Prehistory of the Church

Like many other nationalities, Polish immigrants saw America as the “Land of Opportunity” while maintaining their national heritage and their strong faith in God. Before the immigration influx, the Bucktown area of Chicago was mostly open fields used to pasture goats (the Polish people called male goats “bucks”). Many people fled war-torn Poland in the 1830s to come to the United States, the first settled in Jefferson Township, then Holstein, until also settled here. In 1866, the parish of the Annunciation was established on the corner of Paulina and Wabansia to serve English speaking Catholics, mostly Irish.

In 1864, Polish families formed the patronage of St. Stanislaus Kostka and in 1869 bought land for a church—about a mile from St. Mary of the Angels towards downtown. A Polish diocesan priest, Fr. Joseph Juszkiewicz, administered the parish. The pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, Fr. Joseph Roles, approach Fr. Jerome Kajsiewicz, C.R, superior general of the newly founded Congregation of the Resurrectionists, asking him to supply priests for Chicago’s Polish and Bohemian emigrants. Fr. Kajsiewicz visited Chicago in 1871 and met with Bishop Foley, who formally agreed to entrust the Polish missions in Chicago to the Resurrectionists for the next ninety-nine years. They then took possession of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish.

The bishops of Chicago established more Polish churches as immigrants poured into the city: St. Josaphat (in 1884), St. Hedwig (1888), St. John Cantius (1892), Holy Trinity (1893), St. Stanislaus Bishop-Martyr (a mission church from 1893–1901), and St. Hyacinth (1894). History of St. Mary of the Angels

As immigrants poured into the Bucktown area of Chicago, and to meet their needs, the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, Fr. Vincent Barzynski, CR, petitioned Archbishop Patrick Feehan to make a new parish between St. Stanislaus Kostka and St. Hedwig. So, St. Mary of the Angels parish was formed on November 28, 1898. Two city blocks were purchased for $60, 000 between Paulina and Wood, and between Bloomingdale and Clybourn Place (renamed Cortland Avenue in 1913). One block was subdivided for homes while the other became the site of the parish. Rev. Francis Gordon, CR, was named its first pastor. They broke ground for the church building on April 21, 1899 and laid the cornerstone on July 2. The three-story brick building was built for $65, 000 and designed in the Polish Renaissance style by Henry J. Schlacks—Schlacks became University of Notre Dame’s first Director of the Course of Architecture (School of Architecture). The Archbishop dedicated the church before a crowd of 20, 000, including Chicago’s mayor, Carter Harrison, Jr., on December 10, 1899.

The one building held everything. The upper floor church seated 924 for Mass, while the middle floor school, which began instruction in 1900, was divided into twelve classrooms for 425 students. The lower floor had meeting rooms and an auditorium that double as a gymnasium. The priests resided on the west end and the convent—for the four Sisters of the Congregation of the Resurrection (Sisters Anna Strzelecka, Casimira Szydzik, Sophie Podworska, and Mathilda Surej), who arrived from Rome on February 15, 1900—was in the attic. This building currently houses the parish school and the Midtown Program for Boys.

Fr. John R. Waiss


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