Visitors from Canada make a "must see" visit to Panna Maria

Leaving their comfortable weather in Calgary, Canada, the Mazovia Polish Song and Dance Association traveled more than 2,000 miles to Panna Maria, right into the heat of South Texas on June 6.  The group was in Texas to perform at the Texas Folklife Festival June 7-9 but made a point of visiting the first and oldest permanent Polish settlement in the United States. 

They were greeted in Panna Maria at the Polish Heritage Center, which is nearing completion as fundraising continues. PHC Directors, Betty Kowalik, Laura Dylla, and John Wojtasczyk conducted a tour of the Center which will offer archives, library, and exhibits highlighting the stories and images of the early Polish settlements and their descendants. "More than one quarter million descendants still live in Texas," said Wojtasczyk. 

The visit included time inside the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church where the Panna Maria Historical Society President, Joyce Rives, and PHC Community Champion, Dylan Bussleman shared church and community history. Each visitor had the privilege of sitting quietly in the same altar chair used by Pope John Paul II during his visit to San Antonio in 1987. When asked which one of the students hoped to be Pope someday, at least one raised his hand. 

The visitors toured the nearby St. Joseph School museum where they read the names of the earliest Polish settlers in Texas who were listed on an 1854 ship manifest. They recognized many of the surnames. "You have a lot of cousins around here," Rives told them.

Texas appeared much different than expected, the Canadian performers said. "We thought Texas would be a flat, wild, desert," said one of the visitors.  "It's much greener and more beautiful than we imagined."

The tour was followed by a visit to see real Texas longhorn cattle at Randy Pawelek's ranch before lunch at the Pollock Restaurant in Falls City.  Photos by Elaine Mazurek Stephens.

Visitors from Poland learn about Polish Texans and longhorns

On May 14, 2019, two Polish officials from Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with Robert Rusiecki, the Polish Consul General in Houston, visited the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria, which is under construction, and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Panna Maria, the oldest permanent Polish settlement in the U.S. The group was welcomed by Bishop John W. Yanta, the Polish Heritage Center's Founder, along with several PHC officers and volunteers.

The day included a tour of the Panna Maria Historical Museum, the Panna Maria Cemetery, and a moment of reflection at the monument and gravesite of Fr. Leopold Moczygemba, the Polish priest who encouraged the Polish settlers to come to Texas in the mid-1850s. Following the tour, the group enjoyed a Texas-style lunch at the home of George and Betty Kowalik and a visit to the Pawelek ranch to see Texas longhorns. One of the visitors said, "Seeing the longhorns was like going to the zoo." PHC Director, John Cebrowski said, "They couldn't believe their eyes."

The Polish Heritage Center construction is continuing with much excitement as donations and artifacts are contributed. "I look forward to honoring our ancestors through the exhibits at the heritage center," explained one of the Polish Texans.

Our Lady of Częstochowa in Houston welcomes PHC Director of Development

Our Director of Development, John Cebrowski, recently enjoyed the opportunity to share news and updates about the Polish Heritage Center with parishioners at Our Lady of Częstochowa parish in Houston. "It was wonderful being with such an interested group of people who truly love their Polish heritage," said Cebrowski. In attendance was the Polish Consul General in Houston, Robert Rusiecki.

The Polish Heritage Center is more than halfway completed and will provide exhibits, a library, and archives about Polish Texans. 

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Show Us Your Polish Roots

Show Us Your Polish Roots

Are your Polish roots showing? Share information about your proud Polish family ancestry with the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria. Past as well as present photos are welcome. Representatives also will collect…”

Heritage Center in Texas to tell the story of immigration

Heritage Center in Texas to tell the story of immigration

“In many instances the customary or traditional process used by these groups for handing down patterns of thought, action, beliefs, and customs has been by work of mouth or by example without written instructions…the challenge of the Polish Heritage Center will be to preserve customs and tradition for posterity, keeping alive those…”