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St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish - Cicero IL

A parish history from the 1945 Jubilee Book

St. Mary's of Czestochowa, namesake of the famous miracle shrine of Czestochowa, the "Holy City" of Poland, goes back in its history to the late "Eighties" - to the days when Hawthorne in Cicero was literally just a prairie. Eighty six families formed the nucleus of what was destined to become in just a few decades the largest parish in all Cicero; and the small wooden church in which these devout souls worshipped their God was to give way in time to the largest and most beautiful Gothic edifice in this the largest suburb of Chicago.

These pioneers settled here in what was then called Hawthorne because of the ready opportunity of earning a livelihood. The Western Electric Company was not as yet established here; but the large lime and stone quarry at what is now Cicero Avenue and 31st Street strongly attracted the Polish and German emigrants. As an added attraction and inducement the Company built small wooden huts for the workmen and their families adjacent to the quarry; hence it was here - here on what is now 30th Street and east of what is now Cicero Avenue to the Belt Line tracks that the pioneers settled.

Up to the year 1895 these devout Catholics walked some three and a half miles to St. Casimir's, the closest Polish church, and prior to 1890 to St. Adalbert's, some five and a half miles away, where they could hear the Word of God spoken to them in their beloved mother tongue. But they longed for their own church where they might worship more regularly and for their own school where they might have their children educated in the faith of their fathers. So on March 27, 1892, the pioneers held their first meeting and discussed and formulated plans for the forming of a new parish. By May of the following year they were able to purchase six lots at Linden Avenue (now 49th Avenue) and 30th Street at a cost of $2,250.00. A delegation was sent to the Archbishop of Chicago to petition permission for the formation of a parish. His Grace, Archbishop Feehan, delegated the Rev. Paul Szulerecki of St. Adalbert parish to help in the work of organization. But there were many difficulties and various obstacles in the way at the time,-difficulties and obstacles seemingly unsurmountable; so dreams couldn't come true and plans didn't materialize until 1 895 when at long last Archbishop Feehan formally recognized the little band as a parish and designated the Rev. Casimir Slominski its first pastor.

St. Mary’s First Pastor

Father Slominski came to his flock as pastor on Decoration Day, 1895. One of the pioneers, Mr. Stephen Bartoszek, transformed his hall on the northwest corner of Jessamine (now 48th Court) and 30th Street into a temporary church and offered the flat in the rear of this hall as living quarters for the Pastor. In this temporary church Father Slominski said Mass and administered the Sacraments until the first church was built a few months later. This hall was also used as the "Parish School," a primitive sort of thing, a sort of "general" school, where "all classes, allgrades, in one" were taught by the first organist of the parish, Mr. Alexander Rodon; and then, from February 1st, 1896, by the second organist, Mr. Theodore Mlyniec, until the first "parish hall" was built. The new church was a wooden structure erected on the south side of 30th Street between Jessamine and Linden (48th Court and 49th Avenue). St. Mary's first church was built at a cost of $5,000. At this same time was built the first rectory, a frame building, on Linden Avenue, on the site of our present Convent. On Sunday, August 18, 1895, the new church was blessed by Father John Radziejewski, pastor of St. Adalbert Church, assisted by Father Casimir Sztuczko, pastor of Holy Trinity Church, and Father Adalbert Furman, pastor of St. Casimir Church. The sermon on this joyous occasion was preached by Father Sztuczko.

Three years later, in July of 1898, Father Slominski built a "Parish Hall," a small, one-room frame building, behind the church. This "parish hall" was to serve also as the "parish school."

St. Mary’s Second Pastor

After four years of pioneering here at St. Mary's, Father Slominski was succeeded in July of 1899 by the Rev. Leo Wyrzykowski, who carried on the work of his Predecessor and ministered to the spiritual needs of his people for five years, up to July of 1904.

St. Mary’s Third Pastor

In July of 1904 the Rev. Bronislaus Czajkowski came to St. Mary's as its third pastor. Father Czajkowski was destined by Providence to serve St. Mary's for a period of thirty-five long years-years full of when we look back in retrospect we must admit he certainly performed that task wonderfully well; he certainly "left behind himself' deep footprints on the sands of time;" he certainly "built himself a monument more lasting than bronze!"

St. Mary’s Parish School Founded

First of all, Father Czajkowski transformed the "parish hall" behind the frame church into two class-rooms. He invited the Franciscan Sisters of St.Joseph of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, to conduct the school. Fifty-four pupils made up the first class. Thus was established St. Mary's Parochial School, a real "Grade" school in the accepted sense of the term.

A Period of Expansion

In January of 1905 Father Czajkowski began the construction of a brick church and school combination building at a cost of $63,000.00 on the southeast corner of Linden and 30th Street. The cornerstone of this combination building was blessed by the Polish Archbishop Albin Szymon, who was visiting in this country at the time. In December of the same year this church and school building was blessed by His Grace, Archbishop Quigley. St. Mary's now numbered two hundred and forty families.

In 1908 Father Czajkowski erected the present convent for the Sisters, who up to this time had their living quarters in the combination building. The convent was built at a cost of $17,000.00.

