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St. Francis of Assisi Church at Augusta blvd. and Kostner Ave. was founded in 1909 to serve Polish Catholics who lived on the northwest side of Chicago in the territory bounded by North Ave. on the north; Chicago Ave. on the south; 48th St. (Cicero Ave.) on the west; and 40th St. (Pulaski Rd.) on the east.

According to the history of the parish published on Dec. 19, 1921 in Dziennik Zjednoczenia (The Alliance Daily), the nucleus of St. Francis of Assisi Church was branch # 636 of the Polish National Alliance. This group called itself Synowie Polski (Sons of Poland).

As early as 1906, efforts were made to form a new Polish parish in the area, but it was not until 1909 that Archbishop James E. Quigley established this national parish. A census taken that year indicated that the list of possible parishioners had grown from 60 to 160 families and that there were 250 children of school age.

Rev. Joseph S. Pajkowski, an assistant at the Polish parish of St. Ann at 18th p1. and Leavitt St., was appointed to organize St. Francis of Assisi Church. Under his leadership, land was purchased on 44th St. (Kostner Ave.) between Augusta blvd. and Cornelia Ave. (now Walton St.).

While construction was underway on a three story brick church and school building at 4424 W. Walton St., Father Pajkowski celebrated Mass in a hall at Thomas St. and Kostner Ave.

The cornerstone of the combination structure was laid on Dec. 19, 1909 by Auxiliary Bishop Paul P. Rhode, who returned to the parish on July 10, 1910 to dedicate the new brick building. The fact that the structure is still in use is a testament to the quality of construction.

St. Francis of Assisi school was opened in 1912 under the direction of five Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. This order staffed the parish school until 1949, when the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from St. Louis, MO were placed in charge.

St. Francis of Assisi Church was organized within the limits of the territorial parish of Our Lady of the Angels at Iowa st. and Hamlin Ave., which had been founded in 1894. In 1915, the Slovak parish of SS. Cyril and Methodius was established at Walton St. and Kildare Ave., just one block east of St. Francis of Assisi Church.

In September 1915, Father Pajkowski was appointed pastor of St. Salomea Church at 118th and Indiana Ave. on the south side of Chicago. His successor was Rev. Francis J. Jagielski, who had been pastor of St. Salomea parish from 1904 to 1912. He resided in part of the combination building until 1924, when a two story brick rectory was completed at 4418 W. Walton St. By 1925, 428 students were enrolled in the parish school.

Father Jagielski's pastorate spanned the era between the two World Wars. After serving the people of St. Francis of Assisi parish for 35 years, he resigned his position in October 1950 due to failing health. Father Jagielski died on Aug. 13, 1954 at St. Michael hospital in Stevens Point, WI at the age of 83.

The third pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church was Rev. Francis T. Czarny, who came to the parish from St. Wenceslaus Church at DeKoven and Desplaines St. where he had been pastor since 1947.
Father Czarny appraised the parish's physical plant and embarked on a program of renovation and construction. A new multi-level rectory with modern lines in the Frank Lloyd Wright style of architecture was completed at 932 N. Kostner Ave. in 1956. The former rectory was remodeled to provide enlarged living quarters for the Franciscan Sisters.

In January 1957, a parish drive was organized to raise funds for a new church. So successful was the campaign that Samuel Cardinal Stritch soon approved plans for the project. On Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1957, ground was broken at the southwest corner of Augusta Blvd. and Kostner Ave. The cornerstone of the new church was laid on Dec. 15, 1957, and on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1958, Auxiliary Bishop Roman Atkielski of Milwaukee, WI blessed the marble altars which had been imported from Italy.

Archbishop Albert 0. Meyer dedicated St. Francis of Assisi Church on Apr. 26, 1959. The new edifice, designed in a modified Gothic style by the architectural firm of Fox & Fox, had been completed at a cost of $240,000.

On Oct. 4, 1959, the 800 families of St. Francis of Assisi Church celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of their parish. Auxiliary Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger presided at the jubilee Mass. A parish dinner on Oct. 11, 1959 completed the anniversary celebration.

Under Father Czarny's leadership, the church quarters in the combination building were remodeled into additional classrooms, a library, and meeting rooms.

In September 1964, Rev. Stanley A. Dopak was appointed administrator of St. Francis of Assisi Church. He came to the parish from Posen, IL, where he had been pastor of St. Stanislaus B. & M. Church.

On Mar. 4, 1966, Father Czarny was named pastor emeritus and Father Dopak was appointed pastor. Father Czarny celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination on May 23, 1971; following his jubilee Mass, he was feted by the people of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Father Czarny now resides in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

During his pastorate, Father Dopak has directed the redecoration of the church and the installation of a new heating and air conditioning system.

Rev. Edmund F. Guz is associate pastor and Thaddeus Lisowski is the first permanent deacon to be ordained from the parish.

In 1978, 369 students were enrolled in St. Francis of Assisi school under the direction of three Sisters of St. Francis and six lay teachers.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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