HISTORY OF THE PARISH
During the latter part of the 19th century, the first Polish immigrants arrived in Sayreville where work was available in established industries. The earliest Polish settler noted in “available” records was Felix Łapa who arrived in 1886. Two years later, according to records Józef Lis arrived. By the turn of the century Polish immigrants comprised a sizable percentage of Sayreville’s population.
When Felix Łapa and Józef Lis settled in Sayreville there was no Roman Catholic Church with Polish-language services in the immediate area. Not until 1895 was a Polish parish, Sacred Heart, established in nearby South Amboy. Consequently, Sayreville residents assisted in the formation of both Sacred Heart and St. Mary of Ostrabrama, South River, which was dedicated in 1905. During that time both churches served the spiritual needs of Sayreville’s Polish residents. Fr. Julian Zieliński, pastor of Sacred Heart, occasionally traveled to Our Lady of Victories Church, Sayreville, to conduct services in Polish.
On August 28, 1912, Mr. Michael Surdey appeared before the Sayreville Township Committee to enlist their support in petitioning the bishop for permission to build a church for Sayreville’s Polish Catholics. Township Clerk, J. Henry Boehm was instructed to prepare the petition for Mr. Surdey and the Township Committee signed it, their names were all German and Irish. After giving the petition serious consideration, Most Reverend James A. McFaul, Bishop of Trenton, appointed Fr. Jan Pawłowski, Pastor of St. Mary of Ostrabrama, to investigate this request and report his findings.
Fr. Pawłowski’s report to the bishop was favorable. Thus, the bishop commenced a debate about where to build the church. Several locations were proposed and the Jacobsen Street-Sandfield Road (currently MacArthur Avenue) site won. Sayre & Fisher Brick Company donated the land, initially deeding it to St. Mary’s, South River on April 6, 1912. The deed was recorded in New Brunswick on October 14, 1912. After the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was incorporated June 8, 1914, the property deed was immediately transferred to the new parish on June 30.
Soon after the church was incorporated, the parishioners once again petitioned Bishop McFaul, requesting that Fr. Pawłowski be appointed to lead the parish. Bishop McFaul agreed and appointed Fr. Pawłowski as the first pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.
Architect William Endelbrock designed the church/school building. Joseph Check, Jr. was hired as the general contractor. William Smalley installed the plumbing and heating. When completed, the first floor of the church was designed to accommodate classrooms for the planned elementary school. The church sanctuary was, and remains to this day on the second floor. The first floor/second floor arrangement was not unusual for parishes being established at that time.
Even though work on the church was not yet completed, the first Mass (Christmas Midnight Mass) took place December 25, 1914. When St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was completed, it was on former Sayre & Fischer property, with Sayre & Fischer bricks, surrounded by clay mines. Bishop McFaul blessed St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in April 1915.
In 1916, Fr. Pawłowski received permission from Bishop McFaul to engage an architect and general contractor to begin work on a rectory. Sayre & Fisher Brick Company, which had previously donated bricks for the church building, once again generously donated bricks for the rectory façade.
Fr. Pawłowski engaged the services of the Order of Saint Felix of Cantelice (Felician Sisters) to staff the new school. Prior to the new rectory being built, the sisters lived in South River. They took up residence in the old rectory on Jacobsen Street after the new one was completed. Fr. Pawłowski viewed the old rectory as a temporary residence for the sisters. He petitioned Most Reverend Thomas J. Walsh, Bishop of Trenton, for permission to start construction of a new convent for the sisters. In 1921 he engaged the services of F.J. Schwartz as architect for this project and hired Joseph Check, Jr. as general contractor.
Every community needs a leader and every church a pastor. These are primarily roles of service to the people. An effective leader must know and understand the needs of the people, then be able to provide for those needs. In faith we believe that God is ever present in our midst and always accomplishing His works. Sometimes we can even understand how God does it, but it is always after the fact.
Priests in general and pastors in particular are obliged to minister to the people. They lead in worship, prayer and devotions. They educate in school, religious education and homilies. They minister to the emotional and psychological needs of individuals and families through counseling. They intercede for their parishioners with governments and institutions. They care for the physical and material needs of the hungry, the homeless, the sick and the neglected. Most importantly, they fulfill their priestly vocation by faithfully offering sacrifice to God on behalf of man and invoking God’s blessing for the people.
Each of the pastors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church brought unique gifts that were necessary at the time of their appointment. Sometimes these gifts were not fully apparent or fully appreciated at the time, but in retrospect we can see and understand something of God's bigger picture.
