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St. Hedwig Parish - Chicago IL
A parish history from the 1963 Jubilee Book
In the latter part of the nineteenth century there began a great flow of immigrants into the United States, and among these newcomers was a steadily increasing number of Poles. Reluctantly leaving their oppressed and partitioned native land, many of them settled in the city of Chicago, seeking there the peace and freedom which hitherto had been denied them. Although poor in material possessions, they brought with them a deep and abiding love of God and an instilled spirit of industry and devotion to duty.
Among their first accomplishments was the establishment of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, which subsequently became the mother of all Polish parishes in Chicago. When St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was no longer able to accommodate the large number of worshippers, another parish was started, St. Josaphat's in 1885. Meanwhile the number of Polish immigrants kept growing, and those who had moved northward in Chicago began to yearn for their own parish church,
The Establishment of St. Hedwig Parish
The pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at that time was the Rev, Vincent Barzynski of the Congregation of the Resurrection. A priest of great zeal and initiative, he agreed to head a newly formed organization, the Society of St. Hedwig, which had as its purpose the establishment of a new parish under the patronage of St. Hedwig. Since he had to attend to the pressing needs of his own parish, he assigned the Rev. I. Tarasiewicz to aid the Society in acquiring land for a church and school. After much deliberation the Society purchased a parcel of land enclosed by Hoyne and Hamilton Avenues, and Webster Avenue and Pleasant Place (Lyndale Avenue). Consisting of thirty six lots, the property cost forty five hundred dollars.
Soon afterwards, work began on the first St. Hedwtgs Church. the site chosen was the corner of Webster and Hamilton Avenues. The new edifice, built at the cost of thirty two thousand dollars, was a two story structure and contained not only a church but classrooms and living quarters for the teaching Sisters as well. The parish school was placed under the direction of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
On December 3, 1888, when His Excellency, Arch bishop P. A. Feehan blessed the new church, the joyous event was witnessed not only by members of the one hundred twenty five families in the parish, but also by various organizations from St. Stanislaus Kostka and St. Josaphat Churches. Five days later, on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the First Holy Mass was celebrated in the new St. Hedwigs Church. This date marked the formal beginning of the new parish.
The first pastor of St. Hedwig's was a diocesan priest, the Rev. Joseph Barzynski, brother of the Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR., who had been so instrumental in establishing the new parish. Father Joseph Barzynski served as pastor from October, 1889 to June 1895. For the first three years he was alone in ministering to the needs of his rapidly expanding parish. However, in February 1892, he was given an assistant, the Rev. Adolph Smigurski, who remained at St. Hedwlg's until October, 1893. He was succeeded by the Rev. Matthew Grochowskl, who served as curate for not quite a year. In 1893 the first addition was made to the parish plant. A new rectory was built to provide office facilities and a home for the priests.
Distressing Times Befall the New Parish
However, even as the horizon seemed to glow with bright promise for the fledgling parish, dark clouds began to gather. St. Hedwig's not quite seven years in existence, was subjected to an ordeal which it survived only through the grace of God.
For many months, persons, seeking their own selfish Interests, had been enticing the parishioners with flattering promises of a new kind of religion and a new kind of church. Swayed by these influences, a large segment of the parish broke away to form a national, independent church. Soon turmoil reigned throughout the parish. Those who remained faithful to their Catholic Faith and to their church were in the minority, and they became targets for hatred and animosity. When the situation threatened to explode into violence, Archbishop Feehan ordered St. Hedwigs Church closed. Father Joseph Barzynski was transferred to St, Stanislaus Kostka Church. Eventually, a police guard was placed about the parish property to protect it against the depredations of its enemies.
This state of affairs lasted for over four months. The faithful attended St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where they had as their parish priest, the Rev. Eugene Sedlaczek, CR. Meanwhile, the courts of Chicago took up the task of deciding to whom the parish property should be given.
In the end justice prevailed. St. Hedwigs was declared legally under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Chicago. In early June, 1895 Father Sedlaczek, CR. was installed as pastor. However, hostility was still so prevalent that he resigned after two weeks. In the latter part of June, 1895 he was replaced by the Rev. John Piechowski, C.R. At the same time, the Rev. Joseph Biela,C.R. was appointed his assistant.
