By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN The Church of St. Mary’s of Czestochowa is 125 this year, and to celebrate, the church is having a prayer service and lunch Wednesday, Aug. 26.
“If you are able, come and join us for this wonderful evening of prayer and fellowship,” Father Thomas Balluff commented. “It should be very uplifting.”
Archbishop John Nienstedt will lead vespers and benediction at 7 p.m. at the church, located on 95th Street SE south of Delano.
Following the service, there will be a dedication for the unborn at St. Mary’s Cemetery, across the parking lot. The evening will conclude with a lunch of hotdish, buns, and salads in the parish dining hall.
“Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche has been invited,” Balluff noted. “I think we will have seven to 10 priests, maybe five Carmelite brothers, and some sisters from the area. Close to 30 choir members from both parishes [St. Mary’s and St. Boniface] will be on hand to help celebrate.”
Historically, the Church of St. Mary’s of Czestochowa had a strong Polish influence, said long-time member Jim O’Connell, who lives near the church.
“It goes way back to 1884,” he said. That was the year the original building was constructed.
“Family legend has it that my great-great-grandpa, who was from Poland, helped design and build the first wooden structure,” O’Connell said.
According to a newspaper article about the church from 1984, it was founded by about 50 families of Polish descent.
In June of 1913, lightning struck the building and it was destroyed by fire.
“They made hay that morning because they thought it was going to storm,” O’Connell said. “By noon, the storm had started, and about an hour later, the neighbors noticed smoke coming from the church building. Lightning had struck the steeple.”
People who lived nearby tried to save valuable items inside the church before it burned down, O’Connell said. One of the artifacts was a replica of a famous painting of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. The painting is now located in the current church building.
The original painting is in Poland, and is often called “The Black Madonna,” because the face of the image darkened over the years from the smoke of candles and incense.
The church building that exists today was built in 1914 using bricks from a nearby mill.
“They would haul the bricks in a horse-drawn wagon,” O’Connell said. “They could make two trips per day.”
“Czestochowa” came from a city by that name in Poland. Now, the church address is in Delano, but in the early 20th century, the area was known as Czestochowa, with the nickname “Frisco.” It consisted of the church, a cream station, and store. For a few years, there was also a small post office, O’Connell said.
Milk from local farmers went to the cream station, where it was taken to the creamery in Oster for further processing, he said.
The store, which closed in the 1920s, was owned by Mike Nalewaja, After the church fire in 1913, services took place in the upper level of the store.
“There were a lot of German and Polish people in Delano,” O’Connell said. At first, the church consisted mainly of people of Polish descent.
According to an article from the centennial celebration, church membership gradually began to include a mixture of ethnic backgrounds and has become just as much German as Polish.
For more information about the 125th anniversary celebration, contact the Church of St. Mary of Czestochowa at (952) 955-1139.
Also, if anyone has information about the history of the church, contact O’Connell at (952) 955-1492 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.