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To meet the needs of 125 Polish families living in West Harvey, IL,
George Cardinal Mundelein appointed Rev. Thomas Smyk to organize St.
parish on Dec. 2, 1927. The parish was founded through the efforts
of the Citizen's Club under the direction of Joseph Pilsudski. A committee
of eight men presented their petition for a parish to Rev. Msgr. Thomas
P. Bona, the well-known Polish American diocesan consulter, and he
in turn conferred with the Archbishop. Although he was reluctant to
form national parishes, Cardinal Mundelein acceded to this request
and to this day, St. Susanna retains its status as a national parish.
Father Smyk came to Harvey from Chicago, where he had begun the work
of organizing St. Turibius parish. He celebrated Mass for his Polish
congregation for the first time on Dec. 8, 1927 in Makarek's hall, 14901
Lincoln Ave. Before long, he purchased a house at 14935 Lincoln Ave.
for use as a rectory.
Prior to the organization of St. Susanna parish, Polish Catholics attended
Mass at either St. John the Baptist Church at 158th and Cary (now Emerald)
Ave. in Harvey or at St. Stanislaus B.& M. Church in Posen, IL Although
Ascension Church was located in central Harvey at 153rd and Myrtle Ave.,
it was an English-speaking parish in which the Poles did not feel comfortable.
To get the new parish off to a good start, members of the Citizen's Club
bought nine lots and donated them to the Catholic Bishop of Chicago,
Corporation Sole. The Archbishop purchased additional property and on
Jan. 20, 1928, The New World reported that: "Already the parish has
acquired property covering 22 city lots for a new combination church
and school to be erected
avenue and 150th boulevard."
Ground at 14931 Lincoln Ave. was broken on May 17, 1928 for a two story building,
the cornerstone of which was laid on June 10, 1928. Completed according to the
plans of the architectural firm of Sandel & Strong, St. Susanna Church was
dedicated on Oct. 21, 1928 by Auxiliary Bishop Bernard J. Sheil. The Sisters
of the Holy Family of Nazareth opened the parish school in September 1928 and
they took up residence in a portion of the combination building.
Following Father Smyk's appointment as chaplain at St. Mary of Nazareth hospital
in Chicago, Rev. Ignatius Renklewski, a former assistant at the Polish parish
of Sacred Heart in Chicago, was named pastor on Sept. 5, 1932. He guided the
parish during the Depression years which were trying times for families throughout
Harvey. In 1935, parish membership numbered 168 families with 250 children enrolled
in the school.
In June 1945, Father Renklewski was named administrator of the Polish parish
of St. Ann in Chicago. His successor, Rev. Paul Sobota, had organized St. Thecla
parish in the city. In December 1948, Father Sobota was appointed pastor of St.
Salomea Church in Chicago and Rev. Stephen A. Kowalski, former assistant at the
Polish parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Chicago, was named pastor. He served the
people of St. Susanna parish until his death on Jan. 16, 1951 at the age of 58.
The next pastor, Rev. John Ostrowski, came to Harvey from Immaculate Conception
Church in South Chicago where he had been an assistant. Under his leadership,
the parish debt was liquidated, the parish buildings were improved, and the rectory
was enlarged by the addition of four rooms.
Through the generosity of parishioners, ground for a modern convent was broken
on Sept. 9, 1956. Following the completion of this brick structure at 14926 S.
Honore St., the Sisters' living quarters in the school building were turned into
classrooms. In 1958, the heating system in the parish plant was converted from
coal to oil and the church and school were remodeled and redecorated.
Following Father Ostrowski's death on Nov. 24, 1961 at the age of 67, Rev. Thaddeus
J. Walenga, a former assistant at St. Constance Church in Chicago, was appointed
pastor. At the time Father Walenga was named pastor of Assumption, BVM Church
in Chicago's West Pullman neighborhood on Mar. 4, 1966, 260 children were enrolled
in St. Susanna school under the direction of six Sisters of Nazareth and two
Rev. Aloysius Zielinski, a former Army chaplain and assistant at St. Francis
Assisi Church in Chicago, served as pastor from March 1966 until 1971. He is
now associate pastor of St. Joseph Church at 48th and Hermitage Ave. in Chicago.
In July 1971, Rev. Edmund J. Siedlecki, chairman of the first Archdiocesan Liturgical
Conference and an associate pastor at St. Eugene Church in Chicago, was named
pastor. In addition to his work in Harvey, Father Siedlecki continued to serve
as a lecturer at Niles College for two years and on Jan. 15, 1975, he was named
chairman of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.
Following Father Siedlecki's appointment as pastor of St. Wenceslaus Church in
Chicago, Rev. Edward M. Mackowiak was named pastor effective Sept. 17, 1975.
A former assistant at St. John the Baptist Church from 1966 to 1970, he returned
to Harvey from Chicago where he had been an assistant at St. Mary Magdalene Church.
In September 1977, St. Susanna school was consolidated with Ascension school
and since that time, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth have conducted
classes in the former Ascension building at 153rd and Vine Ave.
The golden jubilee of the dedication of St. Susanna Church was celebrated on
Oct. 1, 1978. Among those attending the special Mass of Thanksgiving were Mamie
Kostok and Mary Motkowicz who had been present at the dedication ceremony 50
St. Susanna parish has not been untouched by the racial change which has taken
place in Harvey. Black families have been welcomed into the congregation as parishioners
and as neighbors. Of the 200 families who belonged to the parish
in 1979, 75°lo were Polish and 25% were black. The majority of the Polish
families live outside Harvey but return to St. Susanna Church for Mass on Sundays
and Holy Days. The student body of Ascension - St. Susanna school is now predominantly
black and about half of the 268 children enrolled are not Catholic. The mission
of St. Susanna parish is to reconcile all to become involved in community life,
to become aware of social justice, and to draw all together in Christ.
Active parish groups include the Holy Name Society, Rosary Sodality, and Task
Force. In addition to his work in St. Susanna parish, Father Mackowiak also serves
as administrator of Ascension parish, where he now lives. Joshua Alves is the
first permanent deacon to be ordained from the parish.
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.