By 1914 all parish debts had been liquidated and in addition six lots were purchased on the corner of 48th Court and 30th Street for the future church and rectory. In 1917 the present rectory was built at a cost of $26,000.00.

St. Mary’s New Church

On October 29th of the same year the then auxiliary bishop of Chicago, the Rt. Rev. Alexander McGavick, assisted by the Rev. Stanislaus Nawrocki, as deacon, and the Rev. Frank Woitalewicz, as subdeacon, blessed the corner-stone of St. Mary's present house of worship,- a beautiful Gothic structure that towers above all else in all Cicero and which rises heavenward a living eloquent monument to the faith and generosity of a Pastor and his flock. The sermon on this occasion was preached by the Rev. Theodore Langfort, pastor of St. Valentine Church.

Blessing of St. Mary’s New Church

On March 10th, 1918, His Grace, Archbishop Mundelein blessed the new church and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for the first time by the Rt. Rev. Paul Rhode, then auxiliary bishop of Chicago. He was assisted at this Mass by the Rev. Francis Wojtalewicz, pastor of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in South Chicago, as assistant priest; the Rev. Francis Ostrowski, pastor of St. Josaphat Church, as deacon; and the Rev. Francis Karabasz, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, as subdeacon. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Louis Grudzinski, pastor of St. John of God Church.

The church was erected at a cost of $132,000.00. Both exterior and interior are of Gothic style. Its seating capacity is 1000. On June 23rd Father Wojtalewicz blessed the new organ which was installed at a cost of $8,000.00. In the same month Monsignor Stanislaus Nawrocki, pastor of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, blessed the newly installed Stations of the Cross. It was not until 1927, however, that the beautiful Gothic altars, pulpit, and Communion rail,-all of costly and precious Carraramarble, were imported from Italy and erected in thechurch. High on the main altar is seen in mosaic a copy of the celebrated "Black Madonna" of Czestochowa, Poland, the miraculous picture ascribed to the Evangelist St. Luke. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa, Patroness of the "Holy City" of Poland and Patroness of our parish. On the Epistle side of this altar appears in life size a statue of St. Hedwig, Queen of Poland and Patroness of Polish mothers; while on the Gospel side we see the life sized statue of St. Stanislaus Kostka, Patron of Polish youth. The side altars are dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to St. Joseph. On May 30th, 1927, these beautiful altars were solemnly consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Edward Hoban, then auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

Silver Jubilee of the Parish

In May of 1920, St. Mary's celebrated the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of its founding. It was a time of special joy and exultation for Father Czajkowski and his parishioners. Pastor and flock keenly felt they had reason to exult; but they felt even more keenly they had very much to thank Almighty God for at this time of Silver Jubilee. Yes, they had reason to rejoice; St. Mary's now was one of the largest parishes in the whole archdiocese of Chicago; it now numbered eight hundred families with nine hundred children in its school; it had a large Archconfraternity of the Rosary with three hundred fifty-nine members and a still larger Apostleship of Prayer with five hundred members; it had a Literary Society, two branches of the Boy Scouts, four groups of Sokols, and twenty eight other well organized parish and benevolent societies. Its parish property was now worth over a quarter million dollars, or, more exactly, $303,000. Yes, proud pastor and proud parishioners had something to be proud of! But while, quite naturally, the sentiments of the "Te Deum" welled up from their joyful hearts, there must have come to their minds the words of St. Paul the Apostle: "I planted, Apollo watered, but it was God Who gave the increase;" or the words of the Psalmist David: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Yes, pastors and people worked hand inhand and they worked hard, too; but it was God Who gave the increase, it was God Who blessed theirefforts and crowned them with such success!

So on May 31st, with sentiments of joy and satisfaction in their hearts Pastor and flock gathered together in the silver bedecked church to offer thanks to Almighty God in becoming manner. A solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Father Slominski, the first pastor of St. Mary's. He was assisted at this Mass by two former assistants of the parish, Fathers Theodore Langfort and Thomas Smyk. The jubilee sermon was delivered by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Stanislaus Nawrocki. In the evening Solemn Vespers were celebrated by Father Wyrzykowski, the second pastor of the parish, with two other former assistants, Fathers Raymond Appelt and Anthony Halgas, assisting. The sermon at the Vesper Service was delivered by the Rt. Rev. Francis Ostrowski, pastor of St. Josaphat Church. Many of the Reverend Clergy of Chicago and elsewhere as likewise former parishioners came to St. Mary's to take part in the joyous celebration.

