Father Stanley Puchniak, O.M.I.

Father Stanley Puchniak, O.M.I., became the first Oblate to head a Polish parish in 1935.  The Polish-born Father Puchniak had been recommended for the posting by Bishop James Cardinal McGuigan, the Archbishop of Toronto.

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Father Puchniak’s first tasks included renovating the aging church and hall, organizing the youth, and finding ways to support those in need.

At the same time, Father Puchniak began laying the foundation for the first Roman Catholic school and Catholic School Board in Welland. Fourteen acres of land were donated to the Parish for the establishment of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Elementary School. Father Puchniak played a key role in raising the money for the new school, going door-to-door throughout the community collecting funds.

The official sod turning for Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Elementary School took place on March 8th, 1953. Six months later, the four-room Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Elementary School opened its doors to students. At Father Puchniak’s request, Felician Sisters, who were honoured with a Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction in 2004, came from Toronto to teach at the new school.

To provide the sisters with a place to live, Father Puchniak instructed a 13-room convent be constructed adjacent to the school. The convent was completed in 1954.

Father Puchniak left Welland in 1958 to take up his duties as Superior of the Oblates, working in St. Casmir’s Parish. In 1960, Father became pastor of Holy Angels in Toronto and three years later he began working on the history of the Oblate Fathers in western Canada. Father Puchniak celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1975 at St. Stanislaus Church. He retired a short time later.

In recognition of his many years of service to the Church, Father Puchniak was presented with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal following his retirement. Father Puchniak died on August 18th, 1989.

Father Puchniak dedicated his life as a priest of the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate for the sake of Polish communities in Niagara and Toronto. In addition to dedicating his spiritual gifts to those he served, Father Puchniak devoted his time, energy, and passion for the advancement of Catholic education to the communities where he lived.

Inducted: January 28, 2011