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St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, named after the famous
national shrine in southern Poland, was officially organized as a national
1895. However, a Polish community existed in Hawthorne in the town
of Cicero, IL, in the 1880s when the area was literally a prairie.
settlement in Hawthorne centered around the Dolese & Shepherd lime
and stone quarry at 31st and Cicero Ave. Eighty-six families formed
the nucleus of St. Mary of Czestochowa parish which became within a
the largest parish in all Cicero. In time, the small hall in which
these devout souls worshipped gave way to the largest and most beautiful
edifice in Cicero.
In the 1880s, Polish Catholics in Hawthorne walked five and one-half
miles to St. Adalbert Church at 16th and Ailport St. in Chicago in order
to attend Mass and hear the word of God spoken to them in their native
tongue. Following the formation of St. Casimir Church at 22nd and Whipple
St. in 1890, their trip was shortened to three and one-half miles. Still,
they longed for a parish of their own, a church in which they could worship
more regularly, and a school in which their children could be educated
in the faith of their fathers. The only Catholic parish in Cicero was
then St. Dionysius at 4852 W. 29th St. Established as a mission of Holy
Trinity Church in Chicago in 1889, St. Dionysius was a predominantly
On Mar. 27, 1892, Polish Catholics of Hawthorne held a meeting to discuss
plans for a parish. By May of 1893, the group was able to purchase six
lots at 30th St. and Linden (now 49th) Ave. at a cost of $2,250. Subsequently,
a delegation was sent to Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan to petition for
a parish. Archbishop Feehan granted the request and appointed Rev. Casimir
A. Slominski as pastor. A former assistant at St. Adalbert Church, Father
Slominski began his work in Cicero on May 30, 1895.
Stephen Bartoszek, one of the pioneer parishioners, transformed his hall
at the northwest corner of Jessamine (now 48th Ct.) and 30th St. into
a combination church-school and he offered the rear flat as living quarters
for the pastor. In this temporary church, Father Slorninski celebrated
Mass and administered the Sacraments until a frame church was built a
few months later. In July 1898, Father Slominski directed the construction
of a one-room frame building behind the church. This structure, known
as the parish hail, also served as a school.
When Father Slominski resigned because of poor health in 1899, Rev. Leo
Wyrzykowski was named pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa Church. Father
Slominski later organized St. Ann Church at 18th Pl. and Leavitt St.
in Chicago where he served as pastor from 1903 to 1921.
In 1902, the mission of St. Attracta was established at 13thSt. and 48th
Ct. for English-speaking Catholics who lived in the northeast section
of Cicero, then known as the Grant Works area. In 1903, the Western
Electric Company opened a plant in Hawthorne at 22nd St. (Cermak Rd.)
Ave. and it quickly became the largest employer in Cicero. Over the
years, the Western Electric Company provided jobs for thousands of immigrants
of many nationalities.
Following Father Wyrzykowski's appointment as pastor of St. Mary Church
in Downers Grove, IL (now in the Joliet diocese) in July 1904, Rev. Bronislaus
Czajkowski was named pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa Church. Prior
to this assignment, he had served as an assistant at the Polish parish
of St. Mary of Perpetual Help in Chicago.
The new pastor found that the frame church and school had become inadequate
and as a temporary measure, the parish hail behind the church was converted
into two classrooms. In August 1904, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the
Third Order of St. Francis began their work in the parish school which
previously had been staffed by lay teachers.
With the generous support of his parishioners, Father Czajkowski was
able to make plans for a new combination church-school building, the
cornerstone of which was laid on July 2, 1905. This imposing brick structure
was completed at the southeast corner of 30th St. and Linden (49th) Ave.
In 1908, the Sisters moved from their living quarters in the school building
into a new convent which had been constructed at 3009 S. 49th Ct.
The Polish population of the south Lawndaie area of Chicago, which adjoined
Cicero on the east, increased to such an extent that in 1907, Good Shepherd
parish was organized at 28th and Kolin Ave. from portions of St. Mary
of Czestochowa and St. Casimir parishes. In 1911, the national parish
of St. Valentine was organized at 13th St. and 50th Ave. by Polish families
who formerly belonged to St. Mary of Czestochowa Church.
In June 1916, ground at the southwest corner of 48th ct. and 30th St.
was broken for a magnificent Gothic structure. When the cornerstone of
this edifice was laid on Oct. 29, 1917, work was nearing completion on
the present rectory at 3010 S. 48th Ct. Archbishop George W. Mundelein
dedicated St. Mary of Czestochowa Church on Mar. 10, 1918. The twin towers
of this church,
which rise 200 feet
above the ground, are visible from many points in Cicero.
