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St. Hyacinth Parish - La Salle IL

A brief parish history from the 1950 Jubilee Book

The early history of St. Hyacinth's Church in La Salle is the inspiring story of the aspirations and courage of a small group of Polish families who settled here in the year 1868. At first there were only six families. Soon, however, glowing reports of permanent employment and of golden opportunities in America served to attract more and more of their countrymen,so that by the year 1870 La Salle became the homeof a thriving community of Polish immigrants.

In the beginning they attended religious services at St. Joseph's Church in Peru. It was not long, however, before these thrifty and devout people made plans with the German people of La Salle to build a temporary structure on Fifth and Hennepin Streets. This was two story frame building with a school on the first floor and a place for Sunday Masses on the second. This arrangement was still far from satisfactory, since all services were conducted in the German language. It was a great joy to them, then when they learned that a Polish speaking Priest, Father Erasmus Bratkiewicz, arrived in Chicago from Poland. They immediately arranged through the Bishop of Chicago that this native Priest visit them and preach to them in their own beloved language. The repeated visits of Father Bratkiewicz inspired them with the determination to build a Church of their own. Under his leadership they held meetings, appointed committees and inaugurated a house-to-house canvass for the purpose of raising the necessary funds. So generous were the people in response to this plea, that in a few months sufficient money had been collected to purchase three lots at Tenth and Tonti Streets and to begin the erection of a Church. In the year 1875, the structure was completed at a cost of $7,000.00.

The 24th day of October in the year 1875 was a memorable one for the Polish pioneers of La Salle. The Most Rev. Thomas Foley, D. D., then a Coadjutor Bishop of Chicago, arrived to bless the new House of God. Church dignitaries, civic leaders and well-wishers from the La Salle area came to honor the Bishop, the Pastor and the faithful parishioners. The Most Rev. Bishop Foley pontificated at the Solemn Dedicatory Mass assisted by eight Priests. By naming the Church in memory of St. Hyacinth, the parishioners gave special veneration to a great Polish Saint, for it is believed that the Church in La Salle was the first American Church to be founded under his patronage.

It is eminently fitting in a memorial brochure of this kind that we include the names of these early pioneers, whose zeal and generosity played such an important part in the glorious history of this Parish:

List of Founders

Bartloszewski, Valentine Malek, Nicolaus
Bobkiewicz, Vincent Marenda, Daniel
Bratkowski, Peter Michalski, Joseph
Brzezinski, Matthew Michaiski, Adalbert
Baran, John Michaiski, Francs
Boreta, Francis Mindak, John
Boreta, Adam Panek, Thomas
Bodus, Andrew Panek, John
Cyra, Anthony Perski, Peter
Domek, Nicolaus Perski, Francis
Domek, Francis Pogrzeba, Norbert
Fojut, Joseph Pogrzeba, Francis
Gapinski, Simon Przybylinski, Andrew
Gajewski, Anthony Przybylinski, Ignatius
Graczynski, Joseph Pyszka, Anthony
Gostomski, Adalbert Pyszka, Joseph
Glaczynski, Theodore Pyszka, Michael
Gniot, Casimir Renkosik, Joseph
Hart, Michael Rex, Edward
Hosz, Lawrence Ryter, John
Jagodzinski, Francis I Sarwinski, Joseph
Jagodzinski, Francis II Sarwinski, Martin
Jagodzinski, Adam Siekierka, Francis
Jagodzinski, Ignatius Siekierka, Adalbert
Jagodzinski, John Sierkierka, Joseph
Jagodzinski, Peter Skiera, Michael
Jagodzinski, Lawrence Skowera, Michael
Jaraczewski, John Sment, Francis
Jasiek, Adalbert Sonnenberg, Francis
Jasinski, Stanislaus Sonnenberg, Ignatius
Jesiolowski, Valentine Szknocinski, Stanislaus
Jerzewiak, Michael Szmit, John
Kaczkowski, Francis Szot, Martin
Kasza, Martin Szot, Joseph
Kasza, Peter Szpajer, Anthony
Kamierski, Adam Szpajer, Joseph
Klimek, John Szpajer, Francis
Konczak, Paul Szweda, John
Konczak, Vincent Trok, Anthony
Korpal, John Tutaj, Adalbert
Krawiecki, Bartholomew Tutaj, Bartholomew
Krawiecki, James Waszkowiak, Francis I
Kroll, John Waszkowiak, Francis II
Krygier, Joseph Waszkowiak, John
Krygier, August Waszkowiak, Vincent
Krygier, Ignatius Waszkowiak, Joseph
Krygier, John I Waszkowiak, Paul
Krygier, John II Walloch, Adam
Kurkowski, Joseph Walloch, Lawrence
Kus, Anthony Walloch, Vincent
Lapacz, Martin Welnec Anthony
Lenski, James Wilczel, John
Lijewski, John Wilczek Simon
Liss, Adam Wilebski, Peter
Liss, Matias Winiewski, John
Liss, Valentine Wrobel, Adalbert
Loch, Andrew Wyrobek, John
Londkowski, John Wyciskala, Joseph
Londkowski, Joseph Wyszynski, Francis
  Wyszynski, John
  Zwick, Casimir

