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St. Casimir Parish - Kenosha WI
A parish history from the 1951 Golden Jubilee Book
St. Casimir, prince of Poland, was born in the royal palace at Krakow, October 3, 1458, the second of six sons born to King Casimir IV and Queen Elizabeth, an Austrian princess, the daughter of Albert II, Emperor of Germany and King of Bohemia and Hungary.
The early training of the princes was entrusted to Father John Dlugosz, the Polish historian, a canon at Krakow and later the Archbishop of Lwow, and also to Callimachus (Filippi Buonaccorsi). These teachers were deeply religious as well as men of learning, ardent patriots, and capable statesmen. Casimir became their student at the age of nine and even then showed signs of ardent piety.
After an unsuccessful brief regime as king of Hungary (he was then only thirteen), Casimir returned to his studies under the tutorship of Father Dlugosz, completing them in 1475. He was associated with his father in public affairs and when his elder brother, Wladislaus, ascended the Bohemian throne, Casimir became heir-apparent to the throne of Poland.
From 1481 to 1483 Casimir administered the affairs of state in Poland during the absence of his father, showing himself an able grandson of Wladislaus II Jagiello, King of Poland, who introduced Christianity into Lithuania. About this time his father tried to arrange a marriage for Prince Casimir with the daughter of Frederick Ill, Emperor of Germany, but Casimir preferred to remain single.
Shortly afterwards he fell victim to a severe attack of lung trouble which, in his weakness from fasting and mortifications, he could not withstand. He died at the court of Grodno, March 4, 1484, in route to Lithuania_ His remains were interred ill the chapel of the Blessed Virgin in the Cathedral of no.
Even during his lifetime Prince Casimir was revered as a saint, noted particularly for his justice and chastity. He had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and the hymn of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, "Omni die dic Mariae mea laudes anima"(Polish: "Dnia kazdego Boga mego"), still is attributed in great measure to the young prince-saint.St. Casimir was canonized by Pope Adrian VI in 1522, while Pope Clement VI I I named March 4th as his feast. The prince-saint is the patron of Poland and Lithuania, although he is honored as far as Belgium and Naples.
Organizing and Incorporating the Parish
Among the early pioneers of Kenosha, a goodly number were of Polish descent, belonging at the time to St. George parish. A need to organize and establish a parish of their own was felt as early as 1898, when nearly 50 Polish families met to discuss the matter. They received much encouragement from Rev. W. Kruszka of Milwaukee, and Rev. Joseph Dreis, pastor of St. George Congregation.
It wasn't until Nov. 16, 1901, however, that the St. Casimir Congregation was formally organized and incorporated. The success of this venture - for several years nothing more than a happy dream - was largely due to the aid of Father B. Elskamp, pastor of St. George parish. He p2rmitted not only use of his parish hall, but contributed his needed advice and acted as moderator at the organizational meetings, encouraging the Polish people to adhere firmly to the principles and faith of their forefathers. Permission to incorporate the parish was granted by the Most. Rev. Archbishop F. X. Katzer.
The selection of the Patron Saint was a fortuitous act of love. It was the St. Casimir Society which kept alive the kindled hopes of establishing a parish which would be the center of religious, cultural, and social activity for the Polish pioneers and the future comers from the distant shores of Poland.
At the informal organizational meetings, Father Bernard Elskamp was moderator, while Leon Rochnowski presided, and Francis Mencfeldowski acted as temporary secretary.
A permanent governing board was selected July 27,1902. Rev. Michael Dom"chowski, assistant priest of St. Hyacinth's Milwaukee, was entrusted with the management of the affairs of the parish. The executive board members chosen were: Francis Mencfeldowski, secretary; Walter Kulik, treasurer; Leon Rochnowski, Joseph Majdecki, and M:chael Schultz, board of directors. The building committee members were: Martin Kwiatkowski, Michael Kolowski, John Bartkowiak, and John Neubauer.
About 50 families and a large number of single people made up the membership of the Congregation.
Building the Church
The building site was on Division Street (now Washington Road), just east of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Line, where two lots were purchased from Peter Jacobs. and two lots were donated by him. The parish paid $600 for the two lots. Plans presented by Architect H.A. Kulas from Milwaukee were approved by the officers and committee, and Contractor D. A. Gaastra agreed to build the church for $6,376 - without heating facilities. The construction of the church building was started Oct. 1, 1902, and the cornerstone was laid on Nov. 9, 1902.
The following excerpt was taken from the front page of theKenosha Evening News Monday, Nov. 10. 1902
CORNER STONE LAID GREAT CROWD ATTENDS THE BLESSING OF THE CORNER STONE OF NEW POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH POMP AND CEREMONY REIGN
Hundreds of Uniformed Men parade the streets before the big event in Catholic circles in Kenosha
With pomp and ceremony never equaled before in Kenosha the corner stone of the St. Casimir's Polish Roman Catholic Church was laid Sunday afternoon. A thousand Polish Catholics from all parts of the State were present to withness the solemn ceremonies which marked the blessing of the stone, and a chorus of a thousand people joined in singing the hymn as the stone was placed in position by the Rev. Father Schinner, Vicar General of the diocese.It was greatest day in the history of the Polish Catholics in Kenosha.
