At the age of seventy-five, St. Adalbert’s parish has reached a point in its life when, if its history’ is not gathered and recorded, much of it will be lost forever. Parishioners who remember the earliest years are few, and memories fade. Brief historical sketches from jubilee programs survive but they, at best, provide only basic information. Whatever history remains has been stored away in collections of newspaper clippings and treasured memories.
I have always had a strong interest in the history of St. Adalbert’s and in Enfield’s Polish community. I grew up hearing stories about the “old timers.” I could recall when Polish was heard on street corners as it mixed with the rumbling sound of carpet mill looms. I began collecting fragments of St. Adalbert’s history nineteen years ago and started formal preparations for this history in 1984- Parishioners were asked to provide what material they could and, although the response was generous, it also revealed how little was left. Even so, I am surprised that so much could be written from the information that was gathered.
You may be surprised, at first, by how much space is given to the history of Enfield’s Polish community in general. St. Adalbert’s was a product of that community. What happened in the community affected the parish, and what took place in the parish often had an impact on the community. The story of St. Adalbert’s, then, could only be properly told within the larger story of the people it was established to serve. At the same time, however, the scope of this history is limited to St. Adalbert’s; whatever happened in the Polish community that did not somehow pertain to the parish is not included.
The greatest fear of any writer of history is perpetuating inaccuracies. Occasionally some material contradicted other material. Even newspaper accounts of the same event conflicted. I tended to favor the older material because it was closer in time to the subject being discussed. Also, I gave more weight to what was reported in The Catholic Transcript because it was usually more knowledgeable about diocesan matters than the secular press.
You will also notice that I did not translate the first names of the immigrants. As a rule, I used the name by which a person was known at the time, i.e. Jan instead of John, Katarzyna instead of Katherine. Unfortunately, printing does not allow for the many letter markings that indicate Polish pronunciations, such as the slashed “L” which has the sound of a “W.” I should add that Jan Gwozdz, the baker, who was prominent in the early history of Enfield’s Polish community, was not related to me. Frank Gwozdz, the organist, however, was my great-uncle.
It is a remarkable fact of St. Adalbert’s history that, in three-quarters of a century, the parish has had only three pastors. Each differed in their style of leadership and made their own contributions to the progress of the parish. You will notice that this distinction has made it possible for me to neatly divide the history of the parish, since its founding, into three parts; each part corresponds to the years served by a particular pastor, i.e. “The Federkiewicz Years.”
The title of this book summarizes, in my opinion, the attitude that led to the creation and early development of St. Adalbert’s Church. The Poles in Enfield simply wanted to have “a place of their own” in which to worship and grow spiritually. It was very important to them that there be a place in America where they could continue to speak with God in Polish.
It is likely, in fact, it is hoped, that this history will bring to the surface material that was not discovered at the time of its writing. If you have photographs or pieces of information not contained in this book, do not hesitate to bring them forward. They can be used in the future.
This history is as good as the material that has been found. It is hardly exhaustive. Hopefully it only begins to preserve the rich history of St. Adalbert’s and is not the last word.