Words from Bishop Hodur:
“Our Church cannot be a blind soulless copy of any Christian Church. It must reach to the source of religious life, Christ the Lord. If we do not have Jesus’ principles more adapted to life and effectively active, we do not have the right to life. Therefore, to work!
– 1931 PNCC Synod
Solemnity of Institution of PNCC
The Church is the Body of Christ, with Christ as the Head and all baptized people as Her members. The Church is a community of people who practice what Christ taught us, so that we can receive salvation. It is people who believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings. These people are baptized and joined together because of what they believe.
The part of the Catholic Church to which we belong is the Polish National Catholic Church. Our Church was organized on March 14, 1897 in Scranton, Pennsylvania by Father Francis Hodur and a group of Polish people.
At the end of the 19th Century many thousands of Polish people came to the United States because they wanted an increased opportunity for a better life and freedom. When these Polish immigrants arrived in America, they continued their Catholic faith and the traditions that they brought with them.
Being an immigrant was a difficult thing, but they found jobs in their new country. They worked hard to provide for themselves and their families, as well as to support the Church. They even built new churches where they could worship God with their families and their friends. Many European immigrants were unhappy by the way they were being treated by the clergy. This was the situation in the south side of Scranton, Pennsylvania. When difficulties developed and problems were not resolved between the people and their priests and bishop, the group of people in Scranton began constructing a new church building. They would name it St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, Church. When the bishop would not support their efforts and refused to bless their new church, they asked Father Francis Hodur to be their pastor and leader.
As Father Hodur and these people began praying and working together, they developed the National Church Program. This program set forth their vision not only for their parish, but also for spiritually grieved immigrants in other cities. The National Church program contained four points:
- Legal ownership of church properties by the people
- Parish governance in secular matters by parish committees elected by the parishioners
- Appointment of pastorates of priests approved by parishioners
- Appointment of Polish Bishops in America by Rome with input by clergy and laity
Father Hodur realized the importance of the printed word to communicate the National Church Program and other related ideals and principles to members of the church and others who could benefit from them. Therefore, the Straz
– The Guard
newspaper was created in 1897 as a publication of St. Stanislaus Church and as a missionary tool.
In the next few years new parishes were organized in various parts of the United States. In 1904 Father Hodur called a synod for this emerging religious movement. A synod is a convention of both clergy and lay delegates from affiliated parishes; the delegates make decisions and set policy for the Church. At the First Synod in 1904 the delegates officially organized the PNCC; a Church constitution was adopted that set forth the administration of parishes; the Straz became the official newspaper of the PNCC; Father Hodur was elected a Bishop; and a decisive break was made with the Roman Catholic Church.
The PNCC is not a new Church, but it is an integral part of the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself in Jerusalem. Therefore, our Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, yet democratic as well.
Father Hodur was consecrated a Bishop at St. Gertrude’s Cathedral in Utrecht, Holland on September 29, 1907 by bishops of the Old Catholic Church. This consecration gave Bishop Hodur and the PNCC Apostolic Succession and valid, indisputable Orders of the Priesthood.
At the Third General Synod of the PNCC in 1914 Bishop Hodur, with the clergy and lay delegates, established the Solemnity of the Institution of the PNCC. This synod determined that it would be celebrated on the second Sunday of March each year.
The Church continued to grow and expand in various parts of the United States, especially where large communities of Polish immigrants had settled. The mission of the Church was also extended into Canada as well as Poland with the establishment of parishes in both of those countries. With the expansion of the PNCC it became necessary for additional bishops to be elected and consecrated. Therefore, in 1924 four new bishops were consecrated for the Church and dioceses were established.
Today as we commemorate the Institution of the PNCC we give thanks and praise to Almighty God for His many blessings in the past. We also cherish the democratic Catholic Church given to us by our ancestors in the faith. This occasion gives us the opportunity to recommit ourselves to serve our Lord Jesus Christ through our beloved PNCC.
As Polish National Catholics, we are reminded that we have certain duties as members of the Church. Those duties are:
To accept and obey what Christ taught us.
To give glory to God by leading a good life.
To support the work of the Church.
To help bring others into the Church.