the internet Polish Genealogical Source

St. Casimir Parish- South Bend IN

A parish history from the 1949 Golden Jubilee Book

We shall continue the parish history from the time of the Silver Jubilee up to the present time in the English language. Our thought behind this is that there would be a lot of our older parishioners interested in the former years, while the younger set would rather be interested in the later years. In the first World War we had a total of 209 men in the armed forces, while in the last war we had 375. In the first war there were also eleven in General Haller's Polish Army, making a grand total for World War I of 220 men in service. Our service list for the last war is printed elsewhere in this book. The casualty list for the first war was six and for this war, eight. During the last war U. S. Savings Bonds were bought thru the payroll savings plan, and of course there is no record what the parishioners purchased. But in the previous war the parishioners bought Liberty Bonds to the amount of $75,000; Polish Government Bonds amounting to $16,000, and 'Other bonds for $3,000. There was a total amount of $5,000 collected for Polish orphans during that time.


The Silver Jubilee was celebrated during the month of March, 1924. A mission was held from March 8th, closing with Forty Hours Devotion on March 18th. On Sunday, March 23rd a Solemn Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated at 10 :00 a. m. In the afternoon of the same day at 3:00 p. m. there was a solemn blessing of the ground for the new church. A jubilee dramatic play was presented in the hall that evening. The corner stone for the church was laid and blessed by the late bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Most Rev. Paul P. Rhode. Among those present on this occasion was the Very Rev. Thomas A. Steiner, C.S.C., then professor at Notre Dame, and now Provincial Superior of the Fathers of Holy Cross in the United States. The trowel was wielded by a well-known Polish brick mason, Mr. Luzny, the father of one of our former assistant pastors, the Rev. Francis X; Luzny, C.S.C.


The new edifice was and will remain as the pride of the whole parish. It is one of the most beautiful and achitecturally correct churches in this vicinity. It seats about 700 people. It was built for a round sum of $106,000. The cost of moving from the old building into the new church, and the arrangements brought another expense of some $10, 000. At the parish meeting of January 6, 1923 the following church building committee was chosen: George Kajzer, Edward Lewandowski, Stanley Podemski, Valentine Gadacz and Valentine Nowicki. They were to assist the trustees for that year, who were: Joseph Duszynski, Martin Grzeskowiak, Vincent Kaniewski, Stanley Radecki, Martin Mackowiak, and Adolf Bobinski.


When the church services were moved out of the old structure, there remained a question of what to do with it. It was temporarily used for every kind of activity, even the playing of softball. The walls and ceiling were in a bad shape, and so was the lighting. So a movement was started to raise money to completely renovate it and use it as a hall. That was done in the winter months of 1929- 1930. Later on kitchen facilities were installed. Drapes were hung on the windows, and the hall presented a better appearance.


In February of 1927 Father Gorka sent out an appeal to the parishioners for donations for stained glass windows for the church. The appeal was for the sum of $8,000. During the course of that year the donors kept coming in, so that the work of installation was completed in October of 1928, and the donors and list of windows was made public in November of that year. The work was done by the Columbia Plate Glass Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of which Mr. Gavin, a fine distinguished gentleman of Polish extraction, was manager. The list of windows and donors is printed elsewhere in this book.

1915 - 1931

These two dates represent a period of sixteen years during which the Rev. S. J. Gorka, C.S.C., was pastor. It was a long time, filled with many problems, many duties, many worries, and many accomplishments. The outward development of the parish took place during that time, the building of the school annex, the Sisters' home, the church, and the remodeling of the rectory. Father Gorka found the parish in 1915 going through a process of complete reorganization after the turmoil of the preceding two years. He kept on doggedly, always devoted to his work, taking very little interest in things outside the parish, but sticking very closely to his church duties, the school children, and the finances of the parish. His record is really a splendid one not only materially, but spiritually, since the parish became reunited again, and really gained in solidarity. During these years he was ably. assisted by the following priests: Rev. Boleslaus J. Sztuczko, C.S.C., Rev. Anthony Rozewicz, C.S.C. Rev. Stanislaus Kuszynski, C.S.C., Rev. Francis X. Luzny, C.S.C., Rev. Francis Nowakowski, C.S.C., and at the end of this time by the Rev. Stanislaus F. Lisewski, C.S.C.


