Monthly Archives: December 2013

Jim Rygelski

Jim was a lifetime member of the PACS.  Below is his obituary from the website as well as a touching remembrance of Jim by Mike Tsichlis of the Post-Dispatch.

Rygelski, James Jim J. 64, Fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church, December 18, 2013. Beloved son of the late John & Jessie, nee Niedzwiecki, Rygelski. Beloved nephew, cousin, and dear friend of many. Jim proudly served his country in the US Army. He was the former editor and managing editor of the St Louis Review, 13 year writer & editor for the Suburban Journal Newspaper, managing editor and editor of the South group of papers. Jim was a baseball historian and co-author of numerous books. He was the past President and acting Secretary of the St Louis SABR. He recently retired from the St Louis Public Library. Jim was a devoted and active member of St Ambrose Catholic Church. His kindness to his family, friends, co-workers and neighbors will always be remembered. Per Jim’s wishes, anatomical donation was chosen. Services: Visitation 9-10 a.m. Memorial Mass Saturday, December 28, 2013, 10 a.m, St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 5130 Wilson Ave, St Louis, MO 63110. Memorials can be made to donor’s choice. – See more at:

A sudden passing in a season of hope

It’s an awkward matter to discuss the subject of death during the Christmas season. Advent is such a future-oriented time filled with hope and joy at the anticipated birth of the Son of God. But death knows no season. It’s amid this backdrop that I learned of the passing of Jim Rygelski – writer, editor, Cardinals historian, Christian, and friend.

Jim wrote posts from a Roman Catholic perspective on the Civil Religion blog on for the past ten months. He came with his own unique set of credentials. A seasoned journalist, over several decades he worked as a reporter at the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat, as chief editor at the Suburban Journals, and lastly as editor of the St. Louis Review, the newspaper of the St. Louis Catholic Archdiocese.

Jim and I began a friendship only recently. Back in early July, I received an e-mail from him complimenting me on a blog post I wrote about the many Christ-like qualities of Superman portrayed in the movie The Man of Steel. The notion of how Christ intersects with popular culture fascinated him as it does me, and he wanted to get together.

We soon met for lunch at Michael’s Bar and Grill in Dogtown. Ice-breaker conversation about our personal backgrounds as well as writing and publishing quickly led to what we were both pining to discuss: the state of Christianity in the contemporary world.

We shared a number of observations, and found common ground on many of them. From a perspective that stretched back six decades, Jim was concerned that the church too often had become co-opted by cultural fads, too easily letting go of traditions that it had steadfastly bourn across the centuries. He also felt that the faith had become more politicized over the years, where the desire to shape political outcomes in the name of Christ took precedence over the redemption and transformation of one’s soul, which Jim firmly believed would itself lead to a larger societal transformation.

This led me to ask what he thought of Pope Francis, who was starting to raise eyebrows with comments about approaching those with views contrary to church teachings. He told me he was optimistic about the new pope, feeling that the role of the church in the world ought not to become defined chiefly by a few specific hot-button issues. The church needed a broader, bolder witness in the world.

For Jim, doctrine wasn’t merely something that flexed with the times. But then again, he said, neither was Christ’s insistence on the love of our neighbors. This witness was always rooted in the salvation that came through freely accepting Christ and sharing his love with others. This was the Alpha and Omega of Christian living. He was perplexed by people who claimed they were Christians yet constantly criticizing, bickering, and always unhappy. As a Christian and child of God, I recall him saying, why should anybody be anything but happy?

Jim also wasn’t shy about taking provocative stands, as when he suggested that the old Polish Catholic St. Stanislaw parish should change its name as it was in fact no longer Catholic after breaking with the archdiocese and considering joining the Episcopalian Church. The post generated some heated responses in the comments section, but that never bothered Jim. As a veteran journalist he was accustomed to taking heat on the tough subjects. Such are the hazards of the writing trade.

That first lunch lasted over two hours, and I could tell we were on the path to building a good friendship. We decided to continue to meet at the same place for lunch once a month. This happened four more times, and we continued probing many areas of Christian belief and practice.

At our final lunch in November, we discussed in depth the coming challenges that advancing technology might pose for people of faith, a subject I planned to write about. Jim was greatly intrigued, and I could tell was well informed on the topic. While undeniably a man rooted in church tradition, I found him to be even more fascinated and engaged about the future.

By this time Jim had left his post-retirement job as a clerk at the Shlafly branch library in the West End, and told me he was looking forward to being able to spend more time reading, writing, and working with the elderly at his parish, St. Ambrose on the Hill.

The last time I spoke with Jim was on December 4th, the day before we were to meet again. He told me he had been admitted to the hospital for digestive tract problems. He was looking forward to recovering at home and eventually getting together again. I said that I looked forward to getting back together as well, but that he shouldn’t push it until he felt well enough. Sadly, that time never came. When I e-mailed him several days later to see how he was doing, I never received a reply.

Along with many others who have been moved by his commitment to Christ, I’m going to miss Jim Rygelski. May he find peace and comfort in the presence of the Savior in whom his faith was unshakable – that Savior whom we are preparing to welcome into the world once again.

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In The Beginning – The Birth of the PACS

Polish-American Cultural Society Formed

 “The time is now,” says the Rev. Wlodzimierz Olkowicz of Sts. Cyril and Methodius PNC Church in St. Louis. His dream of unifying the fragmented Polish-American com­munity here is suddenly coming to life. At his call, thirty dedicated Polish-Americans took the first step by meeting August 3, 1976 and forming a new Polish-American Cultural Soci­ety for Metropolitan St. Louis.

