In 1893, Cragin was still largely a farming community. Polish families had begun to buy lots and build houses even though the streets were unpaved. In 1893, the Polish settlers desired a parish of their own. So, a committee was established to collect funds and formulate a petition to the Archbishop requesting a Polish priest. Soderholm and Kiolbassa of the Real Estate Company contributed five lots near Long Avenue and the committee purchased five more near Lorel Avenue.
The first church was erected on two lots. It was a two-story wooden structure. A hall, two classrooms, and a small office were located on the first floor. The church was located on the second floor. Soon Archbishop Feehan approved the establishment of the new parish and appointed Fr. Barzynski, C.R., to organize and supervise it.
The first Mass in the blessed church was celebrated on Sunday, July 2, 1893. Since the congregation was small and poor, it could not support a resident priest. Fr. Theophil Szypkowski, C.R., was appointed by Fr. Barzynski to make the weekly trip to Cragin for the celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments.
Until 1901, an Administrator guided the parish. Fr. John Piechowski, C.R., Fr. Joseph Gieburowski, C.R., and Fr. John Kruszynski followed Fr. Szypkowski in this office. Fr. Kruszynski opened the parish school in 1897, employing Miss Cecilia Klinger as teacher. She received the salary of $20 per month. In May 1900, Fr. Florian Matuszewski, C.R., became the last Administrator of the parish.
The first person to be baptized at Saint Stanislaus B & M was Ladislaus Joseph Formanski. He was baptized on July 9, 1893. The first wedding took place on August 22, 1893. The first funeral was held on August 8, 1893. Fr. Kruszynski organized the first parish society in 1897. The Ladies Rosary Sodality, Polish Chapter, exists to the Sodality was reorganized into one unit. In the 1950s and 60s, Catherine Koziol and Sophie Klimek were the leaders of this group. In recent years, Monica Monczynski has been President.
On October 21, 1901, Fr. John Obyrtacz, C.R., became the first resident Pastor of Saint Stan’s. Fr. John devoted himself in strengthening the parish and placing it on a sound financial base. In 1902, nine additional lots were purchased and a covent was built.
Fr. Obyrtacz arranged for the newly formed community of Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda to take charge of the parish school. Three Sisters arrived in September, 1902. They were Sisters Mary Philipina Lama, O.S.F., Sister Mary Aloysia Homysz, O.S.F., and Sister Maria Welter, O.S.F. Sisters Philipina and Aloysia taught, while Sister Maria attended to the church and domestic duties in the convent. The Sisters made an immediate impact upon the children by improving discipline and raising educational standards.
By 1903, Fr. Obyrtacz purchased an additional lot and began construction of a rectory. A belfry was erected next to the rectory and another bell was donated by Mr. Joseph Dziewior. Mr. Francis Pawlowski, Sr., was employed as organist and choir director with the salary of $15 per month.
Considerable growth took place between 1904 and 1906. Additional lots were purchased. The church was painted and the roof was replaced. A 15 foot-high cross was placed on the church tower. Sewers were installed and sidewalks laid. Disaster hit on Tuesday of Holy Week March 26, 1907. Lightning struck the belfry setting the church-school on fire. Sister Mary Philipina evacuated the children, sending one to notify the fire department and another to locate Fr. Obyrtacz. When the roof caved in over the choir loft, Sister Philipina went into the burning church and removed the Blessed Sacrament to the safety of the convent chapel. Meanwhile, several men of the parish saved as many of the furnishings as they could. The local two-house fire engines, drawn by four horses, were delayed by muddy roads. The building was completely destroyed within two hours.
The Pastor of Saint Genevieve’s offered to house the congregation in his church. Fr. Obyrtacz asked Mr. Stephen Sergot for the use of his new hall located one block south of the church. Bishop Muldoon, the Administrator of the Archdiocese, granted permission and services were held on Good Friday. The hall served as a chapel on Sundays and Holy Days and as a school for 150 students on weekdays. Mr. Sergot did not charge for this use and his generosity was praised at his funeral in 1908.