Father Czajkowski’s Silver Jubilee

In July of 1927 unbounded joy again prevailed at St. Mary's on the occasion of Father Czajkowski's Silver Jubilee of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood. Father Czajkowski had come to St. Mary's twenty three years before,-two years after his ordination, a young man of thirty, almost a newly ordained priest. He had spent twenty-three of the twenty five years of his priesthood here and he certainly "spent" himself for God and for the good of the souls committed to his care. He was just fifty-three now, though he looked much older because he worked and he worked hard; but he was happy today on his Jubilee Day as he looked back upon those twenty-five years he spent in the Vineyard of the Master; and he must have been happy indeed as he glanced at his accomplishments here at St. Mary's in old Hawthorne. But he realized all the while ever so keenly that he was just an instrument in the hands of the Almighty; and he must have realized in the deepness of his soul that"he watered what others planted," -yes; but again, "it was God Who gave the increase." So he turned again to God in sentiments of deepest humility and profoundest gratitude when in the presence of his beloved congregation he offered to Almighty God a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving. He was assisted at this Mass by Father Theodore Langfort and Father Bronislaus Celichowski. Msgr. Ostrowski deliveredthe sermon. In the evening a banquet, attended by 500 guests, was held in Father Czajkowski's honor.

Church Fire

In the joyful Christmas season, on January 17, 1934, tragedy came to St. Mary's in the form of a fire which broke out in the church as a result of crossed wires. The fire destroyed not only the beautiful crib which had been set up for the Christmas holidays, and smoked up the interior of the church, but also damaged very badly the side altar of St. Joseph, before which the crib stood, as well as a section of the Communion rail before that altar. It was some months before a new altar and rail were built in Carrara, Italy, and imported to this country and set up in place of the ones damaged by the fire, after which the church was redecorated.

Death of Father Czajkowski

On October 13, 1939, tragedy again came to St. Mary's, when after a lingering illness, her beloved pastor, Father Czajkowski, passed away in death. He was sixty-five at the time of death and had spent thirty-five of his thirty-seven years in the priesthood here at St. Mary's. And those were fruitful years, too, as evidenced by the splendid parish buildings he left behind in eloquent testimony of the wonderful capabilities and undying energy of a true priest of Jesus Christ. Little wonder, then, that all mourned his passing; little wonder that church dignitaries and public officials, high and low, paid him tribute of highest praise.

On October 17, in the presence of His Excellency, the Most Rev. Bishop Shell, then administrator of the Diocese of Chicago after the death of His Eminence the late Cardinal Mundelein, Father Czajkowski's funeral Mass was said by the Rev. Casimir Gronkowski, pastor of St. Adalbert's, assisted by the Rev. Fathers Bernard Szudziriski, of St. Valentine's, and Felix Kachnowski, of St. Stanisleus', Posen. Masses were said simultaneously at the side altars by Fathers Vincent Nowakowski and Walter Kozlowski, both nephews of Father Czajkowski. The eulogy was preached by the Rev. Theodore Langfort, of West Pullman, after which Bishop Sheil pronounced the Final Absolution of the Dead. After the funeral Mass Father Czajkowski was laid to rest in Resurrection Cemetery to await his own glorious resurrection in the Lord. May the good Lord grant him eternal rest; and may perpetual light shine upon him!

Administrator at St. Mary’s

Upon the death of Father Czajkowski, the Rev. Francis Nogajewski, senior assistant here at St. Mary's, was appointed Administrator of the parish. He acted in this capacity until July of the following year, when a new pastor was appointed to succeed Father Czajkowski.

St. Mary’s Fourth Pastor

On July 13, 1940, the new archbishop of Chicago, His Excellency Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch, appointed the Rev. Theodore Langfort fourth pastor of St. Mary's. Father Langtort addressed his new flock as pastor for the first time on Sunday, July 15. He wasn't a stranger to St. Mary's; he knew St. Mary's and St. Mary's knew him. He had served here as an assistant away back early in his priesthood, from January, 1912, to July, 1915. It was he who organized the large Apostleship of Prayer in 1912 and the then famous Boy Scouts in 1913. It was from St. Mary's too that he was promoted to his first pastorate at St. Valentine's. He subsequently spent twenty years as pastor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in West Pullman. So he came to Hawthorne well qualified after long years of experience to take up and continue the work of his glorious Predecessor.

A Period of Reconstruction

Since coming to St. Mary's, Father Langfort has carried out a program of "reconstruction and renovation." He repaired and remodeled all the parish buildings: the church, school, rectory, convent, and parish hail, to the extent of $38,000.00. In addition he redecorated the church in preparation for this Golden Jubilee, at a cost of $18,000.00. He was able nevertheless to reduce the parish debt by $22,000.00. All this he was able to accomplish in so short a time because of the remarkable generosity and wholehearted cooperation of an appreciative flock.

Today, in its Jubilee Year, St. Mary's numbers over 1600 families. It has forty-three parish societies, three of which were organized by the present pastor; namely, the "Polish Welfare Society," with over a hundred members; the Ladies' Auxiliary Society," a highly active group; and a Senior and Junior Unit of the "Red Cross," organized to meet the exigencies of the war in which we are today engaged. This, then, is the story of St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish, -a story that truly reads like a romance. But there is much left unsaid in that story,-left for the reader to "read between the lines;"-it is the woeful tale of trials and difficulties; of disappointments and failures; of tears and of sweat! But all these combine and happily blend with the successes and the joys, with the satisfaction and the smiles, to form the glorious whole, the beautiful composite, the beautiful mosaic, that unveils itself before our mental
gaze today!

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011