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St. Salomea Church at 118th and Indiana Ave. on the far south side of Chicago was founded about 1898 by Rev. Francis X. Kroll, who was then pastor of St. Columba Church in Hegewisch. He traveled to the Kensington neighborhood once a week to celebrate Mass for the small Polish congregation which met in a rented hall at Kensington and Prairie Ave.

In the 1880s, Polish Catholics who worked in factories in the Town of Pullman attended Mass at the Irish parish of Holy Rosary at 113th and South Park Ave. (now King Dr.). With the formation of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Society in 1889, Poles living in the neighborhood met regularly to discuss mutual problems. Their immediate aim was to build a church of their own.

Rev. Casimir I. Gronkowski, a former assistant at St. Josaphat Church, was appointed first resident pastor of St. Salomea parish in April 1900. He took up residence in the rectory of St. Nicholas Church at 113th and State St. He later lived in a house on 116th St. until a rectory was constructed at 11816 S. Indiana Ave.

The first church of St. Salomea parish was dedicated on Nov. 18, 1900. In 1902, Father Gronkowski supervised the construction of a frame school with an auditorium on the second floor. By 1903, 56 students were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of one lay teacher.

In 1904, Father Gronkowski was appointed pastor of St. Adalbert Church. His successor, Rev. Francis Jagielski, came to Kensington from Joliet, IL, where he had been pastor of Holy Cross Church (now in the Joliet diocese). By 1906, 120 children were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of three Polish Sisters of St. Joseph.

Under Father Jagielski's leadership, construction began on a new church at the southwest corner of 118th and Indiana Ave. Before the edifice was completed, he was transferred to another parish. Father Jagielski later served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church on the northwest side of Chicago.

In March 1912, Rev. John M. Lange was named pastor. Prior to this appointment, he had been pastor of Holy Rosary Church in North Chicago, IL. Father Lange supervised the completion of St. Salomea Church and the magnificent Gothic edifice was dedicated on May 30, 1913. At the time, the parish numbered 500 families as well as 500 single persons. Active parish societies included St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Salomea, St. Adalbert, Uhlans, John Sobieski, St. Joseph, and the Rosary Ladies.

Following the completion of the church, an addition was built onto the school. Shortly after Father Lange was appointed pastor of St. Michael Church in South Chicago in September 1915, Rev. Joseph S. Pajkowski was named pastor in Kensington. He had organized the Polish parish of St. Francis of Assisi in 1909.

St. Salomea parish continued to grow in membership during the 1920s. The 25th anniversary of the founding of the parish was celebrated on Nov. 18, 1923. By 1925, 518 students were enrolled in the school.

Father Pajkowski died on Oct. 15, 1933 at the age of 54. His successor was Rev. Stanislaus Chyla, who came to Kensington from Joliet, IL, where he had organized St. Thaddeus Church in 1927.

Father Chyla recognized the need for a new parish school, but the Depression put a halt to his building plans. During this difficult period, an athletic program was organized in the parish by assistant Rev. Anthony Dudek and a dramatic club was established by assistant Rev. Paul Mytys.

On May 22, 1938, Father Chyla celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination. He continued to serve the people of this parish until 1942, when he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in South Chicago.

Rev. Henry Jagodzinski, former pastor of SS. Cyril and Methodius Church in Lemont, IL, began his work in the Kensington neighborhood in July 1942. Through the generosity of his parishioners, he was able to pay off a $50,000 parish debt within a year of his appointment as pastor. Although a building fund had been started for a new school, the outbreak of World War II put a halt to construction plans. During the war years, parishioners sent 5,000 tons of clothing and $20,000 to aid families in Poland. Under Father Jagodzinski's leadership, a memorial to the war dead was erected in front of the church.

Samuel Cardinal Stritch presided at the golden jubilee of St. Salomea parish which was celebrated on Apr. 25, 1948. In December 1948, Father Jagodzinski was named pastor of St. John of God Church at 52nd and Throop St. His successor, Rev. Paul Sobota, came to Kensington from Harvey, IL, where he had been pastor of St. Susanna Church.

Father Sobota directed the construction of a $350,000 school at 11816 S. Indiana Ave. in 1949. To make way for this building, the rectory was moved from the west side of Indiana Ave. to the east side. A new convent was constructed at 150 F. 118th Pl. at a cost of $245,000. Rev. Edward Mackowiak, an assistant at St. Salomea parish, celebrated Mass in the spacious convent chapel for the first time on Oct. 26, 1960.

Members of the Holy Name Society and the Ushers Club headed a fund drive for the construction of a new rectory. In September 1965, Father Sobota and his associates moved into the new parish residence which had been completed at 11824 S. Indiana Ave. at a cost of $135,000.

In March 1966, Father Sobota was named pastor emeritus. He died on Jan. 20, 1968 at the age of 83.

Rev. Charles P. Gryzik has been pastor of St. Salomea Church since March 1966. Prior to this appointment, he had served as an assistant at Ascension of Our Lord Church in Evanston, IL.

Shortly after he began his work in this parish, Father Gryzik organized a School Advisory Committee, a Parish Club, and a physical education program. In preparation for the parish's 75th anniversary, the interior of the church was carpeted; the exterior was tuckpointed; and needed repairs were made on the church steeples.

On Nov. 11, 1973, members of St. Salomea Church and former parishioners gathered for a special diamond jubilee Mass. Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz, principal celebrant, was assisted by Father Gryzik and by Rev. Raymond Jasinski, Rev. John J. Rudnik, Rev. Walter Szczypula, Rev. Anthony Dudek, Rev. Stanley Przybylowicz, and Rev. Norbert J. Waszak - all former assistants.

St. Salomea Church reached its peak membership shortly after World War II when 1,200 families belonged to the parish and 400 children were enrolled in the school. As a result of racial change, the number of Catholics living in the Kensington, Pullman, and Roseland neighborhoods declined in the 1960s. On Feb. 23, 1973, four national parishes which had been founded in close proximity to St. Salomea Church were reestablished as the territorial parish of All Saints at 108th and State St. The consolidated parishes were All Saints (Lithuanian); Holy Rosary (Slovak); St. Louis of France (French); and St. Nicholas (German).

Today, St. Salomea parish numbers 350 Polish families, the majority of whom now live in the south and southwest suburbs. They return to St. Salomea Church for Sunday Mass. Of the 196 children now enrolled in the parish school, 170 are black. The faculty includes two Sisters of St. Joseph and six lay teachers.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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