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Jul 14, 2024

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Historic Polish Heritage Center
In Texas Holds Grand Opening

Grand Opening
The Polish Heritage Center
October 23rd & 24th
Panna Maria, Texas

In this day and age where immigration and immigrants are topics of conversation, we have a story/celebration of immigrants who faced toil, tribulation, and triumph, and contributed to the nation in what is now known as the oldest permanent Polish settlement in the United States – Panna Maria, Texas.   Now you can see the history of this immigration at the new historical center – The Polish Heritage Center.

The grand opening of this new 16,500-square-foot, cultural, state-of-the-art, an interactive museum began on Saturday, October 23, 2021 and continued on into Sunday, October 24, 2021! The public was invited to the ribbon-cutting,  festivities, music, entertainment, and tours at this amazing facility. The Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria is located 13909 North FM 81, Panna Maria, TX  78144

What is The Polish Heritage Center? 

Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta is the visionary, founder, and motivational force behind this ambitious multi-million-dollar project that will serve as a national effort to recognize Polish contributions in America. “We have to preserve our inherited values, share them with new generations of our families, and with pride and thanksgiving share them with the entire world.”

The PHC is a unique destination for families, educational groups, scholars, researchers, and visitors – both local and worldwide. The PHC has permanent and temporary gallery exhibits, a library, a genealogy research room, archives, a theater, offices, and a conference room. The PHC includes self-guided audio tours in English, Polish, Spanish, and one specifically for school groups. the library will contain books in Polish and English for reading and research, the archives and collections area will house and preserve artifacts and documents, while the genealogy room and oral history collection will offer opportunities for visitors to access family records and photos. The PHC creates professional high-tech interactive and immersive experiences for visitors from early Polish history to the present.

The PHC will offer a trove of locally focused materials along with books covering a wide array of Polish history, culture, politics, war, religion, socioeconomics, and even cookbooks ranging from the founding of Poland to tracing Polish immigration and the impact of Polish culture on American communities such as Panna Maria. The library will also boast a technology station with computers for visitors to conduct additional research such as genealogy of their Polish ancestry.

The PHC will serve all those interested in learning more about the Polish impact on Texas history and the settlements. Even those not from the Polish community will have the chance to learn about the impact and influence of Polish history in the rest of the United States.

The Beginnings

 The Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria relates the story of the Silesian Polish immigration to Texas through the “Polish Renaissance” that began in Texas in the late 1960s.

In early December 1854, nearly one hundred Polish families from the region of Upper Silesia sailed into Galveston on the Texas gulf coast, sailed further south to Indianola, and then trekked inland more than 200 miles to acreage secured for them by their kinsman, a Polish priest named Father Leopold Moczygemba. They finally arrived on December 24th at a place they named Panna Maria and celebrated Midnight Mass under the sheltering branches of a great oak tree which still stands today. They named their new home Panna Maria (Polish for Virgin Mary), which is now honored as the first and oldest permanent Polish settlement in America. Pana Maria would also be the first of many Polish communities that settled mostly south and east of San Antonio, but also as far away as the Texas Panhandle, as more immigrants joined their friends and countrymen in this new land.

The stories seen in the PHC will serve as a mirror to reflect the history of our nation and will function as a lens to focus on the meaning of faith, family, and community. Bishop Yenta’s dream to build a Polish heritage center, one that would record the history of the Texas Silesian immigration from the 1850s to the present, has come to fruition.

The PHC’s vision is to become the beating heart of Polonia and to actively contribute to the future of our nation from the unique perspective of Polish beliefs and traditions. We celebrate and honor the ancestors and all of Polonia who sacrificed so much to preserve their Polish identity, their faith, family, and community traditions. 

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