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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 Help Church.

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 Chicago.

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, a controversy 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, would amount to no more than $26,000. In a letter to the Illinois StaatsZeitung, Kucharczyk wrote:

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 the rectory 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 Times reported that M. Koska, a contractor, accused the parish organist, Max Kucharczyk, as 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 published 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 dedicated 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 completed. "When 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 which 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 of parishioners 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 at the 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 school 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 (1910) 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 parish school.

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 one, 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 Hermitage 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 of $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 the direction 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 Depression years.

Under Father Cholewinski's leadership, many parish societies were formed, including branches of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and the Polish National Alliance.

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 years later.

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 as a 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 high school 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 permanent 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.

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