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SS Cyril and Methodius Parish - Lemont IL
A short parish history from the 1959 Jubilee Book
Seventy five years have passed since the founding of SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Lemont, Illinois. During this Diamond Jubilee Year we can and must speak of a worthy and interesting past and have every reason to give greater and more grateful attention to the heroic Catholic men and women who pioneered this past.
As we call to mind the humble beginning, the development and the present status of SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish, it may be worth while to note that it's founding was considered as far back as November 23, 1882, when the Archbishop of Chicago, Patrick Augustine Feehan, delegated the Rev. Father Leopold Bonaventura Maria Moczygemba, pastor of St. Aiphonsus Church in Lemont, to organize a new parish, which would serve the spiritual and cultural needs of the ever mounting number of immigrants from Poland. At the time there were already 240 families of Polish descent in Lemont alone; about 60 families resided in Joliet, and an additional 100 in Braidwood.
Father Moczygemba, devoted son of the Blessed Mother that he was, having adopted her as his very special patron saint, sought out a parcel of land which would provide an ideal location for this new parish. He found it in the property of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Murray. The Murrays willingly sold this property, consisting of 20 acres, for $2,000.00. To this site he gave the name of "Jasna Gora", popularly known as "Blue Hill", and dedicated it to Our Lady of Czestochowa, of the national patroness of his native Poland.
Title to section 26 of this new formed "subdivision of Jasna Gora" was transferred to the Catholic Bishop of Chicago on January 8, 1884. This section measured 222 by 287 feet. The remainder of the property was subdivided into 50 by 135 foot lots, and was sold to future parishioners for from 50 to 100 dollars per lot.
A general meeting of all parishioners was called for the first week in June, 1883. With great enthusiasm it was decided to proceed immediately with the building of a new church and school. Families were assessed $12, $11 or $10, on the basis of their financial status. Bachelors who made one dollar a day in the quarries were to make a generous donation.
The contract for the building of a frame church and school was issued to the James Helbig firm. Monsignor Patrick J. Conway, the Vicar-General of the Chicago Archdiocese officiated at the laying of the cornerstone, August 12, 1883. The structure was completed by April of 1884. The new church, built on a Lemont stone foundation, meaured 119 feet in length and 56 feet in width. The height of the outside walls was 25 feet, and the interior height to the arched ceiling was 35 feet. The church and its choirloft could seat 775 people.
Father Leopold M. B. Moczygemba offered the first Mass in this latest monument to God's glory and the deep love and faith of Des Plaines valley's Polish immigrants on Palm Sunday, April 6, 1884.
First to be baptized in the new church was Stanley Arent, son of John and Estelle Kosnicki Arent. The godparents were Valentine Sierzchula and Julianna Dankowski. The baptism took place on April 6, 1884.
Ignatius Sliwinski and Miss Martianne Czerner were the first to pronounce their marriage vows in the new church. That ceremony took place April 29, 1884, in the presence of Peter Markiewicz and Josephine Wroblewski.
Father Leopold Moczygemba, nephew of the pastor, celebrated his First Solemn Mass in the new church on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, June 29th, 1884.
His Excellency, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan blessed the new church and school Sunday, August 31st, 1884. He was assisted by Fathers Leopold B. M. Moczygemba, Leopold Moczygemba and Joseph Dabrowski. In the afternoon of the same day, the Archbishop confirmed 150 parishioners.
About 900 people received Holy Communion during a Mission and Forty Hours' Devotion which were conducted by Father Constantine Domagalski of Cincinnati, from the 5th to the 10th of September, 1884.
On March 29th, 1898, a fire broke out in the store of Peter Madaj. A violent north wind carried the flames across the street to the frame school and leveled it to the ground. Father Candid Kozlowski and parishioners under the direction of Frank Pacholski built a new school, using Lemont limestone donated by one of the quarries located near the town. Again the good Sisters were given living quarters in the school. The accommodations provided for them were very small, measuring only 26 by 28 feet.
The newly organized parish enjoyed amazing growth. In 1893, the Sacrament of Baptism was administered to 175 persons.
Father Frank Karabasz, at present Rt. Rev. Msgr. and pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Chicago, was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop James Edward Quigley June 11, 1904, and offered his First Solemn Mass in this church on the following day.
A central heating system in the school, and electricity in all parish buildings were installed in the summer of 1911. The church was equipped with central heating in 1912. The church and rectory were redecorated in July and August, 1913. The rectory received its central heating in November, 1913. A new roof was put on the church in May of 1914. Signor Giusti, a well known Italian artist, completed Scriptural scenes in oil
on the walls of the church in May, 1914. His Excellency, Bishop Paul Rhode, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 243 persons, September 26, 1914.
