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St. Hyacinth Church at George St. and Lawndale Ave. on the northwest side of Chicago was founded in 1894 by Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Noble St. Father Barzynski organized the new parish to thwart the establishment of a Polish national church on Wolfram St.

On Oct. 23, 1894, Dziennik Chicagoski (The Polish Daily News) reported that Rev. Francis Kolaszewski was planning to organize an independent church in the Avondale neighborhood. In the summer of 1894, Father Kolaszewski had founded an independent church (one "independent" of the Pope) in Cleveland, OH.

The golden jubilee history of St. Hyacinth Church published in 1944 states that early in 1894, Father Barzynski had informed a delegation of Poles that the time was not yet ripe to establish a parish in Avondale. Ignoring the priest's decision, a few Poles hired a schismatic clergyman, "acquired a plot of ground, and began the construction of a small wooden church building."

In announcing the formation of St. Hyacinth Church on Nov. 24, 1894, Dziennik Chicagoski noted: "This undertaking was started by true Polish Roman Catholics under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Feehan and is not to be confused with the attempted building of an 'independent church.'

Not only was St. Hyacinth Church founded in the midst of a depression, but only 35 families pledged their financial support of a Polish Catholic parish in the Avondale neighborhood. Compounding the situation was the fact that more than half of these families did not yet reside in the area.

As the original Polish settlement near Milwaukee Ave. and Division St. became overcrowded, families from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church made down payments on land in outlying areas such as Avondale. Polish families were familiar with this district as they traveled through it on their long journey to tend family graves at St. Adalbert cemetery in Niles, IL.

Although German Catholics had established the mission of St. Francis Xavier on Nelson St. east of the Chicago and North Western railroad tracks in 1888, the Avondale neighborhood remained sparsely settled throughout the 1890s. However, as families moved away from crowded city neighborhoods on the near northwest side of Chicago, Milwaukee Ave. from Logan Square to Irving Park rd. developed into a thriving business district with many Polish shopkeepers. By 1920, St. Hyacinth had become the largest Polish parish in Chicago.

When parishioners could not agree on a location for the new parish of St. Hyacinth, Father Barzynski settled the matter by having a church built at the corner of Milwaukee and Central Park Ave., on land owned by the Resurrectionist Fathers. A temporary chapel was blessed on Dec. 23, 1894 and Mass was celebrated in Avondale for the first time on Christmas Day 1894 by Rev. Simon Kobrzynski, CR.

The first pastor of St. Hyacinth Church was Rev. John Piechowski, CR, who had served as principal of St. Stanislaus Kostka College (later renamed Weber high school). Because there was no residence available, Father Piechowski commuted from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church each Sunday to say Mass in Avondale.

On June 9, 1895, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan dedicated the frame church of St. Hyacinth which had been designed by Adolphus Druiding. In its account of the ceremony, Dziennik Chicagoski commented:

Although St. Hyacinth Church is simple, it is pleasing to the eye. The church proper is on the first floor; the parish school is located below. Beside the church, the rectory is nearing completion. The half-completed independent church on Wolfram St., which had been purchased by Father Barzynski, was moved to the parish property where it was remodeled as the rectory of St. Hyacinth Church.

Father Piechowski's talents at organizing St. Hyacinth Church did not go unnoticed by Archbishop Feehan. In late June 1895, the Archbishop appointed Father Piechowski as pastor of St. Hedwig Church which had been the scene of a bitter controversy regarding the choice of a pastor.

Earlier in 1895, a group of parishioners had rioted in front of St. Hedwig rectory, forcing Archbishop Feehan to close St. Hedwig Church. When it became apparent that Rev. Anton Kozlowski, an assistant at the parish, would not be appointed pastor of St. Hedwig Church, he broke away from the Catholic Church and formed his own congregation, All Saints.

Although practically the entire membership of St. Hedwig Church initially supported Father Kozlowski, the majority of these men and women eventually returned to St. Hedwig Church.

