Welcome to St. Joseph’s Polish Parish History Web Page


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St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church

1010 Liberty St.
Camden, NJ 08104

Phone: 856-963-1285
Fax: 856-963-2466

Office Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9:00 to 3:00
E-mail: stjsph-camden@camdendiocese.org


For the liturgy in Polish go to:

Kalendarz Liturgiczny






From the Webmaster’s desk


In The multi-cultural tapestry of the church in the U.S.Grant Wilinski wrote the history of the immigrant experience in this country has often been one of intolerance, intense bigotry and even violence. And as we all know, this is an issue we still confront as a society up to the present day.”


The above statement can also be applied to the Roman Catholic Church in general and its followers especially those who immigrated from eastern and southern Europe.


As a Polish Catholic who was born (1930) and raised in the Whitman Park section of Camden, NJ, I like many Polish Americans, including our pastor Rev. Msgr. Arthur B. Strenski, thought that St. Joseph’s Polish parish would last long after we had left this earth. I’m sure that this was in the mind of Msgr. Strenski when he planned and built the high school in 1952.


Little did we know that such a vibrant and successful parish community would decline in the number of parishioners in a span of little over two generations?


Why and how could this have happened? The parish had in place all the supporting services i.e. religious, educational (grammar and high school), social PACC, a credit union (source of home mortgages).


Whitman Park was crime free. The sidewalks and streets were kept clean by the homeowners.

Many of the back yards were well kept, planted with flowers and lawns.


Why did so many city ethnic neighborhoods, predominately Catholic , begin to decline and die?


The taxpayer did not have to spend one red cent for the education of children of Polish ethnic parents in the US.


I personally lived the experience of St. Joseph's Polish parish in Camden but did not know why our ethnic Polish community gradually withered away.


One primary answer in addition to E. Michael Jones claim to “Ethnic Cleansing By Urban Renewal” was due to the following pieces of federal legislation cited below.


As the first and second generations moved out due to better education (college degrees), job changes etc. new immigrants did not replace them. The changes in immigration quotas primarily in the immigration law of 1924 and the 1965 law changed the "complexion" of the type of immigrant that was allowed to enter. Add to that the open southern border, which helped in the rapid influx of illegal immigrant Latinos from Mexico and Central and South America. As of this writing (5/26/015) 50 million.


Immigration act of 1924

Proponents of the Act sought to establish a distinct American identity by favoring native-born Americans over Southern and Eastern Europeans in order to "maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic composition of the population


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965


The 1965 act marked a radical break from the immigration policies of the past. The law as it stood then excluded Asians and Africans and preferred northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern ones. At the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s the law was seen as an embarrassment by, among others, President John F. Kennedy, who called the then-quota-system "nearly intolerable". After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill at the foot of the Statue of Liberty as a symbolic gesture.


However, there is evidence the law's proponents did not see it as likely to influence American's culture significantly. While the Customs and Immigration Services did predict increased immigration in general, the political elite, labor unions, and church people expected the numbers of increased immigrants, particularly from Asia, to be minimal. There is some evidence popular support for the law was lukewarm as well. President Johnson called the bill "not revolutionary", Secretary of State Dean Rusk estimated only a few thousand Indian immigrants over the next five years, and other politicians hastened to reassure the populace the demographic mix would not be affected.


On October 3, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation into law, saying "This [old] system violates the basic principle of American democracy, the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man. It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country".


The main reason the Immigration Act was the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was to rid America of racial/ethnic discrimination. Two other bills, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Johnson signed for the same reason. The Immigration Act was therefore a corrective measure instituted to atone for past history of discrimination in immigration.


Two earlier laws reflecting this discrimination were the National Origin's Act of the 1924 and the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. Both of these granted residency on the basis of national origin, and were particularly discriminative towards Asians. For instance, under the McCarran-Walter Act, while the quota for European immigrants was 149,667, the quota for Asian immigrants was 2,990, and the African quota was 1,400. The Immigration Act of 1965, therefore, shifted the focus to non-European countries, especially those of the third world. Both Johnson and President Kennedy wished that by reforming immigration law, they would not only gain auspicious international relations (especially with non-White nations), but they would also confirm America's bedrock principles of America being a free country, where everyone is considered equal.


Populism vs. Nativism


Nativism and the Creation of an Ethnic Stereotype

The first two decades of the twentieth century marked a period of unprecedented growth in immigration. As immigration increased, fears of crime, slums, and labor unrest caused the dominant group to become more hostile toward newcomers.

Polish Americans: An Ethnic Community

James S. Pula



"Us vs. Them" Populism

Catholics have been the targets of numerous populist movements, including the anti-Masons, the Know-Nothings, the People’s Party, and the Ku Klux Klan.


In the post-World War I era, a revamped, populist Ku Klux Klan took their racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic platform nationally and recruited four million members.



