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St. Mary of the Angels Church at Cortland St. and Hermitage Ave. is one of six Polish parishes on the northwest side of Chicago that has been under the continuous administration of the Resurrectionist Fathers. It was organized in 1899 by Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, the oldest Polish parish in Chicago.

Father Barzynski established St. Mary of the Angels Church to serve the large number of Poles who had settled in close proximity to Annunciation Church at Wabansia Ave. and Paulina St.; this territorial parish had been founded by Irish immigrants in 1866. The new Polish parish was located midway between St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at Evergreen Ave. and Noble St. (whose corner of Cortland St. and Hermitage Ave. Although work commenced on Sept. 28, 1911, the cornerstone of the church was not laid until Aug. 2, 1914. Due to the numerous delays caused by strikes, World War I, and the critical shortage of building materials, construction continued over a period of eight years and eight months. In the meantime, the present rectory at 1825 N. Wood St. was completed in July 1912.

According to The New World of Sept. 21, 1912, St. Mary of the Angels parish had "grown so rapidly that it is now one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese" with a membership of approximately 1,200 families. In nearby Annunciation parish membership continued to decline as Irish families moved away from the neighborhood. Once a flourishing Irish parish, by 1916 Annunciation parish numbered only 150 families.

In 1915, the novitiate of the Sisters of the Resurrection was transferred to Norwood Park and plans were made to open a Day Nursery for children in the building at 1849 N. Hermitage Ave. Beginning on Feb. 21, 1917, children of working mothers were cared for by the Sisters of the Resurrection.

Finally, on May 30, 1920, St. Mary of the Angels was dedicated by Archbishop George W. Mundelein. Designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks, the structure bears a remarkable resemblance to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It has been acclaimed as one of the finest specimens of Roman Renaissance architecture in the United States. The imposing brick edifice with its twin bell towers and magnificent dome was constructed at a cost of $400,000-a testament to the zeal of Father Gordon and to the generosity of the members of St. Mary of the Angels parish.

In 1899, only one parish committee and three societies were in existence. During the 1920s, a parish committee, two building and loan associations, 28 confraternities, sodalities, fraternal societies, and clubs were active in St. Mary of the Angels parish.

In 1925, 1,099 students were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of 22 Sisters of the Resurrection. The parish also supported a Day Nursery and a Home for Working Girls.

From 1918 to 1924, Father Gordon served as regional superior of the Resurrectionists in the United States. In recognition of his many accomplishments on behalf of Polish Catholics in Chicago, he was awarded a papal medal in 1924. According to historian John Iwicki, CR.

Perhaps no Resurrectionist other than Father Vincent Barzynski, C. R., made such an impact on the immigrant Poles in the Chicago Archdiocese as Father Francis Gordon, C.R.

Father Gordon continued to serve the people of St. Mary of the Angels parish until his death on Feb. 13, 1931. When a branch of Weber high school was reorganized in September 1952 in quarters at Division St. and Haddon Ave. it was named Gordon Tech in honor of the first pastor of St. Mary of the Angels parish.

From March to October 1931, Rev. Leonard Long, CR served as pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. Thaddeus Ligman, CR, who remained as pastor for one year.

In 1932, Rev. Edward Brzezinski, CR began his long pastorate at St. Mary of the Angels parish. Not only had he grown up in the parish, but he had served as an assistant for three years. Under Father Brzezinski's leadership, the $250,000 parish debt was liquidated.

Over the years, additions, alterations, and improvements have been made in the parish complex. In the 1930s, the auditorium became known as the "Polish Aragon Ballroom." It was a popular meeting place for the young people of the neighborhood and they turned out by the hundreds to attend the weekly dances sponsored by St. Mary of the Angels parish.

In 1948, John A. Mallin decorated the interior of the church with ornate designs and paintings. The W. W. Kimball pipe organ was installed at a cost of $23,750. Its four manuals and 57 ranks equipped with theater stops make it practically one of its kind in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The cost of overhauling this organ in 1962 amounted to $15,000.

Rev. John Grabowski, CR succeeded Father Brzezinski as pastor in 1951. He directed the construction of the present convent at 1800 N. Hermitage Ave. This imposing structure, completed at a cost of $450,000, was dedicated by Samuel Cardinal Stritch on Aug. 16, 1953.

