Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Vincent Barzynski

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Born at Sulislawice, Sandomir, Russian Poland, 1838; d. at Chicago, 2 May, 1899. The son of Joseph and Mary (Sroczynska) Barzynski, in baptism he received the name Michael, but during a grievous illness was placed under the protection of St. Vincent Ferrer and henceforth called Vincent. Because of frail health he was educated privately. In 1856 he entered the diocesan seminary at Lublin and was ordained priest, 28 Oct., 1861. After six months illness spent at the home of his father, he was appointed vicar at Horodlo, member of the chapter of the collegiate church of the Zamojscy, and later transferred to Tomaszew, which was the scene of great military activity during the uprising of 1863. As organizer, appointed by the secret Polish national Government, he provided the insurrectionists with military supplies. Compelled soon after to flee to Cracow, he found refuge with the Franciscan fathers in that city. After fifteen months of wandering he received his passport enabling him to leave for Paris in 1865. Here he fell under the influence of that remarkable band of mystics, Semenenko, Kajsewicz, Jelowicki, and Mickiewicz, the poet, who dreamed of Poland's resurrection through the spiritual regeneration of the Poles. Going to Rome, he joined the newly founded Congregation of the Resurrection and soon after receiving the special blessing of Pius IX set out for America (1866). After several years' labour in the Diocese of San Antonio, Texas, he was appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus parish, Chicago, in 1874. The parish then comprised about 450 families; in 1881 the number of baptisms was 988, and in 1887 reached 1700.

Vincent Barzynski became the dominant influence throughout the most critical period of Polish immigration. He first gave the American Poles a class consciousness, amalgamated the various units into a compact working phalanx, and despite seemingly insurmountable difficulties crushed the forces that threatened the faith of Polish immigrants. Criticized for centralizing within his own person all authority, it must be recalled that he had to deal single-handed with every difficulty, that in large part the Polish American clergy of his day were deserving of little confidence, that the mass of Polish immigration was from the petty artisan and peasant class, and that the small number of brighter minds coming to America had left an unsavoury past behind them. It is clear that there was no alternative. The spirit of rebellion, "independence", schism was fanned by the Polish National Alliance, and this organization Father Barzynski so successfully combated that it was only after his death that the Alliance grew in members.

St. Stanislaus parish, divided again and again, seemed never to decrease; Father Barzynski there organized nearly forty societies, confraternities, and sodalities. He assisted in the organization of nearly every Polish parish in Chicago established before his death. He built the magnificent St. Stanislaus Church and the great school (since destroyed by fire and rebuilt), where seventy nuns teach nearly five thousand children; gave the Poles an orphanage; founded St. Stanislaus College; introduced the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth into the United States; formed with very raw material a corps of Polish teachers in his own school; interested the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Polish immigration. Largely due to his influence, 800 Polish women entered this community. He founded the first Polish Catholic paper, the "Gazeta Katolicka", his personal organ for many years, and established the first Polish daily Catholic paper in America, the "Dziennik Chicagoski", which for nearly twenty-five years has been a valiant defender of the Faith against the inroads of the liberal press, particularly the "Zgoda", the insincerely "neutral" organ of the Polish National Alliance. To him are due the first Polish American text-books, and the first Sunday-school papers. He saw the necessity of organizing the Poles along strictly Catholic lines, and founded the Polish Roman Catholic Union. His greatest enemies admit him to be the most commanding figure in the brief but dramatic history of the American Poles. Despite constant criticism from both clergy and laity, he remained indefatigable. He was a man of genuine piety and deep faith, strict with himself alone, considerate of others. He was humble, resourceful, daring, and patriotic and was possessed of real genius for organization. The noblest monument he has left is the faith that abides in three million Poles.

Felix Thomas Seroczynski.