Friar Paul Schlomer is the formation director for Our Lady of Consolation Province, a Conventual Franciscan jurisdiction in the United States Mid- and Southwest. He lives in San Antonio, Texas where many friars in formation attend Our Lady of the Lake University.
Recently, Friar Paul, members of a local Secular Franciscan Fraternity and student friars traveled to Panna Maria, a small town about an hour southwest of San Antonio. Surrounded by farms, woodlots and fields, Panna Maria was the earliest Polish settlement in the United States, founded by Friar Leopold Moczygemba, a Polish Conventual Franciscan. Friar Paul takes the story from here:
The history of the Conventual Franciscans in the United States can be read on our site here, http://www.franciscans.org/en/who/conv-franc/history, but after 1859, the original mission to Texas was abandoned. However one friar, Fr. Leopold Moczygemba from Upper Silesia (now Poland) remained behind. He had written his family back in the old country to join him in Texas, and many made the long arduous journey. The local bishop, in exchange for Fr. Leopold’s service, gave him a rather inhospitable parcel of land called Panna Maria to create a church and a town. Reportedly his relatives were quite upset at him for dragging them into this land which required quite a bit of development to farm, but they made a success of the area.
The Secular Franciscan Fraternity of San Francis of Assisi in San Antonio, along with the Formation community of San Damiano Friary visited this “home” of the Conventual Franciscans. What was hardscrabble desert is now a picturesque small Texas town, and the future home of the Polish Heritage museum of the United States. It was especially meaningful to visit the grave of Fr. Leopold, who, although he eventually left the Franciscans to become a diocesan priest, and also the Papal envoy to the US and founder of SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Detroit, MI, nevertheless looms large in the Conventual Franciscan ethos of determined faithful missionary work.
(Source of images and text: Friar Paul Schloemer.)