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Profile: The Slovak Catholic Sokol


This article is one of an occasional series that FOS will be publishing profiling important Slovak-American fraternal and other organizations. In this issue, we profile the Slovak Catholic Sokol organization.

One of the largest of the Slovak- American fraternal organizations, the Slovak Catholic Sokol, fosters the well being of its members by providing personal insurance products, fitness programs, and benevolence as part of the Slovak-American community.

The Slovak Catholic Sokol was founded 102 years ago by a group of 46 young Slovak immigrant men. The Sokol movement had begun in Prague in the mid-19th century to promote physical fitness among its members, and the movement provided activity for youth while promoting solidarity among Slavic peoples seeking autonomy from Hapsburg rule. As the movement came to America, a non-sectarian Sokol organization was formed in Chicago, but many Slovak Catholic immigrants longed for a Sokol organization that would cultivate their strong religious tradition along with the gymnastic and athletic traditions of the Sokol movement.

On July 4, 1905, groups of Slovak immigrants, predominately from the Spis region, met in Passaic N.J. and formed the Slovak Catholic Sokol organization, later adopting the motto "For God and Nation."

As a fraternal benefit society the Slovak Catholic Sokol provides insurance products to its membership, mainly in the form of life insurance and annuities. Such insurance was particularly important to the young Slovak immigrant workers in the early 20th century because little was provided by private employers in the form of employee benefits and extensive social insurance programs had yet to develop in the U.S. Currently, with over 32,000 members, the Slovak Catholic Sokol has over $100 million of insurance in force and over $55 million in assets.

The Slovak Catholic Sokol promotes its physical fitness mission by offering gymnastic and track and field programs that culminate in biennial competitions called a "Slet". These events have been held since 1912 in various cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. In addition to Slets, the organization hosts annual bowling, golf, basketball, volleyball and softball tournaments at both the national and district level.

Consistent with its strong commitment to youth, the organization promotes higher education among its members by offering scholarship grants to college-bound youth as well as those attending Catholic high schools and grammar schools. To date, over $1 million has been awarded.

As a Catholic organization, the Slovak Catholic Sokol supports various works of charity and benevolence. It encourages active participation in parish life, supports religious communities of Slovak heritage, and since the demise of communism, has supported Catholic Bishops in Slovakia. As a Slovak organization with pride in its Slovak roots, it also supports appreciation of Slovak history and traditions, as well as the work of the Slovak League of America and other Slovak cultural groups. It is also a strong supporter of the Friends of Slovakia.

A Supreme Assembly elected by the membership at an annual convention governs the organization. The members participate through a total of 123 local lodges called Assemblies and Wreaths that are located throughout the East and Midwest of the U.S. and in Ontario, Canada. These local lodges are part of 19 groups or districts. The current Supreme President is Sue Ann M. Seich; Larry M. Glugosh will succeed her in 2008. The official publication of the Slovak Catholic Sokol, the Slovak Catholic Falcon, has been published weekly since 1911. Its long-time and current editor, Daniel F. Tanzone, also serves as President of the Slovak League of America.

Founded upon the ideals and determination of a young group of Slovak immigrants over one hundred years ago, the Slovak Catholic Sokol has continued to adhere to those ideals and to foster the growth and development of the Slovak American community. It can proudly support its claim as "America?s Greatest Slovak Gymnastic and Athletic Fraternity."

For more information see www.slovakcatholicsokol.org