At 9 a.m. a bell rings at Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish in Phoenix, Arizona. Classes are about to begin.
Children from preschool to junior high file into the Church with parents to begin the several hours of lessons. But first, the day begins in prayer.
Fr. Jacek Wesolowski, pastor of the parish and principal of the school, invites one of the students to lead in prayer. A song is sun, and the children proceed to their classrooms for the two hours of lessons.
Unlike their regular Monday through Friday classes, however, these lessons are just a little different.
“Dzisiaj jest sobota, jedenasty listopad,” the children say.
At Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish, Saturday mornings are for the instruction of Polish language to the children in the community. This is Polska Szkoła Katolicka Św. Jana Pawła II, The John Paul II Polish Catholic Saturday School.
“It is a very important thing that kids know where they’re from,” Fr. Jacek said.
For 15 years, the school has been teaching not only Polish language classes, but also religion, history and geography classes to the children. Teachers say it is important for the children to know the Polish language because many of them still have family in Poland, and with the instruction, they are able to communicate with their parents, grandparents and other relatives.
Joanna Dub, a kindergarten teacher at the school for 10 years, believes it is important to teach Polish because living in the United States, children are exposed more to English in television, interactions with peers and school. Polish language because secondary.
“This is the country that their parents, grandparents come from, and it’s very important to know their roots,” she said.