In May of 1877, La Salle became part of the newly established Diocese of Peoria, whose first Bishop was the brilliant and eloquent Most Rev. John Lancaster Spalding. Since Father Bratkiewicz was of the Chicago Diocese, he left La Salle in order to continue work in the Diocese of his adoption. His successor became the Rev. Kandyd Kozlowski.

Soon after his appointment, Father Kozlowski saw the need of founding an Orphanage for the children of Polish extraction in the Midwest. To this project the people of La Salle again responded generously. A comfortable two-story frame building was erected on a three-acre plot between Hennepin, Tonti and Eleventh Streets. The Felician Sisters of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois were in charge of the Orphans. Construction on the Orphanage was completed in October 1878 and blessed on the 16th of that month. Chicago, Milwaukee and Polonia, Wisconsin sent their Orphans to La Salle; as a consequence,some 80 Orphans were housed in the local Institution. In 1882 the Felician Sisters moved their Mother House to Detroit, Michigan, and turned their Convent in Polonia, Wisconsin, into an Orphanage. This provided spacious living quarters and excellent grounds for the Orphans of Polish parentage. Accordingly, the La Salle Foundation was abandoned and the children were sent to their new home in Polonia, Wisconsin. Father Kozlowski continued as Pastor of St. Hyacinth's until the year -1883. During his administration the Parish continued to grow rapidly so that by 1884 it numbered four hundred families. He is remembered for his energy and zeal in serving the spiritual needs of his people. It was during his administration that the Parish House was enlarged and land bought for the St. Hyacinth's Cemetery two miles north of La Salle in Dimmick Township.

The next Pastor, the Rev. Joseph Barzynski served less than a year. He was su:ceeded by Father Stanislaus Baranowski, who returned to his native Poland in 1886 after a pastorate of two years.

In 1886, Bishop Spalding appointed Father Sigmund Wozny to St. Hyacinth's. His youth, energy, eloquence and friendliness won the admiration and love of his people. He remained at St. Hyacinth's until t889 when he left to take over the duties in a large Polish Parish in Cleveland, Ohio.

On August 4, 1889, the Rev. M. Grochowski took charge of St. Hyacinth's until the recall of Father Wozny by his Bishop September 25, 1889. From this date Father Wozny served the La Salle Parish until January 25, 1891. Shortly before Father Wozny's departure, for it was on the Sunday after Christmas of 1890, that a fire destroyed the original Church Building. The faithful leaving the Church after the first Mass and others coming for the second Mass, observed smoke issuing from the floor near the Main Altar. The alarm was sounded. The Blessed Sacrament was carried to safety as flames from the defective heating system engulfed the wooden structure. Nothing was saved except a painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is an object of veneration in the Parish today.

"There is no evil out of which some good ensues." Divine Providence sent a man in the person of Father Ladislaus Grabowski in the month of January 1891. His appointment was a boon to the Parish. Having served Parishes in Poland, Italy, France and Brazil before coming to America, he had wide experience, vast knowledge and far reaching vision. With characteristic energy, Father Grabowski lost no time in summoning his parishioners to outline the work that was ahead. In a short time a temporary structure was erected and plans were formulated for a new and imposing edifice. The Pastor himself led the house-to house canvass for funds, and by June 1891, sufficient money was on hand to lay the foundations for a new Church. By August 1892, the imposing red brick Church in Gothic Style was completed on Tenth and Tonti Streets. On Sunday August 14, 1892, the Most Rev. John Lancaster Spalding, in the presence of many dignitaries, parishioners and well-wishers, fittingly dedicated this beautiful Gothic Church, which remains today as a symbol of a Pastor's and a peoples' devotion and Faith.

