Members of Polonia have been significant benefactors to the Orchard Lake Schools over its 137-year history, beginning with contributions to Fr. Józef Dąbrowski to establish the SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Detroit, consisting of a high school, college, and, of course, the Seminary. Several major contributions from members of Polonia over the past several decades include the Dombrowski Fieldhouse from Mr. Robert Dombrowski, the Padzieski Science Center from Mr. & Mrs. Frank Padzieski, the Grotto from Josephine Rzeppa, the Dining Hall from the Orchard Lake Schools’ Ladies Auxiliary, the Library Expansion from the Polish Roman Catholic Union, and many others. Many of these former donations were explicitly directed by the donor toward St. Mary’s Preparatory, which benefit the student today.
Polonia’s generosity towards the Orchard Lake Schools and specifically St. Mary’s Preparatory is as vibrant as ever today, and the schools are incredibly grateful and jubilant for Polonia’s support to keep Fr. Dąbrowski’s vision alive. He once said,
“Liberty cannot be enjoyed by uneducated people. The better the people are educated, the better they enjoy liberty, and the better citizens they become of America…Intelligence only makes men free.”
St. Mary’s Preparatory is committed to his vision by educating students in the Catholic faith while honoring our Polish heritage and culture.
Very recently, Mr. Joseph Burkacki, a Polish man from Warren, Michigan, bequeathed over 5 million dollars towards constructing a much-needed Saint Mary’s Preparatory 22 classroom class building named the Joseph Burkacki Academic Center. It will be formally dedicated this October. In addition, part of Mr. Burkacki’s gift established an endowment fund that created a scholarship for Preparatory students of Polish descent.
Further, the other most significant donors to the Spirit of St. Mary’s Campaign for Academic Facilities are also of Polish heritage. Matthew and Laura Rupnick, Clarence and Lillian Constantakis, and Richard and Mary Trzcinski have made significant lead financial gifts specifically designated for St. Mary’s Preparatory that will have a lasting impact by honoring our Catholic and Polish traditions and building toward the future. They also exemplify the spirit of giving, leading the way towards $12 million already raised paving the way towards the Campaign’s $15.5 million goal. We should be proud of this exemplary philanthropy.
It is apparent, still today, in 2022, Polonia is contributing millions of dollars in restricted gifts dedicated to educating the next generation of St. Mary’s Preparatory students in the Catholic Faith.
Here are just a few pictorial examples of what these financial gifts have enabled at St. Mary’s Preparatory in addition to the new Joseph Burkacki Academic Center:
Renovated Prep Lounge
One of 15 Renovated Prep Classrooms
Renovated Prep Foyer
Renovated Prep Entranceway
Newly Landscaped Campus “Quad” Renovated Historic Prep Class Bldg.
Polonia’s loyalty and passion for the Orchard Lake Schools shall never be forgotten. The Schools’ Polish culture and heritage will remain the beacon of light shining over the Campus. The Schools are forever indebted to all those that made large and small sacrifices over the decades.
While times and circumstances will change year to year, decade to decade, the School’s values of God, Family, and St. Mary’s will forever endure. Fr. Dąbrowski’s vision will continue to be the guiding principle so that liberty and freedom can be enjoyed through the gift of education.
Joseph Majcher, Regent, St. Mary’s Prep Alumnus, Son of Polish Immigrants