Before the ceremonies occurred. the members of the church and their great crowed of visitors paraded the streets of the city. More than a thousand people were in line and three bands of music added to the interest. In the advance guard were the Knights of St. Theodore of St. Josaphat's Church, Milwaukee. the Knights of King David of Milwaukee, the Holy Name Polish Society of Racine. and the St. Martin's Society of Milwaukee. Behind these visiting societies marched the Catholic societies of Kenosha. including some 500 men.
In the parade were the St. Casimir Society of the new church. the Heiss Court C.O.F .. St. Michael's Society of St. George Church, the Catholic Knights of Wisconsin, and several other societies connected with the two Catholic churches. After parading the streets of the city the line of march led to tile foundation of the church.
A platform had been built for the speakers, and fully three thousand people gathered about it. The entire foundation was elaborately decorated with a mass of flowers and flags. The ceremony attending the blessing of the stone was of a very solemn nature. As soon as the marching men arrived at the site of the church. Father B. Elskamp, of St. George Church. took charge of the services and made a few remarks introducing Fr. Schinner and the other priests from the different cities who were scheduled to take part in the laying of the stone.
Alter the sermon had been delivered by Father Michael Domachowski, Pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, Milwaukee, General Vicar Schinner read a short history of the church and of the Polish Catholic church in the diocese; after which. with the assistance of the other visiting priests the corner stone was pushed into place by Owen O'Malley and Casper Hahn. The service was closed with a benediction from the Vicar General.
Three special cars were chartered to bring the Milwaukee societies to Kenosha and more than 500 Milwaukee Poles took part in the celebration. The new church will be completed at once and it is expected that it will he ready for dedication by the middle of next March. It will be the second finest Polish church in the State and it will cost $10.000.
After some progress was seen in the building, Z. G. Simmons, local manufacturer, gave a goodly donation to the church. Work advanced rapidly, because Bishop Kondelka blessed the church, and the first Mass was celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1903. In April of 1903 Rev. Casimir Ambrozajtys, the first pastor, began the priestly work at St Casimir's. The church was small, but well attended.
Building the School
Because there was no rectory for the pastor, the Newman home (at present 1002 Washington Road) was purchased as the priest's residence. Rev. C Ambrozajtys remained only a few months. and 1n September 1903 Rev. Victor Zareczny was appointed pastor. Realing that education is a real foundation for genuine religion and good citizenship, he put all his efforts toward the building of a Parochial school. But it wasn't until later, when Rev John Bieniarz became pastor, that plans and contract for the school building (to cost about $9,600) were expedited.
The new school, consisting of four classrooms. divided into eight grades, was started in 1909. Laying of the corner stone took place October 3, 1909, and the school was blessed in June of 1910. In the meantime a new rectory was built next to the church at a cost of $8,321, and the former rectory became the convent home for the School Sisters of Notre Dame who were engaged to teach the children. Sister M. Casimir was the first Superior, and the other members of the teaching staff were: Sisters M. Bernice, M.Largusa. and M. Ambroisana. The first sister-orgianist was Sister M. Florentine. On September 6, 1910 there were 87 children registered for the first year of school.
Growth of Parish (1909-1933)
Soon the little church outgrew its capacity, and the people faced the problem of putting an addition on to the church. Despite innumerable difficulties. the parishioners went ahead with confidence. the enlarging of the church and building of the steeples was completed in 1911 The blessing of the bells took place May 30. 1909 with great ceremony.
In 1911 the assets of the parish were as follows: Church, $12,000; School, $9,503; Rectory, $8,321; Sisters' home, $2,000; Cemetery, $2,000; Church Furnishings, $2,000; School Furnishings, $708; Rectory Furnishings, $800; Sisters' home furnishings, $412; 4 lots, $2,000; total assets: $39,- 747. The buildings were insured for $33,600. In 1912 the property was mortgaged for $30,000 to the Commercial Bank of Kenosha, which loan the parish promised to pay in ten years.
In June 1914, Rev. Francis Czerwinsk: was appointed as the fourth pastor of the parish. During his pastorate an addition to the school was erected at a cost of $88,000, which later became the very center of all parish activities. The congregation now possessed a fine modern school of eight class rooms, a spacious auditorium with a seating capacity of 400, and four bowling alleys. Father Czerwinski was indeed a friend in need, an orator and a gentleman who was sought by all - he knew how to meet men of all walks of life. Some of his pastoral work was accomplished during the economic depression, and in 1931 he felt he was unable to continue his duties any longer. III health forced him to resign.