Perpetuated in each brick
Lives the memory of
Our Fathers, who had gwen all-
To build, with faith and love,
This holy place of worship
From unproductive sod,
While we in turn, remember
And gratefully, thank You-God.

Vivian Kurkowski Volk

Following the Mass, Bishop Spalding spoke eloquently on the destiny of the Polish people of America: "I am not a prophet", he said, "but I am certain that the Poles of America will play a beautiful and important role in the Catholic Church of America." It was at this time that the three Bells, so familiar to everyone in the La Salle area, were rung for the first time. Their tones seemed to proclaim a new day for this illustrious Parish.

The people of St. Hyacinth's were saddened on July 7, 1894, by the announcement of Father Grabowski that he is being transferred to a Polish Parish in Winona, Minnesota. Then followed an a Administratorship by Rev. Xavier Gurowski to July 15, 1894; Rev. Anthony Klawiter to August 18, 1894, until the Parish was again blessed by a permanent Pastor in the person of the congenial Father Apolinary Tyszka who remained until January 6, 1896. He was succeeded by the Rev. Anthony Sikorski, who was requested September 12, 1896 by the Bishop to organize St. Valentine's Parish in Peru, Illinois. It may be of interest that on the 14th day of January, 1896, the present Pastor, the Rev. Francis J. Pilarek was baptized by Father Sikorski.

The Rev. Joseph Barzynski, who served as Pastor in 1884, returned to La Salle. He remained with the people he loved so much until December 18, 1898. III health compelled him to seek lighter work as Chaplain to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Chicago.

Again the Most Rev. Bishop had to resort to an Administrator. The Rev. Ladislaus Kusius was sent temporarily to take charge of Pastoral duties at St. Hyacinth's until the appointment on April 7, 1899 of the Rev. Bernard M. Skulik, D. D.

It may be well to mention here, that, while so many changes occurred in Pastorships, in the meanwhile, the Parish rejoiced in having given two of her sons to the service of God. On December 19, 1891 the Rev. Ladislaus Bobkiewicz, whose name became synonymous with St. Hyacinth's Parish for many years, was ordained and celebrated his First Solemn Mass July 25, 1897. Six years later Father Felix Kieruj celebrated his First Solemn Mass July 25, 1897. Father Kieruj was incardinated into the Detroit, Michigan, Diocese where he labored faithfully until his death in 1919.

Following Father Joseph Barzynski's resignation, the Rev. Bernard M. Skulik, D. D. was appointed Pastor April 5, 1899. He received his early education in Krakow, Poland. Later, he studied at the Gregorian College in Rome, Italy, where his talents earned him the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology. On coming to America, his first assignment was in Passaic, New Jersey. Here he became prominent as the editor of a Weekly Polish Newspaper, "The Catholic". He also served in various Parishes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

One of Father Skulik's first projects in La Salle was the building of a new parochial school to replace the inadequate wooden structure that had for years served the needs of the Parish. The new school building is of brick construction, three stories high and includes twelve large classrooms. Upon completion in 1900, it was considered the finest and largest school building in the Diocese of Peoria. The Most Rev. Bishop Spalding officiated at the blessing and dedication. In his address he emphasized two points: theimportance of knowing the language of one's ancestors,and the need for more and better religious schools through out America.

Father Skulik's efforts did not stop, however, with the completion of the school. The year 1904 saw the installation of the excellent Pipe Organ, still in use; impressive twenty-four foot pillars which inspire the dignity of the interior Gothic Arches. Another improvement included the Gothic Windows in the Sacristy. In 1905, the interior of the Church was redecorated and the mechanism for the unique six-dialed clock was installed in the west side steeple. As the need for a new parish house became more pressing, Father Skulik began construction on a three-story brick structure in 1909. The Parsonage is a roomy and comfortable home and has served as a favorite meeting place for visiting clergy for the past forty-one years.

Father Skulik left La Salle April 9, 1910. After serving various parishes in Europe and the United States he returned to his former parish in Manchester, N. H. where he died May 1, 1924. The School, the Rectory and the beautiful interior of St. Hyacinth's Church are fitting monuments to this untiring and zealous Priest.

