St. Joseph Polish Cemetery Old Section Inscriptions
By Gene (Genevieve) Stachowiak Szymarek
Gene and her late husband John F. Szymarek co-authored / compiled this work through the painstaking recording the names and associated relationships obtained by walking the cemetery grounds. In addition data received from families and other genealogical sources were verified and added as received.
With the permission of the surviving family and the knowledge and consent of the publisher, Heritage Books Inc. we have transcribed the second of three genealogical works developed by the sisters. Our purpose was not to copy every entry verbatim, but to provide the user with a tool to use the additional detail contained in the hardcopy book.
These books are available at our local St. Joseph County Libraries for independent study or personal copies may be obtained by contacting.
Heritage Books, Inc.
65 East Main Street
Westminster, MD 21157-5026
Phone: 800-876-6103 or 410-876-6101
The St. Joseph Polish Catholic Cemetery
Association of St. Joseph County, Indiana
Polish efforts to organize and establish an effective local identity were not limited to the establishment of multiple Roman Catholic Parishes, neighborhoods or ethnic shopping areas. By the turn of the 19th Century they were numerous enough to begin other political and social institutions to dignify their existence in very special ways.
As early as 1901 the South Bend Tribune noted;
Leading Polish citizens had started a movement for a Cemetery of their own.
Prior to this the only Catholic Cemetery in the area was a parcel of land that Fr. Sorin had developed for South Bend Catholics near Notre Dame, known as Cedar Grove Cemetery. Since its inception the Brothers of the University, who acted as undertaker and sexton, cared for it. Today the Cemetery is under the care of the University.
The Polish people residing on the West Side of the city objected to having to submit to what was viewed as a monopoly on burial plans. The local Polish language paper, the Goniec Polski, commented on the swelling movement and the subsequent controversy that pitted the local Polish community against the Bishop of Fort Wayne, who demanded ownership of the St. Joseph Cemetery by the diocese. Had it not been for the compromise of local Holy Cross pastors, this incident might have precipitated a break from the Roman Church over the issue of trustees.
A working group of leading Polish leaders of each Parish, the two groups of Polish Falcons and the Editor of the Goniec Polski was formed to progress the project. The reasons for the desire to establish a second cemetery were several:
(1) Cedar Grove was some distance from the West Side limiting graveside visits
(2) The care of Cedar Grove provided by the Brothers left something to be desired
(3) Poles simply wanted to be buried alongside other countrymen
The Associations work began with the approval of the Bishop of Fort Wayne who was initially the honorary President of the group. Between 1904 and 1906 the association of lay people raised money, purchased property and established a funeral insurance plan to help individuals prepay for their funerals. The lay leaders felt that the association owned the cemetery. It was at this time that a crisis erupted, when the Bishop informed the association that he would not bless the cemetery until the title was turned over to the diocese. At a meeting of March 21, 1906 the over three hundred people who had contributed to the project voted to incorporate the cemetery. The Bishop in turn refused to bless the cemetery and forbade local priest to provide Christian burial.
For the next two years this painful process continued as several hundred souls were laid to rest without benefit of Christian burial. Local clergy were bound to obey the Bishop and local Poles would not bend to extortion. Eventually, an agreement was reached between the Bishop and the association preceded by the pastoral wisdom of Father Zubowicz of St. Casmir Church who began the practice of blessing the individual grave of each person buried at St Josephs. The Bishop opined that further pressure would serve no purpose other than a potential break with the Roman Church by Polish parishioners.
This became a self-fulfilling prophecy in 1914 when Father Zubowicz was transferred to St. Hedwig parish and the Bishops refusal to discuss his replacement with lay leaders led to open revolt and Bloody Sunday.
Many Polish families left the Roman Church and joined St Marys of the Holy Rosary PNCC, which ministers to its parishioners to this day.
Holy Cross & South Bend Polonia
The South Bend Tribune notes a movement among Polish community leaders to acquire a new cemetery
The St Joseph Cemetery is incorporated
The Bishop of Ft. Wayne request that title for the new cemetery be transferred to his offices
March 21, 1906
At a meeting of the St. Joseph Cemetery Association the investors vote 287 to 9 not to pass title for the cemetery to the Bishop of Ft Wayne.
The Bishop of Ft. Wayne refuses to bless the cemetery and forbids pastors to provide Christian burial to interments until title is passed to the diocese.
Anna Zapalska born August 2, 1906 and passed August 9, 1906 is the first person to be buried at St. Joseph Cemetery on August 12, 1906. She is buried without benefit of pastoral services as decreed by the Bishop of Ft. Wayne
Several hundred Catholics were buried at the Cemetery without pastoral care. However Fr. Zubowicz of St Casmir, who refused Christian burial to Anna Zapalska later returned to the Cemetery and blessed the individual gravesite.
Fr. Zubowicz and other Holy Cross Pastors continued the Pastoral wisdom of blessing the individual graves, which eventually led the Bishop to relent based on his belief that continued would only led to a schism of Polish Catholics with the Roman Church.
The Bishops premonition served to be a self fulfilling prophecy when his lack of human skills in the transfer of Fr. Zubowicz to St. Hedwig Parish and his refusal to discuss the replacement with Church elders led to Bloody Sunday and the formation of St. Marys of the Holy Rosary PNCC.
November 14, 1937
Work began on the World War 1 Memorial Plaza in the cemetery. The project was sponsored and funded by local Polish American veterans groups.
May 15, 1941
The new Chapel and Mausoleum that replaced the original wooden structure is dedicated. Bishop Noll will preach the sermon and bless the facility
September 20, 1953
The St Joseph Cemetery marked its Golden Jubilee with the dedication of a new Administration & Pumping station at the cemetery. Bishop John F. Noll will dedicate and bless the new facilities.
October 31, 1954
The 14th annual sacred concert for All Souls Eve featured Chapel Chimes and Marian year hymns
The Garden of Love Mausoleum is dedicated
The Resurrection Garden Mausoleum is dedicated
The Cemetery acquires additional property and grows to 109 acres
(Click on Photo for enlargement)
Credits: Thank you to John Kovatch, Historian St Joseph County Library and Toni Cook of SBAGS for providing the guidance and documentation to make this history possible
Added Photos above - 05/11/2008
2nd 05/30/2008 - Completed
Project started: Saturday, February 23, 2008
Project updated: Friday, May 30, 2008 03:25:10 PM
Return To: Saint Joseph County, Indiana INGenWeb Site