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SS Peter and Paul Church at 38th and Paulina St. was established in 1895 to serve Polish families who had settled west of Bridgeport. With the aid of Rev. John Radziejewski, pastor of St. Adalbert Church at 17th and Paulina St., the Poles of McKinley Park petitioned Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan for a parish of their own.

Archbishop Feehan appointed a young Polish-born priest, Rev. Paul P. Rhode, to organize the national parish of SS Peter and Paul. Following his ordination on June 16, 1894, Father Rhode had been serving as an assistant at St. Adalbert Church.

In announcing Father Rhode's appointment, Dziennik Chicagoski (The Polish Daily News) on Dec. 30, 1895 reported that a school had been organized and noted that:

Although the pastor has not taken permanent residence because of lack of rooms, quarters are being arranged for him. In order to facilitate matters the parish committee convened last night to take up the problem of making a home for their new pastor.

Early parish records indicate that a two story combination church and school building was constructed at 36th and Chariton (now Justine) St., just east of Ashland Ave.

In 1897, Father Rhode was appointed pastor of St. Michael Church at 83rd and Bond (now South Shore dr.). He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago in 1908 and in 1915, he became Bishop of Green Bay, WI.

Father Rhode's successor at SS Peter and Paul parish was Rev. Boleslaus Nowakowski. The Polish-born priest had grown up in St. Adalbert parish and since his ordination in 1895, he had been an assistant at St. Adalbert and Immaculate Conception parishes in Chicago.

During Father Nowakowski's short term as pastor of SS Peter and Paul Church, he began negotiations with the Chicago Junction Railway Co. Since 1890, the Railway Co. and the Union Stock Yard and Transit Co. had been acquiring land north of the stockyards on which to create an industrial district.

However, before Father Nowakowski could complete his plans for a new parish plant at 38th and Paulina St., he was transferred to the pastorate of St. Andrew Church in Calumet City, IL, in December 1901.

Rev. Maximilian Kotecki succeeded Father Nowakowski as pastor of SS Peter and Paul Church. Father Kotecki had organized the Polish parish of St. Stanislaus in Kankakee, IL (now in the Joliet diocese) in November 1900.

Under Father Kotecki's leadership, a new rectory, church, and school were constructed at the present parish site. The rectory at 3745 S. Paulina St. was completed in 1904 and in the following year, a house at 3726 S. Paulina St. was secured for use as a convent by the Felician Sisters who staffed SS Peter and Paul school.

In 1905, development of the Central Manufacturing District began in the territory bounded by 35th St. on the north; 39th St. (later Pershing rd.) on the south; Ashland Ave. on the west; and Morgan St. on the east. This district, the first of its kind in the United States, provided jobs within walking distance for men and women of SS Peter and Paul parish.

On Sept. 3, 1906, Archbishop James E. Quigley laid the cornerstone of the present SS Peter and Paul Church. Designed in the Romanesque style and constructed at the northeast corner of 38th and Paulina St. at a cost of $100,000, SS Peter and Paul Church was dedicated on June 30, 1907 by the Archbishop.

The New World reported on Sept. 14, 1907 that a three story brick school was to be constructed at the southeast corner of 37th and Paulina St. At the time, 205 students were enrolled at the parish school which, according to the Official Catholic Directory, was then located at 37th and Ashland Ave.

On Aug. 30, 1908, the newly consecrated Auxiliary Bishop Paul P. Rhode dedicated SS Peter and Paul school which had been completed at a cost of $85,000. In its account of the ceremony, The New World noted that: "Nearly all the houses in the neighborhood were gayly decorated with American bunting and the Polish colors of red and white, while the church and parish buildings were almost hidden in bunting."

The McKinley Park neighborhood in which SS Peter and Paul parish complex was located included families of many nationalities. Four blocks to the west, at 36th and Hoyne Ave., was the German parish of St. Maurice, which had been founded in 1890. At 3532 S. Hermitage was Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, which had been organized in September 1901 to serve English-speaking families who lived in the territory between St. Agnes Church in Brighton Park and St. Bridget Church in Bridgeport.

