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Holy Innocents Church at Superior and Armour St. was founded in 1905 to
serve the expanding Polish community on the near northwest side of Chicago.
The new national parish was located a short distance west of St. John Cantius
Church on Chicago Ave. near Carpenter St. and directly south of the large Polish
parishes of Holy Trinity and St. Stanislaus Kostka on Noble St.
Rev. Francis X. Lange, a diocesan consultor and pastor of St. Josaphat Church,
negotiated the purchase of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church which had been
erected in 1867 at the northwest corner of Superior and Bickerdike (now Bishop)
St. For $55,000, Father Lange acquired the church, a parsonage, and a six classroom
school building on Superior St. which had been built in 1890 by the German congregation.
Archbishop James E. Quigley appointed Rev. John N. Zwierzchowski, a former assistant
at the Polish parish of Immaculate Conception in South Chicago, as pastor of
the new national parish. At the time Holy Innocents Church was dedicated on Dec.
10, 1905, 144 families belonged to the congregation. However parish membership
grew so rapidly that in 1907 the school building was enlarged to 12 classrooms.
To meet the future needs of the parish, Father Zwierzchowski purchased property
on the east side of Armour St. for $52,000. In April 1910, ground at 743 N. Armour
St. was broken for the present rectory which was completed six months later at
a cost of $22,000. The Felician Sisters who staffed the parish school then moved
into the old rectory.
In October 1910, work began on a massive church edifice at the northeast corner
of Superior and Armour St. according to plans drawn up by the architectural firm
of Worthmann & Steinbach. However as a result of building strikes, work progressed
slowly and Holy Innocents Church was not dedicated until Oct. 20, 1912. Completed
at a cost of $131,000, the Romanesque structure with its very strong Byzantine
influence is one of the most beautiful churches in the Archdiocese. It is 183
feet long, 70 feet wide at the entrance, and has a seating capacity of more than
1,400 persons. The materials used in the edifice were pressed brick, sandstone,
steel, very little wood, and tile for the roof. Below the windows encircling
the center dome are four magnificent murals, one of which depicts Our Lady of
Czestochowa, Queen of Poland, surrounded by that country's patron saints. The
north and south walls of the Church are enhanced by many beautiful art glass
windows imported from Austria. The Life of Christ is so fully depicted in these
windows and murals that they have been referred to as a "Pictorial Bible."
The large circular window on the north wall depicts the birth of Christ and the
shepherds are clad in the garb of Polish mountaineer peasants. On the opposite
wall, a large circular window depicts the slaughter of the Holy Innocents-from
which the parish derives its name. More than $23,000 was spent on the interior
furnishings including the organ, pews, altars, and appurtenances. At the time
the church was dedicated, Holy Innocents had become a flourishing Polish parish
and it had outstripped the nearby English-speaking parish of St. Columbkille
at Grand Ave. and Paulina St.; this parish had been organized in 1859 by Irish
Enrollment in Holy Innocents school continued to increase and in 1914 construction
began on a three story brick structure at the northwest corner of Superior and
Bishop St. Completed at a cost of $75,000 on the site of the former frame church,
the new school contained 12 classrooms and a parish hail. At the time Archbishop
Quigley dedicated the new school on Feb. 14, 1915, more than 1,000 children were
In the fall of 1923, Father Zwierzchowski directed the construction of a convent
at the southwest corner of Superior and Bishop St. This spacious brick building
with accommodations for 34 nuns was completed at a cost of $76,000 in June 1924.
By 1930, more than 12,000 persons belonged to Holy Innocents parish and 2,361
children were enrolled in the school.
In 1941, the rectory was enlarged; this was the last improvement to be made in
the parish plant by the founding pastor. On Oct. 23, 1955, Samuel Cardinal Stritch
presided at the golden jubilee of Holy Innocents parish. The day also marked
the 50th anniversary of Father Zwierzchowski's ordination.