Father Joseph O. Karabasz offered his First Solemn Mass on June 22, 1916. Father Alex Jung preached the sermon. After serving as pastor of St. Thoddeus Church, Joliet, and St. Constance Church, Chicago, Father Kara. bosz is now chaplain of the Joseph P. Kennedy School for Exceptional Children.
Fathers J. Glogowski and M. Sadowski, Vincentian Fathers from Erie, Pa., preached the second parish Mission from November 4th to 13th, 1917.
Archbishop, later Cardinal, Mundelein administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 190 people October 5th, 1919.
The W.U. Gas Company made gas available to all residents of the subdivision of "Jasna Gora" in November of 1921. And in January and February of 1922, these same residents excavated a ditch 2000 feet long and 5 feet deep to obtain their water supply from the lower town. They installed a central drainage system, using 8 inch pipe, 896 feet in length, connected to the Lemont disposal plant. To prevent the incessant erosion on top of the hill, residents built a wall three feet high and 287 feet in length on the south side, 222 feet on the west side.
Franciscan Fathers Francis Manel and Stanislaus Pawlowski conducted o Mission during the first week of October, 1925.
His Excellency Edward Hoban, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 198 persons October 11, 1925.
Up to date washrooms were built in April and May 1926.
Church and Rectory Destroyed
Cyril and Methodius parish suffered a tragic loss on Ash Wednesday, February 22, 1928. Between the hours of 4 and 6 in the morning, the church and rectory went up in flames and burned to the ground. The Rev. Pastor and parishioners of neighboring St. Patrick's church were very gracious, and allowed the stricken parishioners of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish to conduct their services in St. Patrick's Church. In the meantime, Mrs. L. Hoinacki made her residence available to the homeless pastor, Father H. Jagodzinski.
The architectural firm of E. Brielmaier & Sons of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was hired to draw plans for a new church and rectory; on October 28th, 1928, a contract was signed with the Local Construction Co. for this project, which was to to cost $177,000.00. A loan of $97,000.00 made it possible to go on with the work. The foundations and floor were laid by the 14th of December. However, the severe winter interrupted further p:ogress, and it was not until April 21st, 1929, that the laying of the cornerstone took place. This ceremony was performed by Msgr. Anthony Halgas, pastor of St. Andrew's Church, Calumet City; he was assisted by Father Vincent Nowicki, pastor of St. Florian Church, Hegewisch, Ill., and Father S. Derengowski, pastor of Holy Cross Church, Joliet. Father Adalbert Olszewski, pastor of SS. Peter & Paul Church, Chicago, preached the Polish sermon, and Father Joseph Karabasz, preached in English.
The rectory was made ready for occupancy July 31,1929.
Monsignor F. G. Ostrowski, P.R., pastor of St. Josaphat's Church, Chicago, blessed the church bells August 25, 1929, and delivered an inspiring sermon for this occasion. Ball "E", weighing 1800 pounds, was dedicated to SS. Cyril and Methodius and was sponsored by the parish as a whole; Bell "G", weighing 1000 pounds, was dedicated to SS. Casimir and Petronella, and was donated by Casimir and Petronella Buszkiewicz; bell "C", weighing 500 pounds, was dedicated to SS. John and Julianna, and was the gift of John and Julianna Jelinski.
In July, 1925, a meeting of all parish groups and organizations was called. It was unanimously agreed that a new convent should be built and the former Sisters' quarters be converted into classrooms.
The architectural firm of Sandel and Pstrong was engaged to build the convent. On the Feast of St. Joseph. March 19th, 1926, our good Sisters moved into this new home. Assembling in their convent chapel, dedicated to the patronage of St. Joseph, they rendered heartfelt thanks to Almighty God that at long last they had a home of their own. It was blessed Sunday, May 30, 1926. The altar in the chapel was donated by Walter & Salomea Hoinacki.
Blessing of the New Church
A most glorious day, year and era in the history of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish dawned January 1, 1930. It was at 5 A.M. that New Year's Day, when the melodious peal of the church bells, spreading their long awaited invitation from the lofty steeple of the newly completed House of God atop Mary's hill in Lemont, summoned all parishioners to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass and sing a glorious hymn of thanks to Almighty God for blessings received. The celebrant o that Mass was the pastor, Father H. Jagodzinski, who, with unflagging faith, devotion and courage, planned and guided the construction of these new buildings. To this day and for many years to come they will stand as a most worthy testimonial to his inspiring foresight.
