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Dudley doctor to receive national Pride of Polonia award

Posted By August 22, 2013 | 12:01 pm | Lead Story #2
8-23 Polonia 003WEB

By Mairgread Gray
CFP Correspondent

DUDLEY – Dr. Zenon P. Szlyk, retired surgeon and physician, has been honored by the National Polish Apostolate Committee with the “Pride of Polonia” award which will be given to him on Aug. 25 in Doylestown, Penn.
The award is given to an individual for service to the community, the Church, social and cultural outreach, and philanthropic activities on behalf of students going on to higher education.
Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop emeritus of Detroit, and episcopal liaison for the Polish Apostolate, informed Dr. Szlyk by letter that he was chosen for this honor. Cardinal Maida told the doctor: “Your personal integrity, your loyalty to the Church and adherence to religious and cultural values of our Polish heritage is admirable.”
It was Cardinal Maida who made the final selection from three candidates. Cardinal Maida himself received the honor in 1995.
Msgr. Anthony S. Czarnecki, pastor of St. Joseph Basilica in Webster, is the national coordinator of the  Polish Apostolate Committee, and was one of several people who recommended Dr. Szlyk for this award.
“He is well-known in the region and I supported him.  He is dedicated to the Polish community for a long time.  He is altruistic and very good.  He resembles the values of the first immigrant community,” Msgr. Czarnecki said.
“He has a strong faith and a dedication to the Church.  He has a philosophy of life and transmitted these values to his children,” Msgr. Czarnecki said.
The “Pride of Polonia” award was first given in the early 1980s, according to Msgr Czarnecki, who will be going to the award ceremonies.
Dr. Szlyk, 86, has spent his life helping people in whatever way he could.  He graduated from Harvard University and Georgetown Medical School and spent 31 years as a general surgeon for Webster, Dudley, and Oxford. In 1989 he semi-retired and was then a physician for Fallon Clinic.
“I was blessed to have such wonderful parents and role models.  We had a strong family bond.  I was fortunate to have the guidance and inspiration of my parents my entire life.  I was always proud when I made them proud.
“I was one of six – four boys and two girls.  Three of us boys served our country in World War II.  My father was in the grocery business and milk transportation business,” Dr. Szlyk said.
He noted there are 40 million Poles in Poland; 20 million in the rest of the world; 10 million Americans of Polish descent, with one million in Chicago alone.  He takes great pride in his heritage, and in 1960, with nine other people, formed the Quo Vadis Club of Webster and Dudley.  It is for men of Polish descent who want to help seniors at Bartlett High School and Shepherd Hill Regional High School with scholarships to further their education.  Dr. Szlyk is the sole survivor of the original 10 people who founded a trust with their contributions.  The Club also gives teachers awards for excellence in education.
He noted that the Webster Credit Union was founded in 1928 by a group of Polish people. It is now called the Webster First Federal Credit Union where he is chairman of the board of directors.
Dr. Szlyk is an active member of St. Andrew Bobola Church in Dudley and contributes faithfully to Partners in Charity, formerly the Bishop’s Fund. He is associated with the Pope John Paul II Foundation of New England.  He went to Rome with Msgr. Czarnecki in 1998 for Pope John Paul II’s blessing of the cornerstone for the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, a repository for items from his papacy. The center was built in Washington, D.C. and subsequently, Dr. Szlyk attended its groundbreaking.
“I’m very honored to be in the company of such distinguished recipients of the award,” said Dr. Szlyk of the priests and laypeople who have been honored in the past.
His wife, Florence Patricia Kingston, died May 30.  He is saddened that she won’t be there in Pennsylvania with him.
“I was blessed to have God give me the most wonderful wife.  I loved and cherished her for 60 years.  She gave me five children – we lost a sixth child.  What sustains me – I have wonderful children – four daughters and a son,” Dr. Szlyk said.  They are scattered across the country – Seattle, Chicago, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.  The whole family will gather at his daughter’s in New Jersey to travel to Doylestown for the award celebration.
“I did not seek this honor and will dedicate it to my parents and my wife and my family. I am sustained by love.  I worked hard for everything. My parents taught us the work ethic – my father was a successful businessman.      “I’m a proud American, and proud of (my) Polish heritage,” he said.
The word “Polonia,” which is in the name of the award, means “Poland” in Latin and other languages.  In modern Polish and English, Polonia refers to the Polish diaspora, or people of Polish descent.
Polonia of the United States come each year on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown in the spirit of unity and prayer, said Cardinal Maida in his letter to Dr. Szlyk.
The Polish Apostolate Committee, affiliated with the Bishops Committee on Migration of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, is dedicated to serve the Catholics of Polish origin.