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This week610
This month5313

Wednesday, 20 February 2019 06:30



Parishioners and friends across the country are working together to save a special community of faith and a sacred, historic place

On-line petition at:


SYDNEY, NOVA SCOTIA: Atlantic Canada’s only Polish parish has been proposed for closure. The parishioners of Kosciol Narodzenia Najswietszej Maryi Panny (St. Mary’s Polish Parish) in Sydney, Nova Scotia, were surprised and pained by the recent recommendation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish Pastoral Planning Committee. The recommendation is to close the parish by July of this year, just months before the church’s 100th anniversary.


The recommendation was justified by citing a need for the diocese to cut overall costs and consolidate operations. However, St. Mary’s Polish Parish is vibrant and solvent, and a financial contributor to the diocese. Renovations are up to date. It is a caring community of faith that maintains its rich Polish traditions and the Polish language.


The church was built by struggling immigrant steelworkers and coal miners, people who gave everything they could spare for the purpose of a Polish parish. The parish is considered the regional heart of the Polish community. It is home to Cape Breton Island’s only Polish choir, the region’s only Polish folk ensemble, and the century-old St. Michael’s Polish Benefit Society, which runs the recently renovated Polish Village Hall.


The church has been designated a heritage property by the Province of Nova Scotia under the Heritage Property Act. It is the only heritage property honouring Polish Nova Scotians. It does not appear that the heritage status and cultural impact were considered at any point by the diocesan committee.


The parishioners are unanimously opposed to closure. They have responded with prayers and with positive, constructive action. They are writing to Bishop Brian Dunn. They are updating their long-term plan for parish life and service to the community. They are inviting their many friends across the country to spread word about an on-line petition ( In addition, parishioners and their supporters – many in traditional attire – will make a pilgrimage to St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Antigonish on the afternoon of Saturday, February 25, to pray for their parish and for the diocese, and to show the diocesan authorities that they are a living, caring community.


When Pope John Paul II visited Nova Scotia in 1984, he met with a large delegation from St. Mary’s Polish Parish. He urged them to maintain their parish, as a centre of their faith and their culture. He urged them to pass it on to subsequent generations. This they have done.


Major events, including a national conference, were already being planned for the centenary in 2013.


The Diocese is inviting feedback on the recommendation by February 29. Comments can be sent to Bishop Brian Dunn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Father Donald MacGillivray, Director of Pastoral Planning (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). A final decision will be made by the bishop shortly thereafter.



Tom Urbaniak, Ph.D.

Department of Political Science

Cape Breton University

1250 Grand Lake Road

Sydney, NS  B1P 6L2

(902) 563-1226

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.