Shortly after the departure of Father Skulik, the vacancy was filled by a native son, Father Ladislaus Bobkiewicz. Young in years nevertheless wide of experience in the administration of a Parish he built Churches in Minonk and Oglesby, Illinois and had ministered in five other parishes. His coming to La Salle was followed by a period of unprecedented activity. He exerted efforts to reduce the debt of $28,000.00 which still remained against the parish. Meanwhile the roof and spires of the Church were repaired, the interior of the School was renovated, and a modern electric wiring system was installed in the Church. Aware of the inadequate quarters provided for the Sisters, Father Bobkiewicz brought the matter to the attention of his parishioners. The building was enhanced by a gift of $10,000.00 from the Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company and another donation of $5,000.00 from the Illinois Zinc Company. The construction of a modern two and one-half story brick structure got under way by the summer of 1916.

Most satisfying and heart-warming to the new Pastor was the ordination of his brother Francis to the Priesthood in December 1911. He celebrated his First ''Solemn Mass in St. Hyacinth's Church, December 26, 1911. Two years later, another young Priest, Father "Wer Jagodzinski was ordained and celebrated his First Solemn Mass December 28, 1913. His former Pastor, the Rt. Rev. Ladislaus Bobkiewicz, lived long enough to see Father Alebrt Jagodzinski elevated to the prelacy with the title of Rt. Rev. Monsignor.

On the 25th of January 1920, the Rev. Theodore Wujek was ordained and celebrated his First Solemn Mass at St. Hyacinth's Church, February 1, 1920. He is new Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Oglesby, Illinois.

Besides giving so many young men to the service of God, the Parish was just as generous in contributing man-power to the service of their country in the First World War. Four hundred and forty-nine young men answered the call of duty. Of these, fifteen did not return. Sixteen of the parishioners saw service in the Polish Army; one of these died on the field of battle.

In 1919, a new section was added to the Cemetery, increasing its area to eleven acres. Divided into lots and beautifully landscaped with a towering Crucifix on Group in the center, the Cemetery is a place of beauty and fitting place of eternal rest for the faithful of the Parish.

The spiritual vitality of any Parish is nowhere exhibited better than in the dedication of sons and daughters to the service of God. In April 1923, two young men were ordained at St. Hyacinth's Church by the Most Rev. Edmund M. Dunne, namely the Rev. Francis J. Pilarek and the Rev. Louis Zandecki. Father Pilarek celebrated his First Solemn Mass on April 11, 1923 and Father Zandecki on April 15, 1923. In the following year a similar honor came to the Rev. Edmund Bratkowski and Rev. Bernard Tomaszewski. Subsequently, other sons entered into the Priesthood: The Rev. Lawrence Grzybowski, The Rev. Valentine Liss, The Rev. Sylvester Jesiolowski, The Rev. Vincent Jasiek, The Rev. Chester Jagodzinski, The Rev. John Padlo, S. V. D., and The Rev. January Padlo, O. F. M. Among those who entered the Brotherhood of the Franciscan Order are: Brother George Zandecki, O. F. M., Brother Raymond Wysocki, O. F. M., and Brother
Fidelis Sabowski, O. F. M.

Equally significant is the number of daughters of the Parish who have dedicated their lives to the service of God. At this juncture some fifty-six young women are working in the Vineyard of the Lord in the various Religious Orders of Women.

The year 1925 marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of the Parish. To the young it was a day of great inspiration; to the adults it was a day-of happy reminiscence and thanksgiving. A Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by the Most Rev. Bishop Edmund M. Dunee, D. D., Bishop of Peoria. Bishop Dunne, a warm personal friend of the Pastor, spoke glowingly of the distinguished history of the Parish. He extolled the people for their sacrifices and reminded them that from the humble beginnings of a few families in 1875 the Parish now numbered six hundred and fifty families, with a school enrollment of seven hundred children.

Signal honors came to Father Ladislaus Bobkiewicz in the summer of 1931, when Pope Pius XI conferred upon him the dignity of a Domestic Prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. On October 20, 1931 the Most Reverend Bishop, Joseph H. Schlarman, D. D., Bishop of Peoria, presided at the investiture held before a large concourse of Prelates, Priests and Laity. The Most Rev. Paul P. Rhode, Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, delivered the festive sermon.

