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Tarnov parish to celebrate 125th anniversary July 17

It has been 125 years since Polish Catholics in Tarnov came together as a faith community at St. Michael Church.

This weekend parishioners will celebrate the anniversary of the parish's founding in 1880.

On Sunday, July 17, Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss will preside at a 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Michael. A luncheon will follow at noon and activities will continue throughout the day, including games, a quilt raffle and Polish music. Parish history books and cookbooks will be available for purchase, as will Christmas tree ornaments, crosses and baseball caps marking the milestone celebration.

As part of the celebration the parish museum, which is handicapped accessible, will be open that day.

"People are very proud and excited about celebrating their 125th anniversary," said Father Rodney Kneifl, pastor at St. Michael since 2001. "It's a great milestone for their faith."

According to church history, Father Cyril Augustinsky, OFM, built the first church in 1880. Parishioners were predominately Polish and had been attending churches in or near Columbus and Humphrey.

In the early 1880s, parishioners built a rectory and land was donated for a permanent church.

In 1899, seeing the need for more space, Father Ladislaus Czech, OFM, began work on the current church building, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.

The parish operated a school between 1891 and 1961. Classes were taught in the present building from 1911 until the school closed. About five years ago, the school building was reopened as a museum.

The museum contains artifacts from five parishes that once existed in the area, as well as antiques from St. Michael Church, including the original baptismal font from 1880.

In recent years, the parish hall was renovated into the Michael House, a 10-bed house available to visitors. Also renovated was the parish auditorium, located on the second floor of the old school building, and the walkway along the south side of the church. The bricks used in the walkway came from the trans-Mississippi Exposition held in Omaha in 1899.

Franciscan priests served St. Michael from its founding in 1880 until 1965. They were: Father Cyril Augustinsky, Father Anastase Czech, Father Marceline Kolmeyer, Father Ladislaus Czech, Father Rembert Stanowski, Father Dennis Czech, Father Knute Lobinski, Father Narcissus Tarkowski, Father Flavius Kraus, Father Paul Muszelewicz, Father Wenceslaus Krzycki, Father Sigmund Masalski, Father Chester Cymanski, Father Raymond Micek, Father Ladislaus Siekaniec and Father Francis Long.

The first priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha to serve as pastor was Father Leonard Ficenec, who did so for 36 years, from 1965 to 2001.

Father Kneifl has served as pastor since 2001.

Sally Paprocki, a St. Michael parishioner since 1946, said this 125th anniversary is one of many parish celebrations she has experienced with joy. She fondly remembers the parish's 100th anniversary celebration, the day when the church was placed on the National Registry of Historical Places, and the opening of the parish museum.

"It's a milestone that we are still in existence," she said.

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