Polish Americans in Hudson Valley Launch Efforts to Save Church

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Poughkeepsie, New York (Photo by Janusz M. Szlechta via Nowy Dziennik)

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Poughkeepsie, New York (Photo by Janusz M. Szlechta via Nowy Dziennik)

“We will do all we can to save our church. If need be we will even to go the Vatican,” says Katarzyna Dudalo, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Poughkeepsie, which was included on the New York Archdiocese list of 31 churches slated for closing.

“I don’t see why our parish should be closed down. All the assets belonging to the parish are well maintained, the parish is perfectly able to pay all its bills and pays more than required for the Cardinal’s Appeal,” says Ms. Dudalo, pointing out the fact that St. Joseph’s, which was built in 1905 with the money and effort of Polish immigrants, still plays an important role for the Polish Americans living in the Hudson Valley. “It is the only center of Polish life for us here. Other centers like that, located in New York City, are way too far for us, at least an hour and a half drive one way. So we come here to pray, socialize and engage in cultural activities,” she says. It is also one of the very few churches in the Hudson Valley which offers Mass in Polish, with the closest one being in Mahopac, New York, an hour away from Poughkeepsie.

Apart from attending Mass and other church services in the Polish language, members of the Polish-American community from the Hudson Valley send their kids to the Saturday Polish language school that operates at St. Joseph’s. The parish has a library, where parishioners gather each Sunday after Mass to borrow books and socialize. It is also where they organize cultural events for both children and adults and where they gather a couple of times a year for the Spring and Fall Dance and the New Year’s Eve Ball. Besides that, for the past two years, St. Joseph’s parishioners have organized a huge two-day Polish-American festival, which attracted some 3,000 to 4,000 people. The proceeds from the festival additionally support St. Joseph’s budget.

“We are a small parish but very vibrant. There are a lot of good things happening here. It is where we feel at home. It would be a great shame to let it go to waste,” says Ms. Dudalo.

St. Joseph’s Church, along with 54 others from the New York Archiocese, has fallen prey to the biggest reorganization in the archdiocese’s 164-year history. It found itself on a list of 31 churches to be closed by the archdiocese. The decision means that from Aug. 1, 2015 the church will no longer be used for regular services like Holy Mass and sacraments. The archdiocese expects that St. Joseph’s parishioners to join the neighboring St. Mary’s Church, which has a ministry for the Mexican community.

However, according to an internal survey conducted among St. Joseph’s parishioners, 95 percent of them do not intend to join the other parish, because with no Masses in Polish they will have no reason to drive there from further parts of the Hudson Valley.

Trying to figure out the reasons for closing St. Joseph’s, parishioners speculate that the Polish parish is being closed down in order to support the struggling St. Mary’s. “They are having problems paying their bills,” Ms. Dudalo says.

“It also turned out that St. Joseph’s had some unpaid debt from a long time ago. However, nobody at the parish knew about it, even the archdiocese people were not able to tell us what it was for. Anyhow, we have already presented the archdiocese with a plan to pay it off and we are able to cover the liability,” the parishioner says.

St. Joseph’s Church is located in the very center of the town of Poughkeepsie, close to City Hall and other offices as well as the commercial area. It also owns three parking lots. “It seems to us that, because of the prime location, the archdiocese wants to get rid of the church and its assets in order to pay off its liabilities,” Ms. Dudalo says.

“We don’t agree with this decision. We will appeal it and do all we can to save our church, which is the only center of Polishness for us in the greater Hudson Valley area,” she adds. The parishioners are planning to negotiate with the New York Archdiocese. If this doesn’t work they are willing to go to court. “If need be we will go to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis for help,” she says.

Katarzyna Dudalo sits on the board of a nonprofit called St. Faustina Polish-American Church Preservation, which was created to save Polish churches and Polish-language Masses in the Hudson Valley. The nonprofit will help cover the legal costs involved in the battle to save St. Joseph’s.

The efforts directed at reversing the archdiocese’s decision to close the Polish church in Poughkeepsie are supported by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York City, which has already written an appeal letter to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as well as by the Council on Polish Language Schools and the mayor of Poughkeepsie. “We realize that St. Joseph’s is a very important place for Polish Americans. We do respect the authority of the New York Archdiocese, but we will keep supporting the parishioners in their quest to save the church,” said Consul Mateusz Stasiek.


  1. Elzbieta Deliman says:

    Where should I go….?!

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