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St. Joseph Church at 48th and Hermitage Ave. on the south side of Chicago
was founded to serve Polish families who had settled southwest of the
Union Stock Yards in the old Town of Lake. The nearest Polish parish
was St. Mary of Perpetual Help in Bridgeport, which had been organized
in 1882 as a mission of St. Adalbert Church at 17th and Paulina St.
Rev. John Radziejewski, pastor of St. Adalbert Church, contributed funds
for the erection of a church building at the southwest corner of 48th
and Page St. (now Hermitage Ave.). Although 1887 has been regarded as
the founding date of the parish, property was purchased in 1885, and
St. Joseph Church was dedicated on Dec. 19, 1886.
St. Joseph Church remained a mission of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church
until March 1889, when Rev. Stanislaus Nawrocki, a diocesan priest, was
named first resident pastor. Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR, pastor of St.
Stanislaus Kostka Church, tried to staff St. Joseph Church with a member
of his order. However, a shortage of Resurrectionists led to the appointment
of Father Nawrocki, who had been an assistant at St. Mary of Perpetual
Father Nawrocki resided at nearby St. Rose of Lima Church until a rectory
could be constructed. With the generous support of his congregation,
the pastor was able to enlarge the frame church and to open a parish
school under the direction of the Sisters of St. Francis.
On May 3, 1891, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan appointed Father Nawrocki pastor
of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church. His successor was Rev. Victor Zalewski,
who had been an assistant at St. Adalbert Church.
Father Zalewski continued to serve the growing Polish parish of St. Joseph until
January 1894, when he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in South
The third pastor of St. Joseph Church was Rev. Michael Pyplacz, who had been
pastor of Immaculate Conception Church since 1884. Father Pyplacz had been born
in 1851 in Brzeczkowice, Poland which was then under Prussian domination. With
nationalist feelings running high, he encountered some opposition from members
of St. Joseph parish who considered him to be more German than Polish.
On more than one occasion, Father Pyplacz's administration of St. Joseph
Church was called into question by members of his parish. In August 1895,
erupted over the construction of a brick church. Max Kucharczyk, the parish
organist, stated that the cost of the church, with improvements to the school,
to no more than $26,000. In a letter to the Illinois StaatsZeitung, Kucharczyk
In regard to your article about the discord in St. Joseph Parish, I
wish to state that the root of the evil is the jealousy of certain
contractors who lost out on bids for the construction work on the
new church building As to the leader of this disturbance, his bid
was rejected on the grounds that his previous work was unsatisfactory.
A building he put up adjoining
seven years ago sank three inches because of an error in construction.
On Aug. 31, 1895, a mass meeting was held by parishioners in Columbia
hail at 48th and Paulina St. In its account of the meeting, the Chicago
reported that M. Koska, a contractor, accused the parish organist, Max Kucharczyk,
being the "real pastor of the church." Koska called for a Board
of Directors who would control parish funds.
On Sept. 8, 1895, Father Pyplacz called a parish meeting, after which the
board of trustees examined the financial records of this parish. Correspondence
in the Dziennik Chicagoski (Polish Daily News) of Sept. 17, 1895 makes it
clear that the financial ledgers were found to be in good order.
The letter, which was signed by members of St. Joseph Church, refuted charges
against Father Pyplacz and added: "He who claims that the organist /Kucharczyk/
received and disposed money of the parish without control is a prevaricator."
Construction on the new brick building proceeded according to the plans of
Polish architect T. Lewandowski. On Oct. 6, 1895, Rev. John Nepomucene Jaeger
St. Joseph Church. According to the Inter Ocean:
The church will not be completed for fully three years, but when finished
it will be one of the finest on the South Side. It occupies the southwest
corner of Paulina and Forty-Eighth streets, and is 162
by 77 feet.
It will be
of stone and pressed brick, and will cost $90,000. A steeple 175 feet high
will ornament the front of the church.
In its account of the dedication ceremony, Dziennik Chicagoski reported
that only the basement and main floor of St. Joseph Church had been
funds permit, the remainder of the new church will be finished."
On Nov. 12, 1895, Rev. Anthony Kozlowski, a former assistant at St. Hed-wig
Church on the northwest side of Chicago who had organized the independent
church of All Saints, held a meeting in the Town of Lake. Although members
of St. Joseph Church were reported to have attended the meeting, no independent
Polish church was organized in the vicinity.
Following the turn of the century, St. Joseph parish continued to grow. School
enrollment increased from 419 students in 1895 to 710 students in 1903. In
1903, work began on an addition to the combination church and school building
had been constructed in 1895 at 48th and Paulina St. On Oct. 6, 1903, The
New World reported that: "The erection of the new school house is well underway
and promises to be quite an addition to the parish." This structure
is still in use as St. Joseph grammar school.
