The Schuylkill River corridor in Montgomery and Chester Counties in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA has been home to a vibrant Polish population for more than 100 years. Four communities in particular had particularly strong Polish concentrations that were centered around the Catholic churches in their locality. These included- St. Mary’s Church in Conshohocken, Sacred Heart Church in Swedesburg and Bridgeport, Holy Trinity Church in Phoenixville, and Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Pottstown.
Sadly, in recent years, each of these communities have been impacted by changing neighborhood demographics, a diminishing supply of priests, and fewer people practicing their faith; which has resulted in a wave of parish mergers in recent years. Many of the original parishes which were founded on a basis of shared ethnicity have been consolidated and reorganized as territorial ethnic-neutral parishes. Out of all the Polish Churches within the Schuylkill River corridor, only Sacred Heart in Swedesburg remains open as a territorial parish for the Bridgeport/Swedesburg Catholic community. As a result, Polish Catholics throughout Montgomery County and the surrounding area no longer have a home to celebrate and observe the beautiful Polish customs and traditions which are so near and dear to so many people and have served to unite generations of families.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church served as a landmark for the Conshohocken community for more than 100 years, as the original Polish parish in Montgomery County. It was lovingly built and nurtured by Polish immigrants and their descendants for generations, serving the spiritual and cultural needs of parishioners and visitors alike. The architectural beauty of St. Mary’s Church building represents the tremendous love for and devotion to the Catholic faith of the Polish people.
In July 2014, after 109 years of service to Conshohocken’s Polish community, St. Mary’s was merged into a single consolidated St. Matthew’s Parish, along with Sts. Cosmos and Damien and St. Gertrude Parishes. With nowhere to formally celebrate our Polish heritage in Montgomery and since St. Mary’s Church was no longer used by St. Matthew's Parish, a group of Polish Americans from throughout Montgomery County and former parishioners of St. Mary’s Church have come together to form St. Mary Polish American Society, under the patronage of Mary, Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of the Polish Nation.
St. Mary Polish American Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and an official non-profit corporation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania dedicated to the two-pronged mission of promoting awareness and appreciation of our Polish history and cultural heritage and raising money for the upkeep and maintenance of St. Mary’s Church so it can serve as the cultural and religious heritage site for Polish people throughout Montgomery County and the surrounding area.
As of May 2016, St. Mary Polish American Society successfully delayed an attempt by St. Matthew's Parish to take away St. Mary’s status as a Catholic church, which would have led to the eventual sale and demolition of St. Mary’s Church if no action was taken. Our group’s mission provides another path forward, one in which St. Mary’s can remain a Catholic church, while not being a financial burden to St. Matthew’s Parish.
St. Mary Polish American Society is now responsible for the maintenance and upkeep costs of the church, including much needed gutter, roof, and electrical work. We are in the process of pursuing the needed repair work, in which there is a substantial cost.
Within the context of our mission, our goals include:
• To finance the regular upkeep and maintenance of St. Mary’s Church so it can still be used for occasional worship services which incorporate Polish customs and traditions
• To promote the identity of St. Mary’s Church as a Polish historic and cultural site for the people of Montgomery County and the surrounding area, paying homage to its legacy as the original Polish parish in the county
• To carry out a calendar of events that will integrate programs of social, civic, and cultural enrichment of Polish customs and traditions which are deeply rooted in our Catholic faith
• To hold meetings and socials
• To sponsor activities that will recognize the contributions of Polish Americans and thereby enhance a sense of ethnic identity and pride
• To inspire the next generation of Polish Americans to be more mindful and respectful of their ethnic and Catholic heritage as having practical and real value in their lives
We humbly strive to protect St. Mary’s Church, out of love for our Catholic faith and Polish heritage, and respect for the sacrifices and achievements of our ancestors. All are welcome to come to our events and to volunteer their time, talents, or treasure in any way they can to help us achieve our mission and goals.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Mary under the title Our Lady of Częstochowa, Patroness and Queen of Poland, we pray that our efforts will be successful in celebrating the Catholic faith as a beautiful and integral part of our Polish heritage in Montgomery County and the surrounding area with St. Mary’s Church as our home.