On March 10, 1939 the whole world mourned the death of Pope Plus XI. His Successor, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, was the happy choice of the Polish people throughout the world. As Papal Nuncio to Poland, He gained a wide knowledge of Slavic affairs and problems, and with this knowledge grew a strong affection and sympathy for its people. He assumed the Pontificate at a time when the world was shaken by the march of Hitler into Poland, precipitating the horrors of another World War. Ultimately the United States was forced into the conflict and four hundred and sixty-five young men and women from St. Hyacinth's responded to the Country's call. One by one the gold stars began to appear until there were twenty-mute evidence that these men had given their lives that many might live.

The infirmities that accompany old age finally took their toll and the health of the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Bobkiewicz began to decline. He became seriously ill on the 16th day of April, 1948 at St. Mary's Hospital, La Salle, Illinois, where he had been a patient for nearly two years and died that same day. For three days his body lay in State at the foot of the Main Altar. At his funeral the Most Rev. Bishop Joseph H. Schlarman, D. D. celebrated the Requiem Mass, and the Priests' Choir of the Diocese rendered the Gregorian Chant of the Requiem. He was laid to rest by his successor, the Rev. Francis J. Pilarek, among his own people for whom he had labored so long and zealously.

During the illness of Monsignor Bobkiewicz, the affairs of the Parish were entrusted to Father Paul Runowicz, an Assistant to Monsignor Bobkiewicz. Father Runowicz was assisted by the Rev. George Bubniak, who later left the Parish to serve as Chaplain in the United States Army, and Father Sylvester Jesiolowski was sent to assist Father Runowicz.

On May 4, 1947, Monsignor Bobkiewicz resigned his Pastorate, and a month later, June 12, 1947 the people of St. Hyacinth's rejoiced that one of their own sons, the Rev. Francis J. Pilarek, was to succeed as Pastor. It was a happy circumstance that shortly after his appointment Father Pilarek celebrated his twenty-fifth Anniversary Mass in the Church of his youth.

With the appointment of Father Pilarek a great period of activity ensued. There was much to be done, since war economies and a shortage of materials had curtailed repairs and improvements for some years. The new Pastor has the nobility and serenity of soul that comes to those who toil sincerely in the Vineyard of the Lord. With his two able Assistants, Father Heinc Ciesielski and Father Marion Switka, he succeeded in kindling the hearts of his parishioners with a spirit of cooperation and spiritual zeal. When the new Pastor had completed the repairs urgently necessary in the Church, he set out to make important advancements in the school. One of the outstanding achievements was the introduction of a Kindergarten rated as one of the most modern and efficient in the State. The ground floor of the school building was converted into an inviting and comfortable hall which serves as a welcome meeting place for young and old alike. The school auditorium on the third floor was completely remodeled and redecorated. The playground was enhanced by much needed black topping and athletic equipment installed. The school library was enlarged considerably by the acquisition of supplementary texts, reference works, and audio-visual aids. Extensive repairs were also made in the Sisters' Convent.

Spiritual benefits were added to the Parish by the institution of a perpetual Novena in Honor of St. Anthony which was initiated by the Rev. Victor Krzywonos, O. F. M. of Pulaski, Wisconsin on November 21, 1947. The Novena is conducted every Tuesday after the 8::00 o'clock Mass in Polish and in the evening at 7:30 in English. The solemn Novena commences on June 5 and thrives through June 13. During this occasion the Novena is solemnized by procession, the novena, special sermons, Benediction and public veneration of the Relic of St. Anthony. To date over 300 thanksgivings for favors received have been forwarded. Plans are in the offing to erect a special St. Anthony Shrine in the location where the present statue is placed.

The year 1950 is witness to tremendous spiritual activity both here and abroad. The fifth mission in the long progressive history of the parish was conducted by a Jesuit Father. The mid-century year marked the opening of the inspiring Holy Year in Rome. It marks the Diamond Jubilee of St. Hyacinth's, the parent of Polish Roman Catholic Parishes in the midwest. While its parishioners, now numbering eight hundred and fifty families, can look back with satisfaction to the work well done in the service of God, they can take solace in the thought that St. Hyacinth's is still in its youth, eager and confident in the great future that lies ahead for St. Hyacinth's Parish.

Miss Barbara Petz.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011