One of the clubs and activities that denote the time of Father Lisewski is the St. Casimir Athletic Club. It had its peak in the years from 1928 to 1932. The main spring in the organization was of course Fr. Lisewski and Aloysius Przybysz. The club promoted especially a baseball team, which at times Fr. Lisewski helped out personally in a pinch, by playing the position of catcher; football team, for which Dr. Libnoch acted as physician; a season of boxing in our parish hall. The stage was equipped with a boxing ring, and this promotion was quite popular for some time on the west side. With the death of its chief sponsor, AI. Przybysz, and the coming of the financial depression the club slowly suspended its activities.


Father Lisewski came to St. Casimir's as his first assignment in August of 1927. He had been ordained before Easter of that year in Rome, and came to this country after getting his doctorate in theology in June. A history of this period of St. Casimir Parish would not be complete without dealing of his activities. To summarize his work in the parish one could say that he devoted himself to all angles of endeavor that an assistant in a Catholic parish can come in contact with. As chaplain of the Koscuszko Civic Club he plunged into the problem of civic improvements, namely the track elevation project in the city and the problem of playgrounds. He devoted a great deal of his time to the Ushers' Club. The school children and athletics took a great deal of his attention. Under his sopnsorship the "Warszawianka," a monthly, then a quarterly publication was printed. But especially very dear to his heart was dramatic work, with the Young Peoples' Progress Club, and the Friends of the Drama, a select group of young people, and the Young Ladies Sodality.


The peak of this dramatic activity came in the years - of 1929, 1930 and 1931. Those were the years of plays like "Wonne Roze" (Frangrant Roses), written by Fr. Lisewski himself and based on the life of the Little Flower, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, who had been just recently canonized by the church. "Ciotka Karola" (Charlie's Aunt), a famous play, which was staged over and over again, and even in various neighboring communities. Other plays equally popular were: "Jego Kapralska Mosc" (Captain Boots), "Chorus Girl", "Klub Kawalerow" (Bachelors' Club), and "Maz Z Grzecznosci" (The Refined Gentleman).


At that time Mr. Francis K. Czyzewski became quite popular locally with his Polish Hour on the station WSBT. Under his sponsorship Father Lisewski produced what Mr. Czyzewski called the first Polish play on the radio in the United States, the title of which was "Niewinnosc Przesladowana" (Innocence Persecuted). This was in March of 1930, and the characters were as follows: Sylvester Zwierzynski, Henry Brzezniak, Leo C. Markiewicz, and Mrs. Sophie (Stroyna) Sibley. The other character was a young lady student from Poland who was visiting South Bend at the time.


Dances are always popular, especially among the younger set, but some people thought that Polish dance music, the music that is "gay and carefree," was being neglected. So the South Bend Tribune, through the managing ability of Francis K. Czyzewski, sponsored the so-called Polish dance contests. A winning couple was picked in each of our four Polish parish halls, and then the final contest was staged in rotation in these same halls. For a long time these contests brought out a lot of talent and competition in mastering the steps of the Polish. dances. One of these finals was run off at St. Casimir Ballroom in February of 1930, when Edwin Stachowski (who died during the last war as a soldier in France) and Miss Louise Markiewicz (now Andrysiak) won the crown as the king and queen of the polisn dancers of the year.


During the year 1928 Father Lisewski popularized the devotion to St. Theresa, the Little Flower of Jesus. he preached the novena to that saint in St. Casimir church, and also in other churches in the city. A statue of this saint was procured for our church, and her relics were gotten from Rome. For many years this devotion was publicly carried on in our parish, but of late years it was superceded by the Novena to our Sorrowful Mother. But the devotion to her remains in the hearts of our parishioners, and her statue and relics remain in our church for public veneration. One of the finest statues of St. Theresa in the city is found at St. Hedwidge church, and this is made of pure white Italian Carrara marble, completely executed and carved in Italy, and imported into this country.


