Nov 18 2014
Fr. Felix Zwiardowski and Fr. Vincent Barzynski (who would later become a revered and controversial Polish leader in Chicago) came to St. Hedwig. Anton Kozub (Kosub) was elected deputy to collect funds and oversee the building of a church and a school. Kosub put in place strict accounting procedures for donations of money, work, and materials. Each transaction was documented in a ledger. Before leaving for Chicago, Fr. Barzynski was required to provide each contributor a receipt to close the ledger accounts. Only then did the four families, providing the land for the church, travel to the Bexar County Clerk and convey title to the Bishop. 
 
Fr. Felix Zwiardowski, made it his business to bring teaching sisters to the community. This young, energetic, and single-minded priest, in a controversial move, created a new order of nuns, the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, also called the Blue Sisters to serve the Polish speaking community. Although short-lived, this order had its initial headquarters at St. Hedwig. With the establishment of a church and school, the community prospered. The San Antonio Express, in a most complimentary article, reported the commencement exercises of March 28, 1879. From its inception the school was a treasure to the community and retained its character through much of the 20th century. 
 
With its well-chosen location and institutions in place, St. Hedwig benefited from subsequent migrations from other parts of Poland. These new arrivals, beginning around 1878, added to a vibrant community. Among the names associated with this group were: Strzelczyk, Mikolajczyk, Skrzycki, Padalecki, Ciomperlik, Dzierzanowski, Franckowiak, Grams, Nickel, Sczech, Cielencki, Deptawa, Dudek, Gerlich, Gorlaska, Hudek, Joniec, Pieniazek, Przybyszewski, Kalka, and Malinowski. By 1900, St. Hedwig had grown to a community of over 200 Polish families.
 
Along with its strong religious character and national identity, St. Hedwig possessed a definite secular identity and a spirit of tolerance. The church baptismal and marriage records list numerous Hispanic surnames. Bishop Neraz traveled to St. Hedwig to officiate at the wedding of Jacinto Casares and Maria Ramos in 1882; his entry in the church record is among few entries made by a bishop. Newspaper reports and census records documented non-Polish surnames in the area as farmers, traders, doctors and craftsmen. 
 
Martin Pierdolla, Joseph Mihalski, and their contemporaries chose a site that served the Polish-speaking settlers well during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the twenty-first century St. Hedwig continues to grow and prosper with a legacy that includes a beautiful church, a proud tradition of independence and an important place in American history. 
 
We are indebted to researchers for their works focusing on the early Silesian settlers of Texas: T. Lindsay Baker’s First Polish Americans and Fr. Yacek Przygoda’ Texas Pioneers From Poland. We are especially grateful to the Polish Genealogical Society of Texas for its work with ship records and records of kinship. The Panna Maria Historical Society provided a most useful reference in its compilation Silesian Profiles. Additionally, newspapers, civil records, church records and private family holdings served as essential resources.