Rev. Joseph Gieburowski, CR, succeeded Father Piechowski as pastor of St. Hyacinth Church. Under his direction, a parish choir was organized and an organ was bought at a cost of $400. Parish records for 1896 indicate that 19 baptisms, 3 marriages, and 19 funerals were solemnized at St. Hyacinth Church. The Sodality of the Children of Mary and the junior choir of St. Cecilia were established in 1897.

During his tenure as pastor, Father Gieburowski also ministered to the mission of St. Stanislaus B. & M. which had been organized in 1893 for the Poles of Cragin. After serving as pastor of St. Hyacinth Church for 17 months, Father Gieburowski was named an assistant at St. Hedwig parish.

In 1897, Rev. Eugene Sedlaczek, CR, was appointed pastor. Prior to this assignment, he had served as a temporary pastor of St. Hedwig Church and in 1894, he had published Nadzieja (Hope), the first Polish magazine for young people in the United States.

Father Sedlaczek's first concern was to settle the financial obligations of St. Hyacinth parish. On New Year's day 1898, he convened a meeting of the parish committee and proposed that the $15,693.69 debt to the Congregation of the Resurrection be paid at once. He also called for a final decision as to the location of St. Hyacinth parish buildings.

Only three votes were cast in favor of keeping St. Hyacinth Church at Milwaukee and Central Park Ave. The rest of the congregation agreed that the church should be relocated on Wolfram St. Father Barzynski had purchased this property-the site of the "independent church"-in 1894. The wisdom of this decision became clearer with time.

Named pastor of St. John Cantius Church in May 1899, Father Sedlaczek was succeeded by Rev. Anselm Babski, CR. Under his leadership, the churchschool building and rectory were moved to the present parish site in 1900. After necessary repairs had been made, the parish debt amounted to almost $20,000.

Father Babski directed the construction of a new rectory on George St. in 1901 at a cost of nearly $10,000. Following the completion of this building, the Sisters of Nazareth moved into the old rectory and their living quarters in the school were converted into classrooms.

By 1902 the membership of St. Hyacinth parish numbered 422 families. In that year, Father Babski and his three assistants officiated at 83 baptisms, 15 marriages, and 29 funerals. Bro. Adalbert Goralski, CR, purchased a new organ for the church at a cost of $1,500.

Avondale-and St. Hyacinth parish-continued to grow. By 1904, 485 families belonged to St. Hyacinth Church. Within one year, the parish membership increased to 719 families.

In order to relieve overcrowding in St. Hyacinth school, a frame structure was built in 1903. A permanent church and school building, constructed at the southeast corner of Wolfram St. and Lawndale Ave., was dedicated on Dec. 16, 1906 by Archbishop James E. Quigley. In 1907, the old church was converted into classrooms and meeting rooms.

During Father Babski's tenure as pastor, this parish grew from 200 to 1,200 families. When Father Babski retired in 1908, he was succeeded by Rev. John Szczypta, CR.

St. Hyacinth Church increased from 1,403 families in 1909 to 1,632 families in 1911. In 1912, the present rectory at 3636 W. Wolfram St. was constructed at a cost of $11,850. The old rectory on George St. was enlarged and remodeled as a convent for the Sisters of Nazareth.

On June 29, 1912, Archbishop Quigley divided St. Hyacinth parish to form the new Polish parish of St. Wenceslaus. A frame building which had served as a school and meeting hail in St. Hyacinth parish was turned over to the new parish of St. Wenceslaus. Since 1912, St. Hyacinth parish has served Polish families who live in the area bounded by Belmont Ave. on the north; Fullerton Ave. on the south; Kenton Ave. on the west; and Kedzie Ave. on the east.

In 1914, the Resurrectionist Novitiate was established temporarily at St. Hyacinth parish. Father Szczypta had been an assistant at the North American Novitiate when it was organized in 1901 at St. Stanislaus College.

