Breakaway Catholic parish declines Episcopal affiliation over property rights concerns

By Janis Greenbaum
Posted Aug 22, 2019

[Diocese of Missouri] Leaders at St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri, have informed Episcopal Diocese of Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith that they will no longer pursue an affiliation with the diocese. This news comes just one week after nearly 60 percent of parishioners of the independent Catholic parish voted in favor of the union.

This course change follows word from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s office that The Episcopal Church would not waive property rights in the event of any legal contest in the future. St. Stanislaus Board of Directors Chairwoman Donna Nachefski said that is not acceptable to the parish, “unless and until the parishioners clearly request it.”

“While we regret that we are not able to come together in one diocese at this time, we are convinced that our shared values, sacramental practices and commitment to spread the Good News of God’s love to all will allow us to continue our cooperation,” Nachefski wrote in a letter to Smith.

The Rev. Marek Bozek, left, and Bishop Wayne Smith at St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Parish in St. Louis, Mo., on Aug. 4, 2019. Photo: Diocese of Missouri

Although he knew the issue of property rights would be a stumbling block, Smith said he had hoped to be able to work out an agreement. He said the presiding bishop’s office did not want to set a precedent by waiving property claims with St. Stanislaus because of ongoing litigation elsewhere. “This is a disappointment for me, but does not end my own friendship with the parish,” said Smith.

The Rev. Marek Bozek, pastor at St. Stanislaus, echoed the bishop’s sentiments. “In spite of this challenging situation, I hope that our parish and the Diocese of Missouri will continue to cooperate and strengthen the bonds of friendship between two communities sharing the same vision and values. Our city needs such a unified witness of people of faith,” Bozek said.

St. Stanislaus broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 2005 following authority disputes with the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A legal settlement in 2013 allowed St. Stanislaus to become an independent Catholic Church and affirmed the parish’s ownership of their church building and property in St. Louis’ Carr Square neighborhood.

The congregation began talking with the Diocese of Missouri in 2013 about a possible affiliation. After years of discernment, the congregation seemed poised to move forward with the union.

While talks of a union with St. Stanislaus are off, the Diocese of Missouri still has important connections with the Catholic parish. The parish still plans to host the consecration ceremony of the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri on April 25, 2020.

– Janis Greenbaum is the Diocese of Missouri’s director of communications.