During the summer of 1928 the Rev. Stanislaus A. Gruza, C.S.C., pastor of St. Hedwige church South Bend, conceived a noble plan of starting a Catholic high school in South Bend. He received the approbation of the bishop of the diocese, Most Rev . John F. Noll, and later obtained from the other three Polish pastors their promise of mutual help and cooperation. These were the Right Rev. John Osadnik, pastor of St. Adalbert church, our pastor, Father Gorka, and Father Sztuczko, who had just become pastor of St. Stanislaus church, after the Rev. Roman Marciniak, C.S.C., who had been pastor of that church for twenty-eight years, was transferred to Chicago. From the very beginning of the school, St. Casimir parish has always cooperated with its activities and helped it financially. Our parish was probably a little backward in sending students to the school, due, perhaps, to the proximity of the public high school, but it was usually willing to back up the school in other ways. Father Gorka was always personally willing to attend the school board meetings; Father Lisewski helped out in giving lectures, in supporting athletics; Father Rozewicz allowed the use of the hall in later years for dances to help finance the athletic program in that schooL At one time Father Gorka remarked that he would be willing to assume a debt on the parish, in the event the parish debt was paid, to help finance the building of a new edifice to remedy the crowded condition of the St. Hedwige High School. That did not become necessary when the Polish Central Civic Committee acting for the Polish people obtained the lease of the public school on Laurel Street, for the purpose of housing what then became the, South Bend Catholic High School. This happy change was made in the summer of 1935 under the guidance of the Rev. Francis X. Luzny, C S.C., then pastor of St. Hedwige parish.


The years of intensive planning and administration told on Father Gorka's health. He was ordered by Dr. B. J. Bolka to take an extended rest in August of 1927. He spent most of this time at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, and then at Sacred Heart Sanitarium in Milwaukee, Wis. His duties during that time were ably performed by the Rev. B. J. Sztuczko, C.S.C. When Father Gorka returned, he set himself to work again, and in the fall of 1928 he put in the oil burner in the school, and a giant oil tank holding 10,000 gallons of oil In July of 1931 he was relieved of his pastoral duties, and assigned to Holy Trinity church in Chicago, as assistant pastor. This being the year of his silver jubilee the Very Rev. James A. Burns, C.S.C., gave him permission to take a trip to Europe. Father Gorka celebrated his 25th anniversary Mass in Rome, over the relics of his patron saint, St. Stanislaus Kostka.


To close this period of the parish history, it is fitting to reprint a letter which was written in the bishop's own hand writing.

Bishop's House,
Diocese of Fort Wayne,
September 19, 1923.

The Rev, S, J, Gorka, C.S.C.
South Bend, Ind.

Dear Rev, Father:

"That lucid statement of what you have accomplished in the past years, of what the financial standing of your parish is at present, and of what you feel must be done for the further progress of the parish is most gratifying, It is pleasant to hear from you how your parish is most willing to do all that can be expected from such good and devoted Catholics to assist you, Under these conditions I do not hesitate to give you the permission you ask to build a new church, and thus also to secure much needed room for school purposes,

Wishing you and your people every blessing and success, I am,

Devotedly yours in Dno,
H, J. Alerding, Bishop of Ft. Wayne


The Rev. Anthony J. Rozewicz, C.S.C., was appointed pastor in July of 1931. He came during the now historical financial and economic depression, which the older of us remember. Those were the days when the income of practically all churches dependent upon working people went, as they themselves did, through trying days. During those days the total church collection on Sundays ran about $100 while now it amounts to over $500. It was not uncommon for a pastor to have from five hundred to a thousand dollars in unpaid bills, and no money to pay them. So Father Rozewicz was constantly scheming to think up ideas to raise a little more money. During those days collections from house to house were arranged pretty often. Father Witucki remembers one year when such a collection was made three times, once during Lent, once in the summer and again in the fall for the bazaar. During these years the pastor was in the habit of arranging banquets for Father Lisowski to raise some money for the parish. There were a few of these, most prominent among them was the one when Father Lisewski was leaving for Poland to study, in June of 1934, and again when he returned from Poland in the summer of 1936. Another such supper was arranged, to crown the "king and queen': of the parish. Mr. and Mrs. John Lentych were chosen then as the "royalty" of the parish. Mr. "Jack" Lentych had been active in the parish for some time. He was quite friendly with Father Lisewski, going fishing with him, and also collecting chickens among our Polish farmers for picnics and bazaars. On one occasion during such a trip the weather was extremely hot, and Father Lisewski took off his Roman collar. The collection was going poorly. Then finally "Jack" says to Fr. Lisewski, "Yon got to put on your collar. These farmers think we're bums." The collection improved at once. At this "king and queen" banquet it was "Jack's" poor luck to get a piece of an old chicken, one that must have, in his own words, "voted for Lincoln."