Growth of the Parish
Father John Piechowskl, CR., former rector and professor at the recently established St. Stanislaus College,faced the serious challenge with courage and zeal. Blessed with energy and patience, he set as his first goal the rejuvenation of the parish. His untiring efforts soon produced results.
In his first year the number of families in the parish rose to three hundred. Thirteen years later, the total was two thousand. Many of those who had fallen away returned to their Catholic Faith. The missions conducted by the Jesuit Fathers in 1896, 1898, and 1908 did much to revitalize the religious life of the parish.
Not only was Father Piechowskl zealous in promoting the spiritual welfare of his parishioners, but he was similarly energetic in administration of parish property. When the original church became too small for the needs of the parish, he proceeded to build a new church. The cornerstone was blessed with great solemnity in 1899 by Archbishop Feehan, and two years later the completed church was dedicated by the Most Rev. Peter Muldoon, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. Built in the romanesque style, it remains to this day as one of the more beautiful churches in Chicago. The old church building was remodeled to provide additional classrooms for the steadily expanding school.
Father Piechowski held the office of pastor for fourteen years. His assistant priests during this time were; Joseph Biela, C.R.,John Obyrtacz, C.R.,Joseph Gieburowski,C.R., Stanislaus Rogalski, CR., Paul Scheppe, CR., Joseph Jelinek, CR., John Szczypta, CR., Theophil Szypkowski, C.R. and Ladislaus Kwtatkowski, CR.
In January, 1909 the Rev. John Obyrtacz, CR. became pastor of St. Hedwig's. The new rector was a worthy successor to Father Piechowski. In the first year of his pastor. ship he enlarged the school on Webster Avenue. The new project cost over twenty eight thousand dollars, but the school gained six much needed classrooms.
The parish continued to grow. In 1909 there were twenty one hundred families; by 1911 this number had climbed to twenty seven hundred twenty nine. The school was keeping pace; the enrollment in 1911 totaled eighteen hundred pupils. In 1912 a two story building was constructed on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Pleasant Place. Costing fifty six thousand seven hundred dollars, the new structure provided eight new classrooms and a parish hall with a capacity of over one thousand persons.
The Observance of the Silver Jubilee
St. Hedwig’s celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary in 1913. Father Obyrtacz spared no effort to make the silver jubilee observance a truly memorable occasion. The interior of the church was redecorated, two new side altars were installed, and the parish buildings were renovated.
From December 1 to December 14 the parishioners attended a mission conducted by priests from St. John Cantius College, Erie, Pennsylvania.
At 10 am., Sunday, December 6, 1913 the Societies of St. Hedwig's assembled at Hoyne and Armitage Avenues to escort His Excellency, Archbishop Quigley to the church. In the parade were an army cavalry, marching soldiers, and numerous organizations. The facade of the church was festooned with flags and papal colors. Even private homes nearby were gaily decorated.
Every available space in the church was occupied. The celebrant of the Solemn High Mass was the Most Rev, Bishop Paul Rhode. Assisting him as Archpriest was the Very Rev. John Kasprzycki, G.E., the Superior General of the Congregation of the Resurrection. The Rev. Francis Gordon, CR. served as Deacon, and the Rev, John Kosinski, G.E. as Subdeacon. The jubilee sermon was delivered by the Rev. Eugene Kolodziej, a member of the Missionary Fathers of St. John Cantius College.
The silver anniversary observance ended on Sunday, December 13 with a banquet in the parish hall. For the people of St. Hedwig's the Silver jubilee was a momentous occasion. They rejoiced because they were able to express in a special manner their gratitude to God for his many blessings. They were consoled, too, by the realization that their sacrifices and loyalty had not been in vain.
The Further Development of the Parish
In 1916 the indefatigable Father Obyrtacz again took up the task of expanding and beautifying St. Hedwig's. In that year he built an addition to the rectory, and soon afterwards began to gather funds to construct steeples on the parish church. These would not only contain the church bells, but would also perfect the appearance of the church. Up to this time, the bells had been housed in a wooden belfry located in the parish schoolyard. However, the outbreak of World War I prevented the completion of his plans, and the steeples were not built until 1925, long after Father Obyrtacz had left St. Hedwig's.
Father Obyrtacz ended his pastorship in 1920. In his eleven years as pastor he had won the hearts of his parish loners through his sincere and dedicated interest in them and in St. Hedwig's. In the year of his departure three thousand seven hundred forty six families belonged to the parish and two thousand two hundred fifty nine pupils were attending the parish school.
