Polish Harvest Festival Dedicated to Memory of Pastor and Bishop

Bishop Thaddeus Peplowski (Provided photo)

HOUTZDALE – For more than 40 years in the late summer on the hilltop to the south of Houtzdale, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of St. Barbara’s Dozynki festival has become an annual custom for many area residents.

The sight of friends and the community enjoying a beautiful day in the parish’s park is enough for some.  Add in the sounds of Polka music and the ping of metal softball bats and others feel at home.

Of course, it is most often the tastes and smells of the kielbasa and sauerkraut sandwiches, or the butter and onions smothering the home-made pierogi, that is enough to draw folks back year after year, in some cases – for decades.

In Polish communities, the Dozynki is the traditional harvest festival.  St. Barbara PNCC Parish in Houtzdale started its Dozynki celebration in the 1970’s, shortly after the parish was organized in 1971 as a parish of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC).

Earlier this year, the parish’s congregation made the decision to dedicate the 2018 Dozynki to be held on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, to the memory of Bishop Thaddeus Peplowski, who passed away Jan. 19, 2018.

One of the dynamic factors that led to the establishment and growth of the Houtzdale parish’s congregation, promotion of Polish culture in the local area, and the lasting success of the St. Barbara’s Dozynki festival was the drive, personality and leadership of its organizing pastor, Father Thaddeus Peplowski.

Father “Pep,” as he was known to many, not only led the Houtzdale parish spiritually, but also was the driving force in establishing and leading a Polish folk-dance troupe that travelled to various U.S. states and Poland, teaching Polish language classes, facilitating pysanki art lessons at the parish and promoting other Polish cultural endeavors in the area.

Peplowski also had a tremendous passion for involving youth in the life of the parish and led youth activities and retreats, including the many musicals and plays that he directed at the parish throughout his tenure at St. Barbara’s.

Prior to being assigned to St. Barbara’s, Peplowski had served other PNCC parishes in Buffalo and Rome, N.Y., and Oshawa, Ontario.  He continued to be involved in the national church while at St. Barbara’s by his participation on various PNCC commissions and in the training of future PNCC clergy by teaching liturgy at the Savonarola Seminary.

Peplowski remained at the parish in Houtzdale as pastor until 1990, when he was consecrated and elevated as seventh Bishop of the PNCC’s Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese.

Peplowski was prominent in the relocation and construction of the diocese’s new, modern cathedral from downtown Buffalo to the suburb of Lancaster, N.Y.

Aside from the beautiful Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral in Lancaster, N.Y., where just outside the main entrance – he was laid to rest, Peplowski may be remembered most for his energetic evangelism.

As both a priest and then bishop, Peplowski was instrumental in the establishment of dozens of new parishes in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Europe, including St. Barbara’s in Houtzdale.

Peplowski’s connections with the people of St. Barbara’s, his impact on the parish and community and his personality as priest and shepherd, created an enduring respect and honor for the parish’s first pastor from the people he led, as well as from others with whom he interacted in the community.

These are a few of the reasons why the St. Barbara’s congregation decided that the 2018 Dozynki will be dedicated to Peplowski.

During the festival, donations will be collected, which will be given to the PNCC’s Clergy Pension Fund in memory of Peplowski.

St. Barbara’s 2018 Dozynki will be held Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the parish grounds, south of Houtzdale, just off of state Route 153 on Emery Avenue.

Traditional Polish food such as pierogi, kielbasa and sauerkraut, haluski, potato pancakes and stuffed cabbage will be available, along with American food like hamburgers and hot dogs.

Entertainment at this year’s Dozynki will include the band, The Vagabonds, in the afternoon, and also DJ Opie, as well as the annual pierogi eating contest.  There will also be games of chance, a number of craft vendors and a slow-pitch softball tournament during the festival.

Teams interested in the softball tournament should call 814-932-4802.  Festival-goers are asked not to bring pets or coolers onto the festival grounds.

The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) is a catholic and apostolic church founded by Polish-Americans in 1897, with around 26,000 members of 127 congregations in five dioceses throughout the United States and Canada today.

The PNCC welcomes everyone of all nationalities who seek adherence to the sacred catholic, or universal, traditions of the undivided church.

The PNCC is similar in many traditions and beliefs to the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Old Catholic churches.  In administrative, managerial, social and other temporal matters, the democratic PNCC derives its authority from the people who build, constitute, believe in, support, and care for it.

If you have any questions about St. Barbara Parish or the PNCC, contact the parish at 814-378-8347, or stbarbarapncc@gmail.com.

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