They came from all walks of life – hospital aide, teacher, security guard, accountant, homemaker, re­searcher, among others. All had one goal in mind – to create a means of preserving, disseminating and enjoy­ing the folk music, traditional dances, language, drama, literature and history of Poles in Poland and America.

The newborn Society’s first cry was an appeal for all St. Louis Polonia and other sympathetic St. Louisians to join its movement for the enrichment of our American culture. The Polish-American Cultural Society wants to reach young and uninvolved Polish-Americans, and to reinforce the cultural contributions of the few surviving Polish in­stitutions in St. Louis. These include such groups as; Polish Falcons Nest No. 45, organized in 1905; Polish Na­tional Alliance Council No. 30; Polish National Union of America Branch No. 42; Polish Roman Catholic Union of America St. Stanislaus Lodge No. 1004; Sts. Cyril and Methodius PNC Church, established in 1907 (now planning to build a new church building); and the St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, designated a city landmark just this year, having been founded in 1880 and serving as the first and now the last remaining one of four Roman Catholic Polish parishes in the city.

On the Illinois side of the Missis­sippi River, there are several more Polish institutions, among them, in Madison, IL, Sacred Heart PNC Church, the associated Polish Na­tional Union Branch No. 149, the Polish National Hall, operated by St. Stanislaus Lodge No. 1004 of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, and in Belleville, the Polish National Al­liance Lodge No. 1174.

The Cultural Society members know that they must work hard, be­cause the Polish-American commun­ity is not very large. The 1970 United States Census of Population re­ported that in the city and six-county St. Louis metropolitan area only 13,000 persons had one or both parents born in Poland or were them­selves born there and there were only 12,000 in whose homes Polish was spoken when they were chil­dren. These, together with an un­known number of third and fourth gen­eration Polish-Americans, are virtu­ally all dispersed now throughout the urban area.

In St. Louis, there are no longer any Polish neighborhoods where people can feel an identity by living close to each other. Then too, St. Louis Polonia lost an important focal point when the one Polish newspaper, Przewodnik Polski, closed in l969 on the death of its publisher-editor Helen Moczydlowska Muenz.

There was a need to organize the Polish-American community. Many Polish-Americans saw that, and yet little was done until Fr. Olkowicz helped them take the first step. He has been here only a short time – since last March – but that has been long enough for him to see that the fate of the whole Polish-American community of the Polish-American identity in St. Louis will determine what happens to his parish. Its fu­ture, he points out, is what deeply concerns him at this time and he wants to do all he can to insure its survival.

The Polish-American Cultural Society took a second step when it elected permanent officers on Sep­tember 21. Chester Niemczyk, for­merly of Clifton, NJ, became the first president. Other elected officers in­clude: Anthony Kaminski, vice-president; Alice Kaminska, secret­ary; and Henry Marganski, treas­urer.

Selected as Division directors are: Arts – Jan Walczak, who used to di­rect folkloric activities in Poland; Education – Dr. Edmond Phillips, a social researcher; Public Relations -Anthony Geppert, long-time director of the area’s only Polish radio prog­ram , now broadcast on WMRY, Belleville, IL; Travel – Andrzej Filimowicz, also serving as the group’s Sergeant-at-Arms, who represents the Chicago Polish-American Travel Bureau and re­cently opened the only Polish re­staurant in St. Louis; Music – Gertrude Kowal, director of the Society’s new chorus, as well as or­ganist and director of the Sts. Cyril and Methodius choir; Sports – Kevin Craig, former Khoury League soccer player and coach; and Fellowship – Fr. Olkowicz, also serving as the Society’s chaplain.

Fr. Olkowicz, formerly a priest in Poland, came to the United States in August 1975.  He received further training at St. Barbara’s Parish in Houtzdale, PA., under the direction of Rev. Thaddeus Peplewski a faculty member of the PNCC seminary in Scranton.

On October 3, the Polish-American Cultural Society took its third beginning step by holding a fund-raising picnic at Chambers Park of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish, which co-sponsored the event. The picnic was enlivened by games, prizes and performances by the Society’s chorus and the St. Stanis­laus Dancers from Madison, IL. At the picnic. Susan Marganski-Craig was chosen Polish-American queen for 1976-77. The festivities climaxed by dancing to the music of a polka band featuring Stefan Kulesza and Peter Kalinski of Madison.

Only eleven days after the picnic –and on very short notice – the Society was called upon to organize a St. Louis welcome for the crew of the homeward bound Leonid Teliga, a 57-foot Polish yacht that had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in Opera­tion Sail 1976 to take part in the July 4th parade of “tall ships” on the Hudson River in New York. For three days the Society led several St Louis Polish organizations in enter­taining Captain Ryszard Ksiazynski. Master and Captain Adam Tasser, Leader, who were members of the original crew, their wives, two other Polish seamen, and a Canadian voy­ager and American naval veteran who had come to the aid of the 10-foot draft boat in finding a deep enough channel down the unusually shallow Illinois and Mississippi Riv­ers.

When, on October 17, the crew of the Polish sailing training yawl re­sumed their homeward journey (by way Of New Orleans, Florida, South America, and Africa), the fifty mem­bers of the growing Polish-American Cultural Society could all feel they had taken another forward step, and the Society had begun its own “journey of a thousand miles”.


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Thank you for visiting and come back again soon.

Rob Szydlowski


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