Nativism favors the interests of certain established inhabitants of an area or nation as compared to claims of newcomers or immigrants


Following World War I nativist's in the twenties focused thier attention on Catholics, Jews, and southeastern Europeans and realigned their beliefs behind racial and religious nativism. The racial concern of the anti-immigration movement was linked closely to the eugenics movement that was sweeping the United States in the twenties. Led by Madison Grant's book, The Passing of the Great Race nativists grew more concerned with the racial purity of the United States. In his book, Grant argued that the American racial stock was being diluted by the influx of new immigrants from the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Polish ghettos. The Passing of the Great Race reached wide popularity among Americans and influenced immigration policy in the twenties.


The book put forward Grant's theory of "Nordic superiority" and argued for a strong eugenics program in order to save the waning "Nordics" from inundation of other race types. Grant's propositions to create a strong eugenics program for the "Nordic" population to survive was repudiated by Americans in the 1930s and Europeans after 1945.


In the 1920s a wide national consensus sharply restricted the overall inflow of immigrants, especially those from southern and eastern Europe. The second Ku Klux Klan, which flourished in the U.S. in the 1920s, used strong nativist rhetoric, but the Catholics led a counterattack.


After intense lobbying from the nativist movement the United States Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921. This bill was the first to place numerical quotas on immigration. It capped the inflow of immigrations to 357,803 for those arriving outside of the western hemisphere. However, this bill was only temporary as Congress began debating a more permanent bill.


The Emergency Quota Act was followed with the Immigration Act of 1924, a more permanent resolution. This law reduced the number of immigrants able to arrive from 357,803, the number established in the Emergency Quota Act, to 164,687. Though this bill did not fully restrict immigration, it considerably curbed the flow of immigration into the United States.


Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925–1927

In response to growing public opinion against the flow of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe in the years following World War I, Congress passed first the Quota Act of 1921 then the even more restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 (the Johnson-Reed Act). Initially, the 1924 law imposed a total quota on immigration of 165,000—less than 20 percent of the pre-World War I average. It based ceilings on the number of immigrants from any particular nation on the percentage of each nationality recorded in the 1890 census—a blatant effort to limit immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, which mostly occurred after that date. This table shows the annual immigration quotas under the 1924 Immigration Act



In the 10 years following 1900, about 200,000 Italians immigrated annually. With the imposition of the 1924 quota, 4,000 per year were allowed. By contrast, the annual quota for Germany after the passage of the Act was over 57,000. Some 86% of the 155,000 permitted to enter under the Act were from Northern European countries, with Germany, Britain, and Ireland having the highest quotas. So restrictive were the new quotas for immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, that in 1924 more Italians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Poles, Portuguese, Romanians, Spaniards, Chinese, and Japanese left the U.S. than arrived as immigrants.[ The quotas remained in place with minor alterations until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.


During the late twenties an average of 270,000 immigrants were allowed to arrive mainly because of the exemption of Canada and Latin American countries.


Fear of low-skilled immigrants flooding the labor market was an issue in the 1920s (focused on immigrants from Italy and Poland), and in the first decade of the 21st century (focused on immigrants from Mexico and Central America).




According to Joseph Wytrwal’s book Poles In American History and Tradition”:


While all of these foreign born foreigners shared a common: religious faith, their traits of similarity often ended there. The church in Poland embraced too many personal recollections and satisfied too many emotional wants to be abandoned by the Polish immigrants. From the very beginning of their residence in the United States the Catholic Poles held tenaciously to their mother tongue, whether it was in the rural areas such as Massachusetts where they formed solidly Catholic communities that were models of thrift and exemplary living, or in the crowded neighborhoods of the cities on the eastern seaboard and in the great Polish centers of the Middle West such as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit.


Confronted as they often were by hostile forces which resented their foreignism and their religion, the Polish Catholics quite naturally clung all the more closely to the Polish priests, schools, and press as the best media through which to preserve their faith. As soon as the growth of numbers supplied the means, the Polish immigrants, with their fierce national pride, their consciousness of their past glories, and the bitter humiliation they have suffered by partition, attempted to reconstitute in America the precise Polish form of their old religious life with their own liturgical language, discipline, and ceremonials.


The Polish priests, who followed the Polish immigrants everywhere, made a magnificent contribution to the development of the Catholic Church in the United States. Although they were poor in income, they were adept at turning sweat into gold. They transmuted the immigrant pennies into temples whose grandeur, beauty, and peace became the pride of the Polish piety and for ages to come would lift heavenward the thoughts of all whose eyes rested upon their majestic beauty. The building edifices, reaching outward into the air and the sky, were built amid the poverty and desolation, in the gravest and gloomiest wastes of the cities. Here they recited the beads and preached long sermons which their congregations absorbed in place of printed material. Their endeavors and their sermons were well received, and they succeeded in the preservation of their native language in the different aspects of their parochial life.


Religion and Exclusion


By 1870 the leadership of the Catholic Church in America was firmly in the grasp of  Irish and German bishops .


