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St. Hedwig Church at Webster and Hoyne Ave. on the northwest side of
Chicago was organized in 1888 to serve Polish families who lived more
than a mile from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at Evergreen Ave. and Noble
St. It was the fourth Polish parish in Chicago to be staffed by the Resurrectionist
Fathers, who had been in charge of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish since
In 1887, Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church,
purchased the city block bounded by Lyndale St., Webster Ave., Hamilton
Ave., and Hoyne Ave. and he directed the construction of a combination
church and school building which was dedicated on Dec. 4, 1888 by Archbishop
Patrick A. Feehan. Mass in the new structure was celebrated for the first
time on Dec. 8, 1888.
Father Barzynski's brother, Rev. Joseph Barzynski, was appointed first
resident pastor of St. Hedwig parish. In January 1889, the Sisters of
the Holy Family of Nazareth opened the parish school; they took up residence
in a portion of the combination structure at 2124 W. Webster Ave. The
present rectory at 2226 N. Hoyne Ave. was completed about 1890.
Parish membership grew rapidly, from 230 families in 1888 to 1,300 families
by 1894. In that year, Father Barzynski obtained the services of Rev.
Anthony Kozlowski, a young diocesan priest who had recently emigrated
from Europe. Father Kozlowski's appointment as an assistant on May 15,
1894 set in motion a series of events which had important consequences
for St. Hedwig parish and for the Polish community in Chicago.
In his study of the Resurrectionist Fathers, The First One Hundred Years,
Rev. John Iwicki, CR, recounts the controversy which led to "violence,
rebellion, and schism." According to Father Iwicki, "Father
Kozlowski's initial plan was not to cause a schism, but a sufficient
disturbance in the parish in order to convince the church authorities
to change the administrative personnel, and place him in charge of the
parish." When a group of Poles composed mostly of women stormed
the rectory on Feb. 7, 1895 to protest the appointment of Rev. Joseph
Gieburowski, CR, as temporary pastor, Archbishop Feehan closed St. Hedwig
Church. On Feb. 25, 1895, the Archbishop appointed Rev. Eugene Sedlaczek,
CR, as pastor and he directed him to reopen the parish school on Apr.
In May 1895, Father Kozlowski formed a congregation separate from that
of St. Hedwig parish. Through legal means, his supporters obtained a
temporary restraining order which prevented the reopening of the parish
church on June 16, 1895. On that day, Father Kozlowski celebrated Mass
in a rented store at Lubeck St. (now Dickens Ave.) near Hoyne Ave.
When St. Hedwig Church finally was reopened on June 23, 1895, Rev. Peter
J. Muldoon, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, read a letter from Archbishop
Feehan introducing Rev. Eugene Piechowski, CR, as pastor. In calling
for unity among the parishioners, Father Muldoon expressed the hope that "all
the old misunderstandings shall be erased, forgotten, and forgiven .
. ." However, Father Kozlowski's supporters numbered nearly 1,000
families while only 300 families had remained as members of St. Hedwig
Church. On Aug. 11, 1895, Father Kozlowski laid the cornerstone of All
Saints Church, which had been under construction at 2023 W. Dickens Ave.
When Father Kozlowski ignored Archbishop Feehan's warnings to cease organizing
All Saints parish, he was excommunicated and the decree was read in all
Polish and Bohemian parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago on Sept. 29,
1895. The Polish-born priest continued his activities and on Nov. 10,
1895, All Saints Church was dedicated. Father Kozlowski founded the Polish
Old Catholic Church and in 1897, he was consecrated an Old Catholic Bishop.
Following his death on Jan. 14, 1907, All Saints Church became part of
the Polish National Church under the direction of Rev. Francis Hodur.
Today, All Saints Cathedral is the headquarters of the Polish National
Church in Chicago.
The rebirth of St. Hedwig parish was due to the efforts of Polish-born
Father Piechowski. He was well suited to the task, having served as pastor
of St. Hyacinth parish. That Catholic parish had been founded in 1894
in order to thwart the establishment of a schismatic parish in the Avondale
neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago.
By 1899, so many families had returned as members of St. Hedwig parish
that the combination church and school building was overcrowded. As a
result, construction on the present church-which had been interrupted
by the bitter struggle over the appointment of a pastor-was resumed.
The cornerstone of the imposing edifice was laid on June 18, 1899. Constructed
at the southwest corner of Webster and Hoyne Ave., St. Hedwig Church
was the last building designed by architect Adolphus Druiding; he had
been awarded a gold medal in Munich, Germany, for his plans.
Auxiliary Bishop Muldoon returned to the parish on Oct. 27, 1901 to dedicate
the new church which had been completed at a cost of $160,000. In its
account of the ceremony, The New World noted that the parish numbered
about 4,000 persons with 800 students enrolled in the school.
Under Father Piechowski's leadership, St. Hedwig parish revived in faith
and dedication and the missions conducted by the Jesuits in 1896, 1898,
and 1908 did much to revitalize the religious life of the parish. By
1905, parish membership numbered approximately 1,500 families with 1,300
children in the school. Most of the dissenters returned to St. Hedwig
parish and a good deal of the animosity was eradicated.
Father Piechowski continued to serve as pastor for 14 years until his
retirement in 1909; he died on Apr. 19, 1921.
Rev. John Obyrtacz, CR, former pastor of St. Stanislaus B. & M. Church
in Chicago, was appointed pastor in 1909. At the time of the silver jubilee,
which was celebrated on Dec. 7, 1913, 2,000 families belonged to St.