Named a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor in August 1957,
Msgr. Zwierzchowski continued to serve the people of his parish until his death
on Apr. 23, 1960 at the age of 83. His successor was Rev. Claude E. Klarkowski,
former dean of the Latin department at Quigley Preparatory Seminary. Father Klarkowski
was very familiar with the parish, having lived there in residence since 1934.
The new pastor directed a program of renovation during which the school building
on Superior St.-built by the German Lutheran congregation in 1890-was remodelled
at a cost of $256,000. On May 11, 1962, a fire of undetermined origin caused
extensive damage to the interior of the church. Father Klarkowski commissioned
architect George S. Smith to supervise the restoration of the church and as a
result new mural paintings, light fixtures, and marble altars were installed.
Holy Innocents Church was reopened for use on Palm Sunday, Apr. 7, 1963.
Named pastor emeritus on May 31, 1968, Father Klarkowski continues to live in
the parish rectory.
Rev. Edward F. Pajak, a former assistant at St. Bruno Church, has served as pastor
of Holy Innocents Church since June 17, 1968. Under his leadership, the church,
school, convent, and rectory have been tuckpointed and a modern library and science
room have been constructed in the school. Among the parish buildings to be renovated
are the parish hall, convent, and rectory. Father Pajak also supervised the redecoration
of the church to comply with the liturgical change authorized by the Second Vatican
Council. A new shrine in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa was blessed on Oct.
21, 1973 by Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz.
Following the consolidation of St. Columbkille Church, Holy Innocents was established
as a territorial parish on June 30, 1975 with the following boundaries: Start
at Division St. and Damen Ave.; east along the south side of Division St. to
the Chicago River; southeast on the west side of the Chicago River to Kinzie
St.; west on the north side of Kinzie St. to the Chicago & North Western
railroad tracks at Clinton St.; west on the north side of the Chicago & North
Western tracks (as they run along Hubbard St.) to Noble (Loomis) St.; south on
the west side of Loomis St. to Lake St.; west on the north side of Lake St. to
Damen Ave.; north on the east side of Damen Ave. to the Pennsylvania railroad
tracks at Kinzie St.; west on the north side of the Penn tracks to Hoyne Ave.;
north on the east side of Hoyne Ave. to Chicago Ave.; east on the south side
of Chicago Ave. to Damen Ave.; and north on the east side of Damen Ave. to Division
In its 75th year, Holy Innocents remains a predominantly Polish parish; however,
since the 1960s a goodly number of Spanish-speaking families have settled in
the neighborhood. Although the parish is located in an older section of the city
and contains its share of vacant lots and deteriorated housing, parishioners
are optimistic about the future. In conjunction with neighboring parishes, Holy
Innocents is involved with the Community 21 organization which has developed
a comprehensive plan for the East Humboldt Park neighborhood. The work of this
group was featured in the February 1980 issue of Chicago magazine. Holy Innocents
parish also belongs to a civic organization known as the Conservation of Property
Association (COPA), and it is a member of the Northwest Community Organization
which represents nearly 200 civic, church, and community groups. The parish is
also a charter member of the Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, a not-for-profit
organization which is working to build new homes in the neighborhood and rehab
existing structures, some of which predate the Chicago Fire of 1871.
In addition to his parish work, Father Pajak also serves as Urban Vicar of Region
VI of the Archdiocese of Chicago, an appointment made by John Cardinal Cody on
Apr. 19, 1976. This vicariate, which includes 33 parishes and two missions on
the near northwest side of Chicago, was profiled in an article published in The
New World on May 6, 1977.
Active parish groups include a strong Mothers' Club which serves as the Archdiocesan
Council of Catholic Women group; a Parish Advisory Board; Women's Rosary Sodality;
Ushers Club; Teen Club; St. Ann Society; St. Joseph Society; Our Lady of Good
Counsel Club; Third Order of St. Francis; and the Moniuszko Choir.
In 1978, 284 children were enrolled in Holy Innocents school under the direction
of six Felician Sisters and three lay teachers.
From "A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese
of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.