The Roman Catholic Church alienated Polish-Americans by not recognizing their traditions and culture. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, Polish parishioners sought the right to choose their own priest and to control parish property. After being refused in 1896, parishioners blocked the priest’s entry to the church. A riot followed and several people were arrested.
The Scranton congregation organized their own parish and bought property for a new church. They chose Father Francis Hodur, a native Pole, as their first priest. In 1897, he led the first worship service in the unfinished St. Stanislaus Church.
Other oppressed Polish Catholic parishes in America joined the Scranton movement. In 1898, when the Pope refused to recognize their grievances, these parishes cut all ties with the Vatican.
On Christmas Eve, 1900, Father Hodur celebrated the first mass in Polish, which helped unify the church. In 1907, he was consecrated as bishop by the Union of Old Catholic Churches in Holland, thus confirming apostolic succession (authority to be a bishop, passed on in a direct line of descent from the Apostles). That same year, the Savonarola Theological Seminary was founded. The church adopted the “Confession of Faith” in 1913, and the “11 Great Principles” in 1923, which set down its beliefs and philosophy. They remain intact today.
After World War I, the Polish National Catholic Church became widely accepted throughout the Northeast, in parts of the North central states and in Canada. Missions to the new Republic of Poland created 56 new parishes with 50,000 members there. Auxiliary church organizations began to flourish. The Savonarola Theological Seminary was expanded. The Polish National Union of America (Spójnia), a fraternal Society, carried on many vital activities, such as establishing schools and publishing the Church newspaper “Straż”.
The church today has 140 parishes in the United States, Canada, and Poland, with 156 ordained clergy and over 25,000 members.