The city of Windsor shared in this fervor.
Their limited English was not a barrier for the small community of Polish immigrants who listened closely to the sermons of Reverend Ralph Dignan that were translated in real time by student translators.
Without a church to call their own, the congregation – numbering some 300 - celebrated Mass in the basement of the Immaculate Conception church.
This demonstration of faith, and community convinced Bishop Michael F. Fallon to establish the first Polish parish in the diocese of London.
The bishop appointed Reverend Jan Andrzejewski, who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the first pastor of the new Holy Trinity Polish Parish on October 9, 1916. Shortly thereafter, the parishioners decided they would build a Church and in early 1917 the Polish Parish received an unexpected gift.
Mr. Walter Boug, a Windsor resident, who was neither Polish nor Catholic, offered up a gift of six building parcels, which at that time was an open field, for the purpose of building a Polish church, on condition that construction must begin no later than June 1, 1918 and must be finished within a year. Otherwise, Mr. Boug would take back his donation.
The Polish Parish congregation organized and went to work immediately. They hired local architect John R. Boude and on August 6, 1917 they started digging the foundations of their church.
On October 28, 1917, Bishop Fallon presided over the blessing ceremony of the church’s cornerstone. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Easter Sunday in 1918, with the official blessing ceremony held in 1919. There were now 500 Polish parishioners in 1919.
According to the documents found in the time capsule during the church expansion in 2005, the construction of the Polish church cost 32,982 dollars and 58 cents.
It was the first Polish Roman Catholic Parish in the diocese of London, and the fifth Polish Church in Canada. Today, Holy Trinity Polish Parish is the second oldest active Catholic church in Windsor.
There were eight pastors in the one-hundred year history of the parish: Rev. Jan Andrzejewski 1916-1933, Rev. Franciszek Nowak 1933-1943,
Rev. Paweł Sargewitz 1943-1949, Rev. Dr. Ludwik Kociszewski 1949-1961,Rev. Msgr. Wawrzyniec Wnuk, PA 1961-1983, Rev. Msgr. Piotr Sanczenko 1983 -2003, Rev. Msgr. Roman Waszkiewicz 2003 – 2009, Rev. Zbigniew Sawicki 2009 – Present.
(Jan Paweł II, Rzym, 23 X 1978).
The 40th anniversary saw the construction of the new rectory and a complete remodelling of the church interior, including the main and side altars as we see it today, under the leadership of Pastor L. Kociszewski.
According to the Canadian Census of 1965, there were 5,977 Poles living in Windsor- or 3.1% of the city’s population. Of that number, 4,277 identified as Catholics and half belonged to the parish.
The period under the leadership of Monsignor Lawrence Wnuk was defined by building up the strength of the community in areas such as education, academia and business, and reaching out with support to Poles suffering under the communist regime in Poland.
The Polonia Park and Villa Polonia were low income housing developments built for the Windsor community, and they were the first of its kind among the Polonia in the world. Thousands have called Polonia Park and Villa Polonia home over the last 40 years. The Polonia Centre became the largest cultural and recreational complex ever built by Polonia when it was completed in 1985 – though eventually the building was lost in a forced sale. In 1965 Msgr. Wnuk brought to Windsor 10 nuns from Poland representing the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonising Heart of Jesus.
During the period of leadership by Reverend Monsignor Sanczenko, more than 1,000 families came as refugees as part of the program sponsored by Bishop Sherlock.
The Polonia of Windsor became young and vibrant. The Polish Language School had almost 400students attending the program.
The John Paul Il monument was erected as a tribute to the Polish Pope on His 80th birthday in the Jubilee Year 2000.
(Jan Paweł II, Zakopane, 7 czerwca, 1997. Homilia z okazji konsekracji kościoła pw. Matki Bożej Fatimskiej.)
Reverend Sawicki completed Phase II, which included a new brick veneer and the insulation of the walls in the old portion of the church that were not included in first phase.
According to the Canadian Census of 2011, there were 3255 people in Windsor who spoke Polish representing 1.3 per cent of the city, and there were about 800 families registered in the parish.
The parishioners of today’s Holy Trinity Polish Parish are thankful to the Almighty God, and to the past parishioners whose dedication, hard work and faith brought forward a beautiful Church that has served the community for 100 years.
That church has been the cornerstone of a thriving Polish community in Windsor.
We are thankful to the eight pastors and twenty-two vicars who tirelessly tended God’s vineyard and shepherded God’s flock in Windsor, bringing our congregation together through good times and times of trial.
We are thankful to the Ursuline Sisters for 50 years of service as we walk together the path of life.
As the beneficiaries of the work and dedication of the past generations of parishioners, we are now handing this church over to the next generation - our children and grandchildren - with the hope that the church we built and nurtured to serve the next 100 years will continue with God’s providence to be the centre of the life of the Polish community in Windsor.
GLORIA PATRI ET FILIO ET SPIRITUI SANCTO
Richard A. Kuśmierczyk – Chair, Holy Trinity R.C. Polish Parish Centennial Jubilee Committee, Windsor, Ontario
Centenary Jubilee Year Oct.16, 2016 - Oct.22, 2017