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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 generously.

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. 5-10, 1884.

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 living quarters 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. M. 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 artist, 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 side.

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 living 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 of nearby 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 blessed.

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 Lemont 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 petered 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 school.

At the time the Great Depression began, SS Cyril and Methodius parish had an enormous debt, the result of the building program conducted in the 1920s. 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 he "laid 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. The 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 men from 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 church 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 of 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 new roof 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 in the church and a building fund was begun for a new school and gymnasium. Various church societies, choirs, and social groups joined ranks and sponsored 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 was 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 $100,000. 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 construction 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 successful that it had to be expanded to include third, fourth, and fifth grade teams. Considered one of the most outstanding programs in the Archdiocesan grade 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, IL.

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 and generously.

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 officers, 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 at the 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 plant. 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 on the 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 fund 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.

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