First Polish church in America consecrated
On this day in 1856, Father Leopold Moczygemba consecrated the first Polish Catholic church in the United States at Panna Maria, Texas. Father Moczygemba, a native of Silesia born in 1824, came to Texas in 1852 and began urging his fellow countrymen to leave the harsh economic conditions of their homeland and settle in Texas. In 1854 Polish immigrants had journeyed to Karnes County in South Texas and celebrated Christmas Mass with Moczygemba under a live oak tree at the future church site. They founded the community of Panna Maria, Polish for “Virgin Mary.” In addition to the church, pioneers also established St. Joseph’s School, the first Polish school in America, and new waves of immigration after 1865 led to the settlement of other Polish communities in the area such as Cestohowa, Kosciusko, and Falls City. Panna Maria remained a rural hamlet in the twentieth century but enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest permanent Polish settlement in the United States.