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St. Adalbert Church on 17th St. between Paulina St. and Ashland Ave. was organized in 1874 by Bishop Thomas Foley to serve Polish families who had settled in the predominantly Bohemian district known as Pilsen. The third Polish parish founded in Chicago, St. Adalbert has served generations of Polish immigrants and their American-born children; at its peak, parish membership numbered 4,000 families with more than 2,000 children enrolled in the school.

At the recommendation of Rev. Simon Wieczorek, CR, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church on Noble St., Bishop Foley appointed Rev. John Klimecki, a recent arrival from Europe, to begin the work of organizing this parish. The national parish of St. Adalbert was established within the boundaries of the territorial (English speaking) parish of St. Pius, then located at Van Horn (18th Pl.) and Paulina St. In 1875, the Bohemian parish of St. Procopius was founded at 18th and Allport St.

Between September 1874 and Nov. 1, 1874, when Rev. Dominic Majer was appointed pastor, construction began on a brick church at the corner of 17th and Paulina St. According to an early parish history, Constantine Mallek served as organist and instructed the children of the parish in their lessons.

Rev. Adolph Snigurski, pastor of St. Adalbert parish from 1878 to 1884, directed the construction of a four story school at the southeast corner of 16th and Paulina St. This brick building remained standing until 1978, when it was razed.

In 1883, Father Snigurski established the mission of St. Mary of Perpetual Help in Bridgeport which subsequently became a large Polish parish.

At first, only the substructure of St. Adalbert Church was built. Finally, on June 22, 1884, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan dedicated the imposing red brick structure which had been completed at the northeast corner of 17th and Paulina St.

Rev. John Radziejewski, founding pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in South Chicago, was appointed pastor in 1884. During his 20 year pastorate, the Polish parishes of St. Joseph, St. Michael, SS. Peter and Paul, St. Salomea, and Assumption, BVM were founded on the south side of Chicago. Polish parishes also were organized in Calumet City, IL., Posen, IL., and Blue Island, IL.

From about 1900 through the Depression, the parish church of St. Adalbert became the hub of activity for the Polish American community in Pilsen. Numerous sodalities and societies used the parish premises for their meetings and social affairs. The parish was well known for its singing society and dramatic club which staged original plays as well as the popular dramatic works.

Poles who settled west of St. Adalbert Church in the period between 1884 and 1904 were organized into the national parishes of St. Casimir, St. Mary of Czestochowa in Cicero, IL., and St. Ann. In 1888, the Bohemian parish of St. Vitus was established in the former St. Pius Church at 18th p1. and Paulina St.

The predominantly Irish parish of St. Pius had relocated at 19th and Ashland Ave.

Father Radziejewski died on Nov. 24, 1904, at the age of 60. His successor was Rev. Casimir I. Gronkowski, who had organized St. Salomea parish. Shortly after his appointment as pastor of St. Adalbert Church on Dec. 1, 1904, Father Gronkowski began an ambitious building program. During the 53 years of his pastorate, the present parish complex took shape.

In 1908, a 16 room school was constructed at 1641 W. 16th St. This large brick structure now serves as the parish school. On June 30, 1912, Archbishop James E. Quigley laid the cornerstone of the present church.

In 1913, Father Gronkowski organized a day nursery to serve the children of working mothers. This settlement was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and it remained in operation throughout the Depression. Since 1885, members of this religious order had staffed the parish school.

Henry J. Schiacks designed St. Adalbert Church and the adjoining rectory at 1650 W. 17th St. The Romanesque church with its twin towers and copper domes was modeled after St. Paul's Basilica in Rome. It was completed-at an estimated cost of $200,000-on the north side of 17th St., between Paulina st. and Ashland Ave.

The dedication of St. Adalbert Church on Sept. 20, 1914, was a special day for Father Gronkowski and his parishioners. Officiating at the ceremony were Archbishop Quigley, Archbishop John Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate, and Auxiliary Bishop Paul P. Rhode. A former assistant at this parish in 1894, Father Rhode was the first Polish bishop consecrated in the United States in 1908; in 1915, he was appointed to head the diocese of Green Bay (WI).

