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PRCUA Celebrates 140th Anniversary

By on September 20, 2013
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Chicago, IL – The Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA) is the mother of all Polish American fraternal organizations. Founded in 1873, the organization is proud to celebrate its 140th anniversary this year. The national festivities will begin on Friday, October 4th with the Opening of the PRCUA History Exhibit and Reception at the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL, at 7:00 p.m.

The Exhibit is curated by PRCUA Editors Kathryn Rosypal and Lidia Kowalewicz, assisted by PMA Archivists Halina Misterka and Teresa Sromek. It will feature historical treasures such as the original Constitution hand-written by co-founder Jan Barzynski, the first issue of the Narod Polski newspaper from 1897, as well as an array of photographs depicting 14 decades of PRCUA’s history. The public is invited; free admission.

In photo above: PRCUA National Executive Officers (l-r) Secy.-Tres. James Robaczewski, Res. V.P. Anna Sokolowski, and Pres. Joseph A. Drobot, Jr.

On Saturday, October 5th the 140th Anniversary Mass will be concelebrated at 4:00 p.m. at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1300 N. Noble Street, Chicago, IL. This is the Parish where the PRCUA was headquartered during the late 1800s.

Then a Banquet will be held at White Eagle Banquets, 6839 Milwaukee Ave., Niles, IL, with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 7:30 p.m., followed by entertainment provided by PRCUA’s world-renowned Polonia Dance Ensemble and Wesoly Lud Polish Folk Dance Co. For banquet tickets, please call Agnes toll-free at 1-800-772-8632.

The PRCUA was established in Detroit, MI, in 1873 by Rev. Teodor Gieryk, Rev. Wincenty Barzynski, C.R. and Jan Barzynski, editor of the Missouri Polish newspaper Pielgrzym. The following year, the organization moved to Chicago’s near north side, where a large Polish immigrant population was concentrated.

The purpose of the Union was to unite all Polish Catholics in America, and their mutual aid societies, in Christian unity, to meet members’ physical and spiritual needs. The PRCUA urged its members to blend their Polish culture and deep faith with American ideals, to create a Polish American community based upon dedication to “God and Country” – the PRCUA’s motto.

The PRCUA pioneered social programs to assist widows, orphans and the needy. It  raised funds to build an orphanage and hospital in Chicago, start St. Stanislaus College, a Polish seminary, and build churches and parochial schools in Pol-Am communities throughout the USA.

In 1886, a life insurance system was initiated. It provided income for the PRCUA to develop social programs for its members. A newspaper was also established that year, which has been published as Narod Polski since 1897.

In 1897, the PRCUA was the first fraternal to open membership to women and two years later its women received the right to vote – two decades before the U.S. Constitution did so. This sparked considerable growth of the PRCUA.

In response to this expansion, in 1913 the PRCUA built its current headquarters at the corner of Augusta and Milwaukee in Chicago. In the large building, the PRCUA opened a Polish Library in 1915 and the PRCUA Museum and Archives in 1935. This was the first ethnic museum in America! In 1971, it became an autonomous non-profit organization called the Polish Museum of America. Today, the Polish Museum is a priceless treasury of art and artifacts from Poland and Polonia. Its Library has the largest collection of Polish and Poland-related books in the USA.

The PRCUA continues to promote camaraderie among its members by sponsoring national sports tournaments. It promotes Polish culture through its Polish dance and language schools for ages 3 to 18, Presentation Balls for teens, and holiday gatherings.

The PRCUA has a 140-year legacy of supporting charitable endeavors. In its early years, the PRCUA aided striking Polish workers. During war time and martial law in Poland, it collected funds to send food, medical supplies and ambulances to the Polish people. The PRCUA has generously supported SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, MI and still contributes toward the Polish Museum of America.

The PRCUA is currently licensed to sell life insurance and annuities in 24 states. It offers its members many fraternal benefits, including low-cost home mortgages, educational loans, as well as granting scholarships annually to PRCUA members seeking a higher education.

Today, the PRCUA is the largest Polish Roman Catholic fraternal benefit society in the United States with approximately 60,000 members. Led by National President Joseph A. Drobot, Jr. – whose father also served as a PRCUA President (1978-86); Resident Vice President Anna Sokolowski, FICF; Vice President Robert Bielenda, FICF; Secretary-Treasurer James Robaczewski, 3 chaplains and 15 national directors, the PRCUA enjoys financial stability generated by its low-cost life insurance programs and competitive annuity programs. The PRCUA looks forward to a bright future, built upon its legacy of 140 years of effectively serving the needs of its members and the Polish American community.