Brief History of
St. Stanislaus Parish
in South Philadelphia

The Tradition Continues....

Easter Sunday 2006 marked 114 years of continuous celebration of the traditional Polish Easter at St. Stanislaus Church, on the 200 block of Fitzwater Street in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In the late 1800’s, America was thriving due to the new utilization of electricity and the ongoing Industrial Revolution. At that time the U.S. government sent delegations to Poland to invite Poles to the United States to strengthen America’s workforce. Because of political and social unrest in Poland, Poles responded in large numbers, and in 1870 a vast emigration to America began. The Washington Avenue Immigration Station was a major point of entry and processing center for immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe between 1870 and 1915. From that center at Delaware and Washington Avenues, the newcomers began their journeys into America and settled in the South Philadelphia area and in many other regions of the city and tri-state area.

Since the Immigration Station was on the river, the Polish community in South Philadelphia grew along the Delaware riverfront where many were ultimately employed. Those who emigrated from Poland were faithful Catholics and for several years attended Mass at St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown and the former St. Alphonsus Church at 4th and Reed Streets in South Philadelphia. With a growing population, in 1890, the Polish community in South Philadelphia asked the pastor of Philadelphia’s first Polish parish, St. Laurentius Church, to petition the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to approve the purchase of a former Protestant church building on the 200 block of Fitzwater Street to begin a second Polish parish. Within that petition they asked that the new parish be named in honor of Poland’s patron saint, Saint Stanislaus. With permission from the Diocese, the community moved forward under the guidance of their first pastor, Rev. Michael Baranski, and St. Stanislaus Church became a reality. In 1890, the new immigrant community had little money, faced a frustrating language barrier, and worked ten to twelve hours a day for deplorable wages, so the formation of the new parish was viewed as a long lasting and positive accomplishment for the new immigrant community. They held events and raised money to buy the church building and began its transformation into a Catholic Church. The first mass was celebrated on April 12, 1891.

Between 1890 and 1915 thousands of immigrants continued to arrive in America through the Port of Entry at Delaware and Washington Avenues. Each year thousands emigrated from Poland, Italy, Lithuania, Ireland and many other countries. During that time Poles were emigrating from the farm regions of Poland where they were surrounded by modest churches, schools and towns. Upon arrival at the South Philadelphia Port of Entry, they were more fortunate than other immigrants since they only had to walk across Delaware Avenue to find themselves not only in the new land of opportunity, but in a neighborhood where there was a church and school named after the patron saint of their homeland. The immigrants began to call their new community, “The Miracle of Saint Stanislaus”, because they came from modest surroundings to an existing neighborhood with a Polish church, school, stores, and social and fraternal organizations where people spoke Polish and shared their culture. Saint Stanislaus Church and its parishioners helped the new Americans by providing assistance with clothing, housing, jobs and translations, while Saint Stanislaus School helped to introduce the English language to the young Poles. For many years the Polish people referred to that area of South Philadelphia as “Stanislawo", which in Polish means "from the neighborhood around St. Stanislaus Church".

As Polish immigrants continued to arrive in America, they began to move throughout the area and extend what they called The Miracle of St. Stanislaus to neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and surrounding counties. Within a ten-year period, Poles were also populating Richmond, Bridesburg, Nicetown, Manayunk, Conshohocken, and Chester, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties. From the late 1800's to the early 1900's several new Polish parishes, schools, and organizations were established and they continue to serve the Polish American community today. Many of those who moved to new communities from the South Philadelphia area can trace family members making their first stop in America to St. Stanislaus Church and school, where they were welcomed, baptized, educated, married and became part of the American way of life. The “Miracle of St. Stanislaus” was experienced by thousands of immigrants and for each of them became the beginning of an American Dream come true.

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