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St. Thecla Church at Devon and Oak Park Ave. on the
northwest side of Chicago was established in 1925 to serve 120 families
- nearly all
whom were Polish-who lived in the area bounded by Niles, IL, on the
north; the Chicago and North Western railroad tracks on the south;
Harlem Ave. on the west; and Austin Ave. on the east. The nearest
Polish parish was that of St. Constance, then located at 5809 W. Strong
The English-speaking parish of Immaculate Conception had been founded
in 1904 at 5700 N. Harlem Ave.
As early as 1923, a group of Poles in Norwood Park petitioned Rev. Francis Rusch,
superintendent of St. Hedwig Orphanage, for help in organizing a parish of their
own. Many of the Poles worked in St. Adalbert Cemetery and they had been attending
Mass at St. Hedwig Orphanage, then located at Touhy and Harlem Ave. (now the
site of Niles College of Loyola University, the college branch of the Archdiocesan
Although George Cardinal Mundelein consented to the formation of a new
parish, he stipulated that it must serve all Catholics who lived in the
of ethnic background. Many Polish families resented the fact that Cardinal
Mundelein did not establish St. Thecla as a national parish and for
years, feelings ran
high against Irish and German members of the congregation.
In the fall of 1924, land bounded by Devon Ave., Palatine Ave., Newcastle
Ave., and Oak Park Ave. was purchased for the new parish. Volunteer workers
a white frame church at the corner of Palatine and Oak Park Ave. and Mass
was celebrated in this structure for the first time on Aug. 15, 1925.
Rev. Paul Sobota was appointed the founding pastor of this parish. He came
to Norwood Park from Kankakee, IL, where had been pastor of St. Stanislaus
B & M Church (now in the Joliet diocese). St. Thecla school was opened
under the direction of the Sisters of the Resurrection, whose Novitiate was
at 7432 W. Talcott
Ave. By 1926, 250 families belonged to the parish.
On June 26, 1927, the cornerstone of a combination church-school building
was laid. In its account of the ceremony The New World commented that:
St. Thecla's parish... is being rapidly populated by the Polish people
of the northwest side. From every outlook it promises to be one of
many prominent Polish parishes in the city.
The two story brick combination church and school building was completed
at 6323 N. Newcastle Ave. It included living quarters for the Resurrection
frame church at 6708 W . Palatine Ave. was outfitted as a rectory.
In 1929, Father Sobota was named chaplain and instructor at Holy Family
Academy. He later served as pastor of St. Susanna Church in Harvey,
IL and as pastor
of St. Salomea Church at 118th and Indiana Ave.
Rev. Charles Marcinkiewicz, a former professor at Quigley Preparatory
Seminary, was appointed pastor of St. Thecla Church on Aug. 27, 1929.
Under his direction,
the front section of the church was converted into classrooms in order
to accommodate the growing student population.
In 1935, Father Marcinkiewicz was appointed pastor of Immaculate Heart
of Mary Church. His successor, Rev. Francis E. Dampts, came to Norwood
1935 from Holy Innocents Church, where he had been an assistant.
In the 1950s, enrollment in St. Thecla school increased rapidly. A
new convent was built in 1957 at 6333 N. Newcastle Ave. and the Sisters'
the school building were converted into classrooms. By 1959, 506 children
Through the generosity of the parishioners, funds were raised for
a new church, the cornerstone of which was laid on June 29, 1962.
of Meyer & Cook drew up plans for this modern brick edifice which
was completed at the southwest corner of Devon and Oak Park Ave.
St. Thecla Church on Mar. 31, 1963. At the time, 1,150 families belonged
to the parish and 613 children were enrolled in the school. The church
quarters in the
old combination building on Newcastle Ave. were converted into four
classrooms, a school office, and library.
In 1963, Father Dampts was named a Domestic Prelate with the title
Right Reverend Monsignor. He continued to serve the people of St. Thecla
1968, when he was named pastor emeritus.
Rev. Matt A. Bednarz has been pastor of this parish since Nov. 15,
1968. He came to Norwood Park from Cicero, IL, where he had been serving
of St. Valentine
Father Bednarz directed the construction of the present rectory at
6725 W. Devon Ave. In February 1973 - shortly before the new rectory
at 6708 W. Palatine Ave. was destroyed by fire. This frame building
had served as the first parish church and over the years it had been
enlarged and remodeled. Fortunately, all parish records
In preparation for the golden jubilee of the parish, St. Thecla Church
was redecorated and renovated to conform with the liturgical changes
authorized by Vatican II.
John Cardinal Cody presided at the special Mass of Thanksgiving on
Today, St. Thecla parish numbers approximately 1,600 registered families
who live in the area bounded by Milwaukee Ave. on the north; Northwest
Hwy. on the
south; Harlem Ave. on the west; and Nagle Ave. on the eaSt. A little
more than half the parish membership is composed of second and third
About one-fourth of the parish is Irish with the rest of the membership
divided between Germans and Italians. Since the early 1970s, new parishioners
included the families of policemen and firemen who have moved into
the neighborhood. In
1978, 428 children were enrolled in the school under the direction
of six Sisters of the Resurrection and 11 lay teachers.
Active parish organizations include the School Board, Liturgy Committee,
Leisure Club for Senior Citizens, Adult Education Committee, Pro-Life
Group, Guitar Group, CCD Committee, Parish Choir, and Boys' Choir.
A scouting program, Junior Great Books, and a sports program involving
wrestling have been established for the youth of the parish. The gym
program at St. Thecla
school is one of the best in the city. The parish is involved in interfaith
projects such as the annual Church Unity Octave Service, World Day
of Prayer, and the
Good Friday Stations of the Cross service.
Rev. Ralph S. Strand is associate pastor. Four permanent deacons-James
Belanger, Edmund Tryba, Eugene Bates, and Nicholas E. Kob, Sr .-
have been ordained from
St. Thecla parish. Members of the parish staff minister to the needs
of residents of the Regency Nursing Centre, located directly across
From "A History of
the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.