The church organ was blessed by Monsignor Thomas P. Bona, P.R.; his brother, the Most Rev. Stanislaus V. Bona, D.D., Bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska, deliveredthe sermon. That some day, May 30, 1930, six parish choirs gave a concert of religious music to commemorate the occasion.
Father Hugo Bren, O.F.M., D.D., blessed the Stations of the Cross February 15, 1931.
The Most Rev. Bishop Bernard J. Shell confirmed 25Q persons June 25th, 1933.
Fathers Adam Piasecki and Stanley Blachuta, Missionaries of the St. Vincent de Paul Congregation of Erie, Pa., conducted a Mission from the 12th to the 19th of November, 1933.
Father Jagodzinski and a parish delegation obtained Bus service for our school in 1934.
The Golden Jubilee of the parish was celebrated in all solemnity on the 8th day of April, 1934. Father Benedict, O.F.M., was the celebrant of the Mass; Father Joseph Sehnke, pastor of St. Andrew's Church, Calumet City, was deacon, and Father Frank J. Karabasz, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Chicago, was sub-deacon. Father Raymond Zock, assistant at St. Casimir's Church, Chicago, was the master of ceremonies. The sermon was delivered by Father John Lange, pastor of St. Michael's Church, Chicago. Monsignor Thomas P. Bona and Fathers: Joseph Karabasz, Stanley Derengowski, Stanley Chyla, Theodore Czastka and 5, Dobberstein were in the sanctuary.
As we read about all that was done during the first fifty years of the existence of the parish, we must bear in mind that not all was accomplished in progressive stages. There were periods of extensive growth, in numbers and in substance; there were times when development was retarded or delayed. The" panics", "depressions" and "recessions", which affected the entire country, left their marks here also. Other circumstances, peculiar to the locality, added to the difficulties of the priests and the parishioners. Many of the earliest settlers, who were not farmers, were attracted to Lemont by the work being done in building the old Illinois-Michigan Canal; and later, many more people settled here because of the work offered in the numerous quarries in the vicinity. And when the canal was completed and work in the quarries petered out, many families had to leave Lemont and seek employment in the larger cities, where opportunities for a livelihood were greater and much more varied. And yet, during all these years, whether times were good or bad, the priests preached the Word of God, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and administered the Sacraments; the Felician Sisters taught generation after generation of the children of the parish; and the grateful parishioners, whether their numbers be large or small, offered, according to their means, to keep things going. And so the parish developed, but only because of the prayers, the zeal for souls, the efforts and the sacrifices of the priests, the teaching Sisters and the people of SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish. May God bless them, each and every one!
The present era began on a most inauspicious note. The convent, the rectory and the church had just been built, leaving the parish with an enormous debt. Then came the depression of the early 1930's, which caused so much havoc in the entire nation. And again the Pastor, Father Jagodzinski, the Felician Sisters and the parishioners prayed, worked and sacrificed much, in order to pay, not only the interest on the mortgages, but also a little on the principal.
And so the work goes on. Bishop William I. O'Brien, D.D., confirmed a class of 184 on October 22nd, 1939. Fathers Richard Buchman and Francis Hamerski conducted a Mission in the parish from September 29th to October 8th, 1940.
On July 9th, 1942, after having guided the destinies of SS. Syril and Methodius Parish for 29 eventful and fruitful years, Father Henry Jagodzinski was transferred to St. Salomea Parish in Chicago. Parishioners today recognize how great is the debt of gratitude they owe to this good and kindly priest, whose remarkable courage and amazing foresight erected the 'Little Cathedral on Blue Hill in Lemont". May the Good Lord grant him many more years of faithful service in the Vineyard of Christ.
The Rev. Leo Hinc succeeded him, but, because of ill health, was forced to resign the pastorate a few weeks later.
His Excellency, Archbishop Samuel Stritch, realizing the parish was suffering from "growing pains", decided to send a young, strong and energetic priest to care for the patient during this difficult period. As a consequence, on July 26, 1942, he appointed as pastor the Rev. Ladislaus J. Nosal. He had become acquainted with him and his abilities in the office of the Catholic Charities. His choice turned out to be a very happy one for the parish and the people of Lemont.
Father Nosal, using his youthful energy to the best advantage, and aided by a strong and forceful character, showed immediately the nature of his pastorate. In 1942 he organized a parish branch of the Red Cross, to prepare surgical necessities for the men in the armed services of our country during World War II and later during the Korean Campaign. In the same year, he initiated a drive to obtain and install stained glass windows in the church. Parishioners responded most wholeheartedly in this endeavor. The beautiful and colorful windows remain as a silent and yet permanent testimonial to their devotion and generosity.