The Pastor and parishioners immediately began plans for a new church. Funds were raised and the cornerstone was laid and blessed on July 21, 1907. Archbishop James Edward Quigley blessed the new combination church-school building on December 8, 1907. The cost of the new building was $50,000. Through the generosity of parishioners and friends, only a debt of $5,500 remained when the church was blessed. Within months, three bells had been purchased at the cost of $2,540 and a tower built at the cost of $1,150. Archbishop Quigley delegated Fr. Francis Gordon, C.R., then Pastor of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Parish, to consecrate the bells on May 3, 1908.
Enrollment in the parish school continued to grow. The Franciscan Sisters not only educated the children in secular subjects, but also instilled in them a spirit of participation in the spiritual life of the parish. During 1911, the children gathered funds and purchased a beautiful monstrance for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
On March 24, 1913, a windstorm struck Cragin and surrounding communities. Many homes were completely or partially destroyed. The parish bell tower collapsed, breaking the bells. Within months, the bells were recast and installed in a steel tower. They remained there until 1926, when they were transferred to the tower of the present church.
In 1913, construction was begun on a new parish hall that was to serve as the foundation of the new church. It was completed in 1914 and epresented an investment of $46,000. Soon the parish became so large that the Archdiocese decided to divide it and establish a new parish. Saint James Parish was founded in Hanson Park, and Central Avenue was set as the dividing line between the two parishes. Between 1913 and 1918, Archbishop Joseph Weber, C.R., was invited by Fr. Swierczek, to preach at Forty Hours Devotions and to give spiritual conferences to the women of the parish. The women of the parish, motivated by their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, formed the Apostleship of Prayer in 1916 under the direction of Fr. Swierczek.
During the months of World War I, the Poles in America established a Ten Million Dollar Fund to finance the organization of the Polish army. During a visit to Saint Stan’s in November, 1919, Archbishop George Mundelein ordered Fr. Swierczek to build a new school and convent to relieve overcrowding. In 1920, the school building on Lorel Avenue was built. Enrollment stood at 700 students. The building also housed a temporary rectory and was erected at the cost of $71,000. Upon completion, the Very Rev. Francis Gordon, C.R, blessed it. The old rectory was remodeled to house the increased number of Sisters who staffed the school.
Construction of the present church was begun above the hall in 1925. Fr. Swierczek was not destined to complete the project since he was appointed pastor of Saint Hyacinth Parish in December, 1926, upon the death of Fr. Sobieszczyk, C.R. During his tenure as Pastor, Fr. Swierczek had encouraged the establishment of parish organizations and societies. He established a Drama Circle in 1910. This organization produced plays for nearly 40 years. The Holy Name Society was founded on January 7, 1922, with an initial membership of 200. Within a year, membership had grown to 450 men.
Fr. Francis Kubiaczyk, C.R., the new Pastor of Saint Stan’s, completed the building project in 1927 at the cost of $157,000. Mr. Norbert Czarnowski decorated the interior of the church. Fr. Kubiaczyk called upon the ladies of the parish to form an organization that would support the maintenance and beautification of the church. This call was answered by the formation of the Society of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. The convent building was completed in 1928 to provide accommodations for 23 Sisters who taught in the school and worked in the parish. By 1930, there were 1,365 children enrolled in the school.
Fr. Stanislaus Gadacz, C.R., served as Pastor of Saint Stan’s from 1932 to 1936. He devoted much effort in trying to reduce the parish debt which was $182,000. These were the darkest years of the Great Depression. But the debt remained the same at the end of his tenure. Fr. Jerome Fabianski, C.R., was the Pastor of Saint Stan’s on January 12, 1936. A group of parishioners completely remodeled the parish hall. Because they were motivated by the enthusiastic young Pastor. Also, all necessary repairs were made to all the parish buildings. The wooden church window frames were replaced with aluminum. The side entrances were enclosed to make access to the church safer.
By 1943, the English-speaking women of the parish were organized into the Young Ladies Rosary Sodality and the Young Married Women’s Sodality under the Protection of Our Lady of Grace. These groups merged and, under the patronage of Our Lady of Fatima, became the Alter & Rosary Sodality. In 1942, the vacant space adjoining the Sisters’ convent was improved and dedicated as the “Garden of Graces.” During these years, improvements were made in the school and the children were encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities. A library and office were constructed in the school under the direction of Fr. Fabianski. The School Band was organized on February 14, 1936 and in 1940 won first prize in the Archdiocesan School Band Competition. The band was under the guidance of the Franciscan Sisters and the assistance of Mr. A. Mau. The band consisted of 38 boys and girls.
