New Pastors—Church Improvements
When Fr. Gordon became pastor at St. Stanislaus Kostka from 1906 to 1909 Fr. Joseph Ziemba CR was made pastor of St. Mary of the Angels, but soon had to resign due to ill health. Fr. Felix Ladon CR administer St. Mary of the Angels until Fr. Francis Saborosz CR could become pastor. Fr. Saborosz had the church and school interiors painted and laid concrete sidewalks around the property. In 1909 Father Gordon returned to St. Mary’s again as pastor.
In 1912 Fr. Gordon built a new priests residence on Wood Street to free up space in the nuns teaching in the school. The sisters took over the freed up portion of the church-school building for their residence, which also allowed more room for their growing novitiate. After building the new church much was still needed: electric lights were installed in 1921 and a year later a new W.W.Kimball organ (costing $23,750) was installed and central heating added.
Visitors would come to St. Mary of the Angels for its beauty. It was acclaimed as one of the finest specimens of Roman Renaissance architecture in the United States. The world famous Polish painter, Wojciech Adalbert Kossak, and Józef Haller, General of the polish Army, were among those duly impressed.
When Father Gordon died in 1931 Fr. Leonard Long CR became temporary pastor for a few months, followed by Fr. Thaddeus Ligman CR.
In July, 1932 Fr. Edward Brzezinski CR assumed the duties of pastor. Father “Ed” was a native son of St. Mary of the Angels—young, courageous, and full of great zeal and initiative—who had worked under Father Gordon for three years. He continued to improve St. Mary of the Angels despite the hardships of the Great Depression. Fr. Ed was instrumental in liquidating a parish debt of $250,000 while decorating and repairing the church in preparation for the 50th parish anniversary that would be in 1949.
In 1934, thinking of the welfare of the youth, Fr. Ed renovated the school auditorium as a dance hall, which due to its new beauty and conveniences became known as the “Polish Aragon” (NOTE: the Aragon Ballroom was built in uptown on Lawrence Avenue in 1926. It was famous for big band concerts and dances). Hundreds attended weekly dances where many a young girl met her “Prince Charming.” The renovations included enclosing the entrance to St. Mary of the Angels School, with new offices and bathrooms. The auditorium and addition was officially dedicated on December 16, 1934, by the Rev. Stephen Kowalczyk CR delegate-general of the Congregation of the Resurrection.
Each succeeding year hummed with activity. An annex to the school building was completed in 1936 at a cost of $27,000. The following year electric bells were installed. In 1938 the first floor of the school building was renovated and hosted its first kindergarten classes. In 1939 the dome and facade of the church building underwent repairs.
The original interior of St. Mary of the Angels church was rather stark, except for the stained glass, a few statues, and the painting behind the high altar; all the walls of the church were painted shades of gray and white.
To prepare for the parish’s golden jubilee, Fr. “Ed” Brzezinski had the church interior decorated, with giant new paintings done by John A. Mallin, making the church “one of the most beautiful in the city.” The jubilee was celebrated on October 16, 1949 with a Solemn Pontifical Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Thomas L. Noa of Marquette, Michigan, assisted by the Provincial, Fr. Casimir Guziel CR as arch-priest; by Fr. Stanislaus Fiolek CR as deacon; and by Fr. Jerome Klingsporn CR as sub-deacon. Cardinal Stritch—Chicago’s archbishop—gave the jubilee sermon. The Knights of Columbus were there in full regalia and some 200 school children in various national costumes. The Cardinal, bishops, and distinguished guests enjoyed a celebratory luncheon after the Holy Mass.
Fr. “Ed” Brzezinski retired for health reasons in 1950, after 18 years of faithful service.
Fr. John R. Waiss
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