The priests who served as assistants to Father Obyrtacz were: Paul Tudyka, CR., Julian Burzynski, CR., Anseim Babski, CR., Ladislaus Filipski, CR., Francis Saborosz, C.R., Charles Faltnski, C.R. and Adalbert Kmtecik, CR.
The Rev. Stanislaus Siatka, CR., who succeeded Father Obyrtacz as pastor, held the position for only three years. Nevertheless, in that short time a monumental addition was made to St. Hedwig’s. On the corner of Hoyne Avenue and Lyndale Street arose a modern new school. The four story building, which cost one hundred sixty thousand dollars, solved a classroom shortage and provided additional meeting rooms for various parish organizations.
The year 1923 saw the Rev. Francis Dembinski, CR. installed as the fifth pastor of St. Hedwig's Church. His humble and gentle ways won the affection of his people. Many were his works of charity, quietly and secretly done. Moreover, he revealed the same vigilance over parish property as had his predecessors. Soon after becoming pastor he had repair work done on some of the parish buildings. Despite these added expenses he managed to lower the debt on the parish. In 1925 he brought to fulfillment the plan conceived by Father Obyrtacz ‑ the addition of steeples to the church. New hells were purchased and these together with the old bells from the school yard were mounted in the new belfries. The ancient wooden belfry was removed from the schoolyard and the entire area was resurfaced.
In June, 1926 the Twenty Eighth Eucharistic Congress was held in Chicago, and the parishioners of St. Hedwig's actively participated in giving honor to their Eucharistic King. During the Congress many people visited St. Hedwig's Church; the most illustrious of these was His Excellency, the Most Rev. Kubina, Bishop of Czestochowa, Poland.
Father Dembinski had a deep interest in the young people of the parish, and he began to plan a youth center for them. Some money was raised for this project, but the depression in 1929 put an end to this undertaking.
In 1931 Father Dembinski celebrated the twenty fifth anniversary of his priesthood. The jubilee High Mass took place on October 25. There was also a banquet in his honor and priests and parishioners joined in expressing their felicitations to him on this happy occasion.
Four years later St. Hedwig's lost its beloved pastor. On Good Friday, April 19, 1935 Father Dembinski passed away, and the entire parish mourned his death. He left behind him a memory of gentleness and kindness, a remembrance which lives to this day.
Approach of the Golden Jubilee
St. Hedwig's received its new pastor, the Rev. Francis Uzdrowski, C .R., on May 24, 1935. With his coming the parish entered into a period of activity that demonstrated once again the vigor and vitality of St.Hedwig’s. It seemed that the pastor had but to present his plans and the congregation rallied to carry them out. In the summer of 1935 the entire school was repainted and the parish hall modernized. In autumn the first floor of the rectory was remodeled in order to provide additional office space. Then followed improvements to the church itself. New lighting fixtures were Installed, new cabinets built in the sacristy, and new liturgical vestments purchased.
All these changes were as a preparation for a truly major project. The Sisters' convent building was gradually giving way to the ravages of time, and frequent repairs could not keep up with its decline. Consequently, in 1936 with the approval of His Eminence, George Cardinal Mundelein, construction of a new convent was begun. His Excellency, the Most Rev. William O'Brien, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, blessed the completed convent on April 7, 1937 and also attended the first Solemn High Mass celebrated in the Sisters chapel. Afterwards, the Bishop took occasion to thank the parishioners for their generosity in providing such a fine home for their school teachers, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The Golden Anniversary
In the following year St. Hedwig's entered the fiftieth year of Its existence. The observance of this historic occasion began on October 23, 1938 with a three week parish retreat, conducted by the Franciscan Fathers Conventual of Ellicott City, Maryland. Among the missionaries was the renowned radio preacher, Father Justyn Figas, O.M.C., and people from all parts of the city flocked to St. Hedwig's Church to hear this widely known priest.
In preparation for the Golden jubilee the interior of the church had been beautifully redecorated. The facade of the church was likewise adorned with various flags.
The Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving took place on December 11, 1938. As the procession moved from the rectory into the brilliant sunshine, crowds of people lined the streets. When the procession began to enter the church, the choir burst into exultant song. Directing the choir was Dr. Emil Wiedeman, choirmaster at St. Hedwig's since 1896.
