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Five Holy Martyrs Church at 43rd and Richmond St. on
the southwest side of Chicago was founded as a national parish in November
1908 to serve
Polish families in Brighton Park. As early as 1878, St. Agnes parish
had been founded by Irish Catholics of Brighton Park and in 1887, French
Catholics established St. Joseph (now St. Joseph and St. Anne) parish.
In addition to organizing Five Holy Martyrs parish, Rev. Joseph H. Kruszka
also cared for the Polish parish of St. Mary of Gostyn in Downers Grove,
IL. until Mar. 21, 1913. This national parish is now located in the
For a time, Father Kruszka celebrated Mass on Sundays in the Davis public
school, 3014 W. 39th Pl. In May 1909, the cornerstone of a combination
churchschool building was laid and by the time this structure was completed
at 3141 W. 41st St. in December 1909, 95 families belonged to Five Holy
Martyrs parish. Lay teachers staffed the parish school until 1912 when
the Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda were given charge.
The growth of this parish was slow at first. However, many Polish families
settled in the neighborhood after 1914, when the Crane Company relocated
its manufacturing plant from 15th and Canal St. to 4100 S. Kedzie Ave.,
across the street from Five Holy Martyrs Church. By 1916, 308 children
were enrolled in the parish school.
With the influx of new families into the neighborhood and the shift of
the business district to Archer Ave., it soon became apparent that Five
Holy Martyrs Church was not centrally located. Father Kruszka began a
search for a parish site south of Archer Ave, and he purchased the city
block bounded by 43rd St., 44th St., Richmond St., and Francisco Ave.,
which had been owned by the Jesuit Fathers of St. Ignatius College.
The cornerstone of a new church building was laid on Aug. 3, 1919 and
the Spanish "mission style" structure was completed at the
southeast corner of 43rd and Richmond St. according to plans drawn up
by architect Arthur Foster. During the dedication ceremonies on Oct.
31, 1920, Archbishop George W. Mundelein "congratulated the pastor,
the Rev. J. H. Kruszka, and his congregation on the beautiful but inexpensive
buildings that they had erected and encouraged them to greater things." The
parish school, which adjoined the church at 4317 S. Richmond St., contained
By 1920, 1,298 families belonged to Five Holy Martyrs parish. Named pastor
of St. Ann Church at 18th Pl. and Leavitt St. in April 1921, Father Kruszka
was succeeded by Rev. James J. Strzycki, former pastor of St. John the
Baptist Church in Harvey, IL.
The new pastor directed the construction of the present rectory at 4327
S. Richmond St. as well as the present convent, which was completed at
2901 W. 43rd St. in 1922. After two years of commuting each day from
their living quarters in the old church building on 41st St. near Kedzie
ave., the Sisters finally had a conveniently located convent.
In 1924, St. Pancratius parish was established to serve 773 Polish families
- many of whom were recent immigrants from Poland-who had settled in
north of Archer Ave. The old Five Holy Martyrs church and school building
at 3141 W. 41St. was given over to the new parish.
Enrollment in the parish school continued to increase so rapidly that by 1924,
more classrooms were needed. To alleviate this situation, Father Strzycki financed
the construction of an $85,000 building at 4328 S. Francisco Ave, with an adjoining
wing which is now known as "Bungalow Hall." This school addition was
completed according to plans drawn up by architect Leo Strelka and it was dedicated
by Cardinal Mundelein on May 17, 1925. At the time, 1,235 children were enrolled
under the direction of 22 Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda. By the end of the 1920s,
parish membership numbered more than 2,000 families with more than 1,800 children
enrolled in the school.
Throughout the Depression, Father Strzycki operated a free employment bureau
for his parishioners who were in need of work. In addition to obtaining jobs
for neighborhood men and women, he employed many parishioners to landscape the
parish grounds at the rate of $.30 an hour.
Nov. 19, 1934 was a red-letter day for the parish: Cardinal Mundelein dedicated
a new L-shaped addition to the church and he invested Father Strzycki as a Papal
Chamberlain with the title Very Reverend Monsignor. To meet the needs of the
many children of the parish, the pastor established a recreation center which
was dedicated on July 17, 1938. The athletic field included baseball diamonds,
a boxing ring, and playground space. One of the principal speakers at the dedication
ceremony was Mayor Edward J. Kelly.
