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Chicago - St. Salomea Parish 1897-1990

by Thomas J. Draus, Box 464, Hazel Green, W1 53811-0464 from the PGSA Summer 1994 Bulletin. Used with permission.

St. Salomea Parish, at 118th and Indiana Avenue on the far south side of Chicago, was built by Polish immigrants. People of all nationalities came to the area. Among them were Poles who were seeking work at the Pullman Company and at other new factories in the Kensington community. John Dluzak and Francis Szafranski were among the first to come to the area and, after them, many other Poles moved in. This was about the year 1881 and there was no church for them; they had to worship at the Irish parish of Holy Rosary at 113th and South Park Avenue.

Knowing that they had enough people to plan and build a church of their own, they organized the St. Stanislaus Kostka Society to be the foundation of their cause. This occurred in 1889 with the first meeting, which was held at the home of Teofil Mixtacki. A committee consisting of Paul Andryczka, Francis Szafranski, John Kuczkiewicz and Teodor Mixtacki was elected to help form the start of the parish. They rented a hall near Kensington and Prairie Avenues and, in November of 1897, opened a schoolhouse where church services were also held for a year and a half. The priest who tended to their services was the Very Rev. Francis X. Krol from a Hegewisch Polish-Irish parish; there were 54 families present at his first Mass. The Rev. Truszynski from Holy Trinity parish was assigned to teach catechism to the students during the week.

The parish kept growing and increased contributions allowed the Society to purchase land at 118th and Indiana Avenue. On this land they built a wooden church facing 118th street at a cost of $2,000.00. However, with this building came more parishioners, and so they petitioned for their own resident pastor. The Rev. Casimir Gronkowski was assigned in April of 1900, as the new wooden church was being erected. This building was consecrated on November 18, 1900 and clergy present at that service, in addition to Rev. Gronkowski, were Archbishop Feenan, Bishop Paul Rhode, Rev. Francis Wojtalewicz, Rev. Francis Birgiera, Rev. Boleslaus Nowakowski and the Rev. Francis Lange. It was the Rev. Lange who preached the dedication sermon.

During the tenure of Rev. Gronkowski, the parish boundaries were extended and reached from 85th street to 130th street and from Wentworth Avenue to Lake Calumet. Also, while he was there, the wooden rectory at 11816 So. Indiana Avenue was built, and a frame school in 1902; and the Sisters of St. Joseph were invited to teach the grammar school children.

Father Gronkowski was transferred, in December of 1904, St. Adalbert parish and the Rev. Francis Jagielski was named his successor. The parish was growing rapidly and, by 1906, 120 children were enrolled in the parish school. Because of this rapid growth, it was determined that a new church building was necessary. Under Father Jagielski's leadership construction began on the new building, but he was transferred before it was completed. On February 29, 1912, the Rev. John Lange was appointed pastor and he supervised the completion of this edifice, which he dedicated on May 30, 1913. Also during his time, he built a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph and expanded the school. Parish membership at the time of dedication included 500 families and 500 single persons.

It was time for change again and, in September of 1915, Father Lange was transferred to another parish; on October 16, 1915 the Rev. Joseph Pajkowski was named pastor. Under his supervision the parish's Societies continued to grow and be active in directing the Church. His first organist, Theodore Sobolewski, was succeeded by John Mikulski, who held this position for many years. During Father Pajkowski's tenure the Church membership continued to grow in the 1920's, and the 25th anniversary of the founding of the parish was celebrated on November 18, 1923. School enrollment grew rapidly and, by 1925, 518 students were in attendance. Father Pajkowski died at the age of 54 on October 15, 1933 and his successor was the Rev. Stanislaus Chyla.

Father Chyla supervised the installation of the new organ in the choir, had the building repainted, installed loud speakers, microphones, and a system of chimes that sounded every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Father also planned for a new school and fostered an athletic program organized by the Rev. Anthony Dudek and a dramatic club established by the Rev. Paul Mytys. Father Chyla served the parish until early summer of 1942 when the Rev. Henry Jagodzinski began his tenure.

Father Jagodzinski became pastor in July of 1942 and, under his direction, the Church debt was paid off and the people of the parish sent many tons of clothing and $20,000 to aid the families in Poland during the years of WW2. The Church celebrated its Golden Jubilee on April 25, 1948 and, in November of that year, Father Jagodzinski was transferred to another parish. His successor was the Rev. Paul Sobota.

Father Sobota directed the construction of the grammar school in 1949 at 11816 So. Indiana Avenue, which was the former site of the first Rectory; this school cost $350,000 dollars. Several years after its completion, he supervised construction of a new convent which cost $245,000 dollars, and it was dedicated on October 26, 1960. A new Rectory was built on the site of the old frame school at a cost of $145,000 and it was dedicated in September of 1965. In March of 1966, Father Sobota was named pastor emeritus and continued to live in the Rectory until he died on January 20, 1968.

