POLISH PRESIDENT ANDRZEJ DUDA PRESENTS BISHOP EMERITUS JOHN W. YANTA WITH THE COMMANDER’S CROSS OF THE ORDER OF MERIT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND

Official news release of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria.

It was an event of a lifetime!  At a presidential welcome reception at Our Lady of Częstochowa parish in Houston, Texas, on June 13, 2019, President Andrzej Duda and First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, visited with Texas Polonia and personally honored the Most Reverend Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.  The decoration is awarded to those living abroad for distinguished contributions to international cooperation, and was presented in recognition of the Bishop’s many initiatives in the Polish community, most notably his vision and leadership in founding the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria.  Panna Maria was the site of the first and oldest permanent Polish settlement in the U.S. dating from 1854.  In addition, the Heritage Center was one of nine Texas Polonia organizations individually honored with the presentation of a Polish flag by President Duda.

Poland’s First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda and President Andrzej Duda congratulate the Most Reverend Bishop John W. Yanta, Founder of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria and the Polish American Council of Texas, for being the recipient of the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in Houston, Texas on June 13, 2019. Photo by Jakub Szmczuk/KPRP.

Poland’s First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda and President Andrzej Duda congratulate the Most Reverend Bishop John W. Yanta, Founder of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria and the Polish American Council of Texas, for being the recipient of the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in Houston, Texas on June 13, 2019. Photo by Jakub Szmczuk/KPRP.

Bishop Yanta thanked President Duda and the First Lady, stating,“You honor us with your presence—welcome to America and to Texas and its Polonia.  I humbly accept this prestigious award in the name of our Polish people living today in Texas and throughout the USA, and in Poland..  God’s divine providence has inspired us to build the Polish Heritage Center.  The Center is nearing completion and it honors the memory of our ancestors and their strong values of faith, family and community.”

The reception was co-hosted by Robert Rusiecki, Consul General of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Houston, and Fr. Waldemar Matusiak, pastor of Our Lady of Częstochowa.  Many high-ranking Polish government officials were in attendance, along with over 300 representatives from Texas Polish communities, churches, and organizations, including the Polish Heritage Center, Immaculate Conception parish in Panna Maria, the Polish American Council of Texas, the Polish National Alliance, the Austin Polish Society, the Polish Association in Texas from Dallas, the Jan Karski Polish School in Dallas, the Wawel Dancer of Houston, and Jagoda Ensemble Dancers of Dallas and many others. President Duda congratulated Texas Polonia for steadfastly promoting Polish culture, honoring many who have made a considerable impact in preserving their Polish heritage.  

This was the first visit by a sitting Polish president to Texas.  President Duda’s other objectives were to meet with Texas energy leaders to discuss energy security in central Europe and to establish research collaborations with MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Poland received its first shipment of Texas LNG from Sabine Pass in June of 2017, and shipments of LNG have continued.  Referring to the current situation of Poles and Poland, Duda described the recent 30 years as a special time "during which an independent and truly sovereign Poland has been built."  He also emphasized that Poland was the fastest-developing country in Europe.  Poland was recently named the 4th fastest developing country in the world (source: www.prezydent.pl) 

President Duda presents the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland to the Most Reverend Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta. Photo by John Paul II Nursing Home.

President Duda presents the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland to the Most Reverend Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta. Photo by John Paul II Nursing Home.

Bishop Yanta is the great-grandson of Polish immigrants who were part of the founding of Panna Maria.  His roots were nourished on a farm near Runge, Texas by faith-filled parents and grandparents, who instilled in him a deep love for his Polish and Catholic heritage.  The bishop’s long career as a priest and bishop reflect his commitment to community affairs, marriage, family, and life.  Highlights of his leadership include pastorates at Sacred Heart and St. James in San Antonio and numerous archdiocesan assignments.  He was founder and executive director of the San Antonio Neighborhood Youth Organization (SANYO), Today’s Catholic newspaper, Catholic Television of San Antonio, the Polish American Priests Association, the Texas division of the Polish American Congress, and the Polish American Council of Texas among others.  Yanta was the first Texan of Polish descent to become a Bishop.  He was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of San Antonio at Immaculate Conception Parish in Panna Maria, Texas, in 1994, then served as Bishop of the Archdiocese of Amarillo, Texas from 1997 until 2008.

