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St. Isidore Church at Burr Oak Ave. and Wood St. was
established in 1900 to serve Polish Catholics living in Blue Island,
a town 16 miles
south of downtown Chicago. Efforts at organizing a parish began in
1899 under the leadership of a group of Poles who formed "The Polish
Church and Building Society." A bazaar sponsored by this group
in 1899 netted $1,200 toward the proposed new parish.
Rev. Casimir I. Gronkowski, pastor of St. Salomea Church at 118th and
Indiana Ave. in Chicago, was instrumental in the formation of the new
national parish in Blue Island. After preliminary studies had been made
by Archdiocesan officials, he hired architect William J. Brinkman to
draw up plans for a two story combination church-school structure to
be built on land which had been donated by a real estate developer named
Geis. Construction proceeded rapidly and St. Isidore Church at 12728
S. Wood St. was dedicated on Dec. 25, 1900 by Rev. Francis Wojtalewicz,
pastor of the Polish parish of Immaculate Conception in South Chicago.
Apparently, St. Isidore parish was cared for from St. Salomea Church
until June 1902, when it was attached to St. Stanislaus B. & M.
Church in Posen, IL, a village directly south of Blue Island. Among
of St. Stanislaus Church who cared for the Poles of Blue Island were
Rev. Francis X. Kroll, Rev. Louis Szczygiel, and Rev. Peter H. Pyterek.
Prior to 1911, baptismal records were kept at St. Stanislaus Church
On Apr. 1, 1911, The New World announced that Father Pyterek had left
St. Stanislaus parish to take up permanent residence in Blue Island as
pastor of St. Isidore Church. Under his leadership, the parish building
was enlarged and living quarters were provided on the first floor of
the combination building for the Felician Sisters who took charge of
the parish school in October 1912.
When Father Pyterek left Blue Island in June 1913 to organize St. Helen
parish in Chicago, he was succeeded by Rev. Theodore Czastka, a former
assistant at St. Casimir Church in the city. In September 1914, Father
Czastka was named pastor of Holy Rosary Church in North Chicago, IL,
and Rev. Stanislaus Doberstein, a former assistant at St. John of God
Church, began his work in Blue Island. Under Father Doberstein's leadership,
a new belfry was built, the interior of the church was remodeled, and
a building was purchased and relocated at 12732 S. Wood St. for use
as a convent. A history of St. Isidore Church written in 1920 contains
information that: "The parish has now over two hundred parishioners
and a good future, on account of the factories which are to be built
in the near neighborhood."
Following Father Doberstein's appointment as pastor of St. Joseph Church
in Chicago Heights, IL, Rev. 1. J. Nowak, a former assistant at the Polish
parish of SS. Peter and Paul in the city, was named pastor in May 1928.
On Oct. 15, 1930, tragedy struck the parish when a fire destroyed the
church quarters. The fire department labored for four hours to fight
the blaze and to their credit, the classrooms were saved.
Arrangements were made with the pastor of St. Donatus Church and for
more than a year, members of St. Isidore parish attended Mass at the
Italian Catholic Church at Division and Union sts. According to a history
of the parish
Immediately the parishioners tried their utmost to build a new church
but [George] Cardinal Mundelein opposed it trying to incorporate
St. Isidore's parish into St. Donatus parish. However, the parishioners
to this vehemently. The Cardinal then relented and the laying of
the foundation for the new church had [sic] begun. Another obstacle
its head. This time lack of funds seemed to block the efforts of
the parishioners. Cardinal Mundelein refused to loan the necessary
to the parish. For three months the status quo remained. Finally,
even this obstacle was removed.
Construction resumed on the Romanesque-Spanish style brick church
located at the southwest corner of Burr Oak Ave. and Wood
St. and Mass in the
new structure was celebrated for the first time in July 1931.
St. Isidore Church was formally dedicated on Oct. 9, 1932 by Auxiliary
Following Father Nowak's resignation due to illness in August
1935, Rev. Joseph Drzymala, a former assistant at the Polish
in Chicago, was named pastor. He guided the parish through
the remainder of the Depression and through World War II.
death on Mar. 9, 1946 at the age of 54, Rev. Felix Feldheim
was named pastor. He came to Blue Island from Evanston, IL,
as first pastor of Ascension of Our Lord parish.
Samuel Cardinal Stritch presided at the golden jubilee anniversary
of St. Isidore parish which was celebrated on Oct. 29, 1950.
in this special Mass of Thanksgiving was Father Gronkowski
(then pastor of St. Adalbert Church in Chicago), who had
begun the work
this Polish parish 50 years before.
A parish historian, probably Father Feidheim, explained the
decline in school enrollment which had taken place in St.
It is now a conviction with the people, erroneous as it is,
are not necessary. If they d have children, one or two
is the limit. For this reason we have only four classrooms,
and the total of
pupils is 153.
One of the reasons for the low school enrollment
may in fact
have been the condition of the school facilities: classes
were still being held in the original frame building
erected in 1900.
the 1930 fire, the top level of this structure had been
leaving the classrooms. Although the pastor had purchased
property at a cost
of $11,902.26 for a new school in 1948, a modern school
and gymnasium were not built for eight years. A one-story
located at 12733 S. Wood St., was dedicated on May 26,
1957. The day held special
meaning for the pastor as it marked the 50th anniversary
of his ordination.
Following his retirement in 1960, Father Feidheim lived
at St. Andrew's Home for the Aged in Niles, Ill, until
at the age of 91. Rev. Theodore Kaczoroski, former member
of the Archdiocesan
Mission Band (Group Two) since 1940, was named pastor
of St. Isidore Church in May 1960, a post he retained
1961 when he was appointed
pastor of St. Casimir Church in Chicago.
The next pastor, Rev. Joseph C. Przybylowicz, came to
Blue Island in 1961 from Chicago where he had served
as an assistant
of St. Francis of Assisi. Under his leadership, a new
convent was constructed in 1963 at 12751 S. Wood St.
Named pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa Church in Cicero,
IL on Mar. 4, 1966, Father Przybylowicz was succeeded
in Blue Island
Sylvester W. Dudzinski. Prior to this appointment, Father
Dudzinski had served
as an assistant at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Chicago.
The 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Isidore parish
was celebrated on Oct. 26, 1975. At the time, 550 families
to the parish
and 240 children were enrolled in the school under the
direction of four
Felician Sisters and five lay teachers. In 1975, parts
of the parish grounds not occupied by buildings were
transformed into a recreational
field which is used for Little League Baseball, Girls'
League games, and the Rams Football Teams.
During the years, many groups and societies have been
formed in St. Isidore parish and through their efforts,
place in which to live, work, and rear their children.
Active parish groups include the School Board, Parish
Women's Club, and Athletic Committee. In 1978, parish
membership numbered 540
families with 168 children enrolled in the school.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.