BACK TO THE LIST
St. John Cantius Church on Carpenter St. between Fry St. and Chicago
Ave. was founded in 1893 to relieve overcrowding at St. Stanislaus Kostka
Church on Noble St., the oldest Polish parish in Chicago. Established
in 1867, St. Stanislaus Kostka had become the largest Polish parish in
the world by 1892 with a membership of 8,000 families. On Dec. 10, 1892,
The New World announced that
Owing to the rapid growth of this parish and the large territory it covers,
it was deemed advisable to divide it, as it is impossible for one church
to accommodate this rapidly increasing congregation. A new parish will
be made early next year and a church built in the neighborhood of Chicago
avenue and Carpenter streets for the Polish residents in that vicinity.
According to The New World of Jan. 14, 1893, 20 houses in the immediate
area of Chicago Ave. and Carpenter St. had to be demolished to make
way for the new Catholic Church. Appointed pastor of the new parish
thickly settled "Polish Patch" along the banks of the north
branch of the Chicago River was Rev. John Kasprzycki, CR.
The cornerstone of St. John Cantius Church was laid on Sept. 4, 1893
by Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan. In November 1893, the School Sisters
of Notre Dame opened the parish school in the church basement with an
enrollment of 150 children. The present rectory at 825 N. Fry St. was
blessed on Dec. 20, 1893 and Archbishop Feehan dedicated the lower church
on the following day. Mass in the church basement was celebrated for
the first time on Christmas 1893, which is considered to be the founding
date of St. John Cantius parish. Due to the depression which followed
the closing of the World's Fair, the upper church was not completed for
five years. The Romanesque baroque structure, designed by Adolphus Druiding
and completed at a cost of $130,000 was finally dedicated on Dec. 11,
1898 by Archbishop Feehan.
Following the appointment of Father Kasprzycki as pastor of St. Stanislaus
Kostka Church, Rev. Eugene Sedlaczek, CR, former pastor of St. Hyacinth
parish, was named pastor of St. John Cantius Church in May 1899. During
his two year tenure as pastor, he supervised the completion of the church
From 1901 to 1902, Rev. Stephen Dabkowski, CR served as pastor. His successor,
Rev. Stanislaus Rogaiski, CR came to Chicago from Ontario, Canada, where
he had been pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Kitchener since 1895. Father
RogalskI turned his attention to the need for a separate school building.
On Mar. 7, 1903, The New World reported that
At present the children are taught in the basement of the church, and
as there are 1,400 pupils, more space is very much needed. Eighteen
Sisters of Notre Dame have charge of the school.
Through the generosity of the parishioners, a new school building at
the corner of Chicago Ave. and Carpenter St. was completed by November
1903. Under Father Rogaiski's leadership, a magnificent clock was installed
in the right tower of the church; the interior of the edifice was painted
for the first time; and an organ was acquired.
Appointed pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in 1909, Father Rogalski
was succeeded by Rev. John Kosinski, CR, former head of St. Stanislaus
College (now known as Weber high school). During his pastorate, new
and sophisticated electrical and ventilating systems were installed
church and stained glass windows were purchased.
Following Father Kosinski's death on May 1, 1914, Rev. Vincent Rapacz,
CR served as administrator until Rev. Stanislaus Siatka, CR was named
pastor in March 1915.
During Father Siatka's pastorate, concrete stairs were built at the
main entrance of the church; the church basement was remodeled into
a convent was constructed at 1025 W. Fry St.; and the brick fence which
now surrounds the parish complex was completed.
In 1916, St. Stephen Church at Ohio and Sangamon St. was designated
as a mixed parish to serve Polish families who had settled in the neighborhood.
This parish had been established in 1869 by Irish Catholics.
The silver jubilee of St. John Cantius parish was celebrated on Dec.
In its 25th year, the parish reached its peak membership of 23,000
souls with more than 2,000 children enrolled in the school.
Following Father Siatka's appointment as pastor of St. Hedwig Church
in 1920, Rev. Stephen Kowalczyk, CR, former superior and rector of
St. John Cantius Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., was named pastor.
In the 1920s, the Ogden Ave. extension was constructed through the
heart of St. John Cantius parish. Not only did the project take many
and displace parishioners, but it proved a hazard to the safety of
children enrolled in the parish school. A decline in enrollment resulted
sent their children to nearby grammar schools.
In 1930, Father. Kowalczyk was appointed pastor of St. Hyacinth Church
and Rev. Walter Bartylak, CR succeeded him as pastor of St. John Church.