The boys were encouraged to serve at the altar and in 1943 there were 100 altar servers. The girls were encouraged to join the Eucharistic Crusade, a society designed to inculcate the love of the devotion to the Lord present in the Holy Eucharist. The members were expected to lead exemplary lives, to receive Holy Communion frequently, and to make regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament. In 1943, Mr. John Mallin redecorated the church. His murals in the vestibule of the church are reminders of our heritage.
During World War II, over 1,200 young men and women of the parish served in the Armed Forces. The monument of the Fallen Soldier was erected in front of the school as a memorial to those who had given their lives in defense of our nation. On February 27, 1945, the Central Society was organized, in order to coordinate the activities of the various societies, confraternities and clubs. Fr. Fabianski resigned his pastorate in January, 1949, because of illness. Fr. Felix Miliskiewicz, C.R., a native of Saint Stan’s, was appointed Pastor in 1949 and served until 1952 when he was transferred to Saint Hedwig Parish. Fr. Peter Lenczyk, C.R., was appointed Pastor on September 13, 1952. Fr. Lenczyk then directed his attention to the building of a new rectory. Construction was begun in March, 1953. It was completed in 1954 at the cost of $250,000.
In 1958, Fr. Lenczyk was transferred to Saint Joseph Parish in Fontana, California. Fr. Anthony Laskowski, C.R., who was to remain Pastor until 1976, succeeded him. The first project, which demanded his attention, was the installation of a sprinkling system in the school. The project was completed through the parishioners in special monthly collections.
In 1964, Fr. Laskowski and Fr. Francis Uzdrowski, C.R., began getting lectors and training them to read the Scriptures during Mass. In 1968, the Holy Name Society donated funds to refurnish the sanctuary and install an altar facing the people. The following activities that Saint Stan’s had and still has are: picnics, pilgrimages, and processions, bazaars, bake sales, and corporate Communion breakfasts, carnivals, dances and golf tournaments, study clubs, triduums, novenas, and retreats.
School children began to participate in the Archdiocesan School Lunch Program ($.45) on January 13, 1975. On January, the Mothers’ Club marked its 25th anniversary with a gift of television sets for the school. Pastor Tony Laskowski, C.R., left the parish he had served for 18 years. A banquet was held in his honor on July 25, 1976, sponsored by the Central Society. The new Pastor was Fr. Eugene Szarek, C.R. Fr. Gene Szarek introduced an Adult Bible Seminar of four weekly sessions. He conducted it in the spring and fall.
In April, 1978, volunteers of the Maintenance Committee and the School Board painted 22 classrooms. In September 24, 1978, the Central Society became the Parish Council. On December 16, 1979, Zygfryd Oborski and Mitchell Szady were ordained Deacons by Cardinal Cody in Holy Name Cathedral.
The Holy Name Society honored the Pastor, Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., with a Roast at a Dance on June 7. The next Pastor of Saint Stan’s was Fr. George Jendrach. In 1982, the rectory and convent buildings and the church entrance required a lot of repairs. New sidewalks were laid. In the church, kneelers were reupholstered and the pews varnished. The floor of the parish hall and stage was sanded and refinished, the ramp was re-carpeted, and on April 1, 1984, the hall was blessed and dedicated to the memory of Fr. Anthony J. Laskowski. Six months later, the interior of the church underwent major repairs at a cost of $28,000.
In 1985, Principal, Sister M. Gabriel Lazarski, and Fr. Edward Janas were reassigned somewhere else. In 1986, the parish welcomed Fr. Anthony Dziorek and Fr. Charles Mrowinski. On September 27, 1986, Fr. Edwin Lapinski left for Jerusalem. 1986, was the year to commemorate the founding of the Congregation of the Resurrection 150 years ago. In October, the school children celebrated the founding with their own “Resurrection Week”. The fifth graders presented the history of the Congregation; the upper grades shared essays about the dedication of the priests to our parish; the Resurrection Prayer was recited; congratulatory cards designed. The week ended with a con-celebrated Mass with liturgy by the students. Then a reception was followed in the parish hall hosted by the sixth graders.
