Monday June 25, 2012

ADAMS -- One hundred years of Catholic education was celebrated Sunday with food, music, camaraderie and a dash or religion by friends and alumni of the St. Stanislaus School at the Polanka Pavilion on Mill Street.

Well over 500 people were expected, according to Andrew Dzierga, one of the organizers of the event and a member of the school's class of 1968.

Founded in 1912, the school has served students from pre-school through the middle school grades. Several thousand children have graduated from the school over the past century, according to www.diospringfield.org, the website of the Diocese of Springfield, on which web pages devoted to the school are featured.

The Rev. Gary Dailey, a member of the St. Stan’s Class of 1973, was the homilist at Sunday’s  outdoor Mass.
The Rev. Gary Dailey, a member of the St. Stan’s Class of 1973, was the homilist at Sunday’s outdoor Mass. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

The school's first graduating class was in 1919, when seven eighth-grade students were presented with diplomas by the Rev. Francis Kolodziej, the school's founder.

According to a history of the school, "I Remember When I Was In School," published in a book by local historian Eugene Micha lenko, Kolodziej invited the Fel ician Sisters from the Province of Buffalo to teach at the school. A total of four sisters arrived in October 1912.

The school grew quickly; so quickly, in fact, that at one point, the student-teacher ratio was about 65-1, according to Micha elenko's history. Kolodziej soon arranged for more sisters to come to the school.

Today, the nuns have been replaced by lay professionals, but the philosophy is the same, according to Judy (Koperniak) Roy, another event organizer and a member of the St. Stanislaus Class of 1981.

"The morals, the values that were taught when I was there still exist," she said.

"This is not to disparage public schools," said Dzierga. "My experience is that discipline and respect for people were a part of learning at St. Stan's."

The Rev. Gary Dailey, a member of the St. Stans Class of 1973, was the homilist of the noon Mass.

"It is so good to come home," said Dailey, who is now the vocation director of the Diocese of Springfield, as well as the director of the Newman Center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, one of the largest student centers in the country.

"When I got here this morning," he said after the service, "I just walked around town. A lot of things have changed here, but a lot of things have also stayed the same. It was good to see that."

Dailey said that one of the more prominent -- and to him, positive -- aspects of a Catholic education is "the faith element. That's a part of every aspect of [Catholic] education, and it's a very big part. It's been the foundation for the lives of so many people of this community."

Sunday's celebration was the culmination of a year of events in observance of the school's centennial. In addition to the Mass, there were the usual accouterments of a traditional Polish picnic: polka music, beverages and lots and lots of food.

"We have traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, but we also have kielbasa, kapusta, pierogis and golabkis," said Lisa Mendel, the financial secretary of the Polish National Alliance Club, located on Victory Street.

The pavilion was suffused with the traditional cabbage-y aroma that is sometimes an odd smell to non-Poles, but a little slice of heaven to many in attendance who grew up with those smells in their households.

Kielbasa is spiced sausage; kapusta is a Polish sauerkraut; golabkis or golumpkis are cabbage leaves wrapped around pork and beef and pierogis are dumplings traditionally stuffed with various meats and spices.

On Sunday, the line for food snaked through the pavilion onto the lawn beyond for much of the afternoon. Mendel noted that while the Polish treats followed the traditional recipes, the workers who made them at the PNA over the weekend also have "secret" ingredients handed down from generation to generation in Adams. There are Polish cooking classes at the PNA in the fall for those who wish find out more, said Mendel. Go to PNA_Adams.org.

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile.