Hyacinth (Jacek) Gulski
Father Hyacinth Gulski (November 28, 1847 – December 24, 1911) was a Pioneer Polish-American Roman Catholic Priest.
Hyacinth Gulski was born in Chełmno that was part of West Prussia in 1847. In 1866 he joined the Order of the Franciscan Fathers. Gulski was ordained at Laki, German partition of Poland, entering the Priesthood on September 21, 1873. His timing was unfortunate for, that same year, his friary was closed by actions resulting from the Kulturkampf. Father Gulski had spent two years in hiding and eventually fled via in 1875 via Antwerp to the United States in 1875, where he was offered a pastorship in Berlin, Wisconsin. The following year, he was transferred to St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the principal Polish parish in the state.
Under Father Gulski's guidance, St. Stan grew significantly. An elegant new US$4000 pipe organ was added to the church and its spires covered in copper. During his pastorage, in 1882 a record 96 marriages were performed in the church, a record that would never be equaled. The church was now serving 400 families, a dramatic increase from the original 30. A new rectory was built that same year. Eventually, even this large church could no longer cope with the numbers wishing to attend mass.
Father Gulski left St. Stanislaus to organize the new St. Hyacinth parish, which was located just west of St. Stan. Many were surprised by this move, as obviously St. Stanislaus was a prestigious posting for a priest. However, Father Gulski had a missionary zeal to build houses of worship for his beloved Polish community in Milwaukee. A location was chosen on West Becher and South 15th Streets to construct the new church with the support of Reverend Archbishop Michael Heiss. In addition a school, hall, rectory, and convent home were built on the site. While not as elegant as St. Stanislaus, the parishioners felt the austere lines were very conducive to prayer and meditation. The church was blessed on April 1, 1883 and seated 800 worshipers.
Father Gulski was a gifted orator, and many of Milwaukee's south side residents preferred to attend mass at St. Hyacinth because of his beautiful homilies. Father Gulski's gift for singing earned him the nickname of the "Polish Nightingale". By 1888, the two parishes on the south side could no longer cope. Gulski was instrumental in organizing the new parishes of St. Vincent's in 1888, and SS. Cyril and Methodius parish in 1893, to accommodate the rising number of Polish speaking worshipers.
Father Gulski convinced the Polish Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice to come to Milwaukee and establish an orphanage there. Unexpected births outside of marriage were a problem in the Polish community, due to a lack of education among the young and the challenges presented by living in a new and different culture. Ground was broken in 1907, and the following year 46 boys and 39 girls were welcomed at St. Joseph Orphan Asylum. Other Polish parishes in Milwaukee offered shelter to orphans as well as to young ladies with unplanned pregnancies who were often rejected by their families. It was felt that a Polish orphanage was necessary to preserve the ethnic heritage of the children so that they would not be lost to the American cultural melting pot. For his efforts, Father Gulski was awarded the post of Monsignor. There was also speculation he would be named as the first Polish speaking Bishop in Milwaukee for a time.
Father Gulski also presented the city of Milwaukee with a large statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko for the Kosciusko Park that was paid for by private donations. Eventually internal problems emerged in his parish. Discord in his beloved "Jackowo" in 1909 lead to the pastor's transfer to St. Hedwig's (Milwaukee) for two years. He was replaced at St. Hyacinth by Boleslaus Goral. Death finally claimed Father Gulski in 1911. Many believed that by having been forced to leave his beloved St. Hyacinth parish, which he had built from the ground up, Msgr. Gulski died of a broken heart.
- Borun, Thaddeus, We, the Milwaukee Poles (Milwaukee: Nowiny Publishing Co. 1946)
- Kruszka, Wacław "A History of Poles In America to 1908" (Washington, D.C. 2001)
- Avella, Steven M. In the Richness of the Earth (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2002)
- Kuznewski, Anthony J., Faith and Fatherland: The Polish Church War in Wisconsin, 1896-1918 (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press 1980)