BACK TO THE LIST
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 Jagodzinski also cared for the
Polish cemetery which had been established in Lemont. It is said that
out and built the roads, the canal and water system and the stone wall
at the entrance as a guard over those resting in peace." Father Jagodzinski
was also instrumental in the establishment of the Slovenian Seminary of
St. Mary of the Commissariat of the Holy Cross (Franciscan Fathers) at
1400 Main St. and the motherhouse of the Slovenian Sisters of St. Francis
of Lublana (province of Christ the King) at 1600 Main St.
Named pastor of St. Salomea Church in Chicago in July 1942, Father Jagodzinski
was succeeded in Lemont by Rev. Leo Hinc; due to poor health, this priest
resigned his post after only a few weeks.
Rev. Ladislaus J. Nosal, a former assistant Archdiocesan supervisor of
Catholic Charities for 10 years, was appointed pastor of SS Cyril and
Methodius Church on July 29, 1942. He immediately set out to organize
a parish branch
of the Red Cross, members of which prepared surgical necessities for
men in the armed services in World War II and later in the Korean War.
pastor also initiated a drive in 1942 to obtain and install stained glass
windows in the church. Parishioners responded wholeheartedly in this
endeavor and the windows are a testimonial to their generosity.
In 1943, a beautiful new shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
was erected in the chapel at the northeast corner of the church. The
gift of Emanuel J. Shafranski, it was donated in memory of the young
the parish who were serving in the war. An impressive Roll of Honor and
flag pole were erected between the church and the rectory.
In 1944, the 60th year of the parish's existence, families were asked
to contribute money for a birthday gift which took the form of a complete
renovation and redecoration of the sancturary and the interior of the
and choir loft. Individuals and societies put forth their best efforts
and the necessary funds were raised. To close the anniversary year, parishioners
attended a mission conducted by members of the Diocesan Mission Band
from Oct. 8-22,1944. The large mission cross and the Pieta shrine, gifts
Frank and Apollonia Templin, are reminders of this and other missions.
The years 1945 to 1953 brought many improvements in the parish plant,
among them new stokers in the church, school, rectory, and convent. A
was put on the church and the exteriors of the church, rectory, and convent
were renovated. Improvements included the grading and black-topping of
the parking lot, Sobieski St., the driveways to the garage, the Sisters'
convent, and the rectory. A parish hail, erected from two C.C.C. (Civilian
Conservation Corps) buildings, was blessed on June 15, 1947, The impressive
ceremony of burning the $90,000 mortgage took place on Feb. 10, 1952
in the presence of a large crowd. In 1953, a new tile floor was laid
church and a building fund was begun for a new school and gymnasium.
Various church societies, choirs, and social groups joined ranks and
many benefits to raise the needed funds.
In September 1955, the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King opened Mt.
Assisi Academy for girls at 1602 Main St., next to their niotherhouse.
The new brick high school building was dedicated by Samuel Cardinal Stritch
on June 17, 1956.
Following Father Nosal's death on Aug. 20, 1956 at the age of 55, Rev.
Vincent Sekuiski, a former Army chaplain, was named pastor of SS Cyril
and Methodius Church. He came to Lemont from Chicago, where he had been
serving as an assistant at Good Shepherd Church. Father Sekulski worked
hard along with his parishioners to raise funds for a new school but
he died on June 17, 1957 before construction could begin. His successor
Rev. Julius E. Gilewski, a former assistant at St. Bruno Church in Chicago.
In January of 1958, a two story building at 601 Sobieski St., directly
across the street from SS Cyril and Methodius Church, was acquired as
the future site of the new school. A School Building Fund Raising Campaign
was inaugurated with men of the parish obtaining pledges amounting to
Finally, on June 1959, Archbishop Albert G. Meyer granted permission
to build a 10 classroom school and gymnasium, the cost of which was estimated
at $340,000. Ground was broken on Aug. 2, 1959 and the actual work of
began on Aug. 17th. At the time of the parish's 75th anniversary, which
was celebrated on Oct. 25, 1959, the foundations of the school and gym
had been laid.
