Bishop Hodur’s Life
Bishop Franciszek Hodur (1866–1953) was the founder and the first Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church in the USA.
Franciszek Hodur was born on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1866, to Jan and Maria Hodur in the village of Zarki, 35 miles from Krakow, Poland. He enrolled as a seminarian in Krakow and studied at Jagiellonian University. He left Europe in December 1892 for the United States of America, where he hoped to serve Polish immigrants. Hodur made his way to the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and was sent to the seminary at St. Vincent’s Benedictine Archabbey in Latrobe. On August 19, 1893, he was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church by Bishop William O’Hara.
He was assigned to a nearby parish when he answered the call of the Scranton dissidents. He was undeterred in the PNCC’s defense, equating the new denomination with Polish patriotism. He espoused a theory of national religions, insisting that Poles should control their own church, not submit to Rome.
Father Franciszek Hodur was elected bishop of the PNCC at the church’s first synod in 1904 and was consecrated a bishop on September 29, 1907, by Gerardus Gul, the Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht, Holland, assisted by Bishop Jan Van Thiel of Haarlem and Bishop Peter Spitz of Deventer, receiving apostolic succession. The PNCC began full communion with the Old Catholics under the banner „Union of Utrecht.” Bishop Hodur’s charisma and leadership skills served the PNCC well. As the Church’s first Prime Bishop, he was a stern but superb organizer and excellent speaker. He founded a fraternal, devotional groups and newspapers, wrote extensively and composed hymns. Missions were established in Poland and Brazil.
Bishop Hodur’s intent was for the PNCC to remain Catholic in faith and the central tenets of Catholicism were followed. Differences between RC and PNCC were administrative and jurisdictional. The PNCC rejected the authority of the pope, allowed clergy to marry, used Polish and English in masses, and gave the laity control of church property.
Bishop Franciszek Hodur served as the first Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church and consecrated other bishops, ensuring the maintenance of apostolic succession. Prime Bishop Hodur died on February 16, 1953, in Scranton. His funeral was attended by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Charles L. Street, sufragan Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago, and Bishop Frederick J. Warnecke of the Diocese of Bethlehem, along with other prominent Episcopal Church leaders.