The Depression years found St. John Cantius Church to be a social as
well as a spiritual hub for the youth of the parish. Under Father Bartylak's
supervision, many social activities were sponsored to draw the parish
youth together during these difficult years.
In 1934, Father Bartylak was attached to the Resurrectionist Missionary
Band in Castleton-on-the-Hudson, New York. He was succeeded by Rev.
Theodore Klopotowski, CR who served the people of St. John Cantius
five years until his appointment as pastor of St. Hyacinth Church.
Rev. Joseph Prusinski, CR served as pastor from 1939 to 1942 during
which time he was appointed vice chaplain of the Polish Alma Mater.
For several months in 1942, Rev. Leonard Long, CR served as interim
pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. John Grabowski, CR, a former teacher
high school who had been active in mission and retreat work.
On Jan. 9, 1944, Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch presided at the golden
jubilee of St. John Cantius parish. Parish membership and school enrollment
had declined drastically since 1918. Whereas some 2,300 children were
enrolled in 1918, at the time of the golden jubilee, enrollment numbered
376 children. This trend was accelerated during the post World War
II years as young couples moved away from the old neighborhood to newer
areas of the city and to the suburbs. Vacant homes and apartments were
occupied by newer immigrants, many of them Puerto Ricans who found
in the neighborhood factories.
In 1951, Father Grabowski was appointed pastor of St. Mary of the Angels
Church and Rev. Stanley Duda, CR was named pastor of St. John Cantius
Church. Like his predecessors, he witnessed the profound changes in
the parish which resulted when families moved to other residential
In the 1950s, thousands of homes were razed to make way for the Northwest
(now the John F. Kennedy) expressway. This massive construction project
deeply affected St. John and neighboring parishes.
For a period of time, parish membership seemed to stabilize. Although
much discussion of urban renewal took place between 1954 to 1957 (during
the pastorate of Rev. John Wojcik, CR), the dream of residential reconstruction
proved to be just that-a dream. On Nov. 5, 1960, a segment of the Kennedy
expressway just west of St. John Cantius Church was opened; it extended
St. to Foster Ave.
In 1963, Rev. John S. Pawelczak, CR was named pastor. As the years went by,
it became increasingly difficult to maintain the parish school. Most families
school age children were not staying in the area and enrollment continued to
dwindle. The School Sisters of Notre Dame continued to staff the parish school
until its closing in 1967.
The diamond jubilee of St. John Cantius parish was celebrated on Oct. 20, 1968.
Polish hymns sung by 42 members of the choir under the direction of Albert
Kasluga formed a special part of the ceremony.
In May 1972, Father Pawelczak was named associate pastor of St. Stanislaus
B. & M.
Church in Chicago. He now lives in the Nazarethville Retirement Home in Des
Rev. Peter A. Fiolek, CR was appointed pastor on May 25, 1972. A graduate of
St. John Cantius grammar school, he had served on the faculty of Weber high
school and with the Resurrectionist mission band in New York following his
in 1926. For 21 years, Father Fiolek was active in publishing work in Chicago
as editor of the Banner and as editor and manager of Dziennik Chicagoski (The
Polish Daily News). He returned to St. John Cantius parish from St. Stanislaus
B. & M. parish where he had been serving as associate pastor since January
The parish now serves Catholics who live in the area bounded by Division St.
on the north; Grand Ave. on the south; Ashland Ave. on the west; and Halsted
St. on the eaSt. Although the surrounding neighborhood is primarily industrial,
the parish thrives-to the amazement of many-mainly because there are nearly
1,000 families who continue to give generously of their love and financial
A good many of the faithful support St. John Cantius as their "second parish," contributing
also to the parish in their own neighborhood. Ironically, the Kennedy expressway
which took so many people away from the parish now carries them back to her
today to worship and socialize.
The former parish school at 1010 W. Chicago Ave. now houses the Near North
Montessori school and the former convent at 1025 W. Fry Ave. is now the headquarters
the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
A number of religious societies and social organizations still flourish in
the parish, among them: St. Anne's Altar Society and Auxiliary; Women's Rosary
St. Therese Society; Apostleship of Prayer; Third Order of St. Francis; Parish
Club; Holy Name Society; St. Joseph Novitiate; Society of Our Lady of Lourdes;
Project Club; and Ushers Club.
Associate pastors of St. John Cantius Church include Rev. Felix Miliszkiewicz,
CR and Rev. John Wojcik, CR. Bro. Lucian Budzinski, CR, is the sacristan.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.