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St. Valentine Church at 13th St. and 50th Ave. was organized as a national parish in 1911 to serve Polish Catholics who lived in the northeast section of Cicero, then known as the Grant Works area. The second Polish parish in Cicero, St. Valentine was formed by 90 Polish families and 100 adults who found it inconvenient, especially in bad weather, to travel to St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, then located at 30th St. and 49th Ave. The idea of organizing a new parish was adopted unanimously at a meeting in the White Eagle hall at 14th St. and 52nd Ave. owned by Mrs. Estelle Sujak, a "pioneer" of the new parish. As a gesture of support, $760 was collected at this gathering.

Archbishop James E. Quigley granted permission for the new parish and at a larger meeting, the decision was made to purchase property on 13th St. between 49th Ct. and 50th Ave. Rev. Anthony Halgas, a young Polish-born prieSt. began the work of organizing St. Valentine parish. He hired architect John G. Steinbach to draw up plans for a combination church-school structure, the cornerstone of which was laid in October 1911. Mass was celebrated in the new church quarters for the first time on Easter Sunday, Apr. 7, 1912. St. Valentine Church was located within the boundaries of the territorial parish of St. Attracta at 13th St. and 48th Ct. and in close proximity to the Lithuanian parish of St. Anthony, then located at. 15th St. and 49th Ct.

In September 1912, St. Valentine school was opened under the direction of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Enrollment numbered 100 children of Polish, Italian, and Irish descent. Father Halgas took up residence in a rented house at 1235 S. 50th Ave. and the Sisters lived on the third floor of the combination building.

In July 1915, Father Halgas was named pastor of St. Ladislaus Church in Chicago. His successor was Rev. Theodore T. Langfort, a former assistant at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church. In 1918, Father Langfort was named pastor of the Polish parish of Assumption, BVM in Chicago and Rev. Stanisiaus Radiecki, a former assistant at the Polish parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Chicago, was appointed pastor of St. Valentine Church.

A history of the parish written in 1920 contained the information that St. Valentine parish "is steadily growing, due to the numerous factories being established in the neighborhood, and has a chance of becoming one of the better parishes of the diocese."

On Mar. 24, 1924, The New World announced that Father Radniecki had been appointed pastor of the newly organized Polish parish of St. Pancratius in Chicago and that Rev. Bernard Szudzinski had been named pastor of St. Valentine Church. Father Szudzinski came to Cicero from Kankakee, IL., where he had been pastor of St. Stanislaus Church (now in the Joliet diocese).

The new pastor directed construction of a rectory in 1925 at 4940 W. 13th St. In 1928, a new convent was built at 1235 S. 50th Ave. on the site of a former rectory. The last building to be erected in the parish complex was a small gymnasium.

The silver jubilee of the founding of St. Valentine parish was celebrated in 1936. According to a history of the parish published in The New World of Nov. 29, 1940, parish membership then numbered 450 families with 150 children enrolled in the school.

In December 1948, Father Szudzinski was appointed pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Chicago. His successor in Cicero was Rev. Walter W. Kozlowski, a former pastor of St. Simeon Church in Bellwood, IL.

Father Kozlowski directed a program of renovation during which the parish buildings were refurbished and modernized. Albert Cardinal Meyer presided at the golden jubilee anniversary of St. Valentine parish which was celebrated on Apr. 23, 1961. A 50th anniversary dinner was held on May 21, 1961 at the American Legion hall at 25th St. and 55th Ave.

Named pastor emeritus in March 1966, Father Kozlowski continued to reside in a house at 1342 5. 50th Ave. until his death on Dec. 25, 1978 at the age of 88. He was the last member of the 1918 ordination class from St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, WI.

Rev. Matt A. Bednarz, a former assistant at St. Constance Church in Chicago, was named pastor on Mar. 4, 1966. Following Father Bednarz's appointment as pastor of St. Thecla Church in Chicago, Rev. Joseph S. Szumlas was named pastor of St. Valentine Church effective Nov. 15, 1968.

Appointed pastor emeritus in June 1969, Father Szumlas later served as chaplain at Queen of the Resurrection House of Prayer, the retirement home of the Resurrection Sisters at 7430 W. Talcott Ave. in Chicago. He died on Aug. 26, 1978 at the age of 68.

Rev. Richard J. Podgorski, a former assistant at Assumption, BVM parish at 123rd and Parnell Ave. in Chicago, was appointed pastor of St. Valentine Church effective July 30, 1969.

On Mar. 19, 1970, four men from a lay group known as the Society of Mary and Joseph attempted to take possession of St. Valentine Chruch to protest the "chaos" in the Church allegedly caused by increasing liberalism. According to the Berwyn Life: "The group brought tools and locks with them in order to take physical possession of the church by changing locks and barricading themselves inside." The four protesters were arrested after a nun from St. Valentine convent called the police. No physical damage to the property was caused by the men, who refused to explain why they selected St. Valentine Church for their protest. The four men were charged with "intimidation" and put on a year's probation by a Cicero Court judge in June 1970.

Over the years, enrollment in the parish school remained small. Increasing costs led to the decision to close St. Valentine grammar school in 1971. However, a kindergarten and pre-school program now operates in the former school quarters.

Today St. Valentine parish serves approximately 400 families of Polish extraction who live in that part of Cicero which is bounded by Roosevelt Rd. on the north; 31st St. on the south; Oak Park Ave. on the west; and Cicero Ave. on the east. Active parish organizations include the Parish Council, Holy Name Society, Ladies Rosary Society, St. Valentine Women's Guild, and several fraternal and insurance organizations. The parish school facilities are used on Saturdays and Sundays by the Henry Sienkiewicz School of Polish Language and Culture. About 175 children are enrolled in this program. Among the groups which meet at the parish are the Cicero Little League and Mothers. The former convent at 1235 S. 50th Ave. is now the residence of the Sisters of St. Joseph from Baden, PA.

Following Father Podgorski's death on Jan. 25, 1980 at the age of 63, Rev. John A. Zudowski was appointed administrator of St. Valentine parish. He was familiar with the area, having served as an associate pastor of St. Mary of Czestochowa Church since 1964. Rev. Anthony J. Benesh is associate pastor.

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

Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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