Józef Dąbrowski

Józef Dąbrowski

Józef Dąbrowski (1842–1903) was a Polish Catholic priest.Always the champion of authority, his counsel was ever gentle and calm. He was simple, quiet, and retiring, and entirely devoted to the promotion of God's glory and the welfare of his fellowmen.

Early life and ordination

Born at Zoltance, Russian PolandHe studied at the Gymnasium of Lublin and at the University of Warsaw. During the Polish January Uprising of 1863 he participated in many engagements, and in 1864 fled to Dresden; thence to Lucerne and Berne where he continued his studies in mathematics. Going to Rome, because of his anti-Russian political activities,he came under the direction of the famous Resurrectionist, Father Semenenko, and was ordained priest in Rome on 1 August, 1869.

Pastoral work in America

In 1870 he went to Wisconsin in America to do pastoral work among Polish Americans, and in a letter dated 22 Jan., from St. Francis Seminary in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis, Wisconsin, to Father Semenenko he betrays a remarkable grasp of the demoralized conditions among the Poles in the United States, of whom he had actually seen so little.

SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary

He founded the SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Detroit (1887), becoming its first rector.

chools of higher education

He urged the Resurrectionists to come to Chicago or Milwaukee and there establish schools of higher education whence they might send out missionaries to the scattered Poles.

In 1870 he was appointed pastor of Polonia, Wisconsin, where for five years he fought against the unfortunate conditions existing in one of the oldest Polish communities in the United States.

Erection of new parish buildings

Unable to close the demoralizing inns about the church he obtained by gift from an Irishman 20 acres (81,000 m²) of land for the erection of new parish buildings and abandoned the old site.

In 1879 the rectory was destroyed by fire and in 1880 fire totally destroyed the church and the new rectory. Undismayed, Father Dabrowski rebuilt all. In 1882 failing health forced him to resign and leave for Detroit, Michigan. In 1874 he introduced into the United States the Felician Sisters from Kraków, whose community multiplied its branches throughout the country, welcoming the immigrants, teaching thousands of Polish children, and caring for a multitude of Polish orphans and working girls.

Polish seminary

At the suggestion of Cardinal Ledóchowski, who was unable to meet the constant appeals of American bishops for Polish priests and ecclesiastical students, Father Leopold Moczygemba, a Franciscan who had laboured in America and was then penitentiary of St. Peter's, Rome, went, with papal approval, to America and collected funds ($8000) for a Polish seminary.

Being advanced in years Father Moczygemba felt unable to prosecute the work with vigour, and entrusted the task to Father Dabrowski. The latter began the building of the seminary in 1884, and on 24 July, 1885, Bishop Ryan of Buffalo in the presence of Bishop Borgess of Detroit blessed the cornerstone.

The seminary was opened in 1887, and for nineteen years Father Dabrowski was its rector. In 1902 it was enlarged, and in 1909 was removed to Orchard Lake, Michigan.


A few days before his death Father Dabrowski was compelled to expel from the seminary twenty-nine students for open rebellion. On 9 Feb., 1903, he suffered a paralytic stroke and died, grieved by the ingratitude of those whom he had served so nobly and so long. He died at Detroit, 15 Feb., 1903.

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