The Polish Heritage Center, a $14 million facility currently being completed, will tell the stories of the Polish immigrations and settlements in Texas including Panna Maria, Bandera, Cestohowa, Falls City, Inez, Kosciusko, Las Gallinas, McCook, Meyersville, San Antonio, St. Hedwig, Polonia, White Deer, and Yorktown.  The communities of the Brazos Valley, New Waverly, Industry, Anderson, Brenham, Chappell Hill, Bremond, Marlin, Hempstead, Belleville, Bryan, Stoneham, Richmond, and Rosenberg, plus Houston and the northeast communities of Thurber and Dallas/Ft. Worth, and many other communities have also contributed mightily to Texas growth and Polonia vibrancy.  This high tech state-of-the-art 16,500 sq.ft. Center, with an estimated opening date in early 2020, will be a unique destination for families, educational groups, scholars, researchers, and history buffs – both local and world-wide.  It will be a vibrant location for lectures, workshops, classes, movies, and special events. 

-Official news release of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria.
For further information: Contact: Maureen ‘Mo’ Brown, Marketing Director, (512) 638-3483 polishheritagecentertx@yahoo.com.

Photos courtesy of various sources, including Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP, John Paul II Nursing Home, Dance Group Wawel of Houston, and Polish Festival/Forum Polonia/Houston.

From Prezydent.pl: During the meeting of the Presidential Couple with representatives of the Polish diaspora in Houston, Andrzej Duda honored meritorious people in activities for the benefit of Polish diasporas and popularizing Polish culture in the United States.See also: Meeting with Polonia in Houston [PL / ENG]By order of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda, they were awarded: 

for outstanding services in the field of activities for the benefit of Polish diasporas in the United States of America, for popularizing Polish culture:

COMMUNITY CROSS

PROPERTY ORDER

POLISH REPUBLIC 

 Ewa THOMPSON

Bishop John YANTA

THE OFFICIAL CROSS

PROPERTY ORDER

POLISH REPUBLIC 

Andrzej KAMIŃSKI

 

THE KAWALERSKI CROSS

PROPERTY ORDER

POLISH REPUBLIC 

Waldemar MATUSIAK

Hanna TOMASZKIEWICZ

Elżbieta WINIARSKA

Elżbieta WOJCIECHOWSKA

 

The President, in recognition of his outstanding merits and special achievements in the field of Polish, social, cultural and economic activity, handed the state flags of the Republic of Poland.

 The flags received: 

Parish pw. Of Our Lady of Częstochowa 
in Houston 

Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria, Texas 

Polish School Nicolaus Copernicus in Houston 

Polish School Jan Karski in Dallas 

Polish American Council of Texas (Polonia Council of Texas) 

Polish Association in Austin 

Polish Association in Texas in Dallas 

The Wawel team from Houston 

The "Jagoda" team from Dallas 

Bishop John W. Yanta receives award from President Duda of Poland at reception in Houston, Texas

June 13, 2019, at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Houston, during his first visit to Texas, President Duda of the Republic of Poland honored our Founder, Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta, D.D., with the highest award which can be bestowed upon an individual who is not a citizen of Poland. Bishop Yanta was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in recognition of his many years of work and service in America Polonia. In a gathering of over 300 strong from all across Texas Polonia, Bishop Yanta was hailed with applause and congratulations during this event.

President Duda congratulating Bishop John Yanta after bestowing upon him the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, the highest award and recognition that is presented to an individual not a citizen of the Republic of Poland. Photo by Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP

President Duda congratulating Bishop John Yanta after bestowing upon him the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, the highest award and recognition that is presented to an individual not a citizen of the Republic of Poland. Photo by Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP

Photos below courtesy of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria/J. Wojtasczyk, M. Brown, E. Stephens , John Paul II Nursing Home, and more.

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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