History & Tradition

Class of 1922
Class of 1922

Founding of Parish and School

In the early twentieth century, Polish immigrants in Adams built a church to serve as the center of their community. St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, consecrated in 1905, was beautiful, and in the following years it would be enriched by additions such as stained glass, an organ, and a set of bells. The obvious next step was a school; construction began in 1911 and on December 31, 1912 Bishop Thomas Beaven consecrated St. Stanislaus Kostka School. The pastor, Father Francis Kolodziej, invited the Felician Sisters of Buffalo to come to Adams as teachers.

Class of 1964

Felician Sisters History and Charism

Founded in Warsaw in 1855, by Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice embraced a mission that “in all and by all, God may be known, loved, and glorified.” Three saints provided inspiration for the new order. St. Francis of Assisi served as a living example of the Gospel message, finding God’s love in all of His creation. St. Clare of Assisi’s life of prayer and sacrifice for others illuminated the inner life. St. Felix was a third Franciscan guiding light, especially as a teacher to children on the streets of Rome. For the women who joined the Felician Sisters, prayer and service would come to distinguish their lives and ministry. While Blessed Mary considered joining a cloistered order, she chose to form the Felician Sisters as a contemplative community whose members would live together but engage with the world outside the convent.

In 1874, five Felician Sisters were sent to North America, where their activities included teaching the children of Polish immigrants. This educational ministry reached Adams in 1912 after Father Kolodziej’s invitation. Four sisters made the journey and helped to open the school. More sisters joined the school in the following years and by the late 1930s, enrollment topped 650, with ten Felician Sisters living in the school.

Class of 1983

Growth and Changes in the School Community

The Felicians would help the school to grow and prosper in the mid-twentieth century. Adams grew into an industrial center. Additional property around the school was acquired and an expanded playground brought new life to recess. The sisters had lived on the 3rd floor of the school for half a century before they moved into a newly-built convent in 1962. (That convent would later become the home of the pre-school program.) A decade later, a parish center was added as the basement of the church was transformed through community support and labor. The new Kolbe Hall had a new kitchen, space for school and parish gatherings, and allowed for physical education classes during any season. It was named for St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest from Poland who was killed in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz after volunteering to take the place of a condemned man with a family.

In the late 20th century and early 21st, changes in Adams and the school brought new challenges. More lay teachers moved into the classrooms as vocations to religious orders declined. With a smaller Catholic population in Adams, increasing numbers of students at St. Stan’s came from the surrounding area. In the midst of these challenges, stirring leadership from the pastor, Father John Chwalek, reinvigorated the school community. Another point of inspiration was the election of a Polish pope in 1978; Pope John Paul II was the first pope from outside Italy in more than 450 years.

Class of 2000

A New Millennium and a New Era

Another significant although unfortunate milestone came in 2008 when the Diocese of Springfield ordered the church closed, part of a consolidation of Catholic churches in Adams. But the community rallied, and after a vigil of 1150 days the church was saved, and it continues to play an important role in school Masses and traditions such as the Christmas program. In 2012, the school marked its centennial with a series of events, celebrations, and community service. Alumni in all 50 states were contacted and hundreds replied with updates, good wishes, and donations towards new needs such as technology and maintenance of the historic building. Also in 2012, the school moved forward for the first time under a lay principal. In 2019, the passing of Sr. Amandine Zdrok and the Felician Sisters’ reassignment of Sr. Jacqueline Kazanowski brought an end to the physical presence of Felicians at St. Stan’s.

Building on this rich tradition, St. Stanislaus Kostka School today educates children in pre-k through 8th grade, with leadership from an administrative team and a school board composed of lay persons from Adams and the surrounding communities. Much has changed, but the enduring essentials continue to form the heart of the school: providing an excellent education in a safe, caring, and respectful learning environment that is rooted in the Felician-Franciscan emphasis on community, loving service, and the dignity of each person.