The Polish community of Buffalo, New York, at the turn of the 20th century, saw a division in its Roman Catholic parishes. Throughout the early years of St. Adalbert’s Roman Catholic parish on nearby Stanislaus Street, constant turmoil existed among the Polish congregation. Some members were dissatisfied with the Roman Catholic Diocese over who controlled the property and buildings which they had built and maintained through their contributions. These discontented souls were forced to decide their own fate when the Roman Catholic Bishop and his advisors rejected their requests. In August, 1895 an Independent Catholic parish was established in Buffalo when this group of parishioners from St. Adalbert’s decided to form a separate church just a block away. The separation was over a matter of personalities and parish ownership rather than faith and doctrine.
On land purchased along Sobieski Street on the east side of Buffalo, the first Mass was celebrated by Rev. Kolaszewski, an invited independent priest from Cleveland, Ohio, on August 8, 1895 for the members of the newly independent Holy Mother of the Rosary Parish. Two weeks later, the Rev. Antoni Klawitter, the founder of St. Adalbert’s Parish, returned to Buffalo at the invitation of the Sobieski Street congregation. Although his stay was short, he laid the foundation for the future of the parish. Following Rev. Klawitter, a very colorful and zealous man, Fr. Stefan Kaminski, arrived from Freeland, PA to lead the parish.
Within six months the congregation erected a substantial frame building using it for both worship and schooling. This building soon proved to be too small and they erected a second building on the site, using it for simultaneous services. After fire destroyed these buildings in 1903, they began construction of the building now occupying the site.
For the next 15 years, the history of the parish was full of conflict and growth. In 1896, a synod made up of independent parishes in the area and elsewhere elected Fr. Kaminski as their Bishop. Under his direction, a magnificent gothic Cathedral, constructed of Medina sandstone, was erected on the Sobieski street site and proudly dedicated in 1906.
The parish cemetery located on Dale Road in Cheektowaga is included in Kaminski’s list of accomplishments. To combat the stinging criticism against himself and his church, Kaminski printed his own newspaper, “Warta” (THE GUARD or SENTRY ), until the time of his death in 1911. With the death of Kaminski, came a period of uncertainty and financial turmoil. His successor was unable to continue in his footsteps which resulted in the default on the Cathedral mortgage. The Roman Catholic Diocese, seizing the opportunity to crush the independent movement, obtained ownership of the church at a public auction. In September, 1913 the first Roman Catholic Mass was celebrated in the Independent Cathedral on Sobieski Street.
For almost two years, members of Holy Mother of the Rosary Parish celebrated Mass in a German Association’s hall on Genesee Street, but were determined to get their property back. They initiated a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. These Independents were fortunate to be assisted by a very capable attorney named Henry Bull, and Bishop Walker of the Episcopal Diocese of Buffalo. In 1915, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of the Independents and ordered the Roman Catholic Diocese to return the property and pay $23, 924 in rent for the twenty two months during which they occupied the church.
In 1914, with the assistance of Rev. Valenty Gawrychowski of St. Casimir Parish of Rochester, New York, the congregation aligned itself with the Scranton, PA-based Polish National Catholic Church. This church, under the guidance of the dynamic Rev. Franciszek Hodur, was forming parishes of its own and merging former independent parishes into its religious community. In 1927, the young Rev. Jan Zenon Jasinski was appointed pastor of the parish. Rev. Jasinski would leave a very positive and lasting mark on this community of faith which he directed for 24 years. At its Synod held in 1928, The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) elected Rev. Jasinski a Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church and he was consecrated in Scranton later that year.
The newly organized Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese of the PNCC was designated to be headquartered in the Buffalo, NY parish and Bishop Jasinski was appointed its leader. Bishop Jasinski was a dynamic speaker and organizer. During his tenure new parishes were organized and societies of the church established. His untimely death occurred in 1951, and he was buried in the parish cemetery next to Bishop Kaminski. In 1953 the Very Rev. Thaddeus Zielinski, another distinguished and respected priest in the PNCC, was appointed Pastor of Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral and was elected Bishop of the Buffalo cathedral.
In 1969, during the PNCC’s Synod, Bishop Zielinski was elected Prime Bishop, and took up residence in Scranton, PA- the Polish National Catholic Church’s headquarters. Bishops that followed were: Bishop Daniel Cyganowski, Bishop Francis Rowinski, Bishop John Swantek, Bishop Thaddeus Peplowski, and, currently, Bishop John Mack.
With the problems of a changing neighborhood, the parish reluctantly considered moving from the old eastside of Buffalo to its suburbs. This very difficult decision was finally voted upon by the parish membership and implemented in 1992. The last Mass was sadly offered in the Sobieski Street Cathedral in October, 1993. A temporary worship site was found at the old Annunciation Church on Clinton Street in Elma, NY until the new Cathedral complex was completed.
This multimillion dollar complex located on Broadway near Schwartz Road in Lancaster, NY was opened in 1995 in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the parish. Some of the old cathedral’s artifacts were removed and placed in the new complex including the beautiful stained glass windows of the saints, the magnificent pipe organ, some altar appointments and the original cornerstone. The six original Cathedral bells were recently installed in a beautiful bell tower and an office and rectory were added in 2012.
The Holy Mother of the Rosary Parish welcomes people of all ethnic, racial, and social backgrounds,