In 1954, Rev. Chester Brzegowy, CR was named pastor. He was succeeded in 1957 by Rev. Anthony Rybarczyk, CR.

When it was founded, St. Mary of the Angels parish numbered about 300 families. During the peak years of the 1920s, more than 1,600 families belonged to the parish with nearly 1,200 children enrolled in the parish school. The construction of the Northwest (now John F. Kennedy) expressway had a profound impact on the parish. Many homes in the neighborhood were razed to make way for this expressway, which cut through the heart of Chicago Polonia. On Nov. 5, 1960, that segment of the expressway which extends from Lake St. to Foster Ave. was opened to traffic. Due to a loss of a sizable number of families, the school enrollment was diminished by one third.

Rev. Joseph Polinski, CR served as pastor from 1963 until 1967, when Rev. Stanley Majkut, CR was appointed pastor.

In 1973, extensive repairs were made on the exterior of the dome of St. Mary of the Angels Church and the Holy Name Society donated the blue "Guiding Light" in the cupola which can be seen at a distance-especially from the nearby Kennedy expressway.

On Mar. 13, 1974, Rev. Edward Karlowicz, CR was appointed pastor. He grew up in nearby St. Stanislaus Kostka parish and was ordained in 1948. From 1954 to 1960, Father Karlowicz served as principal of Weber high school.

In preparation for the diamond jubilee of the founding of St. Mary of the Angels parish, the church was renovated. Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz presided at the special jubilee Mass on Oct. 13, 1974. A parish dinner on Dec. 8, 1974 at the House of the White Eagle concluded the diamond jubilee festivities. Since the organization of this parish, 20 young men have been ordained, nine of them as Resurrectionists. Of the 36 young women from the parish who entered religious orders, 27 joined the Sisters of the Congregation of the Resurrection.

In 1975, a Parish Council was organized. With the approval and cooperation of Father Karlowicz, a Concerned Citizens Group-composed mainly of St. Mary of the Angels parishionerssponsors meetings and talks for the benefit and welfare of all in the neighborhood.

In 1978, diocesan authorities announced that the territorial parish of Annunciation would be consolidated. Spanish families who had belonged to the parish were invited to join St. Mary of the Angels Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, St. Hedwig Church, or St. Aloysius Church-all of which had Spanishspeaking parishioners. Following the last Mass in Annunciation Church on June 25, 1978, the parish records were transferred to St. Mary of the Angels rectory, 1825 N. Wood St.

In recent years, the ethnic character of St. Mary of the Angels parish has undergone a gradual change from an exclusively Polish parish to one that is predominantly Polish-American. The present parish membership of 1,100 families is approximately 70% Polish and 30% Spanish.

Enrollment in the parish school numbers 322 children under the direction of eight Sisters of the Resurrection and five lay teachers. The Sisters continue their work with young children of working mothers in the spacious building at 1849 N. Hermitage Ave. In 1972, the name of the Day Nursery was changed to Resurrection Day Care Center. Formerly, as many as 100 children ranging in age from three to twelve- were cared for in the Day Nursery. Later, the law permitted the Sisters to care for only 47 children. Of these, 28 stay at the Day Care Center all day, the rest being of school age. The first child arrives at 6:30 a.m. and the last departs at 6 p.m. The children are under the constant supervision of the Sisters. A nurse from the Health Department visits Resurrection Day Care Center every two months. At present, five Resurrection Sisters staff the Center under the direction of Sister M. Laurette, CR.

Active parish organizations include the School Board, Mothers' Club, Ladies' Parish Club, Holy Name Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society, St. Therese Sodality, Altar Boys, Lectors and Commentators, Ushers, CYO, CCD, and St. Mary of the Angels Choir which is directed by Henry Soch, organist. A Polish scout troop and the VFW Franklin D. Roosevelt Post, which has its headquarters in St. Mary of the Angels parish, often use the parish facilities for their meetings and celebrations.

Associate pastors include Rev. Stanley Pawlikowski, CR; Rev. Edward T. .Janas, CR; and Rev. Stanley Gembala, CR. Rev. John Ksiazek, CR is in residence.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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