The lateral stained glass window opposite to St. Francis Assisi receiving the stigmata depicts Virgin Mary entrusting the child Jesus to St. Stanislaus Kostka.
St. Stanislaus was born on October 28, 1550 in Rostkowo, Poland. He was the second of seven children: his father, Jan Kostka, was a local governor and senator for the Kingdom of Poland; his mother, Małgorzata (Margaret) Kryska, was sister to a Polish duke.
Early on God planted in the heart of Stanislaus spiritual desires for Christian service, yet his father had other plans. When Stanislaus was 14, his father sent him and his older brother Paul to Vienna to a new Jesuit college for the nobility, lodging them in the house of a Lutheran.
In Vienna Stanislaus applied himself to his studies and to his life of prayer, with daily Mass and Rosary. He also developed a deep devotion to St. Barbara, reading how she would grant, those who invoked her, the grace of receiving Holy Communion before they die. His older brother began calling him names, such as “the Jesuit.” Stanislaus transcended his brother’s meanness with kindness: “I will live in a way that I know pleases God, whether or not it pleases my brother.” When Paul tried to lure him into his worldly ways, Stanislaus didn’t succumb: “I was born for a higher end.”
In December 1565 (he was 15 years old) he became ill and thought he was going to die. He asked to receive Communion but his brother didn’t think his illness was that serious; moreover his Lutheran landlord wouldn’t permit a priest to come to the house. So Stanislaus invoke St. Barbara. She appeared to him with two angels who brought him Holy Communion. Shortly afterwards the Virgin Mary and Child appeared to him and allowed him to embrace the Child Jesus—this vision is portrayed in our stained glass window. Our Lady restored his health and encouraged him to become a Jesuit.
The superior wouldn’t allow him to join the Jesuits in Vienna without his parents’ consent. Knowing their opposition, Stanislaus consulted God, his confessor, and then decided to go to Dillingen. Paul pursued him but God’s designs protected Stanislaus, keeping Paul from catching him. In Dillingen the provincial, St. Peter Canisius, S.J., thought he was still too close to home, so he sent Stanislaus to Rome. It took him a month to travel the 600+ miles on foot, begging for food along the way. In Rome he knelt before St. Francis Borgia, the General of the Society of Jesus, to beg to become a novice and he was finally accepted.
Soon a threatening letter from his father arrived, demanding his immediate return or suffer his disfavor, chains, and the dungeon. Weeping for his father’s blindness, Stanislaus remain firm. He observed all the rules of discipline carefully, treating everyone with respect, charity and humility.
On August 1st, 1568, sensing that he would soon die, Stanislaus wrote a letter to the Virgin Mary requesting to go to heaven on the 15th, the feast of her Assumption into heaven. Then on the 10th he became ill. On the 14th, he told the Jesuit medic that he would die the next day. The medic scoffed: “you’re not that sick!” Yet towards evening he got worse and received Holy Communion and the Sacrament of the Sick. Fellow novices accompanied him and heard him pray: “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready!” At 3:00 am his face lit up and he told those around him that Our Lady and her angels and saints had come to take him to heaven. Then he died. It was August 15. He was only 17 years old.
He was beatified in 1605 and canonized in 1726, and we celebrate his feast day on November 13. He is patron of Poland and many religious orders name him protector of their novices. St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was established for Polish immigrants in 1867 and is still considered the mother church of the Polish parishes in Chicago.
Fr. John R. Waiss
After building the original church and school for St. Mary of the Angels, where Father Gordon would live most of his remaining years, he was asked to do a stint as pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka in 1906, the mother parish for the Polish people in Chicago. But Father Gordon would return to St. Mary of the Angels three years later.
When he did return, the parish had grown to become one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The school, with the original church on the top floor, was design and built by Henry J. Schlacks, who became the first Director of the Course of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. The church and school had become too small to hold the numbers of parishioners and school children. This original building gave the church seating for 1200, had 10 classrooms, a convent for 20 nuns, a priests’ residence for 3, a hall that could hold 1500, and a few meeting rooms. But this wasn’t enough for the growing parish of 1200 mostly large families.
So Fr. Gordon hired Henry Worthmann and J.G. Steinbach to design a new church in the Roman Renaissance style, similar in appearance to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The new church would seat 2000. The dome would rise 125 feet from floor to ceiling (St. Peter’s in Rome 394 feet), 230 feet in length (St. Peter’s 694 ft.), and 125 feet in width (St. Peter’s, 451 ft.). Twelve-foot tall angels would decorate the perimeter of the exterior (similar to the 140 statues of the apostles and other saints on the colonnade and exterior of St. Peter’s).
Work on the new church began September 28, 1911. While excavating the site, the workers unearthed three crucifixes. This was taken as a sign of God’s provident will for the church. Difficulties seemed to bog down the project, with shortages of money, building materials, labor strikes, and World War I., which caused numerous delays—it took three years before even the cornerstone could be laid! At the ceremony for the first stone, some 20,000 Polish people showed up, singing religious and patriotic songs.
In the meantime, to free up space in the school, Fr. Gordon built a new priests residence on Wood Street in 1912. In 1915, the Sisters of the Resurrection moved their novitiate—built in 1905 across the street from the present church—to Norwood Park and converted the old one into a Day Nursery for children of working mothers.