Rev. Charles Gryzik was named pastor in March of 1966; under his supervision, in anticipation of the parish's 75th anniversary, the interior of tile church was carpeted, the exterior tuckpointed, and necessary repairs were made to the steeples. A special Diamond Jubilee Mass was celebrated on November 11, 1973 with the Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz the principal celebrant.

St. Salomea had its peak membership right after the end of World War 11 when 1,200 families belonged to the parish and 400 children were enrolled in the school. As a result of racial change in the far southside communities, the number of Catholics living in the area declined during the 1960's. Several other ethnic parishes existing in close proximity to St. Salomea were closed in 1973 and in 1990 St. Salomca was one of many Catholic churches in Chicago to be closed.

St. Salomea's final day was Sunday, May 27, 1990 and a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated at 8 a.m. in English and at 9:45 a.m. in Polish. The Presider was the Most Rev. Wilton D. Gregory of Chicago, Vicar and the concelebrants were: Rev. Charles Gryzik, Rev. John Flaherty and Rev. William Stenzel. The Lectors were William Jablonski and Agatha Lachcik. Music was by the St. Victor Choir.

Just after Communion, when the priest began the closing prayers, the bells in the steeple began to ring out and then the congregation sang "Serdcczna Matko" (Beloved Mother). The combination of the bells ringing all this time while the people sang this song was a truly moving event. The congregation of about 100 filed out, to exchange greetings with the priests and each other; the bells were silenced and it was over.

To the people of the past who built this parish, we say "WELL DONE." St. Salonica was built by immigrants from Poland as a strong expression of their faith. This faith mattered more than anything else in their lives and many of these men and women denied themselves comforts in their own lives so that God would have a beautiful house. They would settle for nothing less than the magnificent stained glass windows, beautiful wood-carved altars and woodwork throughout His house. They took on a heavy debt and put in many hours of planning to see it through to completion.

The interior of this church was designed with stained glass windows and arches so as to focus your attention to the altar and the tabernacle. Never to be forgotten were the bells and chimes that called the people to services and also to announce the death of a parishioner. From St. Salomea parish, 13 men and women dedicated their lives in the service of God. Those ordained to the priesthood were the Rev. Stanley Linianowski and the Rev. Edmund Szott. Eleven women of the parislijoined religious orders as nuns. Their names before taking vows, together with their religious names follow. In the Order of St, Joseph, Regina Spychaj (Sister Mary Henrietta)-, Magdalinc Gorczowski (Sister Mary Fidelia), Marcela Dobosz (Sister Mary Bronislaus), Anna Babiasz (Sister Mary Edith), Cunnegundc Musial (Sister Marv Gencrosa)-, Janette

Mackiewicz (Sister Mary Rosalind); Alice Gerlich (Sister Mary Virginianna; Angeline Zeszuto (Sister Mary Christelia); Eleonor Wilgus (Sister Mary Alberta); Dolores Koza (Sister Mary Aurelia). In the Order of the Felician Sisters, Mary Hanneman (Sister Mary Alphonsetta). The Sisters of St. Joseph, Third Order of St. Francis are also remembered for the high standards that they established and maintained, and we are indeed proud to have been their pupils.

As a tribute to all the Sisters who taught at St. Salomea, I would like to remember the faculty during the year of 1947. They were:

Sister M. Alcantara
Sister M. Amadea
Sister M. Athanasia
Sister M. Beata
Sister M. Berthilda
Sister M. Boniface
Sister M. Canute&
Sister M. Fidelis
Sister M. Juanita
Sister M. Madeline
Sister M. Rita

For many, many years, it was Sister Alcantara who was responsible for the training of those who wished to be altar boys.

Tile priests who helped the pastors of St. Salomca from its beginning through the late 1940's include the Rev. Felix Prange, the Rev. J. Poczynski, the Rev. Francis Kulinski, the Rev. T. Kendziora, the Rev. Joseph Selinke, the Rev. S. Hine, the Rev. F. Modrzeiiski, the Rev. J. Kendziora, the Rev. Edward Schuster, the Rev. Paul Mytys, the Rev. Anthony Dudek, the Rev. William Pasclike, the Rev. Edward Nikliborc, the Rev. Ray Ploszynski, the Rev. Anthony Rydecki and Rev. Walter Szczypula.

In closing, all who were members of this parish can be thankful for this great privilege of belonging to it. We are grateful to all those who saw the parish through its beginnings, and to those who maintained this inheritance through the years.

 
   
 
 

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