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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
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
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
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
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.