In 1943, a new boiler and stoker were installed in the church. A beautiful Shrine, dedicated to our Lady of Perpetual Help, was erected in the chapel at the northeast corner of the church, in honor of the boys in the service. It was the gift of Emanuel J. Shafranski. Cushioned kneelers for the church, choir and Sisters' chapel were donated by the parishioners. An impressive Roll of Honor and flag pole were erected between the church and rectory.
During the year 1944, the 60th anniversary of the founding of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish, parishioners were asked to contribute to a "birthday gift". This gift took on the form of completely renovating and redecorating the sanctuary, the interior of the church and choir at a cost of $12,000.00. Individuals and societies put forth their best efforts, and the sum was raised. Special recognition for making this campaign so pleasingly successful must be given the St. Cecilia and Guardian Angel Choirs, the Young Ladies' Solidarity, the Rosary Ladies' Society, the Blessed Face of Jesus Society, the Holy Name Society and the White Eagle Social Club. To Close the Anniversary year, parishioners rendered grateful thanks to Almighty God in a Mission which was conducted by the Diocesan Missionaries from October 8th to the 22nd, 1944. The large mission cross and the Pieta shrine, gifts of Frank and Apologia Templin, are a reminder of this and other missions.
On November 25th, 1945, the Most Rev. Bishop Wm. O'Brien confirmed a class of 180.
The years 1945 to 1952 brought many new improvements to the parish. New stokers were installed in the church, school, rectory and convent. A new roof was put on the church, and the exteriors of the church, rectory and convent were renovated in June and July of 1952. A wrought iron railing at the entrance of the church was donated by Father Nasal.
On June 11th, 1950, Most Rev. Bishop William Cousins D.D. confirmed a class of 147. Diocesan Missionaries conducted a mission from October 1st to the 15th, 1950.
In the same year the improvements included the grading and black-topping of the parking lot, Sobieski St., the driveways to the garage, the sisters' convent and the rectory.
The impressive ceremony of burning of the $90,000.00 mortgage took place in the parish hail on Sunday, February 10th, 1952. In the presence of a capacity crowd, the program was opened by the Chairman, Mr. Thomas Ruth, who called upon Mr. Thomas Sniegoski, Sr., to act as Master of Ceremonies. Father Nosal offered a prayer for deceased members of the parish, mindful of the boys in the armed services of our country. Emanuel J. Shafranski, Valentine Sliwinski and Father Nosal expressed their admiration and gratitude to all who contributed to make this celebration possible. As a trustee of the parish, Emanuel J. Shafranskj held the mortgage on a tray, Mr. Michael Labicki, Mr. Thomas Sniegoski Sr., Mr. Louis Wesolowski and Mr. Peter Kluge, chairmen of the ushers at each of the Sunday Masses, lighted a corner of the paid-up mortgage, and another chapter in the enduring history of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish came to a close.
The Rev. Francis I. Affelt, O.F.M., offered his First Solemn High Mass on Sunday, June 15th, 1952. Father L. J. Nosal, pastor, was arch-priest; the Rev. Stanley G. Milewski was deacon, and Father Basil, O.F.M., was sub-deacon. Father Ernest Latko, O.F.M., preached the sermon.
In 1953, a new tile floor was laid in the church and a building fund for a new school and gymnasium was started. The various church societies, choirs and social groups now joined ranks and sponsored many benefits, so that, by the end of 1955, the building fund amounted to $31,627.74
The Franciscan Fathers conducted a mission from October 1st to the 9th, 1954. On October 31st, 1954, the Most Rev. Bishop William O'Brien D.D. confirmed a class of 134. The first evening Mass in SS. Cyril and Methodius church was celebrated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, 1955.
A very sad blow struck SS. Cyril and Methodius parish August 20, 1956. On that day, the church bells tolled the distressing news that Father Nasal had been called by God to his eternal reward. The spirited voice of him who had guided and directed the spiritual and material destinies of the parish for 14 years was silenced forever. However, the memory of his unflagging drive remains to this day, and will continue indelibly impressed in the minds and hearts of all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.
Father Vincent Sekulski, Chaplain in the United States Army in Alaska during the war years, and at this time assistant at Good Shepherd Parish in Chicago, was appointed as pastor on August 20th, 1956. In addition to his spiritual duties, he concerned himself much with increasing the school building fund, and with obtaining permission from his Archbishop, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, to build a sorely needed school and gymnasium. By the end of 1956 the school fund had been increased to the sum of $61,182.00. However, God had other plans for this zealous priest, for Father Vince died on June17th, 1957. It was the second such heartfelt loss to the parish within a period of one year.
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Last Updated on October 20, 2011