Fuel oil was getting expensive, so Father Rozewicz decided to equip one of our boilers with stoker coal equipment. In September of 1935 the center aisle of the church was lined with asphalt tile. To cover the cost a house-to-house collection brought in the money to pay for this, a total of $323. During this summer a new coat of paint was given to the outside of the church, school, convent and rectory. Bruno Luzny and Son did this work for a sum of $800. A new steam main, was installed to carry heat from the school to the rectory and the convent. The hall came in for a few needed appointments. The checkroom was equipped with stands for taking care of checking garments. To help heat , the hall double windows were installed. The first loud speaking system was purchased for use during picnics and bazaars. New stands for playing the bingo game were purchased, and have been one of ot the most handy pieces of equipment for many a year. On the religious side a statue of St. Anne was purchased and relics were received from Rome, and the novena to, St. Anne has been conducted in the parish since the summer of 1935. Father Rozewicz always inisted on a Christmas party for the "kiddies" in school, He took very few vacations, but at the end of his pastor-­shop in 1937 he took a trip to California, Upon his return he was present at the banquet in his honor as retiring pastor, and in honor of Father Gorka as the new pastor, on August 29, 1937.


The last four years of Father Gorka's life were spent at St. Casimir's. One might be tempted to say that he "came home to die," at least it was probably providential that he finished his career in a parish for which he had labored so much. He was instrumental in putting padded kneelers in our church. Finally the project of the first decoration of the church was completed in the summer of 1939. It was done by the John Kirsch Co. of Milwaukee. On this job Johnny Kaczorowski received his first lessons in church decoration, and has been with this company since that time. Along with the decoration of the church, Father Gorka took out the old style pulpit, and bought a new movable type, on the order of a speaker's stand. The side altars were cut down to give more of a "table" effect to them, and two new tabernacles were purchased for these altars. The lights in the church were lowered to bring the light down closer to the congregation. The culmination of Father Gorka's religious interests came about when in June 1939 three of his proteges were ordained to the priesthood, namely, the Fathers Grabarz, Niernier and Wojciechowski, and finally in 1941 the Rev. Gerald Stajkowski, O.F.M. These were the first young men ordained priests from this parish ever since the ordinations of the Fathers Gapczynski, Zielinski and Gadacz, truly a long time. Even to the end Father Gorka was devoted, as he was during his entire priesthood, to parish dramatics, and the last play under his direction was "Gdzie Jestes Panie?" (Where Art Thou Lord); it was staged on April 2, 1939 by the Young Ladies Sodality. One of the most rapid jobs done during this time was the laying of the foundation for the garage. Father Witucki built the garage in the summer of 1938. With some of the boys the most faithful of whom was Erwin Zielinski, Father Witucki built the forms for the concrete foundation in the basement of the school, Father Gorka was reluctant to give permission to build the garage, but finally he gave in. On Monday, July 5, a group of boys came to help dig the ditch for the foundation. In the afternoon, when Father Gorka took his usual nap, the forms were brought out, laid in the ditches, the concrete poured in, so that when Father Gorka got up, and came outside the foundation was complete. He was amazed at the speed of the workers, and they even joked with him, about mixing the concrete themselves.


