75 Years of History of the John Paul II Polish School

Canada is a breathtakingly beautiful country, whose aboriginal culture is enriched by the varied cultures of immigrants from all corners of the world. Of the many ethnic groups which settled in every province across this land, the Poles represent many generations of immigrants.

The original Polish School was established in 1934 by the Polish Alliance in consultation with the Polish priests at the time. There wasn’t a Polish parish in southern Alberta in those days, so the classes took place at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish on Edmonton Trail. Polish immigrants sent their children to School to fulfill the desire to keep alive their ancestral language, cultural traditions, and devotion to the Catholic Church.

In January 1934 Karolina Durzynska – Carroll organized groups of children for Polish language classes. In 1936 Consul Michal E. Bielinski from Winnipeg in the company of other dignitaries from Poland presented Karolina Dziurzynska- Carroll with the Order Polonia Restituta for her great effort for Poland and the Polish Immigrant group in Calgary.
During World War II, Polish School continued lessons, keeping Poland in their prayers and collecting funds to help Poland, and Poles in Russia, and the Allies. The school had a small registration until after World War II, when a new wove of Polish immigrants arrived in Alberta. These Poles were soldiers who had fought on all fronts of the Allied Campaign in the air, at sea, and on ground. They brought energy, determination and a great love for Poland when they came to make a new life in Canada. The Polish School grew systematically.

In 1955, Father Leon Trawicki, the first Polish pastor sent specifically to minister to the Polish community, took over the care direction of the Polish School and also taught religion.

In 1957, Polish priests from the Society of Christ were assigned the Polish Parish in the Diocese of Calgary by Bishop F. Carrol.

In 1957, the school was transferred to the patronage and leadership of the Polish parish and church: ” Our Lady Queen of Poland” (from 1968: “Our Lady Queen of Peace”), under the care of the pastor, Father Jan Otłowski, S. Ch., who took the foundling school under his care with great pastoral zeal. Father Jan set about to improve and enlarge the school, making new facilities available for catechization, as well as starting a new library.

In 1968, the school was visited by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul II on October 16th, 1978.

In the years 1969 to 1979, the director of the school was Father E. Mroczynski, S. Ch. The school continued to expand with the addition of classes from grade 1 to 7. The teachers were lay people and Dominican Sisters, who arrived in Calgary in 1968, and started to work in the Polish parish and school. The first Sistres were: Sister Serafina Steinig and Sister Jolanta Kozal, who were joined in 1970 by Sister Loretta Suty and Sister Alojza Cichowicz.
The children and young people participated in religious events and festivities, and in 1971, Sister Alojza organized the first folk dancing group “Gaiczek”, from which, in 1977, evolved the young dancers of the group “Polanie”. This group exists to this day and performs at many Canadian festivities, as well as at Polish national feastdays.

From 1979, the director of the school was Father Stanislaw Kuczaik, S.Ch. and in those years the school formulated a Charter and adopted the name of the “John Paul II Polish School”:
The primary aim of the Polish School is to teach young people about the thousand year Christian tradition of Polish history, by familiarizing them with the language, history, religious values and geography of the Polish nation – the land of their parents or ancestors.
The secondary aim, which is homogenous with the first, is to prepare youth for an active role in the multicultural life of Canada, by adapting the values of Polish patriotism and fidelity to Christianity to their homeland, which is Canada.

The teachers emphasized in their shaping of young minds, love of God and neighbour, as well as love of Poland and Canada.

In 1987, in large part thanks to the persistent effort and vision of the Dominican Sister Serafina Steinig ( who was the first teacher of these credit classes from 1974 to 1992), the Minister of Education of Alberta bestowed credit status to high school students learning Polish Language and History, known as Polish 15, Polish 25, Polish 35. In these classes, the students learn the Literature, History and Geography of Poland, as well as religion and receive 5 credits (per class) in Alberta schools.

From 1989 to August 1994, the school director and pastor of the parish was Father Zbigniew Olbrys, S.CH., who inspired an intensive expansion o the school, presided over the reform of the school Charter, instituted school Olympic games, poetry recitals, and activated and inspired Polish scouting in Calgary.

The 1998 – 1999 school year was pivotal, as through the energetic efforts of Father Jan Michalski, S.Ch., Mr. Peter Albertin and with a helping hand from Bishop Frederic Henry, in cooperation with the Catholic Board of Education, The Polish School is finally officially affiliated with the Calgary Catholic Board of Education, now conducts its classes at St. Anne’s High School.

On May 6, 2000 John Paul II Polish School received a Diploma of Recognition from the Polish Congress of Alberta for its efforts in teaching Polish language and culture in Alberta.

On September 6, 2002 the School Banner was blessed by Bishop Frederic Henry at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.
The School celebrates its Patron Day every year on October 16 – the day of election of the Holy Father John Paul II.

During the school year 2003/2004, John Paul II Polish School celebrated its 70th Anniversary. Rev. Stanisław Poszwa, S.Ch., Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Polish parish, published book about the history of the Polish School: “Z Historii Szkoły Polskiej im. Jana Pawła II w Calgary, Alberta 1934 – 2004”. This year 2009 we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of teaching Polish language and culture at our school.

The year of 2006 was celebrated as a special year of Polish Language by students and teachers of John Paul Polish School.

On the May 28, 2006, sister Alojza Cichowicz was awarded the Order of Smile, the only Order in the World which is given to adults by children – for the years of love, warmth and patience shown them.

In 2007/2008 John Paul Polish School revised its program according to Alberta Learning requirements.

On February 11, 2009, John Paul II Polish School had a great loss: Peter Albertin, the School Principal from ….. to …. , passed away. The Polish School lost a very energetic and talented leader who was very committed to the well- being of the School and encouraged multicultural awareness. He will be remembered for his caring nature and love of students, teachers and school.

The students of the John Paul II Polish School are involved in many patriotic and religious celebrations, for instance: the celebration of May 3 – the Polish Constitution Day and the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Poland, and November 11 – Remembrance Day and Day of Independence of Poland in 1918. Also the students participate in the Adam Mickiewicz( the greatest Polish poet ) competition in writing essays and frequently achieve top awards.

On January 16, 2009 – the students of our school celebrated a special Day dedicated to St. Paul, the Apostle– in connection with the Year of St. Paul, the 2000 Year of his birth.

At present, John Paul II Polish School numbers …….. students from preschool through grades 1 to 12 and employs … teachers. Classes are run on Fridays and Saturdays at St. Anne High School. The teachers are: lay people, Dominican Sisters, and the Priest of the Society of Christ.

Many thanks for the successes of John Paul Polish School are due to the Calgary Catholic School Board and the Heritage Language Policy of Alberta, as well as the Multicultural Policy of the federal government.
The School owes its greatest vote of gratitude to motivated, caring parents, dedicated teachers, the Priests of the Society of Christ and the Dominican Sisters.
May God bless all those who strive to instill intellectual and moral values in the children and youth of Canada.