Heart of Jesus Church
Dupont, Pennsylvania 18641
Our Historical Past
The immigrant migration to the New World was spurred by the generally poor conditions that existed in Europe at the turn of the century. As a result of these conditions, the little town of Smithville, Pennsylvania, later to be named Dupont was the recipient of a sizeable number of Poles looking for a new home, jobs, and a better way of life. The rich anthracite coal deposits of the area provided the mining jobs that were so desperatley needed. Church services were available at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church located a distance away in Duryea. As the Polish community grew, it became apparent that a church needed to be built. In 1901, the congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church began forming. Early in 1902, Bishop Michael Hoban gave the congregation permission to begin work on its own edifice. Good fortune prevailed as construction of the church coincided with a six month strike at the coal mines; the parishioners, along with the cooperation of the idled miners, were able to complete the project in a short period of time. The new church was constructed from wood and a new parish was born.Early Growth Period
At Christmas time in that very same year, the late Very Rev. Msgr. Stanislaus Szpotanski celebrated the First Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Dupont.
Bishop Hoban, Ordinary of the Diocese of Scranton, assigned Father John Gratza as the first pastor. Two years later, Rev. Henry Cichocki was named pastor of the fledging church and during his tenure at the parish; regular grade school instructions began in the basement of the church.
On March 9, 1916, Rev. Francis X. Kurkowski, a newly ordained priest, was appointed pastor. That year, through the efforts of Father Kurkowski, the Bernadine Sisters of St. Francis replaced the lay teachers as instructors at the school and they deserve recognition and gratitude for their tireless work and dedication to the parish.
Spurred by rising enrollment and the lack of proper teaching facilities, plans for a new parochial school were completed. Generous donations from parishioners resulted in completion of a complex consisting of the school, a convent housing eight nuns, and a rectory. The construction of the complex was completed in 1919, and accomodated more than 400 students.Tragedy and Resurrection
Shortly after completion of the school building, disaster struck the parish when a fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the then wooden church. Undaunted by the setback church services were transferred to the hall at the new school; and construction of a new stucco veneer church was begun. On June 9, 1920, Bishop Hoban consecrated the completed church. On that same day, 170 parishioners were administered the Sacrement of Confirmatiuon.Polonia Hall
During Father Kurkowski's pastorate (1916-1938) at Sacred Heart Parish, a number of donations provided by the parish organizations enhanced the church property. As an example, through the efforts of the Polish Women's Alliance, a crystal chandelier was purchased. Presently that chandelier is still in use hanging over the choir loft. Secondly, a coin collection by the school children was used to erect the statue of the Blessed Mother on the pedestal in front of the school. Finally, through the generosity of other contributors, a plot of land was purchased for use as a cemetery; and an additional parcel of land near the church was also purchased for use as a playground.
A building constructed on an adjacent parcel of land was used as a gymnasium and hall. The building, built by the hands of the Polish parishioners for the youth of Sacred Heart Parish, was named "Polonia Hall." This building served as the social and cultural center for many years. It was used for basketball games, dances, roller-skating, physical education classes, public assemblies, plays and theatrical presentations. Two bowling lanes and several meeting rooms were located in the basement of this building.The Recent Past
In September of 1971, Father John Kowalkiewicz succeded Father Chester Kolakowski after his death. The parish was left in excellent financial condition and this was a period of consolidating programs such as introduction of the English Mass and generally instituting the changes introduced by Pope John XXIII. During this period, the Mother's Guild was established. This organization has been instrumental in developing many programs, which even today guarantee the success of the school program.The Reverends
Father Leo Kozlowski served as pastor from March 1977 to November 1984. During this time, a chapel was erected on the church cemetery grounds. Dedication of the chapel occurred in 1981. The parish remained solvent and the previously ordained programs continued successfully.
Father Daniel Olszewski assumed responsibility for the parish in January 1985. During his tenure, property upgrades were completed and additional land was purchased for cemetery use. His business acumen kept the parish financially solvent.
A marble statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was donated to the parish by the various parish societies. Father Dan dedicated the statue in 1994. During Father Dan Olszewski's pastorate, the Lenten Road to Resurrection services were instituted in the parish.
Over the years, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish has been blessed with strong and dedicated pastors, each possessing unique personalities and each tending to the spiritual needs of the community. Their leadership qualities and the impact they made are attested to by history. Listed below are the names of those priests who served at Sacred Heart:
1903 to 1905
1905 to 1916
Francis X. Kurkowski
1916 to 1938
Chester H. Kolakowski
1938 to 1971
John J. Kowalkiewicz
1971 to 1977
Leo J. Kozlowski
1977 to 1984
Daniel D. Olszewski
1984 to 1999
Joseph D. Verespy
1999 to Present