At the beginning of the school year in 1940 Father Gorka was stricken with a serious heart ailment. He spent several weeks in the hospital and after coming home for the Christmas season at the rectory he went to St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas for a rest. Returning in the summer he again took sick toward the end of July 1941 and died at St. Joseph Hospital, on Friday, Aug. 22, 1941. The funeral services were held in his own parish church on Monday, August 26th. The sermon in Polish was preached by the Rev. S. A. Gruza, C.S.C., and a few words in English were said by the bishop of the diocese, the Most Rev. John F. Noll. During his sickness the parish was administered by Father Witucki, with the assistance of Fathers Luzny and Marek, and of Father Niemier, who stayed here from December of 1940 until October of 1941. The Rev. Boleslaus J. Sztuczko, C.S.C., became pastor in July of 1941 and remained in that capacity until July 1946 when he was appointed pastor of St. Hedwige parish in South Bend. During that time he had as assistants the Fathers Witucki, Szymanowski and Furgal. A firm believe!' "in the entertainment value of the movies he was sure that the parishioners would support him, if he installed movie equipment in the hall and got Polish pictures. Because of the war shortages it was a difficult task to get the equipment, and later on almost impossible to get new Polish films. But for a couple of years at least a regular schedule of films was shown through the winter months.


For many years there was not a cent paid on the church debt, because of stringent economic conditions. Toward the end of his life Father Gorka always managed to pay each year at least a couple thousand on the debt, usually after the parish picnics and bazaars. But Father Sztuczko attacked this problem very systematically, and put it above all others, so that by the spring of 1946 the last check was written to retire the financial obligations of the parish, A banquet at which 620 parishioners were present was held to mark this great event on April 28, 1946. The trustees invented a new term for the occasion and instead of burning the mortgage they "framed" it as "paid" for future reference. Father Sztuczko, following his plan of paying off the debt, insisted that every family pay a fee of $5.00 yearly for improvements, in order not to take money away, from that purpose. Among the many improvements the most notable was the complete redecoration of the rectory in the spring of 1944. When the work was done on Sunday, July 16th, the societies arranged an open house in the rectory to show the parishioners what was done.


In order to give the people an opportunity to continue their prayers throughout the year, Father Sztuczko obtained permission from Bishop Noll to institute the novena to the Sorrowful Mother, which at that time (spring of 1943) was very popular due especially to the conditions brought about by World War II. A statue and the stations were purchased with funds collected from house to house by a group of devotees, and the first service was read by the Rev. Michael Gadacz from Gary, Indiana. Many favors have been received through our Sorrowful Mother, and the church has been the recipient of several religious articles, candlesticks, and vases as memorials to the effectiveness of this devotion.


During this time through the efforts of Father George Szymanowski, our parochial school children joined the inter-city athletic league, and a great deal of impetus was given this effort by the showing our boys made in basketball and softball in the year 1946. The reaction among the parishioners for supporting our boys was very favorable, so that there was talk of equiping the hall with basketball standards. At one time in 1935 this plan was voted down by the parishioners, as not compatible with the halL But when the thing was brought up in the fall of 1946 there was hardly a dissenting voice, and this work was done under the sponsorship of the athletic committee.


Father Sztuczko showed a marked devotion to the school children. He seldom missed his catechism lessons, and at the very outset insisted that the school be equipped with better lighting. And so every classroom received new fluorescent fixtures, so that St. Casimir School was among the first in South Bend to have them. These fixtures were also installed in the rectory.


During the yeaes of 1944 t0 1946 a movement was started under the sponsorship of the Holy Name society and the Breezers club to bring well-known so-called "name" bands to St. Casimir Ballroom. This of course was during the war years, and the young men were mostly absent, but the dances were more or less successful. Among those that played here were the following: Carl Schreiber, Bill Bardo, Carlos Molina, Jimmy Day, Ace Brigode, Lew Diamond, Bob Berkey, and Frank Jendryaszek's Polish-American orchestra.


In the Spring of 1945 the need for a fire escape in the hall came to a point. A spiral fire escape was installed. Many parishioners joked that it looked like a reservoir or water tank, but this type of escape has the recommendation of the fire fighters, It is enclosed, and no danger of people tripping, or slipping on ice, or being enveloped by flames coming from the windows of a burning building. For a time the doors on this escape did not close properly and our little boys had a circus playing in it. But since these faulty doors have been repaired that trouble was removed, About this same time, Father Sztuczko also painted the whole interior of our Sisters' Convent.