Who were these hostile forces that resented their foreignism and their religion? Wytrwal writes:

But their effort to create autonomous religious institutions, where the humblest and meanest would receive a cordial welcome and a psychic pleasure that was not found in Irish or German Catholic churches, was limited by the American Catholic hierarchy, many of whom were of Irish origin and did not always understand the new leaven which had been added to American Catholicism. The adherence to the Polish language for church services, school instruction, and the press appeared to them as an excessive fondness for old world customs, as well as a lack of appreciation for the language and customs of the country that had given Poles a haven and a better life. They regarded it as not only un-American but also un-Catholic.


The dominant Irish Catholic hierarchy, who monopolized the right to define the church, was opposed also to any attempt to organize national parishes.69 Even though they themselves were either born or only one generation removed from Ireland, they resented all variations from the American pattern, as out of harmony with the national trend. They believed that the exclusive use of the English language would give the Poles at least the appearance of belonging and free them from the charge of "foreignism." They were willing to sacrifice ethnic cohesion to the interests of religious expansion. In 1891, Archbishop Ireland in a letter to Cardinal Gibbons made the following comment: "We are American bishops, an effort is made to dethrone us, and to foreignize our country in the name of religion." In a lecture delivered in Cincinnati, on May 2, 1895, Archbishop Ireland made this explicit.


The actions and attitude of Irish Catholic hierarchy played into the hands of the Nativists and Populists who supported the passage of the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 .


The History of the Polish National Catholic Church


On March 14, 1897, the schismatic parish of St. Stanislaus was begun in Scranton, Pennsylvania, under the direction of Rev. Francis Hodur, former pastor of Holy Trinity Church at Nanticoke, a few miles out of Scranton. The circumstances leading to the schism were similar to those in Chicago, except that the issue here was more clearly defined. In the previous autumn, a delegation of laymen had called on Father Aust, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, with a demand that some of their number be represented in the management of parish affairs. This demand was denied and then followed by a statement from the Bishop of Scranton, William O’Hara, reproving the men for their disobedience and bidding them submit to the Church authorities. One day the controversy was climaxed by an open fight in front of the church, when some twenty persons were arrested and given sentences of varying severity.


Principles of the Movement

Francis Hodur sympathized with the malcontents and out of their number formed the nucleus of his new parish. Soon afterwards he began editing a weekly paper, The Sentinel, which crystallized the opposition and set forth the three principles on which the movement was founded:

1.The Polish people shall be in control of all churches built and maintained by them.

2.The Polish people shall have the right to administer their own church property, through a committee chosen by their own parishioners.

3.The Polish people shall have the right to choose their own pastor.


The following year, Hodur made a trip to Rome where he requested the concession that his people be granted a large degree of property control in the parishes to which they belonged. His appeal was refused and the same year the Holy See excommunicated him. However, it was not until December 16, 1900, that the Parish Assembly of St. Stanislaus’ decided on a definite break with the Catholic Church in matters of doctrine and worship as well as organization. The first expression of this was the adoption of the vernacular for all the church services, the Mass being sung in Polish for the first time on Christmas Day of that year.


By 1904, several congregations in New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts became affiliated with the Scranton unit. In September a Synod was held at Scranton in which 147 clerical and lay delegates, representing 20,000 adherents, drew up the first constitution. Noteworthy are the following points:

1.All Latin service books are to be translated into Polish.

2.Cooperation is urged with other non-Roman, Christian denominations.

3.The claim of the Roman Catholic Church is repudiated, that she is the sole exponent of Christian teaching.

4.Francis Hodur is designated as Bishop-elect.



Other links

The Polish National Catholic Church


The Polish Catholic Church


Franciszek Hodur



The Poles in Philadelphia to 1914

To one who knows the Polish Americans in Philadelphia today, their well-ordered lives offer a dramatic answer to the foreboding prophecies uttered a little more than a century ago about the dangers of an alien and inassimilable addition to our population. The Poles of Philadelphia have proved themselves a valuable element in the city's life.


Polish-American Roman Catholic parishes in the United States

Polish Miners in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania  by Sister M. Accursia, Bern., O.S.F.


Polish Diaspora




John B Watson social engineering


Read Deacon Jims blog - Who stole the kiszka?


Well, somebody stole my kiszka!

What I’m speaking about is the slow trudging destruction of ethnic parishes in the R.C. church. I’ve been on the front lines of the protest against church closings, the removal of foreign language Holy Masses, and the removal of beautiful devotions and other spiritual exercises that enrich the community through prayer.


Anti - Polonism

As Seen From A Polish American Perspective


The Aftermath

St John Kanty Prep end of the legend...

A Polish prep school that closed as a result of the immigration acts of 1924 and 1965.


St John Kanty Prep Erie Campus- Google search results



Sacred Heart Parish, New Britain, CT.

The Sacred Heart church is the oldest Polish American parish in New England, established in 1894. It was an ethnic parish lead by a very powerful Monsignor Lucyan Bojnowski who was a very influential figure not only with parishioners’ lives but influenced the entire town.


Polish Christmas carols, Kolędy

Christmas carols, Kolędy, are very popular in Poland, where they have a long history, the oldest dating to the 15th century or earlier.