A Polish community built St. Florian Parish in Hegewisch, which is Community Area #55 on the map of Chicago, on the Far South Side, along the border with Indiana. Adolph Hegewisch founded Hegewisch in 1883 and the City of Chicago annexed the community in 1889. His nephew Adolfo Hegewisch was a prominent businessman in Mexico.
In 1893, Fr. Franciszek M. Wojtalewicz began to tend to the spiritual needs of Hegewisch’s Polish community. Fr. Franciszek Krul became the first permanent pastor three years later.
In 1900, Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan (1829-1902), the fifth bishop and first archbishop of Chicago, appointed Fr. Florian Chodniewicz pastor with a mandate to build a church. Fr. Chodniewicz would later be murdered on January 22, 1922 by a scumbag trying to steal sacramental wine.
On October 2, 1905, St. Florian Parish was founded with a wooden church. At the time, there was no rail service between Hegewisch and the rest of Chicago and instead of paved streets Hegewisch continued to have dirt or gravel roads.
The parish was named for one of the patron saints of Poland and Austria. St. Florian was a Roman soldier and firefighter martyred during the reign of Emperor Diocletian.
Two years later, the St. Florian School building (now Konsowski Hall) was finished. In 1908, the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago arrive at St. Florian’s to teach.
Four years later, the St. Florian Rectory located at 13145 Houston was completed, and it is still in use. In 1916, a two-story frame house on Baltimore Avenue was remodeled to become a convent. It would later be demolished to make way for a new school.
In 1922, Fr. Nowicki replaced the murdered Fr. Chodniewicz, the Calumet Lumber Company opened in Hegewisch, Hegewisch Park became Mann Park, and the Cal-Sag Channel opened, connecting the Little Calumet River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Two years later, the Ford Motor Company opened the Chicago Assembly Plant.
This is Ford’s longest-operating plant. During World War II, it produced armored cars.
In 1927, a new brick church building was built and dedicated. This is the current St. Florian’s at 13145 South Houston Avenue.
The brick building houses the parish church on the ground floor and extra classrooms on the second floor. The original wooden church became a social hall.
In 1934, Fr. Francis A. Kulinski became pastor. He would celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination and thirty years as pastor in May of 1963 and die on November 5th of that year.
Also in 1934, Mann Park became part of the Chicago Park District and Mann Field House opened. In 1937, a labor strike at Republic Steel led to ten workers being shot to death.
On June 6, 1954, Samuel Cardinal Stricth (1887-1958), Archbishop of Chicago (1940-1958) – and uncle of stage legend Elaine Stritch – dedicated St. Florian Gymnasium. On April 8, 1964, a fire in the sacristy caused $10,000 in damages. In 1965-66, a new parish school and convent was built.
In 1999, Mass was said in Spanish at St. Florian’s for the first time. On October 6, 2005, to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish’s establishment, Houston Avenue became St. Florian Way between 131st Street and 132nd Street.
Francis Cardinal George celebrated a special Mass at St. Florian’s on November 5, 2005. That same year, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the City of Chicago purchased 102 acres of Hegewisch marsh.
In 2012, Fr. Robert Marchwiany became the ninth pastor of St. Florian’s Parish. St. Florian’s Parish School, located at 13110 South Baltimore Avenue, covers preschool through 8th Grade.
A Polish community in Archer Heights formed St. Bruno’s Parish at 4751 South Harding Avenue in 1925. I profiled the Archer Heights Branch of the Chicago Public Library and mentioned the presence of the Gorale (Polish Highlander) community in “The Archer Heights Branch Library.”
Archer Heights is Community Area #57 on the map of the city’s community areas. It is on the West Side of Chicago.
A first, a community of twelve laymen formed a committee to organize a parish in 1923: Francis Sendzik, John Zolna, Joseph Zdziarski, Jacob Nowaczyk, John Klimczyk, Leonarda Andruskiewicz, Louis Stachowski, Victor Grygenc, Casimir Karpinski, Albert Martynowicz, Charles Kopera and Paul Glowiak. They received advice from Monsignor Thomas Bona.
In May of 1925, a tract of land was purchased on Harding Avenue between 48th Street and 49th Street. On September 12, 1925, Fr. Alexis S. Gorski, D.D. became the first pastor.
He celebrated Mass in the hall of the nearby public school, Edwards Branch School. The first rectory was a residence purchased at 4746 South Komensky.
The first parish church was known as “the Florist Shop” because of its glass roof. Fr. Gorski celebrated Mass for the first time on Christmas Day, 1925.
St. Bruno’s Parish hired M.R. Sandel in 1926 to plan a combination church-and-school building. On October 2, 1927, George Cardinal Mundelein (1872-1939), Archbishop of Chicago (1915-1939), blessed the building.
The building underwent renovations in 1949, including the installation of more comfortable pews, the acquisition of a new organ, the elevation of the main altar, and the installation of a new concrete floor. In 1953, Fr. Gorski died and was replaced by Fr. Modrzenski, who had been assistant pastor since 1935 and parish administrator since 1948.
The year 1953 also saw groundbreaking for a new parish church with carillon tower. Cardinal Stritch consecrated and dedicated St. Bruno’s Church on September 30, 1956 in a ceremony that included fifty priests, altar boys, Knights of Columbus, and schoolchildren.
Before Fr. Modrzenski died on September 13, 1962, a new rectory was also built. His Eminence, Albert Cardinal Meyer (1903-1965), Archbishop of Chicago (1958-1965), appointed his successor in October of 1962.
Fr. Przypyszny served for about one year before he too died in October of 1963. His successor, Fr. Stanley Stoga, served for ten and a half years before he retired, during which time the parish paid off some debts incurred by building programs, added a school addition, and installed an air-conditioning system in the church.
John Cardinal Cody (1907-1982), Archbishop of Chicago (1965-1982), appointed Fr. Edmund S. Szlanga pastor on July 1, 1974. The hall expansion and school gym in 1977-78 allowed for expansion of the athletic program and provided a meeting place for parish clubs. In 1982-83, the church underwent renovations that included new carpeting, mosaic tiles, side altar shrines, and an outdoor Our Lady of Chestochowa shrine.
On August 11, 1991, Joseph Cardinal Bernadin (1928-1996), Archbishop of Chicago (1992-1996), appointed Fr. Joseph Grembla to succeed Fr. Szlanga. Fr. Grembla had been Assistant Pastor of St. Bruno’s from 1957 to 1964.
In 1995, St. Bruno’s Parish School finished its Noise Abatement Project, which cost $2,500,000, supplied by the U.S. Government and Illinois State Government. [Air traffic over this part of the city (and adjacent suburbs) can lead to regular disruption of conversations or lectures.] The parish also paid $40,000 for a dedicated computer room.
In 1998, the church underwent renovations. These included a new narthex (vestibule) with handicap-accessible doors, new landscaping for the grounds, and redecoration of the church’s interior.