November 9, 2018

Reverend Joseph J. Czubek - Salem, Massachusetts




Joseph J. Czubek (sometimes referred to as John Czubek) was born on August 8, 1874 in Toledo, Ohio, one of five children belonging to James and Mary (Nowak) Czubek. His parents immigrated to America from the Province of Posen, an area of Prussia that became part of the German Empire in 1871.  At the age of 24, Joseph was ordained at a Polish Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. 

In 1901, Reverend Czubek was beckoned to Salem by Father Chmielewski of Boston, to conduct mass in Polish. These services were given in the basement of an Irish parish, the Church of Immaculate Conception on Hawthorne Boulevard (then Walnut Street.) Czubek was quickly welcomed by Salem’s parishioners due to his support of the need to erect a Polish Catholic church in the city. Reverend Czubek created and tasked a committee with raising over $2,000 needed to purchase and convert a dwelling into a new parish. Following the building’s completion, Czubek was appointed the pastor of St. John the Baptist Polish Roman Catholic Church, which held its first mass at 18-20 Herbert Street on July 3, 1903. 

Reverend Czubek continued expanding the church, purchasing additional buildings on Herbert Street and the surrounding area to house a school, rectory, and a convent.  After only three short years, the church building on Herbert Street had already become inadequate for the growing number of parishioners. Czubek purchased a vacant, former Baptist Church on St. Peter Street and picked a committee to oversee the building’s restoration. The new church was completed in 1909 and the former Herbert Street church was converted into additional classrooms for the Polish parochial school, which had previously occupied the basement.

Reverend Czubek’s legacy was cemented on June 25, 1914 when the Great Salem Fire destroyed 1,600 buildings over 250 acres. More than 14,000 Salemites were displaced from their homes including many from the Derby Street area. After hours of devastation to the city, the fire stopped at the foot of Herbert Street and Central Wharf. Many Poles have credited this to Reverend Czubek. Local lore states that Czubek stood in the middle of Derby Street with holy water and a crucifix, praying for the fire’s end.


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