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Right Rev. Thaddeus S. Peplowski, 81, Bishop Emeritus in Polish National Catholic Church

Nov. 4, 1936 – Jan. 19, 2018

The Right Rev. Thaddeus S. Peplowski, Bishop Emeritus of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church, died Friday in the McAuley Residence, Town of Tonawanda, after nine months of declining health. He was 81.

Consecrated as the seventh bishop of the diocese in a ceremony in Buffalo on Nov. 30, 1990, he helped organize new parishes in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Arizona.

“He was always up to a challenge,” said his successor, Bishop John E. Mack. “His crowning achievement was the relocation of our cathedral from the East Side of Buffalo to Lancaster. He had a dream. He had a vision. A professional fundraiser told us this was impossible, and Bishop said, ‘We’re going to do it. It’s feasible to God.’ ”

Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, a $3.2 million complex on Broadway in Lancaster, opened in 1996. To give it appropriate decoration, the congregation and diocese engaged an artisan priest from near Utica, Right Rev. Walter Madej, who spent 15 years creating the cathedral’s ecclesiastical woodcarvings.

“I know you don’t find many new churches with this kind of elaborate artwork,” Bishop Peplowski told The Buffalo News in 2011. “We said, ‘Let’s do something unique.’ ”

Born in Albany, one of 11 children, he was baptized in the Polish National Catholic Church, a denomination founded by Polish immigrants in 1897, based in Scranton, Pa., and independent of the Roman Catholic Church.

He attended public schools in Albany and, after completing studies at Savanarola Theological Seminary in Scranton, he was ordained on May 15, 1958.

His first assignment was to Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, then on Sobieski Street in Buffalo. As assistant pastor, he pioneered programs for young people. He organized and hosted the church’s first National Youth Convention in Buffalo in 1963.

He also began altar boy retreats, diocesan basketball tournaments, youth tours to Poland, on which he served as chaplain, and the biannual Music Workshop of the United Choirs of the PNCC.

After nine years, he was assigned to a church in Rome, N.Y., and then to Oshawa, Ont. In 1971, he became pastor of the newly reopened St. Barbara’s Parish in Houtzdale, Pa., between Altoona and State College.

A new church was built and numerous religious and cultural programs were started. One of the church’s touring Polish dance groups performed at the rededication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty.

The Rev. Peplowski taught liturgy for five years at Savanarola Seminary and authored a “Handbook on Liturgy” in 1981. He also served as dean of the Central Deanery of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese.

He was a PNCC representative to the Old/Orthodox Dialogue Commission and served for six years on the Dialogue Commission with the Roman Catholic Church. He signed a covenant agreement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and the PNCC Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese with Roman Catholic Bishop Edward Head.

As bishop, he oversaw the purchase of two church buildings from the Diocese of Buffalo to form two new PNCC parishes.

He was active in dialogue with Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz of the Diocese of Buffalo and held joint liturgical services that highlighted the beliefs and rituals shared by both denominations.

He traveled frequently to Europe and helped foster relations between the PNCC and traditional Catholic groups there. His efforts led them to form the Nordic Catholic Church, which he served as missionary bishop. The Nordic Church became allied with the PNCC in the Union of Scranton in 2011.

“He was like an ambassador to Norway and Sweden,” Bishop Mack said. “He went there on his own accord because they were looking for a more traditional Catholicism. He went over there to ordain priests and deacons. They just revered the man. They came under his protection as a sponsoring bishop and eventually they became an autonomous group.”

He had an audience with Pope John Paul II in 1992 and met with the Eastern Orthodox prelate, Bartholomew I, archbishop of Constantinople, in Istanbul, Turkey.

He retired in 2012.

He received numerous awards, including the Polish National Union of America Award in 1999, the General Pulaski Association of the Niagara Frontier Recognition Award and two Citizen of the Year Awards from the Am-Pol Eagle.

Survivors include two sisters, Helen Kubinski and Jean Drozdowski, and many nieces and nephews.

A Mass of the Resurrection will be offered by Prime Bishop Anthony Mikovsky at 11 a.m. Friday in Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, 6298 Broadway, Lancaster.

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