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PRCUA’s 61st National Convention

Four_PRCUA_PresidentsforwebTOLEDO, OH – The Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA), headquartered in Chicago, held its 61st National Convention at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Toledo, Ohio, from August 10-13, 2014. This quadrennial event was attended by over 200 delegates and their families.

In  photo: An unprecedented historical event when four PRCUA Presidents (l-r) Past Pres. Francis Rutkowski, Pres. Emeritus Wallace Ozog, Pres. Emeritus Edward G. Dykla and re-elected President Joseph A. Drobot, Jr. participated in the PRCUA’s 61st National Convention.

The Convention’s Opening Mass was held at the historic St. Hedwig Church, with its three beautiful, ornate, hand-carved wooden altars. Although the Church is closed, it is available for special occasions such as this. Mass was concelebrated by PRCUA Chaplain Rev. Canon Walter Ptak, Vice Chaplain Rev. Canon Anthony Iwuc, Rev. Jacob Gordon, Pastor of St. Adalbert and St. Hedwig Churches, and Rev. Martin Bratek, CR.

After Mass, a Brunch was held at the Toledo PRCUA Hall. At 2 p.m., PRCUA National President Joseph Drobot, Jr. officially proclaimed the opening of the first session of the 61st National Quadrennial Convention. The President said that the governance of all fraternal organizations is now being looked at very closely by federal and state governments to determine how professionally fraternals are being run and the qualifications of each fraternal’s leaders. The financial strength of fraternals is also being analyzed and whether or not they are growing. “We survived 141 years and that’s a very long time,” said Pres. Drobot, “Let’s prosper and go on. Let’s ban together as a group united.”

Then the Convention Presidium was elected: Chairperson Barbara Toboy of MI, Vice Chair Francis Rutkowski of OH, Secretary Michaeleen Lamont of IN and Parliamentarian Joan Smuda of IL. The oath of office was administered to the Presidium and then the delegates by Rev. Walter Ptak.

The first guest speaker was Frank Spula, President of the Polish American Congress and the Polish National Alliance. He spoke about how the membership in fraternal organizations is currently being affected by increased legislation, the streamlining of computerization, demographic changes, and social media. He said, “Polish Americans today want the most for the least.” He congratulated Pres. Drobot and the PRCUA and wished all candidates well.

Next, President Delphine Huneycutt of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America addressed the delegates. She brought home the key points about what makes a fraternal organization special by asking “How many of you have insurance with another company? All State? State Farm? Prudential?… How many of you know the name of the president of that company, or… can name any of the vice-presidents or directors?” She said that in a fraternal organization, you know the people elected to run the organization. “They are not just names on an annual report to you,” she emphasized,” These are people with whom you worship, with whom you have worked for a cause, and with whom you have shared values of God and Country.” She concluded by saying, “We have relied on our faith, our values, and our cultural history to see us through tough times… This is a proud legacy that has been left to us with our fraternals, and that’s what is different about us.”

President Timothy Kuzma of the Polish Falcons of America also spoke. He was impressed with the PRCUA live-streaming technology that allowed people around the world to view the Convention deliberations on their computers in real time. (DVDs are available.) He expressed best wishes for a successful Convention and reminded delegates that the deliberations over the next few days “will impact the organization for the next four years and beyond, for years to come.” He concluded by saying “I don’t accept that the best times of fraternals are behind us. We are all unique fraternal organizations. Stay faithful to that!”

Maria Ciesla, President of the Polish Museum of America (PMA), presented a speech in which she took guests on a mental tour of the Museum, from the new entry way, to the 25,000 photographs catalogued in its Photo Collection, to the 100,000 titles in its Library, to the Kusmierczak Gallery and the Paderewski Room. She recognized Jan Lorys for his 17 years of service as Director of the PMA and acknowledged Malgorzata Kot, Head Librarian of the PMA Library for 19 years, who will be Director of the PMA as of September 1, 2014.

On Sunday evening, a Banquet was held in the Ballroom at the Plaza Hotel. Dir. Joan Sylak, Chair of the Pre-Convention Arrangements Committee welcomed everyone and introduced the M.C. Francis Rutkowski, Past PRCUA President. Plaques and a rose bouquet were presented by Pres. Drobot to the retiring officers and directors: Vice Chaplain Rev. Canon Anthony D. Iwuc (RI-40 yrs.), Resident V.P. Anna Sokolowski (IL-12 yrs.); V.P. Robert Bielenda (MI-12 yrs.), Dir. Marsha Mikuszewski (MA-4 yrs.), Dir. Edward Kaplaniak (PA-12 yrs.), Dir. Richard Turkiewicz (FL-12 yrs.), Dir. Joan Sylak (OH-12 yrs.), Dir. Robert Bugielski (IL-12 yrs.), and Dir. Christopher Ozog (MI-4 yrs.). Spectacular performances of a variety of Polish dances were performed by four PRCUA dance groups: Echoes of Poland from Toledo, OH; Polonia Ensemble from Niles, IL; Wesoly Lud Polish Folk Dance Company from Chicago, IL; and Zakopane Dance Ensemble from Sterling Heights, MI.