In May 1931, Rev. Leonard Sarnowski became a temporary administrator. He was instrumental in the development of the parish cemetery, which was very much neglected, although it was purchased shortly before 1907.
Growth of Parish (1933-1949)
Father Sarnowski was succeded by Rev. Leo Kierstein on January 20, 1933. Father Kierstein made many improvements in the parish. With undaunted energy and skillful planning Father Kierstein brought the parish up to a higher plane both spiritually and financially. The parish had gone through many financial difficulties especially during the years of the depression. Nevertheless, by God's Providence and the generosity of the parishioners, the parish debt of $100,000 was liquidated in ten years.
A number of parish societies were formed under Father Kiersten's sponsorship - the Junior and Senior Sacred Heart Leagues, Junior and Senior Holy Name Societies, C.Y.O., Home and School Association and the St.Vincent de Paul Society. These with the Holy Rosary Society, the Sodality, St. Cecilia Choir, th2 Acolytes' Club and Ushers' Club have always aided St. Casimir's by supporting the Pastors :n all their endeavors for the welfare of the parishioners.
Other Societies of the parish are: St. Casimir, organized in 1898: this society in December, 1901, resolved to help organize and support in every way the future St. Casimir parish; St. Joseph, St. Hedwig, St. Praxeda and Sacred Heart of Mary, all fraternal organizations. These groups and other Polish societies helped greatly in the financial difficulties of the parish.
Some of the improvements accomplished were: washing and decorating of church, $1,750; rebuilding of organ, $800; enlarging of Sisters' Home and installation of new heating system; rebuilding of bowling alleys; new heating system for the school at a cost of $9,500; tile covering of floor and cushioning of kneelers in church, $12,459.30; ceiling of church covered with acoustic celotex tile; purchase of property for school playground, $4,800. The Acolytes' Club donated new rugs for the sanctuary. At the cemetery a fence, road and chapel were built; a cross was erected and landscaping was completed. For many years a field Mass and procession were celebrated on Memorial Day at the cemetery. The parish was granted the privilege of Portiuncula Indulgence on July 10, 1934.
The Dramatic Club, Sodality, Alumni Association, C.Y.O. and Proto Club, presented plays and held dances for the benefit of the parish.
The parish has been very generous in their contribution to the Archdiocesan Charity Drive. During the war donations of clothing and money for CARE packages were collected for the war stricken of Poland and other countries. At the present time a special collection is taken in church once a month for the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society among the poor of the parish and others. The monthly envelope offerings were introduced in 1942 to displace the annual bazaar as a means of obtaining revenue. The annual parish report was printed in the English language for the first time in 1949.
Our Pastor a Monsignor!
On Apr:l 28, 1949, Father Kierstein was elevated to the rank of Monsignor by the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII. The Investiture took place on July 24 by Most Rev. Roman R. Atkielski, Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee. Mass was celebrated by the Monsignor with Rev. Michael Dutko as deacon and Rev. Raymond Leng as sub-deacon. The sermon was preached in English and Polish by the Most Reverend Bishop. A banquet was held in the evening in the parish hall. This was indeed a great joy and honor for the parish since this was the first time in the city of Kenosha that such an elevation was bestowed on a member of the Roman Catholic clergy.
On October 31,1950, vigil of All Saints, at 10 :40 A.M. a fire destroyed the St. Joseph Altar, damaged the wall behind it and smoked and smudged the church which had to be redecorated, the altar replaced and a new Blessed Virgin altar purchased to match the new St. Joseph's altar. Insurance covered most of the damage.
ReminiscencesThe first baptism was administered to Alphonse Bartkowiak on April 5, 1903. The first marriage was that of Casimir Czekas and Josephine Stankatis on May 24, 1903. The first funeral was that of Sigmond Janiszewski on October 28, 1903. 36 children between the ages of 12 and 17 made their First Holy Communion in the spring of 1904. The first Confirmation took place September 24, 1905. The first eight-day mission was conducted by a Holy Ghost Father in September 1911, at which time the large Mission Cross was blessed. The first graduating class of 1912 had the following graduates: John Radykowski, Mary Radykowski, and Frank Czarnowski. The first altar boys were John Szafranski and George Thomey. The first sexton was Matthew Lewandowsk. The first organist was Miss Margaret Wallig. The first choir members were John Swiderski, Casimir Morzejko, Joseph Szymanski, and Michael Schultz.
The largest school enrollment was in 1928, totalling 416, and the largest graduating class numbered 49 on June 12, 1938. Over 1,060 children graduated since the school's organization.
The parish has been the center of social activities for the Polish population of the city by presenting plays, school programs, bazaars, suppers, and dances.
Patriotically it has contributed through patriotic programs, bond drives, aid for the war-stricken, and the thousands of hours of work the women contributed to the Red Cross.
Hundreds served in the armed forces and the 25 who made the sacrifice of their life - heroes all - we commemorate in our prayers.
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Last Updated on October 20, 2011