Back to Chicago sights

September 2017
Holy Trinity Church

Living the Polish Catholic tradition in Chicago. The church's website (in Polish only) is very beautiful.
Just north of St. Stanislaus is St. Stanislaus Kostka, another large, beautiful Polish church I have visited.
The history of the Church of the Holy Trinity (Kosciol Swietej Trojcy)

Founded in 1873, this church has been twice rebuilt. The original wooden church was renovated in 1895. The exisiting church was built in its place in 1905 (consecrated in 1906). Holy Trinity was originally a mission parish operated by St. Stanislaus Kostka, which was founded in 1867 and which stands just two blocks to the north on Noble Street in Chicago (the former just south of Division and the latter just north of Division).

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 as a punishment bishop of Chicago closed the church in 1876. After a year Mass was offered in the church, but when the then-pastor died in 1881 the church was closed again until 1889, opened just briefly then, and not reopened until 1893 when the Congregation of the Holy Cross began to staff the parish (the dispute with St. Stanislaus 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. See below for more.


 

 
An unusual feature are the two side altars, both raised
 
The windows and ceiling frescos are worth a close look. They appear to be very fine.

The Annunciation (left). The angel appears to the shepherds (right)

John baptizes Christ

The flight into Egypt

The choir loft, with its heavenly host.


A tale of two Polish churches

Anyone curious about these two beautiful churches can see the difference in the way they present themselves to the public. St. Stanislaus retains its dominance, with Masses in English, Spanish, and Polish. Holy Trinity has a narrower focus. Its website is written in Polish only, and there seem to be Masses in Polish only. The mission of Holy Trinity is to serve "Polonia," the name given to the Polish diaspora, especially to the "Solidarity" immigrants of the 1980s. St. Stanislaus is in every sense a more typical Chicago Catholic parish.

Even getting to Holy Trinity from the north is a bit of a challenge. Noble Street, which both churches face, is two-way north of Division, but north-bound only south. There is a handsome plaza in front of Holy Trinity, all the better for admiring the impressive façade, but the plaza somehow reinforces the separation of the church itself from the surrounding area. St. Stanislaus, on the other hand, is on property that is only a few feet from the bustle and noise of the Kennedy Expressway.

Here is a brief summary from Edward R. Kantowicz, The Archdiocese of Chicago: A Journey of Faith, pp. 29-30. Kantowicz relates the feuding among Irish congregations, which was centered on conflicts between foreign-born Irish pastors (FBI, as they were called) and Irish priests born in the United States. The Polish too had conflicts. Kantowicz writes:

[p. 29] “Polish Catholics also mounted a schism that dragged on through Archbishop Feehan's administration. The parishioners of Holy Trinity parish on the near northwest side resented the dominance of the Polish Resurrectionist Order, and particularly the pastor of neighboring St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, Fr. Vincent Barzynski, C.R. In 1873, a lay society at Holy Trinity tried to hire a pastor of their own, rather than remain a mission offshoot of Fr. Barzynski's St. Stanislaus. This [p. 30] prompted the bishop to padlock the parish, which remained closed for nearly two decades [not correct; the church was open for Masses for four of those years and open again briefly in 1889, information from the parish's website]. Only the mediation of a papal representative, Archbishop Francis Satolli, in 1893 settled the Holy Trinity dispute. Nonetheless, a number of other Polish congregations eventually joined the schismatic Polish National Church, first organized in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Polish Nationals celebrated Mass in Polish and allowed lay congregations more authority than the Catholic hierarchy was willing to permit at this time.” [Note: There are Polish congregations around Chicago today that belong to the PNC, but Holy Trinity is not one of them.]

9-22-2017