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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
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
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
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
Since 1885, members of this religious order had staffed the parish
Henry J. Schiacks designed St. Adalbert Church and the adjoining
rectory at 1650 W. 17th St. The Romanesque church with its twin towers
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
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
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
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
on June 22, 1947. The day also marked the 50th anniversary of Father
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
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
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
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,
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
of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In May 1974, a Special Committee for
St. Adalbert Parish was formed to raise funds for the rehabilitation
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
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
of Aug. 31 - Sept. 1, 1974. According to Bishop Abramowicz, $248,000
was needed to halt deterioration of the parish buildings. He reminded
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
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,
Committee sponsored Polka Masses, dinner dances, and bingo in order
to raise funds. The Centennial Committee now serves as the parish
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
established the shrine on behalf of the many Mexican families who
belong to the parish. The traditional picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe
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
noted that: "By coincidence, there is a great similarity between
the church of San Juan (in Jalisco, Mexico) and the church of St.
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
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.