Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reverend Joseph F. Cieminski (II)

Old SS. Peter and Paul Church,
Duluth, MN
In 1910, Father Cieminski transferred to Duluth, Minnesota, to serve as pastor to the troubled parish of Saints Peter and Paul. According to the 1917 Acta et Dicta of the Saint Paul Catholic History Society (vol. 2, page 262), Duluth's second Polish Catholic church had become a battleground between the Diocese of Duluth and a group of "independent" parishioners determined to bring it into the Polish National Catholic Church. Already a group of "independents" had seceded from Duluth's first Polish Catholic church, Saint Mary Star of the Sea, resulting in the 1907 foundation of Saint Josephat's Polish National Church. The legal battle over Saints Peter and Paul had been won, but Father Cieminski had to spend the next five years putting the parish back in order.

1915 saw Father Cieminski moving to another trouble spot, the parish of Holy Cross in Minneapolis, founded in 1886 by his mentor and friend, Father Pacholski. Holy Cross had been in turmoil for several years, due to a scandal involving (or not involving) its longtime pastor, Father Henryk Jazdzewski. Sensing an opportunity, a faction of "independents" had already broken away from Holy Cross and founded Sacred Heart Polish National Church. Again, Father Cieminski was called upon to heal a congregation and bring it safely back to the fold.

In 1932, Father Cieminski, now aged 65, replaced the late Father Pacholski as pastor of Saint Stanislaus Kostka in WInona. For the first time in his career as a priest, Father Cieminski had the enviable task of building upon an already rock solid foundation. Nor did he need to worry about following in Father Pacholski's giant footsteps. For one thing, he was Kaszubian born and Winona raised; for another, he had drawn some of the very toughest parish assignments in three separate dioceses and succeeded every time. In 1943, his exemplary efforts were rewarded when Pope Pius XII raised him to the rank of Monsignor. In 1946, his retirement after fifty-one years in the priesthood was celebrated with an outpouring of gratitude of respect from his parishioners, his fellow priests, and the Winona community.

Father Joseph F. Cieminski died in a Saint James, Minnesota retirement facility on November 19, 1959. Over his ninety-two years he had experienced - and taken an integral part in - dramatic changes for both the Roman Catholic Church in Minnesota and the Kaszubian community of the Upper Mississippi Valley. He lies buried in Winona, among other members of the Cieminski family, in Saint Mary's Cemetery.

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