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St. Ann Church at 18th Pl. and Leavitt St. was organized as a national parish on Mar. 3, 1903, to serve the large number of Poles who had settled west of St. Adalbert Church, then located at the corner of 17th and Paulina St. The new Polish parish was established within the boundaries of the territorial parish of St. Pius at 19th and Ashland Ave.

Today St. Ann parish serves Polish and Latino Catholics who live in the neighborhood bounded by 17th St. on the north; the Drainage Canal on the south; Western Ave. on the west; and Damen Ave. on the east.

The first pastor of this parish was Rev. Casimir F. Slominski, who had founded St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in Cicero, IL, in 1895. Following his ordination in 1890, Father Slominski had served as an assistant at St. Adalbert Church, the "mother parish" of St. Ann.

A dedicated group of parishioners assisted Father Slominski in the difficult work of raising funds and selecting a site for the church. Before long, ground at the northwest corner of 18th Pl. and Leavitt St. was broken for a four story combination church and school building, the cornerstone of which was laid on June 7, 1903. Archbishop James E. Quigley dedicated the $80,000 structure on Nov. 8, 1903.

St. Ann grammar school was opened in 1903 under the direction of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Within two years, enrollment numbered 373 students.

Father Slominski directed the construction of the rectory at 1814 S. Leavitt St. as well as the construction of the convent at 2207 W. 18th St. In 1920, 1,353 children were enrolled in the school. Due to a shortage of classrooms, 600 children of the parish had to attend nearby public schools.

After serving the people of this parish for nearly 18 years, Father Slominski was named pastor emeritus in 1921. He resided at St. Mary of Nazareth hospital until his death on Sept. 7, 1928, at the age of 64.

Rev. Joseph H. Kruszka, who had organized the Polish parish of Five Holy Martyrs, was named second pastor of St. Ann Church in April 1921. Within two years of his appointment as pastor, he had financed the construction of a $125,000 school and an auditorium at 2211 W. 18th Pl. He also directed the construction of an addition to the convent.

In 1923, a dramatic group formed by Rev. Stanley Rozak produced a play, Kosciol a Rozwody," (The Church and Divorce). This play was performed 200 times and was seen by more than 300,000 persons. A second play produced by the St. Ann dramatic club, "Czwarte Przykazanie," (the Fourth Commandment) was presented more than 160 times. In later years, the St. Cecilia choir of this parish sponsored special concerts at Christmas and Easter. Under the leadership of Thaddeus Cepa, St. Cecilia choir made several recordings and performed at the Museum of Science and Industry during the Christmas season.

On Nov. 4, 1928, Auxiliary Bishop Bernard J. Sheil presided at the silver jubilee of the founding of St. Ann parish. In the 1930s, St. Ann Church was the only Polish parish in Chicago to sponsor a Holy Hour of Adoration every Friday evening. Active parish societies included the 600 member Sodality of Mary; Polish Roman Catholic Union; Polish National Alliance; Polish Women's Alliance; Catholic Order of Foresters; and the Holy Name Society.

Father Kruszka retired in 1935 but he retained his title as pastor until his death on May 4, 1957.

Rev. Stanislaus A. Derwinski, a former assistant at St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, became administrator of St. Ann parish on July 1, 1935. In 1937, Father Derwinski and Sister Mary Secundilla, CSFN, organized a two year coeducational high school program in the upper floors of the church building. By 1941, St. Ann high school offered a four year program.

During World War II, Father Derwinski served as director of the "Aid for Poland Drive" which was conducted in Polish parishes in the Chicago area. He was named pastor of St. Constance Church in June 1945.

Rev. Ignatius S. Renklewski, former pastor of St. Susanna Church in Harvey, IL, was named administrator on June 22, 1945. During his 12 years at this parish, he supervised the renovation of the church and convent.

On Dec. 7, 1952, Samuel Cardinal Stritch presided at the golden jubilee of St. Ann parish. At the time, parish membership numbered 1,471 families.

Following Father Renklewski's appointment in January 1957 as pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in Cicero, IL, Rev. Stanley C. Stoga was named administrator. A former Assistant Superintendent of Archdiocesan Schools, Father Stoga was well known to most of the parishioners as he had been a resident at St. Ann Church since 1955.

In April 1958, Father Stoga was named pastor of this parish, a position he retained until 1963, when he was appointed pastor of St. Bruno Church. Rev. Jerome A. Kolberg, former chaplain at the Veterans Administration hospital in Downey, IL, began his work in this parish in December 1963.

Shortly after Father Kolberg was appointed pastor, the St. Ann Civic Improvement League was organized. With help of parishioners such as John Handzel, the group successfully petitioned city and park district officials to upgrade the landscaping in nearby Harrison Park. In 1965, members of the Improvement League hailed the building of new homes in the neighborhood as a sign of the revitalization of the area. The houses were the first residential buildings constructed in the neighborhood since the 1920s.

In 1966, a delegation from St. Ann Church participated in the celebration of the Polish Millenium in Soldier Field. After serving the people of this parish for eight years, Father Kolberg was named pastor emeritus in July 1971. He died on Mar. 26, 1978, at the age of 70.

Rev. Edward X. Detloff has been pastor of St. Ann Church since July 23, 1971. He came to the parish from St. Casimir Church on Cermak rd. where he had been an associate pastor since 1966. On Dec. 25, 1975, Father Detloff was appointed an Archdiocesan Consultor by John Cardinal Cody.

To meet the needs of all families in St. Ann Parish, liturgies are now celebrated in English, Polish, and Spanish. Estudianta, a Latino group, sings at Spanish Masses while a second choir and guitar group provide music at Masses celebrated in English. Active parish societies include the School Board, Liturgy Team, Mothers Club, Senior Citizens, Holy Name Society, Junior Holy Name Society, CCD, and Girl Scouts. Over the years, parishioners have been members of the St. Ann Council for Home Improvement; the Heart of Chicago Community Council; and the Home Improvement Organization sponsored by the federal government.

The diamond jubilee of St. Ann parish was celebrated on Oct. 1, 1978. Since the founding of this national parish, 15 young men have been ordained priests and 50 young women have entered religious life.

In the 1960s, well qualified lay teachers joined the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth on the faculty of the parish schools. St Ann high school, which occupies the upper floors of the church building at 1816 5. Leavitt St., has an annual enrollment of 225 girls, the majority of whom are Latino. Classes for students in kindergarten through sixth grade are held in the three story school building at 2211 W. 18th Pl.; seventh and eighth grades attend classes in a one story building which adjoins the grade school. In 1978, the grammar school enrollment numbered 395 children, the majority of whom were Latino.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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