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St. Florian Church at 131st and Houston Ave. on the far southeast side of Chicago was organized in 1905 to serve about 100 Polish families and 200 single men who had settled in Hegewisch. Then as now, the Hegewisch district was cut off from the rest of Chicago by the Calumet River.

The national parish of St. Florian was organized within the boundaries of the English-speaking parish of St. Columba, then centered at 13365 S. Green Bay Ave. In October 1905, Rev. Florian M. Chodniewicz resigned his post at St. Columba Church in order to devote all his energy to organizing this Polish parish. Under his leadership, a frame church was constructed at the northeast corner of 132nd and Houston Ave.

About 1907, work began on a three story brick building at 13109 S. Houston Ave. This structure contained eight classrooms and a parish hail. The Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda opened the parish school in 1908. In 1912 the present rectory was completed at 13145 S. Houston Ave. and in 1916, a two story frame residence was remodeled as a convent.

Tragedy struck this parish on Jan. 27 1922 when a man seeking sacramental wine invaded the rectory and killed Father Chodniewicz. In March 1922, Archbishop George W. Mundelein appointed Rev. Vincent J. Nowicki, a former assistant at St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, as pastor.

Father Nowicki directed the construction of a spacious brick building at the northeast corner of 131st and Houston Ave. which contained church quarters and classrooms. Following the dedication of this building on Oct. 16, 1927, The New World reported that

The parish has at present six hundred and fifty families and four hun-dred and twenty single people. The seating capacity of the church is 1,200, the architect is Bron. Pstrong of St. Wenceslaus parish (Polish). There are over eight hundred and seventy children attending the parish school. The new school building is strictly modern and fireproof and is 142 feet long, 99 feet wide and 42 feet high.

The silver jubilee of St. Florian parish was celebrated on Oct. 5, 1930.

In September 1934, Father Nowicki was named pastor of St. Pancratius Church. His successor was Rev. Francis A. Kulinski, former pastor of St. Turibius Church.

In addition to his parish work, Father Kulinski directed the construction of a Mission Church for the Catholics of Burnham, 111., a suburb directly south of Hegewisch. Mother of God Church, located at 142nd and Green Bay Ave., was dedicated on Sept. 15, 1946. In 1956, the mission was canonically established as a parish.

Following World War 11, the Hegewisch neighborhood experienced a housing boom and soon, larger quarters were needed in the parish complex. In March 1952, ground at the southwest corner of 130th and Houston Ave. was broken for a youth center. This large brick structure, which contains a gym, was dedicated on June 6, 1954 by Samuel Cardinal Stritch.

The golden jubilee of St. Florian parish was celebrated on July 10, 1955. In that year, 560 children were enrolled in the school.

Following Father Kulinski's death on Nov. 5, 1963, Rev. Chester P. Konsowski, a former assistant at St. Wenceslaus Church, was named pastor in December 1963. He had been an assistant at St. Florian Church following his ordination in 1936.

Under Father Konsowski's leadership, ground for a new school and convent was broken on Feb. 7, 1965. The architectural firm of Fox & Fox designed both structures which were erected at a total cost of $450,000. The new school was completed at 13110 S. Baltimore Ave. and the convent was built at 3125 E. 131st St.

Father Konsowski continued to serve as pastor until his death on Feb. 3, 1974.

Rev. Joseph J. Pachorek, former associate pastor of St. John of God Church, was appointed pastor of St. Florian Church on Feb. 13, 1974. He was familiar with the parish, having served as an assistant from 1958 to 1959.

In 1978, 1,400 families belonged to this parish and 461 children were enrolled in the school under the direction of ten Franciscan Sisters of Chicago and eight lay teachers. The parish has a large CCD program with an annual enrollment of 400 children.

An active parish, St. Florian supports a Lay Advisory Board, a Parish School Board, Holy Name Society, Mothers' Club, Rosary Ladies, "Young at Heart," a Senior Citizens Club, Parish Athletic Board, and a Folk Mass group.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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