BACK TO THE LIST
The history of St. Joseph Home of Chicago is, in essence,
the history of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago which
was founded by Mother M, Theresa Dudzik, O.S.F., on December 8, 1894.
Mother M. Theresa, the former Josephine Dudzik, who emigrated from Poland
to the United States in 1881, was truly a great herald of vision, courage,
and profound dedication. She made her home in the celebrated St. Stanislaus
Kostka parish on Chicago's densely-populated Near Northwest Side where
she began her humanitarian service to the aged, crippled, and abandoned
of the area. Moved by the plight of the distressed, she was inspired to
befriend and shelter many of them in the small flat which she shared with
her widowed mother at 11 Chapin Street near Noble Street.
In 1893, during the labor unrest and severe economic depression which added
to the existing miseries already affecting the burgeoning city of Chicago,
Josephine Dudzik turned with greater attention and devotion to the distressed
of the St. Stanislaus Kostka district whose afflictions she yearned to
relieve in a more practical manner. Aided by her loyal friend and associate,
Rosalie Wisinski, (Mother M. Anna, O.S.F.), she urged her companions of
the Third Order of St. Francis, a religious fraternity at St. Stanislaus
Kostka parish, to join her in a common life of prayer, labor, and service.
Although Josephine and her companions had no plans to establish a religious
congregation, the Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR., the dynamic and gifted pastor
of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and Josephine's spiritual advisor, encouraged
the young women to adopt the structure of a formal religious community
to insure the permanence of heir initial zealous dedication. The women
supported themselves and the aged and crippled whom they sheltered in Josephine's
small flat by sewing at home, taking in washing, soliciting food and alms,
and doing domestic work at the large St. Stanislaus Kostka rectory.
For the first two years of the small Community's existence, the Sisters
and several aged and handicapped people continued to reside on Chapin Street.
When the growing number of Sisters and their charges could no longer be
properly accommodated, they moved to larger quarters at 1368 Ingraham Street,
which is now called Evergreen Street. They occupied apartments on the first
and second floors in the rear of the large, threestory, multi-family dwelling.
The house, which is still standing, is located directly across the street
from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. In 1897, aware of the dire need for
even larger accommodations, Josephine DudA, now called Sister M. Theresa,
initiated construction of a mediumsized, three-story, brick structure on
Hamlin and Schubert avenues in a new district called Avondale. The Sisters
named the institution St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled.
The cornerstone for St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled had been blessed
in the middle of October by Rev. Vincent Barzynski, CR., the infant Community's
spiritual director, in a private ceremony. On March 23, 1898, the Sisters, the
aged, handicapped, and homeless moved into their new shelter. Mass was celebrated
for the first time on May I, 1898, by the Father Barzynski, who also blessed
and dedicated the home.
In 1899, the Sisters were asked by the Resurrectionist Fathers to undertake the
care of orphans. In order to house them adequately, St. Vincent Orphanage was
built to the right of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled. When, in 1911,
the children were transferred to the newly constructed St. Hedwig's Orphanage
in Niles, Illinois, St. Vincent Orphanage was converted into added living quarters
for the Sisters and their aged and poor
residents. By 1903, the continued lack of adequate space and facilities at St.
Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled necessitated the purchase of five small
cottages on Ridgeway and Schubert avenues to accommodate the aged and infirm
who sought shelter, By 1904, another separate building, the novitiate house,
was built adjacent to the left of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled to
accommodate the many novices and postulants of the growing Community. In 1911,
another addition, containing a spacious chapel, large kitchen, refectory, and
sewing room, was made to St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled. Faced with
the critical needs of the aged, handicapped, and poor and the needs of the Sisters
themselves, the young Community was often destitute. In order to maintain themselves
financially, the Sisters issued a modest magazine called The Orphan in conlunction
with the Resurrectionist Fathers in 1900. Six year later, in 1906, a greenhouse
was opened in the large garden area of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled
where the Sisters grew flowers and sold them to supplement their meagre income.
In 1909, they opened the very successful church vestment workshop in the motherhouse.
