A Polish community created St. Josaphat Parish in Lincoln Park (mentioned in Part III). Not only is this church of interest as a beautiful example of church architecture that holds around sixty-five weddings a year, but the parish community is of interest because the families who called for its construction were Kashubians.
The Kashubes are a West Slavic people in western Poland with an identity distinct from Poles. They are a remnant of the original, Slavic Prussians or Pomeranians, not to be confused with the German colonists who settled in their midst, German-Pomeranians.
In 1882, a committee of thirteen Kashubes asked Fr. Barzynski at the Polish parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka (mentioned in Part I) for help in establishing a parish of their own. These Kashubians in Chicago spoke German rather than Polish or Kashubian and had been attending Masses at a German parish, St. Michael’s Church at Eugenic Street and Cleveland Avenue.
The first pastor of St. Josaphat Church was Rev. Felix Zwiardowski, CR, the first Resurrectionist ordained in the U.S. The next pastor, Rev. Francis Breitkopf, CR, had been the first Resurrectionist missionary in the U.S. These early pastors lived in the home of Charles Roeske until a two-story brick rectory was completed on Southport Avenue.
At Father Barzynski's request, five Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word from San Antonio, Texas agreed to staff the parish school. They were succeeded in 1885 by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Founded in Poland in 1875, this was their first American mission.
Moreover, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth founded the first Polish orphanage in Chicago in this parish in 1885. Four years later, the sisters moved the orphans to a building on Division Street, which later housed Gordon Technical High School.
That same year, 1889, the St. Josaphat congregation gained a pastor who was a fellow Kashube, Rev. Francis X. Lange (1857-1914). Born in Domatow, Poland (then part of Prussia), he came to the U.S. in 1884 and attended St. Francis Seminary near Milwaukee, Wisconsin and St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore. For ten months after his ordination in 1888, Fr. Lange served as an assistant pastor at the aforementioned St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church in Bridgeport.
In 1896, St. Josaphat Parish served 700 families and the school had 524 students. Under his leadership, the congregation paid to build the church we know at the northeast corner of Belden and Southport Avenue, but there was a delay in its construction when a cyclone destroyed the iron superstructure on August 11, 1899.
Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Muldoon dedicated St. Josaphat Church on June 8, 1902. The edifice had been completed a cost of $125,000 from plans drawn up by architect William J. Brinkmann. On October 10, 1907, Bishop Muldoon returned to dedicate the marble altars Hahn and Wagner Co. of Milwaukee had built.
In 1902, St. Josaphat Parish had a congregation of 5,000 people with over 780 students in the school. Ten years later, former members of St. Josaphat Parish who had moved founded Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at Byron Street and Spaulding Avenue in the Irving Park.
In 1913, Fr. Lange had a new parish school and auditorium built at the southeast corner of Belden and Southport Avenue at a cost of $75,000. On September 3, 1914, Fr. Francis G. Ostrowski (1880-1949) was appointed permanent rector of St. Josaphat Church. [He would later be invested as a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor in 1924.] Born in Poland, he had grown up in St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in Chicago.
In 1917, Fr. Ostrowski directed the construction of the present three story brick rectory at 2311 North Southport Avenue. The old parish residence was moved to the back lot where it was joined to the convent at 2320 North Wayne Avenue.
St. Josaphat School had 1,112 students in 1925 under the direction of fifteen Sisters of Nazareth. On September 7, 1932, a commercial high school course was established in the parish school.
A $300,000 school annex at 2445 N. Southport Avenue was finished in October of 1962. C.I. and John Krajewski designed this three-story brick structure, which contained classrooms and living quarters for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The school had 262 students at the time.
For more than ninety years, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth staffed the parish school. By 1978, 205 children were enrolled under the direction of six nuns and five lay teachers.
Today, St. Josaphat School serves children from preschool through 8th Grade. The St. Josaphat Alumni Association is for alumni of both the St. Josaphat Grammar School and the former St. Josaphat Commercial High School.
Over thirty years ago, the Little Sisters of the Poor built a new Center for Aging a couple of blocks from St. Josaphat Church at 1200 West Belden Avenue. Since 1884, they had operated St. Augustine's Home for the Aged at 2358 North Sheffield Avenue, which the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare had ruled was no longer compliant with the Life Safety Code.
The Little Sisters of the Poor acquired land at Belden and Racine Avenue from the Alexian Brothers, who in 1896, had relocated their hospital from the 1500 block of North North Park Avenue to Belden and Racine Avenue.
In the third quarter of the 20th Century, the Alexian Brothers had relocated their hospital again to 800 West Biesterfield Road in northwest suburban Elk Grove Village and from 1968 to 1976 the old Alexian Brothers hospital had housed Belden Manor, a shelter home for mentally handicapped adults operated by the Cenco Care Corporation. The Center for Aging was built at a cost of $6,000,000.
By 1980, half the parishioners identified themselves as Polish and 30% were Mexican or Mexican-American. Today, as the neighborhood has gentrified, many parishioners are affluent young Whites of various ethnic backgrounds.
By 1923, there were twenty-three Polish parishes in Chicago and its inner-ring suburbs. Today, the Archdiocese of Chicago has fifty-two parishes where Masses are said in Polish, at least part of the time. Polish residents of the city were particularly heartened by Pope John Paul II’s visit to Chicago in 1979.