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St. Stanislaus Kostka: 150 years of Polish Catholic tradition in Chicago

At 1351 Evergreen Ave., St. Stanislaus is famous as the church around which the Kennedy Expressway had to be diverted. No doubt a few
other churches would have had to go as well. Just south of St. Stanislaus is Holy Trinity, another large, beautiful Polish church I have visited.

The history of St. Stanislaus
St. Stanislaus Kostka was the first Polish Catholic church in Chicago, founded in 1867. Thirty years later it had 8,000 families and 40,000 parishoners and "mission churches" attached to it (more detail below). The history of St. Stanislaus is closely connected to that of the Church of the Holy Trinity, which is located just two blocks to the south. Both are on Noble Street in Chicago, the former just north of Division and the latter just south of the same street.

Their connection is not a happy one. Three years after it was opened, Holy Trinity sought to be independent of St. Stanislaus. A lay group sought to hire its own pastor, and the bishop of Chicago closed the church in 1876. After a year Mass was offered in the church, but in 1881 the church was closed again until 1889, opened briefly, and closed until 1893. Tthe dispute was settled by a papal representative.

Strange to say, Holy Trinity Church cannot be found in a book describing dozens of old Chicago churches: Edward R. Kantowicz, The Archdiocese of Chicago: A Journey of Faith (2006). The book does offer a synopsis of the connection between these two handsome churches, which are both thriving in 2017. There are excerpts on my page for Holy Trinity. Note that St. Stanislaus has an extensive website.


The interior was renovated, art restored, pews replaced, starting in 2011. The work was ready for this year's celebration of the parish's 150th anniversary.

 

   
The parish was founded in 1867 and the church begun in 1877. Very beautiful, all of it, and heartening to see it cared for and well-used.

There is a worship space beneath the principal part of the church. It might seem that it was not always intended for this use, but someone who grew up near the church told me that on Sundays in her day some 5,000 people came to Mass here, and that both levels were filled with Masses on Sunday morning on the hour.

The altar is now missing a large statue in the central bay behind the crucifix and is too grand for a room such such a low ceiling. One can imagine cornices and other features to give height.

Seen from the back: the top of the altar is only a few inches below the ceiling. The angels on either side (pink on left, blue on right) seem to be in their original positions and from back here one can see that the altar was carefully fit into this space.
Adjacent to the lower worship space is a kitchen with a small dining area that serves free lunches Monday to Friday.
The dining room is small, but its height, and its handsome fittings, speak to the grandeur of the building.



History of St. Stanislaus
Below is material quoted from the website of St. Stanislaus:

The parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka opened in 1867. Bishop Foley put the Resurrection Fathers in charge of the growing parish in 1871. As the flow of Polish immigrants continued into the neighborhood, a larger church was needed. The cornerstone of the present church building was laid in 1877 and the church was dedicated in 1881.

By 1897, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was the largest parish in the United States with 8,000 families, totaling 40,000 people. There were twelve Masses each Sunday: six Masses in the upper church and another six Masses in the lower church. St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish is considered the mother church of the many Polish parishes founded by Fr. Vincent Barzynski, C.R., during his pastorate (1874-1899).

In the early 1950ís, the church was slated to be razed to make room for the Kennedy Expressway, but due to protests by the Polish community and the work of legislators like U.S. Representative Daniel Rostenkowski, the path of the expressway was altered and the church was saved.

Today, the parish continues to serve the spiritual needs of parishioners who come from a wide geographic area and include many different ethnic groups. The large number of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans has brought a new vitality to the parish. Masses are said in English, Spanish and Polish. The parish continues to operate an elementary school, as well as, a strong religious education program.

In 2007, Cardinal Francis George designated St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish as the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Chicago and, in 2008, he blessed the iconic Monstrance, Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy, which draws many people to 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration at this historic church.

In September, 2011, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish began a project of essential repair and restoration of the church building. The vision is that the parish will continue to be a beacon of hope for the next generations of Catholics of Chicago.

8-25-2017