Hundreds of young men from the parish served in the armed forces during World
War II and a monument was erected in front of the Richmond st. school building
in honor of the 60 members of the parish who were killed in the war.
In 1946, Msgr. Strzycki was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend
Monsignor. In 1950, he erected a shrine in honor of Our Lady of Fatima on the
rectory lawn and this shrine is now the site of the annual May crowning.
At the time of Msgr. Strzycki's death on July 28, 1956 at the age of 69, more
than 2,500 families belonged to Five Holy Martyrs parish. His successor was Rev.
Edward A. Maday, who had served as an assistant at the parish following his ordination
in 1929. Father Maday returned to Brighton Park in January 1957 from St. Helen
Church where he had been an assistant.
Throughout the 1950s, parish membership continued to increase steadily and Father
Maday directed an extensive program of renovation during which most of the parish
buildings were updated. The church was air conditioned and redecorated in preparation
for the golden jubilee, which was celebrated on Nov. 8, 1959. At the time of
this event, 3,800 families belonged to Five Holy Martyrs parish and 918 children
were enrolled in the school.
Although the pastor was not able to fulfill his plans for a new church edifice,
he did receive permission from the Chancery Office to remodel and enlarge the
church. Work on this project began on May 1, 1963 and during the next 10 months,
Masses were celebrated in the school buildings. The nave of the church was lengthened
and a new sanctuary was constructed as part of the modernization program and
Five Holy Martyrs Church was reopened for worship in March 1964.
In July 1968, Father Maday requested permission to resign his post because of
poor health. He died two months later on Sept. 5, 1968.
Most Rev. Alfred L. Abramowicz, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, was appointed
pastor on July 15, 1968. He had served as an Archdiocesan Consultor and as Vice
Officialis of the Metropolitan Tribunal prior to his consecration as Auxiliary
Bishop on June 13, 1968. Bishop Abramowicz was baptized in the original Five Holy
Martyrs Church and his family remained as parishioners until St. Pancratius parish
was organized in 1924.
Bishop Abamowicz continued the remodeling program begun by his predecessor. The
school buildings were renovated to comply with current fire regulations and they
took on the appearance of newly built structures. Both parish halls and kitchen
facilities were updated and parishioners donated their labor to convert the old
parish hall in the Fancisco ave. school building into a gymnasium. The convent
was refurbished and a new chapel, dining room, kitchen, and laundry were constructed.
It was with great joy that Five Holy Martyrs parishioners learned that their
parish had been selected as the site of an open-air Mass to be celebrated by
Pope John Paul II on Oct. 5, 1979 during his three day visit to Chicago. In preparation
for the Pope's visit to Brighton Park, homeowners decorated their bungalows and
two-flats with papal banners and signs of welcome. More than 17,500 persons representing
predominantly Polish parishes, organizations, and institutions of the Chicago
Archdiocese participated in the special Mass which was held in the parking lot
of Five Holy Martyrs parish. Speaking in his native tongue, the Pope told the
assembled crowd that their offertory gifts represented "all the contributions
that the sons and daughters of our first homeland, Poland, have made to the history
and to the life of their second homeland across the ocean." On Jan. 16,
1980, the street in front of Five Holy Martyrs Church was renamed Pope John Paul
II Dr. As a result of the action of the Chicago City Council, that portion of
43rd St. which extends from Kedzie to Western ave. now bears the name of the
first Polish pope.
Because of a large influx of Polish immigrants to Brighton Park within the last
15 years, Bishop Abramowicz has stressed the ethnicity of Five Holy Martyrs parish.
The Polish language is taught as a regular subject in the parish school and traditional
Polish customs are observed. The Eucharist is celebrated in Polish at one Mass
each day and at two Masses on Sunday and the parish bulletin is published in
both English and Polish. In keeping with the precepts of the Second Vatican Council,
missions, penitential services, novenas, and various liturgies have been inaugurated
at the parish.
More than 2,500 Polish and Polish-American families now belong to Five Holy Martyrs
Church and 500 children are enrolled in the school under the direction of seven
Franciscan Sisters and 10 lay teachers.
Associate pastors include Rev. Stanley J. Shaw, founding pastor of St. Damian
parish in Oak Forest, IL.; Rev. Walter J. Szczypula; Rev. John F. Brzegowy; and
Rev. Norbert J. Waszak.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.