Rev. Jan J. Pawłowski: Who could have foretold that a priest from Poland would come to establish our parish in Sayreville, New Jersey? In 1869, a son was born to Jan and Marya Pawłowski in a village near Poznań, Poland. At baptism he was given the name of his father, Jan.
Fr. Jan, as he was popularly known, received his elementary education in Poland. He later went to Paris, then to Rome for theology studies. In Rome, he became aware of the spiritual needs of Polish immigrants in the United States. Motivated by a deep desire to serve Poles in America and after being consecrated a priest in Rome in 1907, he came to the United States. For a short time he was an assistant at St. Joseph’s Parish in Camden. His next assignment was at St. Peter’s Parish in New Brunswick, where he also performed priestly duties at St. Peter’s Hospital.
In 1910, Fr. Jan was appointed pastor of St. Mary of Ostrabrama Church, South River. When Bishop McFaul needed a priest to unite and inspire the congregation of a new parish in 1914, Fr. Jan was given this assignment in addition to his duties as St. Mary’s pastor.
Fr. Jan was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in April 1915. His tenure was one of extraordinary accomplishments. He oversaw the construction of the church, school, rectory and convent. He purchased land for a cemetery and beautified its grounds.
His years as shepherd of St. Stan’s are replete with evidence of his enthusiastic leadership, especially in bringing the people to worship God. Under his care the parish became stronger and more successful. Under his watchful eye, the youth of the parish were educated so that they could reach higher positions in life.
On November 2, 1928, the parish received the terrible news of the tragic death of their beloved pastor. Fr. Jan had been called to the home of a dying parishioner, who was the mother of several children. The children appealed to him to save their mother. She died in his presence. Fr. Jan was so greatly affected by the children’s reaction to their mother’s death that he cried with them. He had been warned that any excitement would be injurious to his health. After administering Last Rites, Fr. Jan left to visit the Szymborski family, his relatives in South River. He suffered a heart attack on the Sayreville-South River Bridge and his car fell into the South River. The car was raised an hour and a half later. Fr. Jan’s funeral was held November 5, 1928, with 80 priests in attendance. He was loved by his parishioners, as well as his brother priests. His sudden death grieved many.
Rev. Alexander Maciejewski: Fr. Maciejewski was born in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania on May 3, 1890. He attended St. Mary’s College in Detroit, Michigan, and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied theology under the Sulpician Fathers.
His Eminence James Cardinal Gibbons ordained Fr. Maciejewski on May 30, 1915, after which he began his priestly duties in the Diocese of Trenton. “Father Mac,” as he was respectfully called by his friends and parishioners, served as St. Stan’s second pastor during a period sometimes referred to as its “Golden Era.” A hallmark of his tenure was continuing the progress begun by his predecessor. While caring for the spiritual needs of a growing congregation, he proceeded to beautify the church with the installation of stained glass windows and wall murals. With future needs in mind, he purchased additional land for the cemetery doubling its acreage.
The parish grew to be a vibrant community. With his encouragement and support church societies grew in number and sponsored many activities for all age groups including picnics, bazaars, steamboat rides, plays, and sporting events. There are some former St. Stan’s school alumni who remember receiving their report card from Fr. Mac every marking period. Every year the school children performed a play with singing and dancing to honor Fr. Mac’s name day. An animal lover, Fr. Mac always had a dog, and the dog’s name was always “Laddy.”
Fr. Mac faithfully served the parish community of St. Stanislaus Kostka for 33 years. He never realized his vision of building a parish hall, but his astute management of finances left a secure financial foundation for the future. Fr. Maciejewski died November 16, 1961 after a brief illness.
Rev. Ladislaus J. Madura: Fr. Madura was born in neighboring South Amboy, New Jersey on October 1, 1907, to Konstanty and Maryann (Olszewski) Madura. One of six children, he grew up in South Amboy and attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and St. Mary’s High School. After graduating from St. Mary’s College and Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Michigan, Fr. Madura was ordained to the priesthood on May 22, 1932. Prior to his appointment as pastor of St. Stan’s by Most Reverend George W. Ahr, Bishop of Trenton, on December 7, 1961, Fr. Madura was pastor of Our Lady of Częstochowa, South Plainfield. He founded the South Plainfield parish and served as its pastor for 18 years.
Shortly after his arrival at St. Stan’s, Fr. Madura declared his intention to be an active pastor. He emulated his predecessors in his efforts to grow the parish by recognizing needs and establishing goals to achieve them. Fr. Madura oversaw several maintenance and construction projects, including remodeling of the main church entrance and creation of a new side entrance. New church pews replaced the old ones and the church was carpeted. A major highlight of his administration was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school building on May 26, 1963. Fr. Madura also oversaw the installation of a much-needed elevator and additional church entryway.