On Aug. 10, 1915, Rev. John Zdechlik, CR, succeeded Father Szczypta as pastor of St. Hyacinth Church. Through the generosity of his congregation, Father Zdechlik was able to break ground for a new church on Apr. 30, 1917, the cornerstone of which was laid on Oct. 21, 1917 by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Stanislaus Nawrocki, pastor of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church in Bridgeport.

In 1917, the 2,088 families and 22 single members of St. Hyacinth parish contributed more than $45,000 to the building fund. In 1918, more than $20,000 was paid toward the new church, which was under construction on the south side of George St. between Lawndale and Central Park Ave.

On Jan. 12, 1920, Rev. John Sobieszczyk, CR, began his work in this parish. Father Sobieszczyk had grown up on the northwest side of Chicago. He was a member of the 1897 class at St. Stanislaus College and was graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome. The new pastor turned his attention toward the completion of the interior of St. Hyacinth Church. By 1920, more than 2,500 families and 110 single persons belonged to the parish. Together, they contributed $72,000 to the building fund. In 1920, 1,233 children were enrolled in the school under the direction of 17 Sisters of Nazareth.

After years of delay caused by financial and construction difficulties, St. Hyacinth Church was completed. Father Sobieszczyk celebrated Mass for the first time in the new structure on Aug. 7, 1921. On Oct. 16, 1921, Archbishop George W. Mundelein dedicated the magnificent edifice, which had been designed by the architectural firm of Worthmann and Steinbach.

In 1921, a new organ was purchased at a cost of $16,500 and the old church building was remodeled into classrooms. The bells which still toll in St. Hyacinth Church were blessed on Apr. 6, 1924.

Father Sobieszczyk continued to serve as pastor until his death on Oct. 11, 1926. His successor was Rev. Stanislaus Swierczek, CR, who had been pastor of St. Stanislaus B. & M. Church since 1909. He directed the completion of the school building which was begun during Father Sobieszczyk's pastorate at 3640 W. Wolfram St.

Under Father Swierczek's leadership, a new convent was constructed at 3651 W. George St. The brick building, designed by the architectural firm of Sandel & Strong, was dedicated on July 8, 1928 by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas P. Bona, pastor of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church.

In 1930, Rev. Stephen Kowalczyk, CR, became the ninth pastor of St. Hyacinth Church. He came to the parish from St. John Cantius Church where he had served as pastor since 1921.

Through careful administration and with the continued support of his congregation, Father Kowalczyk was able to retire the parish debt. He commissioned John A. Mallin, a well known artist, to decorate the interior of St. Hyacinth Church at a cost of $35,000.

In 1939, Rev. Theodore Klopotowski, CR, was appointed pastor. Under his direction, an addition to the parish rectory was completed about 1940.

Throughout the first and second World Wars, members of St. Hyacinth parish contributed generously for the defense of Poland and of the United States. Today at George St. next to St. Hyacinth Church stands a memorial in honor of veterans of both wars.

Fifty years after the founding of St. Hyacinth parish, it appeared as though a Polish National Church finally was to be established in Avondale, this time in a Protestant church at Barry and Spaulding Ave. However, Father Klopotowski acquired the building and rededicated it in 1944 as St. Hyacinth Mission.

On Oct. 15, 1944, Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch presided at the golden jubilee of St. Hyacinth parish. Mayor Edward J. Kelly addressed the people of the parish at a banquet following the jubilee Mass. The history of this important Polish parish was compiled by Rev. Joseph S. Zaborowski, CR (later pastor of St. Hedwig Church) with the assistance of Ignatius Gorzynski, a parishioner, and Rev. Edward Janusz, CR.

In 1954, Father Klopotowski was named chaplain of Sacred Heart Villa in Park Ridge, IL, and Rev. Joseph Polinski, CR, was appointed pastor of St. Hyacinth Church. One of Father Polinski's first concerns was to relieve overcrowding at the mission church. In 1956, Our Lady of Fatima Mission was constructed at 3051 N. Christiana Ave.

