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St. Casimir Church at Cermak Rd. and Whipple St. was founded in 1890 to serve Polish Catholics who had settled west of St. Adalbert Church, then located at 16th and Paulina St. The new national parish was established in close proximi-ty to Blessed Sacrament Church, which was then under construction at 22nd St. (later Cermak Rd.) and Central Park Ave. From 1884 to 1890, priests from St. Pius Church (then located at 18th p1. and Paulina St.) cared for the Irish Catholics in Lawndale who formed the nucleus of Blessed Sacrament parish.

In October 1890, Rev. Francis X. Kroll began the work of organizing St. Casimir parish. Under his direction, a door and sash factory was moved from 20th and Laflin St. to 22nd and Whipple St. where it was outfitted as a church.

In January 1891, Mary O'Neill and J. Rychlewski opened a school on the second floor of the frame building. Walter Dombeck, the organist at St. Casimir Church, also taught the 47 pupils registered in the parish school.

In 1891, the Bohemian parish of St. Ludmilla was founded at 24th and Albany Ave. to serve Czech Catholics who had moved west of St. Vitus Church at 18th Pl. and Paulina St. Father Kroll served the people of St. Casimir parish for nearly three years. He later became first resident pastor of St. Columba Church in Chicago.

In August 1893, Rev. Adalbert Furman, a former assistant at St. Josaphat Church, was appointed pastor of St. Casimir Church. Membership then numbered about 300 families.

In 1894, Father Furman built a rectory at 2226 5. Whipple St. and he acquired a building for use as a convent. The School Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee, WI, staffed St. Casimir school until 1901, when the newly organized Polish congregation, Sisters of the Resurrection, agreed to take charge.

In 1902, the Douglas Park branch of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railway was completed to Pulaski rd. This "L" offered inexpensive transportation to the Loop business district. St. Casimir parish was growing so rapidly that in 1904, ground at 2232 S. Whipple St. was broken for a new church and school building, the cornerstone of which was laid on Sept. 4, 1904. The combination structure, designed by Joseph Molitor and completed at a cost of $55,000, contained a temporary church, seven classrooms, and quarters for the Sisters. It was dedicated on Pentecost, June 11, 1905.

Despite the organization of the Polish parishes of St. Mary of Czestochowa in Cicero, IL (1895); St. Ann at 18th Pl. and Leavitt St. (1903); and Good Shepherd at 28th and Kolin Ave. (1907), St. Casimir parish continued to grow in numbers. Membership increased from 800 families in 1910 to 2,000 families by 1917.

To meet the needs of this fast-growing parish, ground at the southwest corner of 22nd and Whipple St. was broken for a new church, the cornerstone of which was laid on Sept. 9, 1917. St. Casimir Church, designed in the Baroque style reminiscent of the Polish Renaissance and completed at a cost of $185,000, was dedicated on Dec. 21, 1919 by Archbishop George W. Mundelein. It was one of the first churches in Chicago to be equipped with electric lights.

After the new church was completed, the former church quarters were remodelled into classrooms to accommodate the 1,045 students enrolled in the school.

In 1922, Father Furman retired from his active duties as pastor. He continued to reside in the parish until his death on Dec. 20, 1929.

Rev. Stanislaus V. Bona, who had been an assistant at St. Casimir Church since 1919, was appointed to succeed Father Furman as pastor in 1922. Born in Chicago on Oct. 1, 1888, he grew up in St. Casimir parish and was a graduate of St. Stanislaus College (later Weber high school). Ordained in Rome on Nov. 1, 1912, Father Bona later served as assistant at St. Barbara Church in Chicago. Appointed resident chaplain at the House of Corrections in 1916, in 1918, he was named a professor of Polish at Quigley Preparatory Seminary; in the following year, Father Bona was appointed a regular professor.

The new pastor's first concern was to provide adequate living quarters for the Resurrection Sisters who staffed the parish school. A spacious brick structure, located at 3047 W. 22nd St., was dedicated on Jan. 27, 1924. The convent, erected at a cost of $70,000, contained accommodations for 50 nuns.

Under Father Bona's leadership, a two year commercial high school course was established at St. Casimir school in September 1924. By 1925, 1,584 students were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of 35 Resurrection Sisters.

With the generous support of his parishioners, Father Bona financed the construction of a new school at 2243 S. Albany Ave. On Nov. 13, 1927, Cardinal Mundelein dedicated the new school which had been completed according to plans drawn up by the architectural firm of Sandel & Strong. The commercial department, which was open to boys and girls of the parish, was relocated in the new school building.

St. Casimir parish reached its peak membership of 3,300 families in the 1920s. In 1928, the Polish parish of St. Roman was organized at 23rd and Washtenaw Ave., one-half mile east of St. Casimir Church.

In recognition of his work in the field of education and welfare, Father Bona was named a Papal Chamberlain by Pope Pius XI in April 1931. On July 5, 1931, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas P. Bona, a diocesan consultor and pastor of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, officiated at the investiture of his brother, Stanislaus, as a Papal Chamberlain.