Several celebrations occurred during Fr. Madura’s pastorate: Commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Stanislaus Kostka, the millennium of Polish Christianity in 1966, and most noteworthy, the 50th anniversary of the founding of St. Stan’s parish in 1964.
In an interview where he discussed the future of the parish community, Fr. Madura stated, “the present and future must measure up to and continue the remarkable history of the past.” A tireless worker, Fr. Madura always placed the needs of his congregation over his own. His sudden death on February 13, 1980, was a shock to all.
Rev. Anthony M. Kramarz: A native New Jerseyan, Fr. Kramarz was born in Trenton on July 19, 1925. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Mary’s College and Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Michigan. Most Reverend George W. Ahr, Bishop of Trenton, ordained Fr. Anthony on June 3, 1950.
Fr. Anthony was assigned the pastorate of St. Stan’s on April 11, 1980. Previously, he served as associate pastor at St. Stan’s from June 1954 through June 1961. During his tenure as pastor, he established a church office with office hours and hired a church secretary. Fr. Anthony initiated special services and novenas that were incorporated in the parish liturgical calendar. He was actively involved in the activities of parish societies including the Rosary-Altar Society, St. Joseph, and Holy Trinity Societies. The Living Rosary Service was initiated and became a parish tradition. Fr. Anthony helped organize an annual “Shut-In Mass and Dinner Dance.” In addition to his pastoral duties, Fr. Anthony served as chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Fr. Anthony served as pastor of St. Stan’s for twelve years. He retired in 1992 after 43 years of active priesthood. More than 600 people attended a Mass of Thanksgiving and celebratory dinner on November 8, 1992 to honor his years of service. Not only parishioners, but also community groups and government officials paid him tribute with numerous presentations. Fr. Anthony died on April 30, 1998.
Rev. Leon S. Aniszczyk: Fr. Aniszczyk was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church by Most Reverend Edward T. Hughes, Bishop of Metuchen, on September 21, 1992. He had served as temporary administrator since February 10, 1992.
Fr. Leon was born March 10, 1945, in Bartniki, Poland. His ordination to the priesthood took place in the Diocese of Łomża in Poland on May 27, 1973. Prior to entering a seminary run by the S.V.D. Fathers, he served in the Polish Army for two years. While visiting the United States in 1982, he learned that the Diocese of Metuchen was being formed. Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick, Bishop of Metuchen accepted Fr. Leon’s application to join the diocese.
During Fr. Leon’s tenure at St. Stan’s the long-awaited refurbishing of the church interior was accomplished. A renovation fund drive was launched. Walls were painted, new carpeting installed and sanctuary wall paintings restored. The Our Lady of Częstochowa image was updated to mirror the jeweled robe that on special occasions graces the original in Jasna Góra. The first floor was renovated to accommodate the new St. Theresa’s chapel. Two representational “Trees of Life” with donor names on individual leaves were mounted on the lobby walls. Renovations in the convent were also accomplished.
The parish celebrated the 25th anniversary of Fr. Leon’s ordination to the priesthood with a dinner on November 29, 1998. His legacy includes the foundation of a functioning Finance Council that started initially as a Pastoral Council under his guidance.
Rev. Kenneth R. Murphy: In September 2000, Fr. Murphy was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church after serving as administrator of the parish since September 1999.
Fr. Ken was born on May 29, 1958 in New York City, the son of the late John and Josephine Murphy. His home parish was St. Peter’s in New Brunswick. In 1976, he graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 1986, by Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick, Bishop of Metuchen. Prior to entering Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, Fr. Ken taught at Union Catholic Regional High School, Scotch Plains, after earning a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Newark College of Engineering.
At St. Stan’s, Fr. Ken is known for his dedication to the parish and his concern for the community in which it exists. Under his stewardship, the parish has welcomed new parishioners with a great diversity of ancestry. Fr. Ken’s command of the Polish language is outstanding. His earlier experience as a teacher is evident in his oversight of the parish school. St. Stan’s school has risen to become one of the top elementary schools academically in the Diocese of Metuchen and remains financially sound.
Beginning with the founding pastor who was born near Poznań, the birthplace of Catholicism in Poland in 966 A.D., through to the sixth and current pastor who did not know any Polish until he learned this language in seminary at the age of 24, God has been at work among His people in our parish for the past 100 years.