For the 29th edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, the topic is centered on religion. One constant in all of my genealogy and historical research has been the importance of religion to my Polish ancestors. It seems that their lives revolved around their parishes. My ancestry in Poland (which includes the Prussian and Russian territories) can be traced to people with meager backgrounds. They were either day laborers or peasant farmers. But no matter where they lived or what their occupation may have been, they always seemed to congregate to a parish.
Parish life played a major role in the lives of most people in Poland, because it gave each individual a sense of unity with the others who lived near. Borders within the lands of Poland would change hands repeatedly, but the one constant was that of the parish. A parish would offer the surrounding villages or towns a stable place to gather, meet, and converse. A parish could be considered an extended family.
Similarly after my ancestors immigrated to Wisconsin, they moved to locations that had established Polish parishes. The parishes in Milwaukee and Stevens Point areas provided the Polish immigrants with a sense of belonging. The parish communities would offer its’ parishioners camaraderie and guidance. A newly arrived immigrant would find family, friends, acquaintances, or friendly faces awaiting them in the parish community. One interesting fact is that many families that were neighbors and fellow parishioners in Poland immigrated to parishes in America to join their family and friends. Sometimes it seems as though a whole parish was physically picked up from Poland and dropped in America. The sense of community definitely transcended physical borders.
The local parishes provided parishioners with a multitude of societies to join, for both men and women. One such society for men was the St. Isidore Society of Sacred Heart Church in Polonia, Wisconsin. At least two of my Wierzba ancestors were active members of this society. Likewise, a society for women was the Holy Rosary Society of St. Stanislaus B & M in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These societies would provide Polish immigrants with the support they needed.
Overall, a parish was scene as a community. In some cases, the sense of community was more important than jurisdictions, borders, or nationalities.
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