On June 7, Fr. George C. Jendrach was departed from Saint Stan’s. On August 15, the new Pastor was Fr. Walter M. Wilczek, C.R. On August 16, a new logo graced was the cover of “St. Stan’s Weekly”- a wood cut of our patron saint. On September 20, Sister M. Epiphany Gorski moved to the Franciscan Sisters Motherhouse in Lemont. Sister Gorski had devoted 39 years as Sacristan in our church.
In 1988, a major outlay of funds went for the church roof, $49,980, and for the amplifiers and speakers, and microphone in the church, $7,000. The U.S. Department of Education selected our school for the Exemplary School Award, and Sister Lora Ann Slawinski flew to Washington, D.C. for the presentation.
In 1988 after 85 years of residency, the remaining Franciscan Sisters moved from the convent to their motherhouse in Lemont, taking personal furnishings and those purchased for them by members of the Our Lady of Victory Society. In 1989, Sister Jeanne Marie Toriskie was greeted as the new Principal; Sister Lora Ann Slawinski moved on to Lemont to administer the newly founded Franciscan Retirement Village.In 1990, the Planning Committee, School Board, and Finance Committee decided to have a pre-school for four-year-olds in the convent building on the first floor. The McCormick Trust Fund awarded a $40,000 grant to begin a full day pre-school, thanks to the efforts of Sister Jeanne Marie who wrote the grant proposal, and the volunteers of the Mothers’ Club who prepared the site for inspection with painting and decorating. The pre-school opened August 27, 1990.
Also in 1990, a large part of the ceiling in Fr. Anthony Hall collapsed. No one was injured, however; the insurance did not cover the damage. The emergency repair work cost $12,500. In June, 1991, the Altar and Rosary Sodality gave a check of $3,500 to Pastor Wally Wilczek to jump-start the Centennial Building Fund for the cleaning and painting of the church for the celebration of the parish’s 100th anniversary in 1993.
In 1991, the major renovation project of the Centennial Year began with the repair and cleaning of the organ at a cost of $12,000. A new organist, Mr. Stanley Sterlinski, came to our parish on August 1, 1991. The Centennial Year began by honoring the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago at an Eucharist Celebration offered at noon on Sunday, September 27, 1992. Bishop Thad J. Jakubowski, D.D., presided, and delivered the homily. Concelebrants were the Resurrectionist Fathers: Walter M. Wilczek, Frank Grzechowiak, Anthony Dziorek, Marion Wroblewski, Edmund Jastrzebski, Edwin Karlowicz, Leonard Prusinski, and Gene Szarek. Deacons Zygfryd Oborski and Mitchell Szady assisted.
Seventh and eight grade students joined the Centennial Choir. Students of the fifth and sixth grades read the intercessions. Franciscan Sisters presented the Gifts. Eighty Sisters participated in the Eucharistic celebration. A Centennial Memorial Mass was offered on Wednesday, November 11, 1992, in remembrance of all deceased parishioners as well as clergy, religious, and lay teachers.
In the last week of May, the Mothers’ Club and school children held a May crowning during the Eucharistic Liturgy, at which the Pastor, Fr. Wally Wilczek, presided, and placed a rose on Mary’s altar.
On Sunday, September 26, 1993, the Parish of St. Stanislaus B & M, celebrated its 100th anniversary, by inviting Joseph Cardinal Bernardin into the church for a 3 p.m. Mass. Concelebrants were Bishop Alfred Abramowicz and Bishop Thad Jakubowski; C.R. Fathers: Walter M. Wilczek, Pastor; Marion Wroblewski, Anthony Dziorek, Edmund Jastrzebski, and Michael Osuch. Deacons were Zygfryd Oborski and Mitchell Szady.
After the Eucharist, everyone went to the Fr. Anthony Hall where food was served in Polish hospitality. Among the guests were the grandsons of Francis Pawlowski, the first organist, the youngest daughter of the first couple who were married at St. Stan’s, Frank and Anna Czoszek Filipski, on August 22, 1893.
Fr. Wally Wilczek, C.R. departed from St. Stan’s on December 31, 1993. The new pastor assigned to St. Stan’s was a local, the assistant pastor, Fr. Anthony Dziorek, C.R. In the last couple of years major project were completed at St. Stan’s. The installation of central air conditioning in the church was the first of a series of improvements. Another major task which was completed was the replacement of the furnaces which provide heat for the school, church, and Fr. Anthony Hall.