As always, the Sisters also depended on solicited funds and the good-will offerings
of benefactors. In 1917, the Ladies' Aid Society of St. Joseph Home was organized
to offer financial and material assistance. In 1925, the Men's Benevolent Society
of St. Joseph Home was founded. Both societies joined in 1935 to become the Friends
of St. Joseph Home and continue their charitable assistance to the institution
As the years passed, the necessity of a new home for the aged became an urgent
issue. The Polish pastors of several local churches in Chicago had always maintained
a benevolent interest in St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled and in the
dedication of the Franciscan Sisters. In April, 1920, therefore, the Rev. Casimir
Stuczko, C.S.C., pastor of Hoh Trinity Church, and Rev. Louis Grudzinski, pastor
of St. John of God Church, were chosen
by the Polish pastors of the local parish churches as their representatives to
meet with Mother NI. Aloysia Ho)ysz, O.S.F., and the general council to discuss
the matter of the enlargement and linprovement of St. Joseph Home for the Aged
and Crippled. The pastors presented several proposals including a suggestion
to build a new St Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled in an entirely new location
ci to allow the present home to become the property of the Archdiocese ol Chicago
in an effort to alleviate financial strain. The Sisters objected vehemently to
any proposal to divest them of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled, the
site of which Mother M. Theresa had once referred to as "chosen by God Himself." They
also rejected any proposal to abandon the ministry to which both she and the
founding Sisters had so devotedly dedicated their lives. Eventually, the Sisters
agreed only to accept needed financial aid and material assistance from the Polish
pastors. At the same time, the Sisters adamantly voiced their decision to the
Polish pastors to maintain the policy of keeping St. Joseph Home for the Aged
and Crippled open to the aged, poor, and disabled of all ethnic backgrounds.
In 1921, Mother M. Aloysia Holysz, O.S.F., the superio general, turned to the
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago for added financial help and
assistance. Its director, Rev. Moses Kiley, came to the aid of St. Joseph Home
in an advisory and consultative, as well as financial, capacity.
In 1927, Sister M. Martha Bywalec, O.S.F., the indefatigable administrator-superior
of St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled, outlined to Mother M. Vincent Czyzewski,
O.S.F., the superior general, the absolute urgency of building an entirely new
home for the aged to meet the pressing needs of the ninety residents whom the
Sisters now sheltered. To defray the costs of the building venture, the Sisters
secured a loan from the Holy See at Rome. The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese
of Chicago and the Friends of St. Joseph Home Society also came to their aid.
Planned by architects Slupkowski and Piontek, construction began in September,
1918, on the southwest corner of Ridgeway and Schubert avenues, the site of the
five small cottages which had been razed. On September 12, 1928, Rev, Francis
Gordon, C.R., pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church, blessed the ground for
the new structure and delivered a sermon for the occasion. The Mass and Benediction,
which preceded the blessing, were celebrated by Rev. John Kasprzycki, C.R., superior
general of the Congregation of the Resurrection.
The work of laying the foundation went so quickly that on Thanksgiving Day, November
29, 1928, the setting of the cornerstone took place. The ceremonial blessing
was administered by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Bona, pastor of St. Mary of Perpetual
Help Church. The cornerstone bore an inscription from Ecciesiasticus: "Deposit
generosity in your hearts,
and it will release you from every misfortune." Rev. John Obyrtan, CR.,
pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church, read the document which had been placed
in the cornerstone to the assembled spectators.
By 1929, the new St. Joseph Home for the Aged, as it was now called, was completed.
The result was a modern, four-story structure of brick, and reinforced concrete
on the quiet, residential, tree-lined Ridgeway Avenue. The new, spacious St.
Joseph Home for the Aged contained an infirmary, auditorium, a dining room, library,
kitchen, laundry, several parlors, sun porches, lounge areas and sleeping quarters.
With a resident capacity of 200, it offered sheltered care and limited nursing
facilities. Much of the success of the entire project was due to the organizational
skills of Sister M. Chester Dziarnowski, O.S.F., the administrator superior of
the home. The blessing of the new St. Joseph Home for the Aged was scheduled
for October 20, 1929. Cardinal Mundelein suggested that the Sisters delay the
blessing of the home until the spring of 1930 at which time August Cardinal illond,
the Primate of Poland, was scheduled to visit Chicago. Unfortunately, Cardinal
Hlond never came to America and the home was never publicly blessed. It had been
blessed, however, in a private ceremony on November 29, 1929, by Rev. Joseph
Tarasiuk, C.R., the resident chaplain of St. Joseph Home for the Aged. The original
St. Joseph Home was converted into offices for the superior general and the general
council. Because of the large number of Sisters at he motherhouse, accommodations
for the Sisters were located on the third floor of the new St. Joseph Home for
the Aged. Records indicate that of the nearly 200 residents, approximately 20074
provided for themselves; the rest of the residents were dependent upon the home
for their support.
