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St. James Church at Fullerton and Menard Ave. on the northwest side of Chicago was founded in 1914 as a national parish from territory which had belonged to the Polish parish of St. Stanislaus B. & M. On June 23, 1914, Archbishop James E. Quigley appointed Rev. Walter S. Kukulski, a former assistant at Holy Innocents Church, to organize the new parish in the Hanson Park district. The new pastor celebrated Mass on July 5, 1914.

The first church of St. James parish was a small store at Belden and Parkside Ave.; a small barn at the rear of the property was used as a school. Later, a larger store at 2333 N. Mango Ave. was acquired for use as a church, and this building became the center of parish life. Father Kukulski purchased the entire block bounded by Altgeld St., Fullerton Ave., Menard Ave., and Mango Ave. for the future development of St. James parish.

In March 1918, Father Kukulski was named an assistant at St. Adalbert Church and Rev. Francis Marcinek, a former assistant at Immaculate Conception Church in South Chicago, was appointed pastor. Under his leadership, ground was broken at 2430 N. Mango Ave. for a combination church-school structure, the cornerstone of which was laid on May 11, 1919. In 1921, a rectory was built at 2418 N. Mango Ave. and in 1923, the combination building was enlarged. The present convent at 2441 N. Menard Ave. was completed in 1925 to accommodate the 10 Felician Sisters who staffed St. James school. Enrollment in the parish school then numbered 652 students.

On Apr. 21, 1929, Auxiliary Bishop Bernard J. Sheil dedicated a three story brick building which had been completed at the southwest corner of Altgeld St. and Mango Ave. The first floor of this structure was used as St. James Church; the new combination building also included eight classrooms. Shortly after the dedication, the church quarters in the old combination building at 2430 N. Mango Ave. were converted into an assembly hall with meeting rooms.

The Depression was deeply felt within the parish as economic difficulties caused many families to move to less expensive housing. In 1934, St. John Bosco Church was founded just west of St. James Church to serve English-speaking families who lived in the area bounded by Diversey Ave. from Narragansett to Austin Ave., and Schubert Ave. from Austin to Central Ave. on the north; the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad tracks at Armitage Ave. on the south; Narragansett Ave. on the west; and Central Ave. on the east.

In 1938, Father Marcinek retired as pastor. He lived in Plover, Wis., for five years and then resided at St. Andrew Home for the Aged in Niles, IL, where he died on Feb. 14, 1958 at the age of 77.

Rev. Edward A. Przybylski began his long tenure as pastor of St. James Church in July 1938. He came to the Hanson Park neighborhood from Five Holy Martyrs Church where he had been an assistant.

With the generous support of his Polish congregation, Father Przybylski was able to finance the construction of a school addition which was dedicated by Samuel Cardinal Stritch on Sept. 15, 1951. On that day, the Cardinal also blessed a memorial to the young men of St. James parish who had served their country during war time. The present rectory at 5730 W. Fullerton Ave. was completed in 1958.

On Dec. 30, 1962, Father Przybylski celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination and the 25th anniversary of his appointment as pastor of this parish.

Not only did the people of St. James Church pay off the parish debt, but they contributed generously to the fund for a new church building. At the time of the parish's golden jubilee, which was celebrated on Nov. 29, 1964, nearly $400,000 had been collected for a new edifice. Finally, in March 1968, ground for the present church was broken at the northeast corner of Fullerton and Menard Ave.

After serving the people of St. James parish for 31 years, Father Przybylski was named pastor emeritus on Dec. 22, 1969. He continued to reside in the parish rectory until his death on June 4, 1978.

Rev. John L. Wodniak has been pastor of St. James parish since Jan. 3, 1970. Prior to his appointment as pastor, he had served for 18 months as an associate pastor of this parish.

Mar. 8, 1970 was a gala day for parishioners. Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz dedicated the Georgian Colonial-style church which had been completed according to the plans of architect Chester Tobolski. At the time of the dedication, 353 children were enrolled in the school.

Since its founding in 1914, St. James has been a Polish parish and as such, it does not have exact territorial boundaries. However, its 1,100 families live in the area bounded by Diversey Ave. on the north; Grand Ave. on the south; Narragansett Ave. on the west; and Central Ave. on the east. Although the parish remains predominantly Polish, it serves the needs of all in the community. On Sundays, four Masses are celebrated in English and two are celebrated in Polish.

A School Board acts as an advisory group to the pastor and to the principal of St. James school. Among the many active groups in the parish are the Apostleship of Prayer, Holy Name Society, Ladies Rosary Sodality, Men's Rosary Sodality, Mothers Club of St. James school, St. Hedwig Ladies Club, St. Helen Choir, St. Therese Society, Third Order of St. Francis, and an Ushers Club. The parish also supports a large scouting program.

Aware of its cultural heritage and rich ethnic traditions, St. James parish sponsors the Thaddeus Kosciuszko School of Polish Language and Culture. Classes in the Polish language are held every Saturday for students in grade school and high school. Happily, too, the parish supports a Polish Roman Catholic Union dancing school for the children of the neighborhood.

In 1978, 320 children were enrolled in St. James school under the direction of four Felician Sisters 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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