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Interior of Our Lady of Victory Church in Chatham
Parishioners of Our Lady of Victory Church in Chatham

Our Lady of Victory Church

Before a new Polish parish was created, Poles in Chatham worshipped at the Czech Church of St. Anthony during the first half of the 1960s. Its priest Rev. Francis Dostal (a Czech Jesuit) brought in Polish priests from Leamington, Windsor and Detroit to serve their parishioners. Among these Polish priests was Jan Achtabowski, who met with Polish worshippers twice a month. After the fire at St. Anthony’s, Rev. Achtabowski inspired the construction of a Polish church and the organization of a Polish parish, which was justified by the significant number of Poles residing in Chatham. On June 16, 1957, the Polish parish named Our Lady of Victory was officially established and its main priest became Rev. Wawrzyniec Wnuk. The name of the parish was proposed by the parishioners, who were mostly World War II veterans and for whom the image of Our Lady of Victory of Kozielsko was a symbol of freedom. Until their own church was built, the Poles worshipped at the Canadian Church of St. Joseph.

The land on which the church was to be built was purchased from a Czech farmer by two Polish families in September 1957. From that time, the parish incessantly collected donations for the construction; parishioners showed their charity by giving up a portion of their incomes to fund the construction. On October 20, 1957, the land was blessed, and, in November, work began to build the church. On April 27, 1958, Bishop John Christopher Cody, an ordinary from London, Ontario, blessed the finished Polish church, as well as the painting of Our Lady of Victory, which was painted by Z. Kosciuszko from Detroit.
On July 27, 1959, a ceremony took place to bless the figure of Our Lady of Victory, located near the church; this was done by Bishop J. C. Cody. In August 1959, construction of a bigger hall began, and in 1967, it was decided to build a new presbytery. Funds for this presbytery were obtained by selling a part of the parish’s property.

In January 1970, the interior of the church was renovated. In September 1973, a new organ was purchased, and in 1974, the roof was replaced and the interior of the church was painted. In March 1976, Rev. Mieczyslaw S. Kaminski decided to further renovate the church’s interior, according to the requirements of the Second Vatican Council. Meanwhile, it was decided to purchase a bas-relief of Our Lady of Victory of Kozielsko, which was sculpted by Stanislaw Bialasow of Poland. The parish also ordered a sculpture of the Last Supper, a station of the Way of the Cross, and a crucified Christ from the same artist.

Location: 490 St. Clair Street, Chatham, Ontario

More information:

  • Walkusz, Jan. Parafia Matki Boskiej Zwycięskiej w Chatham, Ontario (1957-1997). Lublin, 1997.
  • Leksykon geograficzno-historyczny parafii i kosciolow polskich w Kanadzie, Editor: Rev. Edward Walewandra, Lublin 1992.
  • http://www.ciaccess.com/~ourladyv/pl.html