BACK TO THE LIST
Established in 1903 to serve Polish Catholics who lived in the West
Pullman neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago, Assumption, BVM
Church at 123rd and Parnell Ave. was organized within the boundaries
of the territorial parish of St. Catherine of Genoa at 118th and Lowe
Ave. The nearest Polish parish was that of St. Salomea at 118th and Indiana
Following a meeting of 80 Polish families on June 2, 1902, the Assumption,
BVM Society - which had been founded on Aug. 15, 1895 - donated $100
for the purchase
of six city lots at 123rd and Parnell ave. In November 1903, Rev. August Koytek,
pastor of St. Stanislaus B. & M. Church in Posen, IL., was named pastor
of the new parish. He was also placed in charge of a mission in Chicago Heights,
IL., which was reorganized as St. Joseph Church in 1905.
The frame church of Assumption, BVM was dedicated on June 19, 1904 by Rev. John
Kasprzycki, CR, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish. In September 1906, Father
Koytek was appointed pastor of St. Mary Church in Downers Grove, IL. (now in
the Joliet diocese). He later served as pastor of Holy Rosary Church in North
The second pastor of Assumption parish was Rev. Stanislaus Cholewinski, a former
assistant at St. Josaphat Church in Chicago. In 1907, the Sisters of the Holy
Family of Nazareth opened the parish school.
Following Father Cholewinski's appointment as pastor of the Polish parish of
St. Joseph in Chicago, Rev. Leo Zuchola was named pastor on July 5, 1910. Before
long, Assumption, BVM parish numbered 260 families.
After the present rectory at 544 W. 123rd St. was built, the old parish residence
at 12240 S. Parnell ave. was converted into classrooms and convent quarters.
On Nov. 29, 1914, the Lithuanian Catholic Church of SS. Peter and Paul at 123rd
and Emerald Ave. was dedicated. It had been constructed in close proximity to
On Dec. 18, 1918, Rev. Theodore T. Langfort, former pastor of St. Valentine Church
in Cicero, IL., was appointed pastor of this parish. At a meeting in January
1919, it was decided to build a new convent for the Sisters who had been living
in part of the school building. Ground was broken at 12242 S. Parnell Ave. in
May 1919 and the structure was completed by Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1919.
To meet the needs of this rapidly growing parish, plans were drawn up for a brick
combination church-school building, the cornerstone of which was laid on June
10, 1923. On Nov. 25, 1923, Archbishop George W. Mundelein blessed the new Assumption,
BVM Church and school quarters which had been completed at 12238 S. Parnell Ave.
The frame church in use since 1904 was then remodeled as a parish hall.
Through the generosity of the congregation, the parish debt was reduced by $25,000
in four years. In 1940, Father Langfort was named pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa
Church in Cicero, IL., and Rev. Felix J. Kachnowski, former pastor of St. Stanislaus
B. & M. Church in Posen, IL., began his long tenure at Assumption parish.
Shortly after coming to West Pullman, Father Kachnowski was elected chaplain
of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, a post he retained for many years.
Imposing ceremonies marked the golden jubilee of Assumption, BVM parish which
was celebrated on May 10, 1953. Another major celebration took place on Dec.
20, 1953, when Father Kachnowski was invested as a Domestic Prelate with the
title Right Reverend Monsignor.
While enrollment in the parish school had never been particularly high, it increased
steadily in the years following World War II - a result of the "baby boom." In
1955, 427 children were enrolled in Assumption school under the direction of
12 Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Named pastor emeritus in March 1966, Msgr. Kachnowski continued to reside in
the parish rectory until his death on Aug. 31, 1968.
Rev. Thaddeus J. Walenga, a former pastor of St. Susanna Church in Harvey, IL.,
served as pastor from March 1966 until his death on Sept. 28, 1975. During this
period, he was active in the Catholic League, the Parish Cluster of the Roseland
area, and he served as Regional Director of the Catholic Women's Council, seventh
Rev. Felix A. Lata, a former assistant at Assumption, BVM Church, served as administrator
of the parish from October 1975 until his death on June 21, 1977.
In August 1977, Rev. Norman R. Kunz, a former chaplain at St. Anthony hospital,
was named administrator. In addition to his parish work, Father Kunz served as
executive director of the Archdiocesan Office of Conciliation and Arbitration.
In recent years, the West Pullman neighborhood of which Assumption BVM parish
is an integral part has undergone racial change from a white ethnic community
to a predominantly black community. While enrollment in the parish school is
all black, the parish membership is integrated; a number of Polish families continue
to belong to the parish along with black families who have moved into the neighborhood.
The 9 a.m. Mass on Sundays is celebrated in Polish and parts of the parish bulletin
are written in Polish. As a national parish, Assumption has no boundaries.
On Oct. 8, 1978, old and new members of Assumption Church gathered to celebrate
the parish's 75th anniversary. As part of the celebration, an outdoor benediction
service was conducted at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart at the corner of 123rd
and Parnell Ave. At the time of the jubilee, 450 families belonged to the parish
and 174 children were enrolled in the school under the direction of six lay teachers.
The Holy Name Society is the bulwark of Assumption parish and its members work
for the good of the parish and the community. Active groups include the Ladies
Rosary Society, Holy Name of Jesus Society, Ladies Holy Name Auxiliary, fraternal
PRCUA societies, Assumption, BVM Society, St. Anne and St. Cecilia societies,
St. Hedwig UPW, St. Stanislaus PNA, Parents Club, Mothers Club, and a scouting
Following Father Kunz's appointment as chaplain at St. Anthony of Padua hospital,
Rev. Robert C. Behnke was named administrator of Assumption, BVM Church on Feb.
20, 1980. He came to West Pullman from the South Chicago neighborhood, where
he had been serving as associate pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church.