Under Father Obyrtacz's direction, an auditorium with a seating capacity
of 1,000 persons was constructed in 1912 at a cost of $80,000 and in
1914, another story was added to the parish school. Enrollment then numbered
1,882 students under the direction of 33 Sisters of Nazareth. In 1916,
the rectory was modernized to suit the needs of the seven priests assigned
to the parish and within the next few years, the parish debt was liquidated.
Named pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in 1920, Father Obyrtacz
was succeeded by Rev. Stanislaus Siatka, CR, who had been pastor of St.
John Cantins Church since 1915.
Father Siatka and his parishioners financed the construction of a three
story school annex in 1921 at a cost of $160,000. Within four years,
2,651 children were enrolled under the direction of 39 Sisters of Nazareth.
Rev. Francis Dembinski, CR, a former pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka
Church, was named pastor of St. Hedwig parish in 1923. Father Dembinski
directed the construction of the church steeples which had been planned
by his predecessor.
Following Father Dembinski's death on Apr. 19, 1935, Rev. Francis Uzdrowski,
CR, was named pastor and under his leadership, a concerted effort was
made to restore the parish buildings. The present convent, designed by
Leo Strelka, was completed in 1937 at 2219 N. Hamilton Ave.
In preparation for the parish's golden jubilee, the church was repaired
and refurbished. Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona of Grand Island, Neb., presided
at the 50th jubilee Mass which was held in St. Hedwig Church on Dec.
11, 1938. At the time, parish membership numbered about 3,000 families
with 1,400 children enrolled in the school.
In 1939, Father Uzdrowski organized St. Hedwig Mission at 2445 N. Washtenaw
Ave. to serve members of the parish who lived west of Western Ave. As
a result of his foresight and planning, the parish hall was rebuilt and
redecorated and the parish plant was maintained in good order.
Rev. Jerome Klingsporn, CR, served the parish during the post World War
II years. One of his first acts as pastor was to honor the servicemen
of the parish who had given their lives for their country. Two memorial
plaques were mounted in the church and dedicated on Nov. 7, 1946.
Appointed assistant pastor of St. John Cantius Church in 1954, Father
Klingsporn was succeeded by Rev. John Mysliwiec, CR, who had been an
assistant at St. Hedwig Church from 1937 to 1939 and again from 1948
During the 1950s, a profound change occurred in the neighborhood of which
St. Hedwig parish is an integral part. The Northwest (now John F. Kennedy)
expressway cut through the heart of the parish, forcing hundreds of families
to move to other parts of the city. St. Hedwig lost its standing as one
of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese and its school enrollment
dropped from 1,300 to 700 students. That part of the expressway which
extends from Lake St. to Foster Ave. was opened to traffic on Nov. 5,
When Father Mysliwiec was assigned to St. John Cantius Church in 1960,
an assistant at that parish, Rev. Joseph Zaborowski, CR, was named pastor
of St. Hedwig Church. Under his leadership, plans were made for the parish's
diamond jubilee which was celebrated on Dec. 8, 1963.
Following Father Zaborowski's death on Aug. 28, 1969, Rev. John Iwicki,
CR, was named pastor on Nov. 2, 1969. In addition to writing a history
of the Resurrectionist Fathers, Father Iwicki had served as secretary
general of the Congregation with headquarters in Rome from 1965 to 1969.
In implementing the directives of the Second Vatican Council, Father
Iwicki organized a Liturgical Commission which was composed of Lectors
and Commentators. With the help of Rev. Robert Kurtz, CR, and Rev. Joseph
Malczyk, CR, of Gordon Tech, he introduced the Spanish Mass on Dec. 14,
1969 to serve Spanish-speaking families in the parish. After a year of
intensive work, the Spanish Society of St. Hedwig Church was established,
thus incorporating a fairly large segment of Latino Catholics into the
In 1971, a Parish Council was organized as a result of the enthusiastic
support and cooperation of the parish societies and in September 1973,
a parish School Board was organized as an advisory and policy-making
Following Father Iwicki's appointment as pastor of Sacred Heart Church
in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Rev. John Nowak, CR, served as pastor
of St. Hedwig Church from January 1979 until December of that year. Prior
to this assignment, Father Nowak had served as a faculty member at Gordon
Technical high school, where he taught and headed the religious department.
Rev. Denis Oross, CR, was appointed pastor effective Jan. 1, 1980. Ordained
in St. Hedwig Church in 1973, he served as librarian at Gordon Tech for
four years after which he was assigned to Our Lady of Loretto Church
in St. Louis, Mo., from 1977 to 1979. Prior to his appointment as pastor,
Father Oross had served as professor at Weber high school.
Of the 1,300 families who now belong to St. Hedwig parish, 900 are of
Polish birth or descent; 300 are Spanish; and 100 are of other ethnic
backgrounds. The weekend schedule of Masses includes one Mass in Spanish,
two in Polish, and four in English. In 1978, 362 children were enrolled
in the school under the direction of 10 Sisters of Nazareth and seven
lay teachers. The parish supports about 10 active groups.
Rev. John Poreda, CR, and Rev. James Gibson, CR are associate pastors.
Residents include Rev. Casimir Guziel, CR; Rev. Charles Mrowinski, CR;
and Rev. James Antosz, CR, Vocational Director for the Resurrection Fathers
of the Chicago Province. Three permanent deacons-Angel Nieves, Gilberto
Cintron, and Gregorio Velez-have been ordained from St. Hedwig Church.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.