Hundreds of Poles gathered in the silver-bedecked church of St. Mary on May 31,
1920 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of their parish. Membership
then numbered 800 families with 900 children enrolled in the school. A history
of St. Mary of Czestochowa parish written in 1920 contained the information that
At present this parish consists of the church with its contents worth
$135,000.00; school, worth $85,000.00; rectory, which is worth $30,000.00;
$25,000.00; frame ex-church [the parish hall]... worth $3,000.00; and lots
worth about $25,000.00. Total worth,$303,000.00
In 1927, beautiful Gothic altars, a pulpit, and a communion rail-all
crafted in Italy of Carrara marble-were installed in the church. High
atop the main
altar, which was dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa, was placed a copy of
the celebrated "Black
Madonna," the miraculous painting ascribed to the evangelist St. Luke.
Father Czajkowski continued to serve as pastor throughout the Depression years,
a hard time for his parishioners who keenly felt the effects of factory closings
in Cicero. He died on Oct. 13, 1939 at the age of 65. Rev. Francis Nogajewski
served as administrator of the parish until July 1940, when Rev. Theodore F.
Langfort was named pastor. A former assistant at St. Mary of Czestochowa parish,
Father Langfort had served as pastor of St. Valentine Church in Cicero and
as pastor of the Polish parish of Assumption, BVM in Chicago.
The new pastor carried out a program of reconstruction and expansion. Under
his direction all of the parish buildings were repaired and remodeled and the
was redecorated in preparation for the golden jubilee, which was celebrated
on May 6, 1945. In its 50th year, St. Mary of Czestochowa parish numbered more
1,600 families and the parish supported 43 societies.
Father Langfort continued to serve as pastor of this large Polish parish until
his death on Nov. 27, 1956 at the age of 73. In January 1957, Rev. Ignatius
S. Renklewski was named pastor. A former assistant at St. Mary parish, he returned
to Cicero from Chicago where he had been serving as administrator of the Polish
parish of St. Ann.
Father Renklewski made plans for an addition to the convent which was completed
early in 1958 and he also purchased a statue of Our Lady of Czestochowa which
was placed in front of the rectory. This outdoor shrine was dedicated on Sept.
16, 1959 in ceremonies which included a procession of religious groups singing
Marian songs. On Feb. 7, 1960, Father Renklewski was invested as a Domestic
Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor.
On Nov. 13, 1960, the Chancery Office granted permission for a Youth Center
to be constructed on the site of the old Hawthorne school at 5004 S. 31st St.
dream come true for the parish, this one-story building was financed in large
part by the proceeds from carnivals held in the parish from 1946 to 1960. Albert
Cardinal Meyer laid the cornerstone of the Youth Center on Feb. 19, 1961; while
work was underway on this structure, a program of renovation was begun on May
28, 1961. The church was modernized and expanded and the school and rectory
were also refurbished. Since the dedication of the $300,000 Youth Center on
17, 1961, this building hd provided the finest of facilities for the young
people of the community.
Msgr. Renklewski died on Mar. 26, 1965 at the age of 76. In his obituary, The
New World noted that:
He was a former member of the Archdiocesan school board completing
his term in 1961; was chaplain of the Polish Roman Catholic Union
[of America], a member
of the board of the Polish Roman Catholic cemetery association,
and a Fourth degree member of Garcia Moreno council, Knights of Columbus
Rev. Joseph C. Przybylowicz, former pastor of St. Isidore Church in
Blue Island, IL, was appointed pastor of St. Mary parish on Mar.
4, 1966. Under
plans were made for the parish's 75th anniversary.
On Oct. 11, 1970, Bishop Aloysius J. Wycislo of Green Bay, WI. officiated
at the special diamond jubilee Mass. A graduate of St. Mary of Czestochowa
Bishop Wycislo had served as Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago prior to his appointment
as Ordinary of the Green Bay Diocese in 1968. At the time of the 75th celebration,
16 young men from St. Mary parish had been ordained priests, and 28 young
women had entered religious orders. A dinner catered and donated by Mrs.
Wilary was held in the parish hail following the jubilee Mass for all clergy,
choir members, Knights of Columbus, and special guests. A civic observance,
a commemorative dinner-dance honoring the faithful members of the parish,
on Oct. 25, 1970 at Richard's Banquet room, 3243 S. Harlem Ave. in Berwyn.
On Jan. 1, 1979, Father Przybylowicz was named pastor emeritus and Rev.
Thaddeus J. Makuch was appointed pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa Church.
this appointment, Father Makuch had served as associate pastor of SS. Peter
Church at 37th and Paulina St. in Chicago for five years.
The parish supports a School Board, Youth Council, Arete Teen Club, two
Senior Citizens groups, CCD program, Ladies Rosary Confraternity, Concert
Mothers Club, Holy Name Society, Ushers, Commentators, and Lectors, and
program. In 1978, 1,451 families belonged to St. Mary of Czestochowa Church
and 237 students
were enrolled in the school under the direction of four Sisters of St.
Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis and seven lay teachers. As a national
St. Mary of Czestochowa was never assigned boundaries.
Rev. Thaddeus J. Perzanowski is associate pastor.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.