In January, Michael Retka, 25, received the Skalny Civic Achievement Award for his part in documenting the Minnesota churches and buildings designed by Polish architect Victor Cordella.
Retka shared the award, which honors significant contributions to the Polish American community and culture, with two priests from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and a man from Wisconsin. They worked more than two years to locate and/or verify buildings that Cordella designed.
“Learning about the award was a surprise,” Retka said. “But I’ve always been interested in churches. Even when I was young, I noticed that the arches and pillars of my church [Our Lady of Lourdes in Little Falls] were like the ones in St. Joseph’s [now Christ the King] in Browerville when we visited family there and attended Mass. I asked Dad about it.”
His father, Eugene, provided books with some answers — Michael learned both churches were designed by Cordella, a Polish immigrant born in 1872. The Retkas also are of Polish descent.
Over the years Michael unearthed further proofs — distinctive altars, brickwork and floor plans with pillars and arches along the ceilings — of the architect’s artistry in the Diocese of St. Cloud. Other churches include: Holy Cross in North Prairie, Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre, Sts. Peter and Paul in Gilman and St. Stanislaus in Perham (closed). Buildings include St. Clare’s Monastery in Sauk Rapids as well as St. John Cantius School and the bell tower at St. Cloud Children’s Home, both in St. Cloud.
For an album of churches designed by Victor Cordella, visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/olol100/photos/?tab=album&album_id=426552257384096