After the present rectory at 4821 S. Hermitage Ave. was constructed in 1903,
the old parish residence at 4812 5. Paulina St. was remodeled as a convent
to accommodate the Felician Sisters who staffed St. Joseph school.
When Father Pyplacz took a leave of absence from St. Joseph parish in 1908,
Rev. Louis Grudzinski served as administrator. On July 18, 1909, a group
protested the return of Father Pyplacz to his post.
On Aug. 7, 1909, the Chicago Record Herald reported that the pastor had applied
for an injunction the day before "to restrain further interference with
religious services." The controversy in St. Joseph parish continued
until Father Pyplacz resigned his poSt. He died in Chicago on Apr. 9, 1920
age of 62.
Rev. Stanislaus Cholewinski was appointed the next pastor of St. Joseph Church
on July 5, 1910. Father Cholewinski was born in Poznan, Poland in 1875 and
came to the United States as a young child. He attended St. Mary of Perpetual
and served at the first Mass celebrated in St. Joseph parish in 1887. Following
his ordination in 1902, Father Cholewinski was assigned to St. Josaphat Church
and since 1906, he had been pastor of Assumption, BVM Church in West Pullman.
The Polish population "Back of the Yards" increased to such an
extent that two new national parishes-St. John of God (1906) and Sacred Heart
were formed. Despite this loss of territory, St. Joseph parish continued
to increase in membership and by 1912, 1,212 children were enrolled in the
In 1912, Father Cholewinski organized a one year commercial department at
St. Joseph school for boys and girls of the parish. The program was a popular
but it was disbanded in June 1918 in order to provide additional classroom
space for the 1,300 pupils who were enrolled in the grammar school.
Through the generosity of his parishioners, Father Cholewinski was able to
break ground for a new church in 1913 at the southeast corner of 48th and
Ave. On Aug. 10, 1913, Auxiliary Bishop Paul P. Rhode laid the cornerstone
of St. Joseph Church. The imposing Romanesque structure, completed at a cost
$200,000, was dedicated by Archbishop James P. Quigley on Sept. 27, 1914.
During the early years of his pastorate, Father Cholewinski worked with the
pastors of Sacred Heart and St. John of God parishes to organize Guardian
Angel Day Nursery.
The settlement for Polish immigrants, located at 46th and Gross Ave. (now
McDowell Ave.), expanded its services to include a free medical dispensary
and a residence
for working girls. Guardian Angel Day Nursery operated in competition with
a settlement run by Mary McDowell of the University of Chicago.
A second convent was constructed at 4818 S. Paulina St. in 1925 at a cost
of $83,000. In that year, 1,530 students were enrolled in the school under
of 25 Felician Sisters.
On Nov. 21, 1937, George Cardinal Mundelein presided at the golden jubilee
of the founding of St. Joseph parish. The priests and people had cause to
celebrate: the parish had been free of debt for several years.
In 1937, 30 Felician Sisters staffed the school, which had an enrollment
of 1,424 children. More than 500 of the students paid no tuition during the
Under Father Cholewinski's leadership, many parish societies were formed,
including branches of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and the
In 1938, St. Joseph coeducational high school was opened with an enrollment
of nearly 90 pupils. A commercial course was added to the curriculum two
Ground for a new high school was broken in 1940 at 4831 S. Hermitage Ave.
Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch dedicated the three story brick structure on
Sept. 1, 1941.
When the new building was opened on Sept. 8th, its enrollment of 300 pupils
included the entire student body of Sacred Heart parish high school, which
had been consolidated
with St. Joseph high school.
In 1946, Father Cholewinski was named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right
Reverend Monsignor. After serving as pastor for 55 years, he retired in January
1965 due to serious illness. Msgr. Cholewinski died eight months later on
Oct. 21, 1965 at the age of 90.
Rev. John F. Koziol, former pastor of St. Adalbert Church, was appointed
pastor of St. Joseph Church on Feb. 12, 1965. On Jan. 8, 1967, he was invested
Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor.
Under Msgr. Koziol's leadership, extensive repairs have been carried out
on the aging buildings in the St. Joseph parish plant.
In 1978, 572 children were enrolled in the grade school under the direction
of seven Felician Sisters and nine lay teachers. Enrollment in St. Joseph
then numbered 433 young men and women under the direction of 16 nuns and
13 lay teachers.
Rev. Aloysius C. Zielinski is associate pastor and Rev. Casimir J. Czaplicki,
CSC is in residence. From 1971 to 1975, Father Czaplicki served as pastor
of the Polish parish of Holy Trinity on Noble St. Leonard J. Kay is the first
deacon to be ordained from St. Joseph parish
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.