In the years that followed, St. Joseph Home for the Aged had a bed capacity of
163 and maintained full occupancy at all times. It provided full-time housing,
nursing care, and medical attention. Extensive repairs and renovations were undertaken
in 1956 and again in 1964 when the needs of the home warranted them. However,
an event occurred in 1959, which altered the history of St. Joseph Home for the
Aged. Shortly after she tragic fire of Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago
which claimed so many lives, the Chicago Fire Department ruled that the original
St. Joseph Home for the Aged and Crippled, and St. Vincent Orphanage adjoining
it were no longer safe, Because of this ruling, the buildings were razed, and
a new motherhouse was built in Lemont, Illinois. To provide the necessary sleeping
quarters for the Sister personnel at St. Joseph Home for the Aged, an addition
was erected over the garages and storage rooms facing Hamlin Avenue. The addition
was blessed at a special ceremony on May 30, 1970, by the Most Rev. Alfred L.
Abramowicz, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago.
In 1976, a one million dollar massive renovation of the interior of St Joseph
Home of Chicago, as it is now called, was initiated in order to meet the licensure
requirements concerning nursing home status. After careful and lengthy consideration
of the residents of and applicants to the home, it was determined that they were
generally in need of inter mediate care. Since only the 22-bed infirmary was
so licensed, St. Joseph Home of Chicago underwent renovation to meet the needs
of cIt residents and to satisfy local, state, and federal standards. The interior
reconstruction of the sturdy structure began on February 9, 1976. Most private
rooms gave way to double rooms; new plumbing, sprinklers, wit 4 ing, and smoke
detectors were installed; ceilings were lowered and doors widened. A year later,
a virtually new facility emerged from the old. St. Joseph Home of Chicago was
licensed as an intermediate care home for the aged and met all stringent requirements
and regulations. The deli cation of the renovated St. Joseph Home of Chicago
took place on March 19, 1977, with Cardinal Cody as the principal celebrant of
a Mass of Thanksgiving and Blessing.
The history of St. Joseph Home of Chicago contains the names of the dedicated
women who have served as administrator-superiors. One of these was Sister M.
Agnes Zywiec, O.S.F,, who guided the home during its turbulent renovation. Appointed
in 1960, Sister M. Agnes served as administrator-superior for sixteen years.
A well-deserved tribute was accorded her in October, 1968, when she was presented
with the St. Bridget Award for outstanding service to humanity through her work
with the aged for almost all of her Religious life. Sister M. Agnes was the first
American woman to receive the award presented to her by Col. Frank Chesrow, a
Papal Chamberlain, at the Executive House in Chicago.
Today, St. Joseph Home of Chicago, under the administration of Sister Kathleen
Melia, O.S.F., provides intermediate care to 174 residents. The home is staffed
by 15 Franciscan Sisters and approximately 140 full and part-time employees.
Dr. Alvin Bates is the home's medical director. The Catholic Charities of the
Archdiocese of Chicago provides consultants in the areas of dietetics, occupational
therapy, and maintenance. A full-time social worker conducts the social services
program and helps direct the various departments towards attaining total patient
care. An activity director brings to the elderly the fundamentals of remotivation
and social rehabilitation. Nearby high schools, including students from the Congregation's
Madonna High School, provide volunteer aides. A newspaper for and about the residents
and staff is published monthly. Begun in 1961, it is presently called the St.
Joseph Journal. The non-resident chaplain, Rev. John Miles, C.R., ministers to
the spiritual needs of the aged, a service which the Congregation of the Resurrection
has provided for St. Joseph Home of Chicago since 1909. St. Joseph Home of Chicago
meets the standards of quality health care as prescribed and legislated by the
Department of Public Health.
It is a member of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the American
Association of Homes for the Aging, the Catholic Health Association, and the
Illinois Association of Homes for the Aging.
For the past 83 years, St. Joseph Home of Chicago has been a true home to many
elderly men and women. Attuned to the Gospel concept of the corporal and spiritual
works of mercy, the home provides medical, spiritual, and protective care to
the aged in the spirit and tradition of Mother M. Theresa Dudzik, O.S.F., the
foundress of St. Joseph Home of Chicago and of the Congregation of the Franciscan
Sisters of Chicago.
From "A History of
the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.