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Toledo Polish Churches > Nativity Church

Nativity Parish: The Growing Polish-American Community

According to parish historian Karen Katafiasz DiDomenico, “Nativity Parish was born to meet the spiritual needs of the expanding Polish-American community of St. Anthony’s Parish.” St. Anthony School was overcrowded, and parishioners found it difficult to cross the Michigan Central Railway tracks in time for Mass and parish activities.

Bishop Samuel A. Stritch of Toledo appointed Father John A. Urbanski, a young assistant at St. Hedwig Church, as the pastor of the new parish of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ on February 22, 1922. The dividing line was the Michigan Central railroad tracks. The area to the east would be Nativity Parish, the area to the west stayed in St. Anthony Parish. Father Francis S. Legowski, new pastor of Saint Anthony Parish, was the administrator until Father Urbanski moved to the new parish. At the first parish meeting on April 9, 1922, the people chose Wojciech Konczal, Leonard Majewski, Roman Nowicki and Joseph Przybyla as its first councilmen.

Father Urbanski celebrated the first liturgy in St. Anthony’s Church on Sunday, June 25, 1922. Bishop Stritch purchased land at 1116 Nebraska Avenue in June. Workers transformed the former Polish National Catholic Church, glove factory and bakery into Nativity Church in two months. Meanwhile, parishioners worshipped at Mass every Sunday at St. Anthony’s. Sunday, August 20, 1922 was moving day for the 353 families. Bishop Stritch dedicated the church and said the first Mass. In the History of Saint Anthony Parish, Monsignor Legowski described the day: “After the 10:30 a.m. Mass, a procession of all the uniformed societies and a brass band marched from St. Anthony’s Church to the new Nativity Church at 1116 Nebraska Avenue. The going-out party was made more pleasant for the pastor and parishioners of Nativity by a substantial gift from the parishioners of St. Anthony’s – a kind of dowry to a daughter.”

The Sisters of St. Francis opened Nativity School in September 1922 with 594 students. The parishioners raised funds for a new 12-classroom school in 1926; they raised $8500 in about a month and pledged $45,000. Ground was broken on May 3, 1927, and the new school opened on September 19. The old school was destroyed in 1929. Through the years, the school was kept in good repair. Kindergarten was discontinued in 1950 because there were not enough teaching Sisters. During the summer of 1952, the interior was redecorated and block glass windows costing $13,000 were installed along with a new roof and a fence around the playground. There were 255 students in 1955; there were 71 students and three teachers in 1964. Nativity School closed in June 1965.

Throughout their history, Nativity parishioners were generous Polish-Americans. Many individuals donated liturgical items and statues. When the old school was torn down in 1929, the people contributed money for the Sisters’ home and chapel. During World War II, the parish gave to the cause of Poland. After the war, the people again demonstrated their generosity with a new boiler for the church, a new furnace for the Sisters’ home and new roofs for the convent and rectory. The parishioners painted the church and paid for a new rectory. During the 1950’s, the people funded church repainting, window repair, conversion to gas heat, statue renovation, Sister’s home repainting, sidewalk construction, awning installation and a new organ.

However, as Katafiasz DiDomenico observed, the changes were not only to the parish buildings, but to the people of Nativity Parish. They moved to newer parts of the city and the suburbs while black families purchased their former homes. There were 961 parish families in 1960, but 643 families in 1964. With the spirit of Vatican II and the appointment of Father Zygmunt J. Pitula as pastor, Nativity Parish, was reinvigorated. The people participated more in the liturgy but retained Polish customs in a smaller and caring church community.

Over the years, Nativity Parish cherished certain events: the visit of Archbishop Cieplak of Poland in 1925, Father Urbanski’s 25th anniversary of ordination in 1941, Nativity School football team’s Catholic League City Championship in 1949, Stella Czolgosz’s Mother Adelaide Award from Lourdes Junior College in 1969 and the Golden Jubilee in 1972. The people also supported parish organizations. The women formed the Sorrowful Mother Society in 1922; both men and women established the League of the Sacred Heart in 1923. The latter held devotions to the Sacred Heart on the first Friday of the month, and members recited the rosary and offered Mass for deceased members. The Rosary Society became the Parent-Teachers Club, the Mothers’ Club and the Rosary Society. No matter the name, the women raised funds for the sister’s home the school and the children of the parish. St. Francis Guild was part of a city-wide movement to aid the Sisters of Saint Francis. Single girls of high school age and older participated in the religious and social activities of the Young Ladies’ Sodality.

In 1972 Nativity Church became a mission of St. Anthony Parish. The last Mass was celebrated in Nativity Church on May 23, 1982, and closed on June 12, 1982. During its 60 years, the parish provided for the spiritual, educational, social and athletic needs of thousand of Polish-Americans in Kuhschwanz.

Pastors of Nativity Church:

Reverend John A. Urbanski (1922-1046)

Reverend Michael Robaskiewicz (1946-1952)

Reverend John A. Labuzinski (1952-1961)

Reverend Joseph M. Mrowca (1961-1967)

Reverend Zygmunt J. Pitula ( 1967-1977)

Reverend Jerome Nowakowski (1977-1981)

Reverend Gerald J. Robinson (1981-1982)

 

 

First Marriage: Ludwig Muszynski and Klara Lawicki on July 3, 1922

First Funeral: Josepha Tuszynska on August 3, 1922

First Communion Class: June 1, 1923

First Confirmation Class: Administered by Bishop Stritch on June 10, 1923

Patron Saint:

Nativity was named in honor of the birth of Jesus, which is celebrated on December 25, Christmas Day.

 

Address: 1116 Nebraska Avenue Toledo, Ohio 43607

Bibliography:

Golden Jubilee, 1922 – 1972. Toledo, Ohio: Nativity Parish, 1972.

Ohio, Diocese of Toledo, Catholic Parish Records, 1796-2004. Family Search (LDS). 23 June 2012.

Clerus Toletanus: A Directory of Clergy, Religious Communities and Parishes of the Diocese of Toledo in America, 1910 to 2011, vol. 1 no. 1

Nativity
Nativity Church, officially titled Church of the Nativity, was originally organized as a Polish National Catholic Church. In 1922, Nativity parish was founded as a Roman Catholic church, spun off from St. Anthony parish, and located at 1124 Nebraska Avenue. Nativity parish was closed in 1982. The church building is now used by another denomination.

 

Nativity interior 1923 This view is the church interior of Nativity parish in 1923.

 

Nativity
Nativity Parish had a school until the parish closed in 1982. It was located at 1114 Blum Street at Forest Avenue, on the same block as the church was located.

 

Nativity
The Nativity Parish rectory was located near the church.

 

Nativity kindergarten and nun’s residence The Nativity School kindergarten and the nun’s residence was located on Nebraska Avenue, near the church.