By Claudia Mathis
A special Mass on Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. at Transfiguration of Our Lord Church in Syracuse will mark the parish’s 100th anniversary, the culmination of nine months of planning. Bishop Robert Cunningham will be joining the parishioners, as will former pastors and friends on this special day. A reception will be held in the church hall after the Mass. Nearly 200 people are expected to attend.
Father Tom Kobuszewski has served as pastor for the last 13 years. He previously served as associate pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Liverpool.
Reflecting on his years of service to his parishioners at Transfiguration, Father Kobuszewski said that there have been both challenges and rewards. He’s found it challenging to cope with the changing demographics of the world and of the church and of having to do more with less.
Father Kobuszewski remembered the happy moments of his ministry. He said he enjoyed getting to know the parishioners and working with them at various events.
“The people are very enthusiastic as we come to the milestone of our centennial as the Polish-American parish on the east side of Syracuse,” said Father Kobuszewski.
The establishment of Transfiguration of Our Lord Church in 1912 was driven by a need to accommodate an increasing number of Polish settlers to Syracuse.
As early as 1898, a Polish colony began to form on the east side of Syracuse, around Burnet, Greenway, Hawley, Vann and Riegel Streets. These families worshipped at Sacred Heart Church on Park Ave. or St. Vincent de Paul Church on Vine St. It became difficult for them to travel to Sacred Heart on foot, by streetcar or horse and buggy.
Even more Polish emmigrated to Syracuse in 1904 and 1905 to avoid serving in the Russian army during the Russo-Japanese War. Sacred Heart could no longer accommodate all worshipers.
On Jan. 2, 1911, the decision was made to establish another Polish church on the east side — Transfiguration of Our Lord. Bishop Patrick Ludden signed the parish incorporation papers on March 10, 1911.
Father Alexander Fijalkowski, then assistant at Sacred Heart, became temporary pastor to 170 families until the appointment of Father Stanislaus Lniski on Sept. 16, 1912. In October 1912, construction began on a one-story wood frame chapel. The church was meant to be temporary, but was used until 1956.
Sunday, Nov. 10, 1912 marked the date of the dedication and first Mass, even though the church was not quite completed. Friends and relatives, including parishioners from Sacred Heart, joined the parishioners. The people from Sacred Heart walked 4.5 miles, waving banners through the main streets of Syracuse to join their fellow Catholics from Poland.
In May 1913, the church bought the home at 615 Teall Ave. for use as a rectory.
At this time, the parish obtained a permit to construct a school. That September, four Felician Sisters arrived from Buffalo to staff the new school. The school closed in June 1973.
On July 24, 1933, due to his ill health and the church’s increasing financial difficulties, Father Lniski resigned. Father George Guzewicz became temporary administrator.
Father John Kociela became the third pastor in September 1939. This period of time marked the end of the Depression, signaling growth and renewal for the church. The number of families reached 400 that year.
After years of financial struggles, the church’s mortgage was burned on Nov. 22 after the Sunday 11 a.m. Mass.
Following World War II, prosperity returned and the parish wanted to replace its temporary church. In October 1949, the Polish American Citizens Club donated $6,048.90 to help the parish buy 2.5 acres of land at 700 Teall Ave. from the city for the future church. Groundbreaking for the new church took place on April 16, 1955, and on Dec. 23, 1956, Bishop Walter Foery dedicated the new church.
After Msgr. Kociela retired in July 1980, Father Arthur Hapanowicz was appointed as pastor.
During the 1990’s, a succession of priests served the church. Father Bernard Orszewski, Father Walter Florczyk, Father Stanley Szewczyk, Msgr. Matthew Luczycki and Father Joseph Zareski all served until Father Kobuszewski took the helm Feb. 12, 1999.
“We are joyful and grateful that we are able to enjoy the labors of the past and move towards the future,” said Father Kobuszewski.
For more information about the celebration, call Transfiguration’s rectory at