The celebrant of the Mass was His Excellency, the Most Rev. Stanislaus Bona from Grand Island, Nebraska. Assisting as the Archpriest was the Very Rev. Thaddeus Ligman, CR., Delegate for the Congregation of the Resurrection in the United States. The Deacon and Subdeacon were, respectively, the Rev. Francis Karwata and the Rev. Edward Morkowski, CR. The jubilee sermon was elouently delivered by Monsignor Francis Ostrowski.
The golden anniversary festivities included a banquet on Sunday, December 18. The parish ball was filled to capacity with over five hundred guests, many of whom had attended a similar banquet there, twenty five years ago.
The Establishment of a Mission Church
St. Hedwig's Church which itself had come into existence through the help of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish was able to perform this same service in 1939, although on a much smaller scaie. For a long time many parishioners living on the west side of Western Avenue had cherished the hope of having their own church, closer to their homes. In a period of six years they had frequently attended services in a small Hungarian church located at 2445 Washtenaw Avenue. InSeptember, 1939 the Hungarian congregation established a church in a new location and the church on Washienaw Avenue was left vacant. It seemed liken heaven sent opportunity, and the local Catholics were quick to take advantage of it. With Mr. and Mrs. Stanislaus Wasko as the principal advocates, a committee petitioned His Eminence, George Cardinal Mundelein to acquire the church and assign a priest to minister to the faithful in that area. Shortly afterwards, Father Uzdrowski was authorized to purchase the abandoned church, which was to be under his jurisdiction and bear the name 'St. Hedwig Mission Church'. On October 15, 1939 the Mission Church was formally opened. To this day it continues to be administered by a priest from St. Hedwig parish.
To honor the Blessed Mother of our Savior plans were made in 1941 to build a grotto between the rectory and the new school. The collection of funds was started that year and soon the goal was realized. The blessing of the grotto took place on May 3, 1942. Another welcome addition to the parish occurred on September 7, 1941 when St. Hedwig’s began publication of a weekly bulletin.
When World War II broke out, the people of St. Hedwig’s rallied to theft country's defense, even as they had done in the first World War when over eight hundred young men of the parish served in the armed forces. As the war raged on, Gold Stars began to appear in the windows of many homes. St. Hedwigs valiant sons were offering their lives to help pay the cost of freedom. They served their country with heroism and dedication, and an appreciative nation tried to express its deep gratitude.
Father Uzdrowski ended his term as pastor in May, 1946. He had spent eleven years at St. Hedwigs, and during that time he had made many and enduring contributions to the progress of the parish.
Within the span of twenty‑five years the following priests of the Congregation of the Resurrection served as assistants: Bronislaus Cieslak, CR., John Szczypta, CR., Anthony Bocian, CR., Adolph Drewniak, CR., Henry Gryczman, C.R., John Zdechlik, CR., Leonard Long, CR., Theodore Klopotowski, C.R., Theodore Wroblewski, CR., Stanislaus Swierczek, CR., Edward Brzezinski, C.R.,Joseph Polinski, C.R., Stanislaus Smuda, C.R., Gregory Palubicki, CR., Andrew Kloska, C.R., Felix Miliszkiewicz,C.R., Stanley Pawlikowskl, CR., Eugene Winkelman, C.R., Edward Golnik, C.R., Chester Bawelek, C.R., John Boclan, CR. and John Mysliwiec, C.R.
In May, 1946 the Rev. Jerome Klingsporn, C.R. became the seventh pastor of St. Hedwig’s Church. During the war he had served as a military chaplain in the United States Army, attaining the rank of Major.
Because of his desire to honor the St. Hedwig’s servicemen who had given their lives for their country, Father Klingsporn proposed the purchase of memorial plaques which would hear the names of these honored dead. The generous donations of the parishioners made possible the acquisition of these plaques. Permanently mounted in the church, the plaques were solemnly dedicated on November 17, 1946 with various American Legion Posts and parish societies in attendance.
Father Klingsporn was an active promoter of youth activities. Teams were entered I the athletic leagues of the Catholic Youth Organization and St. Hedwig’s athletes won many trophies emblematic of championships in the C.Y.O.
