Local priest receives cultural distinction
The 77th annual Polish American Day, held at Kennywood Park, was a day of festive song, dance and ethic cuisine, but for the Rev. Dennis Bogusz of Connellsville, the highlight may very well have been his being named one of the Polonians of the Year.
"I was surprised and very honored," Bogusz said of the award.
Presented by the Polish Cultural Council of Pittsburgh, Bogusz was recognized for his many contributions to the continuance and observance of the Polish heritage, especially his weekly radio program titled "Echoes of Poland."
"I enjoy it," Bogusz said of his radio show. "I look upon it as an extension of my ministry."
As a young man growing up in Cleveland, Bogusz's family enjoyed listening to the radio, especially to the music of his heritage -- polkas.
"I started to think about being on the radio when I was in high school," Bogusz said, "but God was calling me to be a priest."
Bogusz was born in Cleveland, but because of the larger need for priests in the Greensburg Diocese, came to this area to attend the seminary at St. Vincent in Latrobe. After becoming ordained in May 1979, Bogusz served in numerous parishes around the diocese before settling into the Connellsville area in 2001. Bogusz presently serves as chaplain for Excela Health Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant and Highlands Hospital in Connellsville. He also has pastoral duties at all four Catholic churches in Connellsville.
While in college at St. Mary's, Bogusz began to work at the campus radio station, playing Polish music on the student network. Even after he was ordained, the draw to the radio waves never left him.
"It was always in the back of my mind to be on the radio," Bogusz said.
While serving at St. Hyacinth in Monessen, Bogusz finally got his big break into radio.
"I wanted to promote a Polka dance that we were having so I talked to the station (WEDO 810AM) manager John James," Bogusz said. "He said that I could promote the dance on the radio. Then he said to me: 'How else can I help you, Father?' and the rest is history."
Bogusz hit the air waves on June 1, 1990, broadcasting his show live from 3-4 p.m. on Sundays, with the same show repeating from 5 to 6 p.m. the following Saturday.
"I play music and I have a homily said in English, and I will play a religious hymn in Polish," Bogusz said of his show. "I'll talk about cultural events in the Polish Community and sometimes I talk about Historical events and the culture."
Bogusz was awarded a plaque from the Polish Culture Council and also said Mass at Polish American Day.
Also receiving the same recognition was the Very Rev. Canon Joseph Sredzinski who is originally from Uniontown and now serves as chaplain to the St. Emma Monastery and Retreat House, and chaplain to the Catholics at SCI and Westmoreland Manor. Sredzinski also has a weekly radio program, "That You May Believe," aired on WMBS 590AM.
"My mother was a wonderful influence on me and I attribute everything to her," Bogusz said. "Our home was always filled with Polish music and Polish culture."
Bogusz plans to continue to lend his voice and knowledge to the airwaves, sharing his love of his heritage while bringing it to the Fay-West area.
"Everyone needs an out and this is a great out for me," Bogusz said of his show. "In addition to being a hobby, it's an important way to evangelize as a priest and to lead others to Christ. It's just something that I really enjoy doing."