Following his resignation as pastor in 1926, Father Kotecki served as an assistant at the Polish parishes of St. Pancratius and St. Turibius. He died on Dec. 28, 1959 at the age of 85.

Rev. Adalbert S. Olszewski succeeded Father Kotecki as pastor. Prior to this appointment, the Polish-born priest served for more than 20 years as pastor of Holy Cross Church in Joliet, IL (now in the Joliet diocese). At the time he began his work in McKinley Park, 1,500 families belonged to SS Peter and Paul parish and 1,217 children were enrolled in the school.

With the onset of the Depression, no new buildings were constructed in the parish plant. Although times were hard for the majority of parishioners, Father Olszewski saw to it that no child was compelled to leave the parish school because of financial difficulties.

In 1945, the people of SS Peter and Paul Church observed the golden anniversary of the founding of their parish. Since the jubilee fell during wartime, no social celebration was held.

Father Olszewski died on Sept. 21, 1948 at the age of 71. His successor was Rev. Bernard Szudzinski, a Polish-born priest who had served as pastor of St. Valentine Church in Cicero, IL, for 25 years.

With the generous support of his parishioners, Father Szudzinski was able to pay off a $93,000 parish debt and to improve the school and church facilities. Under his leadership, property was purchased just east of SS Peter and Paul Church at 38th St. for a new convent.

Father Szudzinski was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor in 1949.

On Easter Sunday, Apr. 5, 1953, ground was broken at 1640 W. 38th St. for the new convent. Unfortunately, Msgr. Szudzinski did not live long enough to see the residence blessed. He died on Jan. 18, 1954 as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

In April 1954, Rev. Stanislaus A. Rozak, pastor of St. Stanislaus B. & M. Church in Posen, IL, was appointed to succeed Msgr. Szudzinski as pastor of SS Peter and Paul Church.

Samuel Cardinal Stritch dedicated the new convent on May 2, 1954. Under Father Rozak's direction, a hall was completed under the church, the school was modernized, and the interior of SS Peter and Paul Church was renovated. As a result of the continued support of his parishioners, Father Rozak was able to pay for the new convent and for the renewal projects, which totaled $600,000.

Father Rozak continued to serve the people of SS Peter and Paul Church until his death on Feb. 2, 1966.

Rev. Joseph F. Mytych has been pastor of SS Peter and Paul Parish since Mar. 20, 1966. From 1954 to 1963, Father Mytych was a resident at this parish during which time he served as Director of Music Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He returned to the McKinley Park neighborhood from Brookuield, IL, where he had been in residence at St. Barbara Church.

Father Mytych supervised the renovation of the church to reflect the changes in liturgy which had been adopted by the Second Vatican Council. The 75th anniversary of the founding of SS Peter and Paul parish was celebrated on Oct. 25, 1970 with a special jubilee Mass.

When St. Columbkille Church at Grand Ave. and Paulina St. was consolidated in June 1975, the historic Hilbourne Roosevelt pipe organ was dismantled and transferred to this parish. The organ is now being restored.

Originally founded as a national parish for Polish immigrants, SS Peter and Paul parish lost its exclusively Polish character as Catholics of many national backgrounds joined the congregation. For years, the Union Stock Yards remained a major source of employment. However, following the decline of the stockyards in the 1950s and 1960s, McKinley Park residents sought jobs in other industries or in the field of public service.

In 1978, 259 children were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of five Felician Sisters and five lay teachers. Vocations from this parish include 31 nuns, eight priests, and one brother.

Rev. Michael V. Kalck is associate pastor. Norman Serafin, the first permanent deacon to be ordained from SS Peter and Paul Church, served the parish from May 1975 until his death on Apr. 21, 1978 at the age of 39.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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