The final building in the parish complex was a three story brick convent which contained accommodations for 52 sisters. This structure was completed at 1628 W. 17th St. in 1928 at a cost of $150,000.

According to the centennial history of St. Adalbert Church, Father Gronkowski's ideas on church matters were far ahead of his time. Although he did not permit statues in the sanctuary, the traditional shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa occupied a prominent place in the church.

The Sisters of Nazareth celebrated their 50th year of service to the parish in 1935 and the diamond jubilee of St. Adalbert Church was celebrated on June 22, 1947. The day also marked the 50th anniversary of Father Gronkowski's ordination.

Following Father Gronkowski's death on Oct. 31, 1957, at the age of 84, Rev. Louis E. Nowak, a former assistant at the parish, was named pastor. He directed the demolition of the old church, which provided much needed parking space.

Named pastor of St. John of God Church in February 1963, Father Nowak was succeeded by Rev. John F. Koziol, former superior of the Archdiocesan Mission Band (Group Two). During his two years as pastor, Father Koziol raised more than $100,000 for the renovation of St. Adalbert Church. The exterior of the church was sandblasted and tuckpointed, and the interior was redecorated.

Following Father Koziol's appointment as pastor of St. Joseph Church at 48th and Hermitage on Feb. 1, 1965, Rev. John Kalata served as administrator for several months.

Rev. Roman J. Berendt, a former assistant at the Polish parish of Sacred Heart, served as pastor of this parish from Mar. 4, 1966 until August 1973, when he was named pastor emeritus.

Rev. Henry Pozdol has been pastor since Aug. 15, 1973. The former associate pastor at St. John Bosco Church returned as pastor to the parish of his youth: Father Pozdol graduated from St. Adalbert grammar school and attended nearby St. Ann high school.

As the parish entered its centennial year, its future was uncertain. Not only had school enrollment dropped from a high of 2,614 to 202 students, but attendance at Sunday Mass also had declined. Moreover, the parish buildings were in need of repairs estimated at $175,000.

Because of the proximity of St. Adalbert Church to St. Vitus and St. Pius parishes, a study was conducted by the Pastoral Resources Committee of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In May 1974, a Special Committee for St. Adalbert Parish was formed to raise funds for the rehabilitation of the church and school. Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz was named chairman of the 11 member committee.

On June 16, 1974, hundreds of former parishioners returned to St. Adalbert Church to attend a special Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the parish. Late in the summer of 1974, Bishop Abramowicz appealed to friends and former parishioners to contribute to a special collection in Polish parishes throughout the Archdiocese during the weekend of Aug. 31 - Sept. 1, 1974. According to Bishop Abramowicz, $248,000 was needed to halt deterioration of the parish buildings. He reminded Polish Catholics that St. Adalbert is a beloved landmark of Poles in Chicago and asked financial help so that the parish could continue "as a living witness to Christ for a people who need St. Adalbert's as a center of worship and education."

In addition to the work of the Special Committee, a group of dedicated parishioners formed the Centennial Committee to raise money for the preservation of St. Adalbert Church. The Centennial Committee-much like the pioneer Society of St. Adalbert which had been organized in 1871-pooled its resources to aid the parish. According to Chester J. Gac, chairman, the Centennial Committee sponsored Polka Masses, dinner dances, and bingo in order to raise funds. The Centennial Committee now serves as the parish Advisory Board. Through the efforts of both groups, major repairs have been made and the heating system has been converted from coal to gas.

On June 29, 1975, a shrine in honor of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos was dedicated in St. Adalbert Church. The United Latin Community of Chicago established the shrine on behalf of the many Mexican families who belong to the parish. The traditional picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe was donated by Bishop Abramowicz.

On June 24, 1975, Auxiliary Bishop Nevin W. Hayes, 0. Carm., celebrated a Spanish Mass at St. Adalbert Church in honor of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos for the Mexican community in Pilsen. The Chicago Catholic noted that: "By coincidence, there is a great similarity between the church of San Juan (in Jalisco, Mexico) and the church of St. Adalbert."

In 1978, 575 families belonged to St. Adalbert parish and 161 children were enrolled in the school under the direction of five Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and four lay teachers. Today, Poles and Mexicans are the two main groups represented in 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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