How We Have Started & What Has Been Achieved
The East Bay Polish American Association was established in 1987 as a result of a strong leading role of the Board of Directors of the East Bay Polish American Association. The newly born Polish-American organization purchased a chapel in Martinez along with small parish accommodations and cafeteria. The chapel was named "Our Lady Mother of Immigrants" and very quickly has become an important center for Polish immigrants in San Francisco-Bay Area region. We are the only civic organization who owns the chapel where every Sunday, Catholic priests from Poland, celebrate Holy Mass in Polish. This kind of foresight and wisdom to buy a the church facility protected the Polish community from the loss of these Polish properties on behalf of American dioceses, which in cost-cutting measures have been selling small churches and sending the faithful to American parishes. Before the purchase of the church in Martinez the faithful of the Polish immigrants enjoyed the hospitality of St. Anne's Catholic Church in Walnut Creek (Rossmoor), where the rector was Father Leo Degner, a Polish patriot, who built the church in 1965. We were allowed the use of the kitchen and assembly hall facilities where there took place various meetings of the Polish community parishioners, Polish-American Congress, Polish National Alliance, Polish School and Boy and Girl Scouts. We organized exhibitions, lectures, a travelling library and on Saturday catechism classes were being held for the children. After the death of Father Degner, Father Clark succeeded as the new parish pastor, as directed by the Oakland diocese. The priestly services in Polish were conducted by Father Leszek Bartoszewski, who with his abilities and forethought greatly hastened and contributed to the purchase of the chapel and the adjoining facilities in Martinez by the Polish community.
The first Polish Mass celebrated at the newly purchased chapel in Martinez was the Midnight Mass on Christmas 1988 that gathered 300 faithful, with the crowd overflowing onto the street outside.
We are proud to say that for more than 30 years, the East Bay Polish American Association continues to provide cultural outreach to the Polish people in the Bay Area, as well as provide a financial responsibility to support the catholic sanctuary—the chapel, "Our Lady Mother of Immigrants." The primary objectives and purposes of the East Bay Polish American Association is to take complete care of the building and surrounding property, and housing of the Polish Pastoral Center and its offices for religious and cultural activities; to promote and encourage the study of Polish and American history; to instruct Poles in good citizenship; to teach the younger generations about their Polish roots; to exhibit Polish art, sculpture, and literary work; to engage in philanthropic activities, such as employment placement, distribution of clothing, furniture, food and medicine for the needy; free referrals to Polish attorneys, physicians, dentists, psychologists, business advisors etc.; as well as conduct activities for the well-being, improvement, and enjoyment of the members.
Since 1998, Polish Catholics in the Bay Area have had an opportunity to participate in Polish masses led by Polish priests, Jesuits and Dominicans.
Our community in Martinez is compiled of people of all walks of life. We have an older generation of immigrants who came to this country before World War II, and we have World War II veterans from the US and Allied Forces who battled the Germans on all fronts and after the war, were not willing to return to communist Poland so they immigrated to United States. But, the core of the East Bay Polish American Association members is the group of so-called Solidarity Immigrants (named for Polish freedom movement during the 80's) who, 30 years ago, did not agree with the communist ideology and, willingly or not, left the old country of Poland for a better life for themselves and their families. We are the new generation of Polish immigrants, but we also have among us, a lot of young Polish-Americans (in many instances, our sons and daughters), who were born here but with close ties to Poland, who cultivate Polish heritage, and proudly present themselves as next generation of Poles in the Bay Area.
After all of those years, the East Bay Polish American Association is still one of the most active among Polish-American communities throughout the San Francisco-Bay Area region. We organize many events including concerts; meetings with guests from Poland; poetry and art exhibits; numerous Polish picnics; and for last 4 years, the Polish Street Festival in Martinez. The unique character and definitely the success of the East Bay Polish American Association is attributed to the very unique people who have created and continue to create a small part of Poland far from their homeland.