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St. Ladislaus Church at Long Ave. and Henderson St. on the northwest side of Chicago was founded in 1914 as a mission of St. Wenceslaus Church, which was then located at 3435 N. Lawndale Ave.

In 1911, Joseph Giomski and Casimir Wachowski became the first Poles to settle in the Belmont-Central district, which was then largely farmland. They encouraged their friends to put down roots in the area and before long, a group of Polish families requested Archbishop James E. Quigley for a parish of their own.

Archbishop Quigley appointed Rev. Ferdinand C. Szieszka, pastor of St. Wenceslaus Church, as administrator of St. Ladislaus Mission. He celebrated Mass for the first time on Aug. 9, 1914 in a hail at Roscoe St. and Lockwood Ave. The sermon that day was preached by Rev. John Obyrtacz, CR, pastor of St. Hedwig Church.

In order to provide for the future needs of St. Ladislaus Church, Father Szieszka purchased the present five acre site at a cost of $10,000. On June 15, 1915, Rev. Anthony Halgas was appointed first resident pastor of this national parish. He came to the Belmont-Central neighborhood from Cicero, IL, where he had founded St. Valentine Church for employees of the Grant Locomotive Works.

A combination church and school building at 5325 W. Roscoe St. was dedicated on Aug. 29, 1915. The new structure included a church, two classrooms, and living quarters for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who agreed to staff St. Ladislaus school.

In 1917, the territorial parish of St. Bartholomew was established at Addison St. and Lavergne Ave. to serve English-speaking Catholics who had settled in the area south of Irving Park Rd. and east of Central Ave.

Father Halgas was appointed pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Calumet City, IL, in 1921. His successor was Rev. Bolesiaus Nowakowski, who had been pastor of the Polish congregation in Calumet City since 1902.

Father Nowakowski served the people of St. Ladislaus Church until June 1923, when he was appointed pastor of St. Mary of Gostyn Church in Downers Grove, IL (now in the Joliet diocese). He died on Apr. 30, 1930 at the age of 58 and was buried from St. Joseph Church at 48th and Hermitage Ave., where he had been serving as an assistant.

Rev. Stanislaus J. Czapelski began his long tenure as pastor of St. Ladislaus Church on June 18, 1923. This Polish-born priest had grown up in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood and following his ordination on Dec. 24, 1910, he had served as an assistant at the Polish parishes of St. Barbara and St. Adalbert.

The new pastor took up residence above the Hupka (now Kopec) Funeral Chapel at 5259 W. Roscoe St. and began the work of building up St. Ladislaus parish, which numbered only 100 families. Under his leadership, the school was enlarged at a cost of $43,000. In 1925, a building at 5346 W. Roscoe St. was purchased for use as a convent and in 1926, a structure at 5342 W. Roscoe St. was acquired for use as a rectory. The cost of these two buildings totaled nearly $32,000.

On Dec. 26, 1935, Father Czapelski observed the 25th anniversary of his ordination. When the people of St. Ladislaus parish celebrated the silver jubilee of the founding of the parish on Nov. 26, 1939, they had good cause to rejoice: the parish debt of $88,500 had been liquidated.

Although a building fund for a new church had been started in 1939, construction was delayed by the outbreak of World War II. Finally, on Nov. 17, 1952, ground at the northwest corner of Long Ave. and Henderson St. was broken for the church. The cornerstone was laid on Apr. 12, 1953, and the imposing brick edifice was opened on June 12, 1955 for the first Mass of Rev. Brendan Wroblewski, OFM.

Samuel Cardinal Stritch dedicated St. Ladislaus Church on May 26, 1957. On Oct. 20th of the same year, Father Czapelski was invested as a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor.

In order to provide more space for the school-age children of the parish, the old church quarters in the combination building were remodeled into classrooms.

On Jan. 25, 1961, Msgr. Czapelski celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination. When the golden jubilee of St. Ladislaus parish was observed on Nov. 15, 1964, 1,500 families belonged to the parish and 450 children were enrolled in the school.

Named pastor emeritus in March 1966, Msgr. Czapelski continued to live in the parish rectory until his death on Apr. 20, 1968 at the age of 83.

Rev. Clement Jagodzinski, administrator at St. Ladislaus Church since June 3, 1964, was appointed pastor on Mar. 4, 1966. He directed the construction of three buildings which were dedicated on Sept. 1, 1968 by Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz: a new school at 3330 N. Lockwood Ave.; a convent at 5330 W. Henderson St.; and a rectory at 5345 W. Roscoe St.

Following Father Jagodzinski's death on Jan. 2, 1973, Rev. Walter J. Zmija was appointed pastor on Mar. 1, 1973. Father Zmija came to the BelmontCentral area from North Chicago, IL, where he had been pastor of Holy Rosary Church.

In 1978, 518 children were enrolled in St. Ladislaus school under the direction of nine Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and 10 lay teachers. Over the years, 14 young women from this parish have entered religious orders and nine young men have been ordained priests.

An active parish, St. Ladislaus supports an Advisory Board and a School Board as well as the following groups: St. Hedwig PRCUA; Immaculata; Polish Link Society PNA; Civic and Improvement Club; Mary Konopnicki; Young Poland; Polish Women's Alliance; Holy Name Society; Casimir Zychlinski PNA; Apostleship of Prayer; Purgatorial Society; Women's Club; Polish Legion of American Veterans; Third Order of St. Francis; St. Vincent de Paul Society; CCD; Ushers Club; a scouting program; and the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Polish School.

Rev. Robert J. Burnell is associate pastor.

From "A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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