The Rev. Casimir J. Witucki, C.S.C., first came to St. Casimir's in July of 1934 to replace Father Lisewski who had gone to Poland a month previously. Father Witucki has been at this parish as assistant pastor for 12 years, and was appointed pastor in July, 1946. To assist him he has had from that time the Rev. Bernard M. Niernier, C.S.C. and the Rev. Joseph F. Ciecka, C.S.C., Fr. Witucki plunged into the problem of improvements in the parish buildings. A parish is like a family. When a family is paying' for its home, it cannot afford nice and expensive things inside the house. But when the house, as we say, is "clear" then naturally the family turns to beautifying, especially the interior of the house.


And so as a matter of record we can enumerate some of the things done during these last three years. In the rectory: cabinets in the basement, new lavatories, a new bathtub, tile in the shower room and washroom, a new kitchen sink, a new laundry sink, new furniture for the housekeeper, a new floor on the porch. In the convent: new cabinets in the sacristy and in the kitchen, new refrigerator, new washing machine, new kitchen sink with tile drain board, and an additional bathtub. In the church: new electric wire service to the front of the church to take care of the organ motor, electric outlets along the walls, three large cabinets in the sacristy, new sink in the sacristy, hot water piped to the sacristy, new rug in the sanctuary, reconditioning of the sanctuary floor, reconditioning of the whole church in the summer of 1948, and a new public address system. In the school: the most notable change was on the towers in the summer of 1947, cabinets on the stage, in the printing room and in the basement, removal of the heating duct in the fourth grade, fire-alarm system, hot water system to the stage, shower room and recreational room, two radiators and a new sink on the stage, a new stage entrance from the hall, new wainscoating around the whole hall, new drapery for the windows, three exhaust fans, a complete system of storage trucks and tracks under the stage, new hot water heater for the kitchen, a second wooden floor and linoleum on the stage. Topping all this the hall was newly decorated in the month of February in preparation for the jubilee banquet. For carnival purposes Fr. Witucki purchased eight new concession booths, completely covered with canvas, two large wheels, and a new portable public address system. In 1947 the parish offered a new Ford automobile for raffle, and held its carnival on the church grounds. In 1948 it was a Nash Ambassador, with a carnival for the first time on the famous Prairie Avenue circus grounds, and this year it is a Pontiac Chieftain, with the carnival returning back to the parish grounds and buildings.


One of the more notable projects in the parish was the building of a throne, or large stand, to be used for episcopal functions. It was built by John Kuri of cherry wood. The South Bend Lumber company had some cherry wood in the yards for a long time, and this was chosen for the project.


On April 26, 1947 the Rev. George M. Sauvage, C.S.C., who represented the Holy Cross order in Rome at the Vatican, on Fr. Witucki's plea was able to obtain for the parish, on the occasion of the coming golden jubilee, two small splinters, mounted in the form of a cross, of the true cross on which Christ died. Ordinarily the relics of the true cross are used only once during the year. This is on Good Friday, when a benediction is given with them, in view of the fact, that no other benediction is given in the church on that day. Fr. Sauvage himself celebrated the golden jubilee of his priesthood in March of this year, at Notre Dame, Ind. As Fr. Lisewski had been one of his students in Rome for six years, he was chosen to preach the sermon at the jubilee Mass celebrated on this occasion by the Superior General of the order, in view of the fact that Fr. Sauvage is at present too weak to celebrate Mass.


Our first parish organist was Miss Anna Sypniewski, who filled that post from 1900 till 1918. Mr. John Deranek followed. Mr. Andrew Skubiszewski served a long time as organist, from 1920 until 1944. Miss Angela Moskwinski has been Organist now for five years. Our first parish janitor (custodian) was Mr. Joseph Andrysiak, who served from the beginning of the parish till 1920. For some time that post was filled by Vincent Chmiel; later by Mr. Switalski; and Mr. Andrew Skubiszewski, organist at the time, filled the post temporarily, who, in turn, was followed by Martin Grzeskowiak, Stanislaus Radecki, and Mr. Jackowiak, and lately by Mr. Adolph Bobinski, who has served for nearly 20 years. At the time Mr. Andrysiak served, he took care of two buildings, the church-school building and the rectory. At present time Mr. Bobinski has four buildings and an annex to care for, and from time to time has extra help to lighten his burden.

For Website Corrections or Problems: Webmaster at

Copyright ¬© 2015— internet Polish Genealogical Source— All Rights Reserved

Last Updated on April 19, 2015