BACK TO THE LIST
St. Roman Church at 23rd and Washtenaw Ave. was established in 1928 to
relieve overcrowding at the older Polish parish of St. Casimir which
had been founded in 1890 at 22nd St. (Cermak Rd.) and Whipple St. On
Sept. 9, 1928, George Cardinal Mundelein appointed Rev. John Kozlowski,
former Superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese since 1918, to
organize Polish Catholics who lived in the area bounded by 12th St.
(Roosevelt Rd.) on the north; the Sanitary and Ship Canal on the south;
Marshall blvd. on the west; and Western Ave. on the eaSt. Father Kozlowski
was familiar with neighborhood, having lived in residence at St. Casimir
He celebrated Mass for the first time on Sept. 19, 1928 in the parish
hail of St. Casimir. The Marshall Square neighborhood south of Douglas
Park had become so densely populated that not a single tract of vacant
land was available for the new parish. Before construction could begin
on a church, homes would have to be purchased and demolished. With
an $84,000 loan from the Archdiocese, Father Kozlowski bought 11
of property at the southeast corner of 23rd St. and Washtenaw Ave.
The homes located on this site were rented for the time being and
the parish treasury by $366. The intense interest and generosity of
the early parishioners is evident in the bottom line of the financial
for the last four months of 1928: "Income, $14,694.35." A
tremendous boost was given the efforts of the pastor and his parishioners
Stanislaus V. Bona, pastor of St. Casimir Church, in the form of a
gift of $40,000.
With this kind of encouragement, the contract on a new combination
church school building was let to John F. Schrambeck & Sons and
work was begun in April 1929. The cornerstone of the new building was
June 23, 1929 And in September, the Sisters of St. Joseph from Stevens
Point, WI, opened the parish school.
Not long after construction began on the new church, the stock market
crash of "Black Tuesday," Oct. 29, 1929 triggered the worst
economic depression in United States history. With men and women out
of work, the times were not propitious for a fledgling parish. Yet
throughout the Depression years, parish membership steadily increased.
Completed according to the plans of the architectural firm of Sandel & Strong,
St. Roman Church was dedicated on Oct. 19, 1930 by Auxiliary Bishop
Bernard J. Sheil. The L-shaped building, located at the southeast corner
and Washtenaw Ave., contained 16 classrooms, an assembly hall, and
a church with a seating capacity of 700 persons. The interior of the
was decorated to reflect the distinct traditions of its Polish parishioners.
By 1935, 900 families belonged to St. Roman parish and school enrollment
numbered 900 students. Named pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in May
1936, Father Kozlowski was succeeded by Rev. Valentine A. Belinski, former
pastor of St. Blase Church in Argo, IL. Father Belinski was well acquainted
with the neighborhood as he had grown up in nearby St. Casimir parish.
His first concern was to retire the parish debt and to maintain the buildings
in good repair. With a great deal of hard work and cooperation on the
part of parishioners, St. Roman parish was out of debt by 1951.
On Oct. 5, 1953, Father Belinski was named a Domestic Prelate with the
title Right Reverend Monsignor. He directed the construction of a modern
three story convent at 2635 W. 23rd St. which contained accommodations
for 27 nuns. In addition, he financed the remodeling of the school and
Samuel Cardinal Stritch presided at the 25th anniversary of St. Roman Church
which was celebrated on Nov. 21, 1954. As part of the jubilee festivities,
he dedicated the new convent.
Following Msgr. Belinski's death on Dec. 29, 1955, Rev. Francis Krakowski was
named pastor of St. Roman Church in January 1956. He brought to his new task
a wealth of experience, first as professor for many years at Quigley Preparatory
Seminary and later as pastor of Old St. Stephen Church in Chicago and Ascension
of Our Lord Church in Evanston, IL.
By 1950, 1,650 families belonged to the parish and 700 children were enrolled
in the school. As language ceased to be a barrier among the many different
ethnic groups who had settled in Chicago, Catholics moved about from parish
This movement also affected St. Roman Church. Once a thoroughly Polish parish,
it became a veritable "League of Nations." Father Krakowski managed
to keep the parish plant in good repair and he left the parish debt-free when
he was named pastor emeritus in March 1968.
In the 1960s, thousands of Mexicans moved into the Marshall Square neighborhood.
Rev. Anthony J. Janiak, who succeeded Father Krakowski as pastor, set about to
meet the special needs of the many Spanish-speaking families in the neighborhood,
Beginning on July 7, 1968, Mass was celebrated for the first time in Spanish
at St. Roman Church. Under Father Janiak's leadership, St. Roman has become trilingual
in character. In an interview published in The Chicago Catholic on Nov. 2, 1979,
the pastor noted that
Like many parishes in Chicago, we are ministering to our people in
three languages /English, Polish, and Spanish] and trying to
serve as a source of unity and stability
in a quickly changing neighborhood. There is a great deal of hope for this
parish in the long term as a Spanish parish,but the transition
period has been difficult.
One of the parish groups which has been reorganized is the Holy Name
Society. An indication of the interest shown by the Hispanic
men of the parish is
that more than 100 parishioners attended the Holy Name picnic in the summer
A special concern of Father Janiak and associate pastor Rev. John Manz
is work with the undocumented Hispanics of the neighborhood.
At the time of
anniversary of St. Roman parish which was celebrated on Oct. 21, 1979,
more than half the parish membership was Hispanic.
One of the primary goals of the parish staff is to maintain a viable school
for in the past, the school had been an integral part of the parish life.
alumni of St. Roman school are seven priests, 15 nuns, and many men and
women in the professions. In 1978, 225 children were enrolled under the
of three Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis and five
The parish staff believes that if the parish is to survive many changes
it wIL be due largely to the influence of St. Roman school, which offers
to the public school system.
Rev. John R. Manz is associate pastor and Rev. Emil Seroka, OFM, has assisted
at the parish on Sundays and Holy Days for more than 20 years. Jose Marrero
is the first permanent deacon to be ordained from St. Roman parish.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.