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.
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)
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 email@example.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:
Bishop John YANTA
THE OFFICIAL CROSS
THE KAWALERSKI CROSS
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
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