Very Rev. Msgr. Stanislaus V. Bona served as supervisor of women's religious orders in the Archdiocese of Chicago and he worked closely with the Council of Catholic Women. On Dec. 19, 1931, Msgr. Bona was appointed Bishop of the diocese of Grand Island, Neb. He was consecrated in Holy Name Cathedral by Cardinal Mundelein on Feb. 25, 1932. Bishop Bona offered a Solemn Pontifical Mass in St. Casimir Church on Feb. 28, 1932. He left Chicago for Grand Island, Neb., on Mar. 8, 1932.

Very Rev. Msgr. Anthony Halgas, former pastor of St. Andrew Church in Calumet City, IL, succeeded Bishop Bona as pastor. Msgr. Halgas' first assignment following his ordination in 1906 had been at St. Casimir Church to which he now returned as pastor.

Although Msgr. Halgas' tenure as pastor was brief, the years were difficult ones. Many parishioners lost their jobs and homes as a result of the Depression. Parish improvements were out of the question: Msgr. Halgas concentrated on paying off the parish debt.

After a prolonged illness, Msgr. Halgas died on Apr. 27, 1936 at the age of 55. His successor, Very Rev. Msgr. John Mielcarek, came to St. Casimir parish in May 1936 from South Chicago, where he had been pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church.

Within a week of his appointment as pastor, Msgr. Mielcarek was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor. In preparation for the parish's upcoming golden jubilee, the pastor drew up plans for the renovation of all the parish buildings. The present rectory was constructed in 1937 at 2226 S. Whipple St. on the site of the old parish residence.

On Oct. 27, 1940, Bishop Bona offered the Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving as part of the golden jubilee of St. Casimir Church. Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch delivered the sermon. The festivities concluded with a banquet at the Pilsen Park auditorium.

In 1946, a fire destroyed the entire third and fourth floors of the Whipple St. school. With the generous support of his congregation, Msgr. Mielcarek was able to renovate this building.

The commercial program at St. Casimir school was expanded to three years in 1948. Since 1949, the high school has offered a four year academic and commercial program exclusively for girls.

In October 1950, Msgr. Mielcarek was appointed an Archdiocesan Consultor and in November 1953, he was named a Protonotary Apostolic by Pope Pius XII. At the same time, Rev. Raymond J. Zock, an associate pastor at St. Casimir Church since 1932, was named a Papal Chamberlain with the title Very Reverend Monsignor.

Msgr. Mielcarek served the people of this parish for 25 years. Four months prior to the 50th anniversary of his ordination he became very IL Msgr. Mielcarek died on July 7, 1961.

In September 1961, Rev. Theodore A. Kaczoroski, pastor of St. Isidore Church in Blue Island, IL, and former assistant at St. Casimir Church, was named pastor. Despite a heavy parish debt, an extensive renovation program was undertaken in preparation for the diamond jubilee.

On Dec. 16, 1963, Father Kaczoroski was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor.

To meet the needs of old and new parishioners, a three week mission which opened at St. Casimir Church on Apr. 24, 1965 was conducted in English, Polish, and Spanish. The diamond jubilee celebration began on May 16, 1965 with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving offered by Bishop Bona, who had been head of the Green Bay, Wis., diocese since 1945. On this great occasion, the people of St. Casimir Church were joined by priests, nuns, and brothers who had grown up in the parish. On May 30, 1965, the parish sponsored a 75th jubilee dinner at McCormick Place which was attended by more than 1,250 guests.

On Jan. 1, 1979, Msgr. Kaczoroski was named pastor emeritus and Rev. Norman M. Czajka was appointed pastor. Father Czajka was well acquainted with the parish as he had served as associate pastor since 1966.

Within the past 14 years, many Spanish-speaking families have joined the national parish of St. Casimir. The ministry is now trilingual in language, culture, and tradition. Today, the parish serves about 1,000 families who live in the area bounded by Cermak rd. on the north; the Sanitary and Ship Canal on the south; Central Park Ave. on the west; and Marshall blvd. on the eaSt. Approximately 70% of the registered families are Polish; 293/4 are Latino; and the rest are either Negro or Oriental. The neighborhood surrounding the parish complex is about 803/4 Latino.

Enrollment in the parish grammar school numbers 271 children under the direction of five Resurrection Sisters and five lay teachers. St. Casimir high school has a current enrollment of 206 girls. Since 1890, more than 23,000 children have been baptized in St. Casimir Church; 51 young men from the parish have been ordained priests; and 86 young women have entered religious orders.

Active parish organizations include the Parish Council, School Board, Mothers Club, Holy Name Society, Catholic War Veterans, Apostleship of Prayer, and Third Order. St. Casimir parish supports Little Village Community Council and three Boys Clubs. Rev. Jesus P. Garza is associate pastor.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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