As the years past, parish retreats were held every second year and these were faithfully attended. In 1948, a the church was showing the erosion of age, a collection of funds was started to pay for tuck pointing, and repair. During these years the generous parishioners were in giving financial aid to the building of the new Weber High School, the aim a mater of many young men in the parish.
In 1951 St. Hedwig’s Church received a new organ. The dedication of this organ took place on April 22, 1951 His Excellency, the Most Rev. Bernard Shell, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, conducted the dedication, which incidentally, was followed by a concert given by the renowned organist, Dr. Mario Salvador.
Towards the end of 1951 the parishioners were asked to finance the cleaning of the interior of the church and they responded with their customary generosity. Soon the goal was reached, and St. Hedwig's Church took on a resplendent appearance. Another major improvement accomplished at this time was the installation of a new roof over the old school.
On September 13, 1954 Father Klingsporn was succeeded by the Rev. John Mysliwiec, CR. The new pastor soon gave evidence of his administrative abilities. After attending to various repairs and additions to parish buildings, he devoted his full attention to a considerable remodeling of the parish school. The wide expanses of antiquated windows throughout the school building were replaced with glass bricks and modern windows. The parochial school took on a pleasing and up‑to‑date appearance. These improvements were followed by the installation of a new and more efficient fire alarm system in the school.
During these years St. Hedwig’s was experiencing the pangs which often come with urban progress. The new Northwest Expressway had cut a swath through the homes of the parish. Many parishioners were forced to move away. This decrease in parish enrollment is reflected in the statistics for the ten year period extending from 1950 to 1959. In 1950 there were two hundred sixty eight baptisms, one hundred seventeen weddings, and one thousand two hundred eleven children in school. In 1959 these totals had dropped to two hundred two baptisms, forty four weddings, and one thousand sixteen pupils.
The pastorship of Father John Mysliwiec ended in 1960. During his six years as pastor he gave to his parish a forceful leadership and a capable administration of everything entrusted to his care.
Throughout the years St. Hedwig's Church had been blessed with zealous and devoted pastors. The present pastor, the Rev. Joseph Zaborowski, CR. faithfully fits that tradition. Appointed the ninth pastor of St. Hedwig's on September 10, 1960 he took up his duties with decisiveness and vigor, and the parishioners soon knew that their beloved parish was, as usual, in good hands.
In 1961 a new tile floor was laid in the church, and necessary repairs were made in the Sisters' convent, the parish hall, and the old school building which now was serving as a meeting place for many parish organizations.
The following year, in preparation for the diamond anniversary of the parish, the exterior of the church was cleaned and tuck pointed. Now its comely appearance belies its venerable age. New terrazzo stairs were installed at the main entrance of the church, and, appropriately enough, the work on these stairs was finished on Christmas Eve, Justin time for the traditional Midnight Mass.
As St. Hedwig's entered 1963, the year of its seventy fifth birthday, various committees were organized to handle the many tasks connected with the observance of this truly glorious anniversary. The details of this observance are given elsewhere in this book.
Listed below are the priests of the Congregation of the Resurrection, who were assistants at St. Hedwigs during the past twenty five years: Thaddeus Ligman, CR., Casimir Guziel, CR., Joseph Prusinskl, C.R., Joseph Wisniewski, CR., John Brzdenklewicz, CR., Anthony Laskowski, C.R., John Szczepanik, C.R., John Ksiazek, CR., John Wojcik, C.R., Adalbert Kowalczyk, C.R.,Edward Sala, C .R.,Joseph Slemiaszko, C.R., Chester Norkiewicz, C.R., Alexander Kocon, C.R., Stanislaus Cadacz,C .R.,Anthony Rybarczyk, C.R., Francis Laplnskl, CR., Ladislaus Bartylak, C.R., Stanley Duda, C.R., Anthony Saran, C.R.,James Prusinski, CR., Mitchell Tadla, CR., Francis Rog, C.R. and Joseph Bednarek, C.R.
The Coadjutor Brothers of the Congregation of the Resurrection also gave valuable service to St. Hedwig parish. Doing their work quietly and efficiently, they gave everyone an inspiring example of dedication to Cod and devotion to duty. During the past fifty years the following were stationed at St. Hedwig's at different times: Bro. Michael, C.R., Bro. Raymond Jaszczynski, C.R., Bro. John Sojda, C.R., Bro. Adam Hejzyk, C.R. and Bro. Stanislaus Gorzkowskl, C.R.
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