997 – 1999
Rev. Charles Taylor, 1999 – 2001
Rev. Andrzej T. Bieganowski, 2001 – Present
Polish National Union, Branch 10
United Girl’s Society
Young Men’s Society of the Resurrection
Women’s Society of the Adoration
Frederic Chopin Choir
Maria Konopnicka Society
School of Christian Living
National Catholic War Veterans of America, Pioneer Post No. 1