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St. Barbara Church on the east side of Throop St. just south of Archer Ave. was the second Polish parish organized in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. This national parish was established within the boundaries of the territorial parish of St. Bridget, located at Archer Ave. and Arch St.

So many Polish families had settled in the area that St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church on 32nd St. between Aberdeen and Morgan St. was becoming overcrowded. In October 1909, Rev. Stanislaus Nawrocki, pastor of St. Mary parish, purchased land on Throop St. between Archer Ave. and 29th St. and early in 1910, he directed the construction of a 16 room school on Quinn St., a convent at 2867 S. Throop St., and a temporary rectory at 2859 S. Throop St.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis opened St. Barbara School in September 1910. On Nov. 14, 1910, Father Stanislaus Nawrocki's younger brother, Rev. Anthony Nawrocki, was appointed pastor of the new Polish parish and for the next three and one-half years, he celebrated Mass for his congregation in the basement of the school.

In June 1912, construction began on the present St. Barbara Church. Father Stanislaus Nawrocki and his parishioners contributed more than $55,000 toward the $175,000 edifice. St. Barbara Church is a magnificent Renaissance style brick edifice and it was dedicated in imposing ceremonies on July 5, 1914.

Father Nawrocki died on May 28, 1918 at the age of 48. His successor was Rev. Francis Grzes, who had organized the Polish parish of St. Joseph in Chicago Heights, IL Under Father Grzes' leadership, the present rectory was completed in 1922 at 2859 S. Throop St. on the site of the first parish residence.

Enrollment in the parish school increased from 850 children in 1918 to 1,151 students by 1923. In that year, a two year commercial program was organized to train young men and women for jobs in offices.

On Dec. 7, 1924, the cornerstone of a new school building was laid. This brick structure, designed by Leo Strelka, adjoined the original school on Quinn St. According to The New World: "The new school and social center is of fireproof construction and contains six classrooms and auditorium, six bowling alleys, billiard room, and kitchen." The cost of construction was $82,000.

In 1934, Rev. Stanislaus Radniecki, former pastor of St. Pancratius Church, was appointed pastor of St. Barbara Church. Father Grzes continued to live in retirement in the parish rectory until his death on Oct. 13, 1945 at the age of 70.

Under Father Radniecki's leadership, St. Barbara commercial high school was expanded into a four year high school program in 1946. Since that time, it has been a girls' school. Named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor in 1949, Msgr. Radniecki continued to serve as pastor until his death on Dec. 16, 1956 at the age of 76.

Rev. Stephan A. Bernas, a former staff member of Catholic Charities, served as pastor from Jan. 11, 1957 until his death on Sept. 6, 1959 at the age of 48. During his short tenure, the school buildings were renovated and new Stations of the Cross were installed in the church. The next pastor was Rev. Edward J. Radwanski; he came to Bridgeport in September 1959 from Niles, IL, where he had served as a member of the staff of St. Hedwig Orphanage.

On Oct. 23, 1960, Albert Cardinal Meyer presided at the golden jubilee of the founding of St. Barbara parish. At the time, 430 children were enrolled in the grade school and 259 girls were enrolled in the high school.

Father Radwanski served as pastor until Mar. 4, 1966 when he was named pastor of St. Blase Church in Argo, IL On that day, Rev. Edward D. Skupien, former superior of the Archdiocesan Mission Band (Group Two) was appointed pastor. Father Skupien was well acquainted with the parish as he had attended St. Barbara school as a young boy.

For decades, this parish was exclusively Polish. Recently, there has been a slow influx of Latinos into the community. The parish boundaries as they exist today are as follows: North-the south branch of the Chicago River. South-31st St. West-Ashland Ave. East-Halsted St.

From its humble beginning with 10 students, St. Barbara high school has expanded to the full enrollment of 375 students. Four Sisters of St. Joseph, six lay teachers, and one priest staff the grammar school which has an annual enrollment of 270 students.

Active parish organizations include the School Board, Parish Council, Liturgy Committee, St. Barbara High School Parent-Faculty Association, Holy Name Society, Altar and Rosary Society, Ladies' Guild, Ushers' Club, Girl Scouts, and Little League.

St. Barbara parish is also a member of the Back of the Yards Council and participates in all of its ventures. Members of the parish were instrumental in closing down the limestone quarry which was located 200 feet east of the parish grammar school. For decades, the constant blasting in the quarry caused much damage to the parish buildings and the limestone dust was a health hazard for the families who lived in the neighborhood.

Associate pastors include Rev. Anthony A. Dudek, a retired U.S. Army chaplain, and Rev. Robert C. Rizzo.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

 

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