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The Polish community in Lemont dates back to the 1860s when Polish men
began to work in the numerous stone quarries in the area. A number of these
single men and later their families, became members of the German parish
of St. Aiphonsus rather than the Irish parish of St. Patrick. Only one
Polish parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka, then existed in Chicago and it appears
that Rev. Adolph Bakanowski, CR, pastor of that parish, visited Lemont
in 1871. The Polish community continued to increase as more immigrants
settled in the area and by 1882 it included 240 families of Polish descent
living in Lemont; 60 families from Joliet, IL; and an additional 100 families
in Braidwood, IL (Braidwood and Joliet are now in the Joliet diocese.)
On Nov. 23, 1882, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan authorized Rev. Leopold
Maria Moczygemba, pastor of St. Alphonsus Church, to establish a Polish
parish in Lemont. He sought land which would provide an ideal location
for the new parish and found it in the property of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick
Murray who willingly sold the 20 acre parcel for $2,000. Father Moczygemba
called the parish property "Jasna Gora," popularly known as "Blue
Hill," and dedicated it to Our Lady of Czestochowa, the patron of
his native Poland. Title to this section of land measuring 222' by 287'
was transferred to the Catholic Bishop of Chicago on Jan. 8, 1884. The
remainder of the property was subdivided into lots measuring 50' x 135'
which were sold to parishioners at a cost of $50-100 per lot.
A general meeting of all parishioners was called for the first week in
June 1883. With great enthusiasm it was decided to proceed immediately
on the construction of a church and school at the corner of Sobieski and
Czacki St. Families were assessed $10, $11, or $12 on the basis of their
financial status. Bachelors, who made $1 a day in the quarries, contributed
The contract for building a frame church and school was given to the James
Helbig firm and the cornerstone of the new building was laid on Aug. 12,
1883. Built on a Lemont limestone foundation, the edifice measured 119'
x 56'. The height of the outside wall was 25' and the interior height to
the arched ceiling was 35' The church and choir loft had a seating capacity
of 775 persons.
Father Moczygemba celebrated Mass in SS Cyril and Methodius Church for
the first time on Palm Sunday, Apr. 6, 1884. On June 29, 1884, Rev. Leopold
Moczygemba, the pastor's nephew, celebrated his first Mass in the new church.
He remained as an assistant until 1887.
On Aug. 31, 1884, Archbishop Feehan traveled to Lemont where he dedicated
the new Polish Catholic Church and confirmed 150 young people. Indicative
of the interest taken by the Poles in their faith is the fact that about
900 persons received Holy Communion during a Mission and 40 Hours Devotion
conducted by Rev. Constantine Domagalski of Cincinnati, Ohio from Sept.
Following Father Moczygemba's appointment as pastor of Immaculate Conception
Church in Elmhurst, IL (now in the Joliet diocese), Rev. Stanley Baranowski
was named pastor in Lemont in October 1887, a post he retained until May
8, 1888. The next pastor, Rev. Joseph Barzynski, served from May to October
1888 when Rev. Martinian Mozejewski was named pastor. On Sept. 1, 1889,
Rev. Candid Kozlowski, a former assistant at St. Josaphat Church in Chicago,
began his work in Lemont.
On Mar. 3, 1894, The New World reported that:
The parish of SS Cyril and Methodius, Polish, is growing very large,
owing to the fact that many people of Slavic race work on the Drainage
Canal. The parish school is attended by 300 children. A new and expen-
sive pipe organ has been put in the church.
On Mar. 29, 1898, fire broke out in the store of Peter Madaj and
a violent north wind carried the flames across the street, leveling
the frame school.
The pastor and his parishioners, under the direction of Frank Pacholski,
build a new school of Lemont limestone donated by the owner of one of
the many quarries located near town. The building, which contained
for the Franciscan Sisters, was completed by the fall of 1899 at the
southwest corner of Sobieski and Ledo St. On Oct. 7, 1899, The
New World reported
that SS Cyril and Medthodius school enrolled the most Catholic children
in Lemont and that of the 260 children registered, "those pupils are
in the lower grades, with few exceptions."
During the short pastorate of Rev. Ferdinand Scieszka (Dec. 1, 1910 to
June 21, 1912), a central heating system was installed in the school
and church and all the parish buildings were wired for electricity. Rev.
C. Pyplatz, former pastor of the Polish parish of St. Joseph in Chicago,
served as pastor from June 1912 until May 22, 1913, when Rev. Henry Jagodzinski
was placed in charge. He came to Lemont from Chicago where he had been
an assistant at St. Ann Church.
Since its organization, SS Cyril and Methodius school had only included
grades one through four and at Father Jagodzinski's urging, all eight
grades were established. The pastor also hired the well known Italian
Signor Giusti, to paint Scriptural scenes in oil on the walls of the
church and this project was completed in May 1914.
In November 1921, the W. U. Gas company made gas available to all residents
of the subdivision of "Jasna Gora." In January 1922, a ditch
2,000' long and 5' deep was excavated so that the residents could obtain
their water supply from the lower town. A central drainage system was installed
using 8" pipe, 896' in length, and this was connected to the Lemont
disposal plant. To prevent the incessant erosion on top of the hill, residents
built a wall 3' high and 287' in length on the east side, 222' on the west
At a meeting of all parish groups and organizations in July 1925 it was
decided to build a new convent for the Felician Sisters who had been
given charge of the school. The spacious Lemont limestone convent, completed
at 614 Ledo St., was blessed on May 30, 1926 and the Sisters' former
quarters were converted into classrooms.
Tragedy struck the parish on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1928, when fire
destroyed the church and rectory. Through the generosity of the people
St. Patrick parish, the Polish Catholics attended Mass in the "Irish" church
while Mrs. L. Hoinacki made her residence available to the pastor.
Father Jagodzinski commissioned the architectural firm of E. Brielmaier & Sons
of Milwaukee, WI to draw up plans for a rectory and for a new church at
the southeast corner of Sobieski and Czacki St. On Oct. 28, 1928, a contract
was signed with the Local Construction Co. for this project, the cost of
which was estimated at $177,000. Although the foundations and floor of
the church had been laid by Dec. 14, 1928 severe winter weather interrupted
further progress and it was not until Apr. 21, 1929 that the cornerstone
of the church was laid. The new rectory at 608 Sobieski St. was ready for
occupancy by July 31, 1929. Mass in the new brick church was celebrated
for the first time on Jan. 1, 1930 and on May 30, 1930, the new organ was
The golden jubilee of SS Cyril and Methodius Church was celebrated on Apr.
8, 1934. In its first 50 years of existence, the parish had experienced
periods of extensive growth, as well as times when development was retarded
or delayed. The panics, depressions, and recessions which affected the
country were also felt in Lemont. Other circumstances, peculiar to the
locality, added to the difficulties of the priests and parishioners.
Many of the earliest settlers who were not farmers were attracted to
by the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and later the Sanitary
and Ship Canal. Others found employment in the stone quarries in the
vicinity. When the canal work was completed and when work in the quarries
out, many families had to leave Lemont for Chicago and surrounding cities
where employment opportunities were greater and varied. During all these
years, in good times and bad, the priests preached the word of God, celebrated
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and administered the Sacraments and the
Felician Sisters instructed generation after generation in the parish
At the time the Great Depression began, SS Cyril and Methodius parish
had an enormous debt, the result of the building program conducted in
Still, through the generosity of the parishioners, interest payments
on the mortgage-as well as some of the principal-were paid.
In addition to his parish work, Father J