On October 3, 2021, after the Polish Holy Mass in Orchard Lake, a meeting of Polonia with the Polish regents of Orchard Lake Schools took place.
Over coffee and cake, the gathered participants of the meeting could ask questions to the Polish regents present at the meeting:
Mrs. Anna Bańkowska, who is also the president of the Polish American Congress,
Joseph Majcher – a long-time regent who used to be one of the Executive Committee,
and Mr. Richard Walawender, who, in addition to being a regent and one of the current Executives of the Board of Regents, is also the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland.
During the discussion, many issues were clarified, and many questions were answered.
To briefly summarize the points:
1. Orchard Lake Schools, once purchased by Polonia and paid for by it, is now a private corporation – a non-profit organization.
2. This corporation currently includes Saint Mary’s Preparatory, the Polish Mission, and the Seminary.
3. At the head of this institution, in the absence of the Chancellor, power is exercised by the Board of Regents, whose chairman is Stephen Gross (lawyer by profession, a bankruptcy specialist).
4. There are more than 30 regents, only a few of Polish heritage, and they meet twice a year, and new members are chosen from close connections with the current regents. But most importantly, the decisions are made daily by the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents, which currently consists of five people including Mr. Walawender who has recently become one of them.
5. According to the current deed available in the Oakland County Register of Deeds, the Seminary is shown as a co-owner, but the Polish Mission is not.
6. All Polish regents voted for the closure of the seminary and their main argument was the fact that there are no vocations and the seminary every year “loses money”, which must be replenished from the St. Mary’s Prep funds.
7. The regents have confirmed that all money from donations and inheritances goes to a joint account and is distributed by the Financial Office.
8. It is pointed out that if the donation is for a specific purpose, for example for the seminary, it should go there and that theoretically “it can be verified”.
9. The audience asked several questions about the recent several million-plus donations to the seminary and scholarships for Polish students. Questions: “where is the money? ” were very substantive. The regents did not know the answers to all questions.
10. The audience noted that once when St. Mary’s Prep was in the red it was then financed by the seminary. So why now, when the seminary is in similar and probably temporary financial trouble, could the school not chip in and help the seminary?
11. Finally, the regents stated that they had been misled and not all the information was available to them to make an informed decision about the future of the seminary and would try to reverse a previous decision.
In general, the meeting was an expression of the unification of Polonia in such an important matter, but it probably was rather more informative since much of this information was presented to Polonia for the first time. The majority of those gathered yesterday learned the legal situation of Orchard Lake and realized how little separates the Polish community from losing such an important piece of heritage such as seminary and Orchard Lake. It was also understood that the fight for the seminary is only the first step in the tasks that must be done to restore the Polish character of this place. In the end, it was underlined how important it is to understand and publicize this fact and to participate extensively in support actions, even the simplest ones, like monthly Polish Holy Masses in Orchard Lake.
We will find out whether the promised efforts of the Polish regents to reverse the decision to close the seminary have brought any results and we will let you know about it by e-mail and on the FB page of the Polskie Lobby, which is already operational.