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St. Bronislawa Church at 87th and Colfax Ave. on the southeast side
of Chicago was established in 1928 to relieve overcrowding at the Polish
parish of Immaculate Conception at 88th and Commercial Ave. The Polish
community in South Chicago had grown rapidly since the organization of
Immaculate Conception parish in 1882: indeed, by 1925, schools in the
national parishes of St. Michael, St. Mary Magdalene, and Immaculate
Conception enrolled 4,124 children.
George Cardinal Mundelein was acquainted with the work of the Conventual
Franciscan Fathers and he contacted Rev. Felix Baran, OFM Cony, about
organizing a national parish in Chicago. Father Baran had been pastor
of a parish in Elmhurst, Long Island when Cardinal Mundelein was chancellor
of the Brooklyn diocese many years earlier.
On Dec. 27, 1927, negotiations were concluded for the purchase of 15
lots at 87th and Colfax Ave. at a cost of $54,000. Following the next
meeting of Cardinal Mundelein and Father Baran, Rev. Cyril Kita, OFM
Cony, was appointed pastor of the new Polish parish which had been named
St. Bronislawa. Prior to his appointment in Chicago, Father Kita had
been stationed at St. Stephen Protomartyr Church in Shamokin, PA. in
the Harrisburg diocese.
The new pastor arrived in Chicago on Jan. 3, 1928. He stayed at the neighboring
parishes of St. Michael and St. Mary Magdalene until a furnished apartment
at 8735 5. Kingston Ave. was leased at a cost of $80 per month. Leaflets
were printed and distributed throughtout the South Chicago neighborhood
announcing that two Masses would be celebrated on Jan. 8, 1928 in the
auditorium of Bowen high school, 2910 E. 89th St. During January, about
75 persons gathered on Sundays to attend Mass at this location.
On Jan. 29, 1928, Mass was celebrated for the first time in a prefabricated
temporary structure which had been erected at 8700 5. Colfax Ave. St.
Bronislawa Church was blessed by Rev. John M. Lange, pastor of St. Michael
Church at 83rd and South Shore dr. According to a census, approximately
500 families lived within the new parish.
On May 3, 1928, ground at 8716 S. Colfax Ave. was broken for a combination
church-school building. As part of the celebration, the Dramatic Circle
of St. Josaphat Church in Milwaukee, WI presented a play, "Skalmierzanki," (an
operetta of the people of Skalmierz) in the auditorium of St. Mary Magdalene
Father Kita resided on Kingston Ave. until a two story house at 8708
S. Colfax Ave. was vacated. This building, which had been occupied by
the Hibza and Wroblewsid families, was remodeled for use as a rectory.
Construction on the combination building proceeded at a rapid pace after
the problem of quicksand was resolved and the cornerstone was laid on
The Felician Sisters opened the parish school on Sept. 4, 1928 with an
enrollment of 500 students. A house at 8715 S. Kingston Ave. was purchased
at a cost of $17,000 and this became the parish convent.
Cardinal Mundelein dedicated St. Bronislawa Church on June 16, 1929.
Leo Strelka designed the combination building which was completed at
a cost of $203,000. The structure contained church quarters with a seating
capacity of 900 persons, eight classrooms, and an auditorium.
In August 1942, Father Kita was elected provincial of St. Bonaventure
Province of Franciscan Friars Minor Conventuals, and he left Chicago
for Lake Forest, IL, the location of the order's Novitiate. Succeeding
pastors included Rev. Chester Czarnecki, OFM Cony., 1942-1947; Rev. Eugene
Piasecki, OFM Cony., 1947-1954 and 1966-1970; Rev. Callistus Winiarz,
OFM, Cony., 19541960; and Rev. Sigismund Grochowski, 1960-1966.
On Sept. 27, 1953, Samuel Cardinal Stritch presided at the silver jubilee
of St. Bronislawa parish. At the time, parish membership numbered 1,000
families. The last building to be constructed in the parish complex was
the administration center which was completed in 1959 at 8708 S. Colfax
Ave. on the site of the former rectory. The old wooden church has served
as the Teen Hall in recent years.
In January 1970, Rev. Ferdinand Kintop, OFM Cony, was appointed pastor,
a post he retained for the next eight years.
On June 22, 1975, St. Bronislawa Church was struck by lightning. The
damage was repaired and the interior of the structure was renovated.
The parish's golden jubilee was celebrated on May 21, 1978 with a special
Mass of Thanksgiving. At the time, 207 children were enrolled in the
school under the direction of four Felician Sisters and five lay teachers.
On Sept. 1, 1978, Rev. Anthony Labedis, OFM Cony, was appointed pastor.
He was very familiar with St. Bronislawa parish, having served as an
associate pastor since 1977.
Today, St. Bronislawa is an integrated parish and its 550 Polish and
black families support the following organizations: School Board, Ushers'
Bingo Club, Mothers' Guild, Mother of Good Counsel Society, Mothers of
World War II, Holy Rosary Society, Holy Name Society, and Third Order
of St. Francis. Over the years, the following boundaries were assigned
to this national parish: North-85th St. South-South Chicago Ave. West-South
Chicago Ave. East-Escanaba Ave. However there are so many national parishes
in the South Chicago neighborhood that families generally attend the
Catholic Church closest to their homes.
Rev. Paul Czubaj, OFM Cony, is in residence.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.