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Established as a Polish parish in 1921, St. Camillus Church at 55th and Lockwood Ave. on the southwest side of Chicago was originally a mission of St. Joseph Church in Summit, IL Beginning in 1918, Rev. Thomas P. Bona, pastor of St. Joseph Church, and his assistant, Rev. Maximilian Warkocki, celebrated Mass for Polish Catholics in an empty store at 5228 S. Archer Ave.

Two Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth opened a school in a hall at the northeast corner of Archer and Lockwood Ave. The Sisters commuted each day from St. Joseph school, which was then located at 7438 W. 61st Pl. in Argo, IL.

In 1919, property was purchased at the northwest corner of 55th and Lockwood Ave. directly across the street from Meadows Golf Course (which later was developed as Midway Airport). Here a one-story brick building was constructed in 1920 and this structure served as a combination church and school for the mission, which was then known as St. Florian. A history of St. Joseph parish contained the information that the building "is to be dedicated before the end of the year 1920" and that "Seventy families have already settled within the boundaries of this mission."

St. Florian Mission was reorganized as the national parish of St. Camillus in October 1921 and Rev. Leo Sychowski was appointed first resident pastor. He came to the neighborhood now known as Garfield Ridge from St. Casimir Church at 22nd and Whipple St. where he had been an assistant. Father Sychowski took up residence in a house at 5218 S. Lockwood Ave. which had belonged to the Walkowicz family.

Construction on the present St. Camillus Church began in 1922. The modern brick edifice was joined to the existing combination building at 55th and Lockwood Ave. To achieve symmetry, a wing was added to the west side of the church. Following the completion of the new church quarters, the "wings" were used as classrooms. An apartment building at 5430 S. Lockwood Ave. was acquired in 1924 for use as a parish rectory.

In 1924, the Polish parish of St. Blase was organized in Argo from the older territorial parish of St. Joseph in Summit. By 1925, 300 children were enrolled in St. Camillus school. In that year, another national parish-St. Bruno-was established to serve Polish Catholics who had settled west of Five Holy Martyrs Church at 43rd and Richmond St. The area around Archer Ave. continued to be built up and in 1927, St. Turibius Church was organized at 56th and Kostner Ave. Although it was established as a territorial parish, St. Turibius was largely Polish. In 1928, the English-speaking parish of St. Richard was founded at 50th and Kostner Ave.

Father Sychowski continued to serve the people of St. Camillus Church until 1927, when he was named associate pastor of Five Holy Martyrs Church. He died on July 26, 1946 at the age of 66.

Rev. Boleslaus Kasprzycki began his long pastorate in July 1927. He came to the Garfield Ridge neighborhood from Old St. Stephen Church at Ohio and Sangamon St. where he had been pastor.

Under Father Kasprzycki's leadership, a three story brick building was constructed in 1928 at the rear of St. Camillus Church, facing Lockwood Ave. It provided a much needed parish hall as well as four more classrooms and expanded convent quarters. A history of St. Camillus Church published in The New World of May 24, 1935 contained the information that parish membership numbered 320 families and that 260 children were enrolled in the school.

In 1944, a 2:30 a.m. Sunday Mass was inaugurated to serve defense workers in such area plants as Studebaker, Archer and Cicero Ave., and Ford, 76th and Cicero Ave. This Mass became so popular that it continued to be held until the early 1960s.

The silver jubilee of St. Camillus parish was celebrated on Oct. 20, 1946.

Following World War II, many Catholic families settled in the GarfieldRidge neighborhood. St. Daniel the Prophet Church at 54th and Nashville Ave. was organized in 1947 and seven years later, St. Jane de Chantal Church at 53rd and McVicker Ave. was established to serve the growing Catholic population on the southwest side.

In November 1953, Father Kasprzycki was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor. He enjoyed this honor for only a few years. Following Msgr. Kasprzycki's death on May 17, 1957, Rev. Stanislaus J. Gruchot served as administrator of St. Camillus Church. He had been an assistant at the parish since 1952.

In July 1957, Rev. Joseph J. Mackowiak was appointed pastor. He came to this parish from Bridgeport, where he had been an assistant at St. Barbara Church. Father Mackowiak continued Msgr. Kasprzycki's plans to enlarge the parish complex. On Aug. 17, 1958, ground was broken for two new buildings, the cornerstones of which were laid on Dec. 14, 1958.

The architectural firm of Fox & Fox designed the rectory at 5426 S. Lockwood Ave. as well as the combination building at 5434 5. Lockwood Ave. which contained eight classrooms and accommodations for 12 Sisters. The new parish buildings were dedicated on Oct. 25, 1959. At the time, 600 students were enrolled in St. Camillus school.

In February 1965, Father Mackowiak was named pastor of St. Wenceslaus Church on the northwest side of Chicago. His successor was Rev. Stanislaus J. Kwiek, a former assistant at St. Valentine Church in Cicero, IL.

One of Father Kwiek's first concerns was to make the necessary changes in the sanctuary of St. Camillus Church so that the priest could face the congregation while celebrating Mass. Before Father Mackowiak had left the parish, he initiated negotiations with American Airlines to purchase its parking lot on 55th St. between Lorel and Long Ave. This property, which was purchased by the Archdiocese in 1965 for $50,000, was to provide parking space for the time when a new church would be built.

The golden jubilee of St. Camillus Church was celebrated on Oct. 17, 1971; John Cardinal Cody presided at the special Mass of Thanksgiving. More than 650 parishioners and friends attended a parish dinner-dance at the Manor Ballroom. A jubilee committee headed by Al Bell prepared a souvenir history which included early photographs of the Garfield-Ridge neighborhood as well as photographs relating to parish life.

At the request of the parish Building Committee, Cardinal Cody granted permission on Nov. 28, 1973 for the enlargement of St. Camillus Church-with the understanding that the cost would not exceed $212,000. The parish hall was converted into a temporary church and the work of renovation was begun on Jan. 2, 1974. Masses were celebrated in the newly refurbished edifice as early as June 29, 1974.

Father Kwiek continued to serve as pastor until his death on Feb. 2, 1977 at the age of 65.

Rev. Charles I. Osowski, former associate pastor of St. Blase Church in Argo, was appointed pastor of St. Camillus Church on Mar. 30, 1977. Father Osowski was known to many in the congregation because he had served as an assistant at this parish from 1966 to 1974.

Today parish membership numbers approximately 1,500 families. While St. Camillus parish is still predominantly Polish, families of other nationalities also belong to the congregation. Seven Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and three lay teachers staff the parish school, which has an enrollment of 234 children.

Active parish organizations include the Mothers Club, Commentators and Lectors, Knights of the Altar, Holy Name Society, Ushers Club, Children of Mary Sodality, Our Lady of Good Counsel Society, St. Camillus Society, Polish Alma Mater, and a scouting group.

Associate pastors include Rev. Marcel J. Pasciak, a professor at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South, and Rev. Norbert A. Wachowiak, former pastor of St. Helen Church. George Swindells is the first permanent deacon to be ordained from St. Camillus parish.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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