Completed according to plans drawn up by the architectural firm of Fox & Fox,
SS Cyril and Methodius school was blessed on Sept. 11, 1960 by Cardinal
Meyer. At the time, 262 children were enrolled under the direction of six
Felician Sisters. The old school building was then razed.
In 1959, Watler Vistolis was hired as the parish organist; a native of
Latvia (now part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic), he held
degrees in music from Latvia and Germany.
In 1960, a basketball program was initiated by Emil Domagalski and Ed
Dastych for children in grades six through eight. This program was so
that it had to be expanded to include third, fourth, and fifth grade
teams. Considered one of the most outstanding programs in the Archdiocesan
schools, it has grown to such proportions that an Athletic Director now
coordinates its activities. Beginning in 1963, uniforms were adopted
for the children in the parish school, a policy which continues today.
In November 1968, a shrine in honor of Our Lady of Grace was completed,
thanks largely to the skill of Frank Basco who designed it and the Felician
Sisters who supported the project. Mr. Basco was assisted in his efforts
by various parishioners who contributed of their time and money; concrete
for the project was donated by Mitchell Dudek.
The first meeting of the Parish Council was held on Feb. 11, 1969. All
church organizations were requested to appoint or elect one member from
their group to serve on the Council; in addition, a Finance Committee
also was formed.
In the 1970s, many changes occurred within SS Cyril and Methodius parish.
In 1971, three men from the parish-George Barry, Norbert Lesnieski, and
Robert Splitt-became Extraordinary Ministers of Communion and in 1972,
Mr. Lesnieski became the first permanent deacon ordained from Lemont,
Father Gilewski, with the assistance of the Parish Council and its chairman,
Joe Wohead, made plans for the painting of the church interior. Financial
assistance was requested and as in the past, parishioners responded willingly
In 1971, a Youth Club was formed for students in grades seven through
ten. Not only do students plan their own activities and elect their own
but they learn how to organize and run programs.
Named pastor emeritus in July 1974, Father Gilewski continued to live
in retirement in the parish rectory until his death on Dec. 25, 1978
age of 74.
Rev. Richard Jozwiak, a former associate pastor at St. John of God Church
in Chicago, was named pastor of SS Cyril and Methodius Church on July
10, 1974. Under his leadership, many improvements were made in the parish
Together with men of the parish the pastor installed air conditioning
in the church and built a garage for the use of the nuns.
On June 13, 1976, a tornado touched down a block away from SS Cyril and
Methodius Church, cutting a four square block swath through Lemont. More
than 100 homes were partially or totally destroyed and many older residents
suffered big losses. Numbers of these long-time residents had never increased
the insurance on their houses and they found that insurance settlements
were not large enough for them to build new homes. The tornado destroyed
the church roof, damaged the cross on the steeple, and destroyed half
the gym roof. Except for a few minor cracks, the stained glass windows
west side of the church were spared; however the protective glass around
them was shattered. Much of the landscaping was also damaged.
Catholic parishes and institutions joined together with village officials
to establish a disaster fund. John Cardinal Cody contributed $5,000 and
the check was presented to Father Jozwiak on July 9, 1976. Among the
area parishes and institutions which contributed nearly $12,000 to the
were: St. Patrick and St. Alphonsus parishes, Lemont; St. Michael parish,
Orland Park; St. James parish, Sag Bridge; St. Mary's Retreat House,
Our Lady of Victory Convent, and Mt. Assisi Convent in Lemont.
Father Jozwiak has been responsible for reviving and strengthening the
Holy Name Society and during his pastorate, devotions to Our Holy Mother
have been renewed and high school girls have become members of the Ambassadors
to Mary Society. Bingo has been adopted on a weekly basis and this activity
helps to defray the parish expenses.
In 1978, 768 families belonged to SS Cyril and Methodius parish and 263
children were enrolled under the direction of four Felician Sisters and
five lay teachers. Two permanent deacons - Norbert Lesnieski and Gilbert
Ende - have been ordained from the parish.
From "A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese
of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.