In 1957, Rev. Bernard Bak, CR, former superior and rector of St. John Cantius Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., was appointed pastor. The new pastor embarked on a program to update the parish facilities and it soon became apparent that a new school was needed. In 1962, the old school building at the corner of Wolfram St. and Lawndale Ave. was razed and plans for a new structure were drawn up by Edmund J. Zarek. While construction was underway, students attended classes on double shifts in the school building at 3640 W. Wolfram St., now known as Nazareth hall.

On Apr. 16, 1963, Auxiliary Bishop Aloysius J. Wycislo laid the cornerstone of St. Hyacinth school. The new building known as Resurrection hail opened in September 1963. The $425,000 structure, which contains eight classrooms, library, cafeteria, and meeting rooms, was dedicated by Bishop Wycislo on Mar. 22, 1964. Seventh and eighth graders attend classes in Resurrection hail, and grades one through six are housed in Nazareth hall.

In 1964, Father Bak was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Kitchener, Ontario in Canada. His successor was Rev. Stanley Tarczan, CR, who had been an assistant at St. Hyacinth Church from 1949 to 1952.

Under Father Tarczan's leadership, the new Altar of Sacrifice was erected in St. Hyacinth Church to conform with the changes in liturgy adopted by the Vatican Council. In 1965, Father Tarczan organized the intra-parish council as a means of broadening parish activities. In 1966, 10,000 persons belonged to the parish and 1,140 children were enrolled in the school.

At a banquet in May 1966 at McCormick Place to commemorate Poland's Millenium of Christianity, the delegation from this parish was the largest in the Archdiocese. St. Hyacinth parish also was well represented at the Pontifical Mass celebrated in Soldier Field on Aug. 28, 1966.

During his tenure as pastor, Father Tarczan organized the commentators' group under the direction of Rev. Joseph Prusinski, CR, and Rev. Marion Gienko, CR, associate pastors.

St. Hyacinth Church was cleaned, repaired, and rewired in preparation for the 75th anniversary of the founding of the parish which was celebrated on Oct. 5, 1969. Bishop Wycislo of Green Bay, Wis. was principal celebrant at the jubilee Mass; Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz delivered the homily; and Dr. Jan Chojnacki and Father Gienko directed the jubilee choir. More than 1,000 men and women attended a dinner dance on Oct. 11, 1969 at Weber high school, the concluding event in the diamond jubilee celebration.

Father Tarczan continued to serve as pastor until his death on May 27, 1971. His successor, Rev. Francis J. Grzechowiak, CR, served as pastor of St. Hyacinth Church from Aug. 22, 1971 until June 1977. A native Chicagoan, Father Grzechowiak returned to the city from Burlington, Ontario in Canada where he had been pastor of St. Gabriel Church since 1969. With the support of his parishioners, he and his associates worked to maintain the parish complex of St. Hyacinth which includes the rectory, convent, church, and two school buildings.

On June 29, 1977, Rev. Marion Gienko, CR, was appointed pastor. He was well acquainted with the parish, having served as associate pastor since 1964.

In 1978, 478 children were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of 14 Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and 10 lay teachers. An active parish, St. Hyacinth supports a School Board, Parish Council, and 35 clubs, societies, and sodalities.

Associate pastors include Rev. Louis Gracz, CR; Rev. Chester Norkiewicz, CR; Rev. Casimir V. Polinski, CR, former pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and former administrator of Holy Trinity Church; and Rev. Constantine Przybylski, CR. Rev. Joseph S. Samborski, CR; Rev. Joseph Gluchowski, CR; and Bro. Thomas Iwicki, CR, are in residence. Three permanent deacons-Edward Sanders, Edward Rozanski, and Stefan Stanczak-have been ordained from St. Hyacinth parish.

From "A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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