Full of Grace – A Polish priest who ministered to fellow immigrants

Full of Grace – A Polish priest who ministered to fellow immigrants

strenski-webMsgr. Arthur Strenski sits behind the wheel of his new Cadillac, given to him by the parishioners of St. Joseph Parish, Camden, on his 84th birthday in 1964. He was presented the car in the convent courtyard of the Felician Sisters, pictured behind Msgr. Strenski.

Throughout his nearly 75 years in the priesthood, Msgr. Arthur Strenski was a friend to all and dedicated to serving the many Catholics he encountered throughout New Jersey. Most especially, Msgr. Strenski felt a need to reach out to Polish Catholics immigrants, and to troubled youth.

Born in Wojsk, Poland on Oct. 16, 1880, as one of nine children, Msgr. Strenski was 11 when he came to New York with his widowed mother and siblings. His father had passed away when Arthur was 5.

After graduating from Fordham University in New York, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, and was ordained on June 21, 1905, as a priest of the Diocese of Trenton.

His first assignment was as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church in South Amboy. During this time, Msgr. Strenski spent time going all over New Jersey, from Oxford Furnace to Great Meadows, to Manville and as far south as Millville, to minister to the Polish Catholic immigrants in these communities. He used trolleys, trains, ferries, and horse and buggies, to reach his people.

Later he became pastor at St. James, Jamesburg, and was Catholic chaplain at the Jamesburg State Home for Boys. It was here that he found his calling to educate youth.

In 1934, he was made pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in South Camden, at the time still a part of the Trenton Diocese. Renovating the church and expanding the elementary school there, Msgr. Strenski also began, with the help of teachers, a program to help teach Polish immigrants the English language and to study for American citizenship. Eventually, the pastor added a high school on Mt. Ephraim Avenue. The first senior class graduated in 1949.

In 1936, he helped establish St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Chews Landing.

On a recommendation from Msgr. Strenski, in 1940 Bishop Bartholomew J. Eustace invited the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception to the Camden Diocese, where they staffed St. Mary’s Catholic Home in Cherry Hill.

Msgr. Strenski not only helped Polish immigrants, but also immigrants from other countries such as Denmark and Italy, as diocesan director for the National Catholic Welfare Conference Immigration Committee. In this position, he approved all applications for those displaced individuals seeking entry, making sure the refugees had proper housing and employment.

In 1967, he received the “For God” Award from the Department of New Jersey, Catholic War Veterans, of which he was a chaplain of St. Joseph’s Post. The honor, is one of the three highest awards given by the state CWV.

He died in 1980, a few months shy of his 100th birthday.

Researched by Peter G. Sánchez and James A. McBride

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