Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life

By Thomas T. McAvoy | Go to book overview

VERY REV. MSGR. ALOYSIUS J. WYCISLO*


V. The Polish Catholic Immigrant

When we speak of Polish Americans we can ipso facto speak of Polish Catholics. With very few exceptions, Polish immigrants to the United States have been Roman Catholics, and probably 92 per cent of what is estimated at between five and a half to six million persons of Polish nationality in this country are Catholic. Their antecedents reach back to the first colony in Jamestown, where Poles were brought to engage in a glass and soap-making industry. Poles had a small colonial ancestry between 1608 and 1776. It is estimated that there were over 10,000 Poles here in the period of our national development, when expansion was the keynote and when that same expansion brought on the American Revolution. We are, of course, all familiar with the Polish heroes who participated in that Revolution.

Poles were among the pioneers who opened the West, but their greatest number arrived here toward the end of the nineteenth century and during the first two decades of the twentieth century. They entered the United States with little or no governmental interference and little regulation. They came as suppressed nationalists, convinced that their country would eventually be free, who saw their own language in their native land prohibited or restricted to the home. They came to seek better economic opportunities or, at the behest of relatives and friends, who described in glowing terms the advantages of living in America. The peak of Polish immigration was reached in the year 1912-1913, when it is known that about 175,000 Poles entered the United States.

____________________
*
Monsignor Aloysius J. Wycislo, formerly member of Archdiocesan Division of Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is Assistant Executive Director of Catholic Relief Services of the National Catholic Welfare Conference.

-179-

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