Before the church could be finished, Father Gordon was named regional superior of the Resurrectionists in the United States (from 1918 until 1924). Yet he would continue to live in the rectory and follow the construction of the church.
After years of hard work and much sacrifice the present church of St. Mary of the Angels was finally finished at the cost of $400,000 ($5 million in today’s currency). Archbishop George W. Mundelein dedicated the church on May 30, 1920, attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Poland and the Polish Envoy to the United States. The Archbishop (who would become cardinal in 1924) recognized the great generosity of the ordinary, rather poor, working-class parishioners for the many sacrifices they made in building this extraordinary edifice: “the people in this neighborhood were satisfied to contribute from their slender earnings in order that God’s house might rise gigantic, majestic and beautiful.”
The people felt the need to thank our Blessed Mother for her help in turning their dreams into reality, so—on that day of the solemn high Mass—they included a May procession in her honor.
Fr. John R. Waiss
A painting on the upper wall of the Sacred Heart chapel portrays the Resurrection of our Lord along with several individuals connected to the Resurrectionists who founded St. Mary of the Angels parish.
On the lower right are four individuals: Fr. Francis Gordon, C.R., is seated with the three persons behind him: the layman directly behind Fr. Gordon is Bogdan Janski, who was a great charismatic apostle of the Polish immigrants in France. He sought to renew the life of faith of Polish people living outside their country—many people left Poland after the 1830 November Uprising—and to bring about conversion, all the while assisting with their material needs.
Although Janski got the laity involved in his apostolate, he realized he needed well-educated priests to lead them. So, in 1837, Janski sent Peter Semenenko and Jerome Kajsiewicz to Rome to prepare for priesthood. Janski joined them in Rome where he died in 1840. Before his death, Bogdan Janski directed his co-founders to develop his spiritual ideas, to live in community, and to form a new religious congregation, which should work among the Polish immigrants, establishing libraries, schools, hospitals, and seminaries for them.
Fr. Peter Semenenko and Fr. Jerome Kajsiewicz were ordained at the same time on December 5th, 1841. On the vigil of Easter Sunday, 1842—before celebrating Mass in the Catacombs of St. Sebastian—the two surviving co-founders dedicated themselves to the Resurrected Savior and called themselves “Brothers of the Resurrection.” (These are the two priests standing on the left side of the painting, Fr. Peter Semenenko on the far left and Fr. Jerome Kajsiewicz next to him behind the U.S. flag).
The Resurrectionists seek to renew “society by means of life marked by the Paschal Mystery” (Pope St. John Paul II). Their founding belief is that God’s mercy calls each of us to personal conversion, to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, and to let the new life of the Spirit be formed in us, which moves us to love the Father so as to be a living sign of God’s justice, truth, and love by supporting one another through sharing our gifts, so that all may experience the hope, joy, and peace of Christ’s resurrection.
On the far right is Fr. Vincent Barzynski, C.R., the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, who requested Bishop Feehan to form the new parish of St. Mary of the Angels (see last week’s Weekly Note). Toward the center right of the painting (to the left of Fr. Gordon and Janski) is Fr. Edward Brzezinski, C.R., who was pastor of St. Mary of the Angels for 19 years, from 1932. He was the first Pastor born and raised in the community.
Finally, the kneeling soldier is Fr. Marian Kaleth, C.R., who was an Army chaplain during World War II and later became associate pastor of St. Mary of the Angels and pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka in 1961.
Our parish has a very rich history. We should marvel with great gratitude to God for providing the Catholic Church and St. Mary of the Angels with strong and clear minded men and women to cultivate the faith of our (great) grandparents, parents, and children, as we move forward and share our faith with the next generations.
Fr. John R. Waiss
The founding of St. Mary of the Angels is linked to immigration to our area of Chicago called Bucktown, which in the 1830s was mostly open fields used to pasture goats (the local 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 Bucktown became the focus of the Polish Community. Germans and Irish also settled here.
In 1864, Polish families formed the patronage of St. Stanislaus Kostka and in 1869 bought land for a church—about a mile towards downtown from St. Mary of the Angels. 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, to supply Polish priests for Chicago’s Polish and Bohemian emigrants. Until then, a Polish diocesan priest, Fr. Joseph Juszkiewicz, administered the parish. Fr. Kajsiewicz finally 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 over St. Stanislaus Kostka parish.
The bishops of Chicago established more Polish churches as immigrants continue to pour into Chicago: 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); Holy Innocents (1905), St. Wenceslaus (1912), St. Helen (1913), St. Ladislaus and St. James (1914), St. Constance (1916), St. Thecla (1925), St. Fidelis (1926)—not to mention many other parishes on Chicago’s south and west side.
Fr. Francis Gordon, C.R.
St. Mary of the Angels was founded in the middle of this explosion of Polish parishes entrusted to the Resurrectionists. St. Stanislaus Kostka and St. Hedwig became so crowded that Fr. Barzynski, C.R., pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, asked Archbishop Feehan, in 1898, to carve out a new parish between the other two: the parish of St. Mary of the Angels was formed with Fr. Francis Gordon, age 39, as its first pastor. They broke ground for the church and school on April 21, 1899. The school was on the first floor, church on the second, and the priests’ residence in the back. Fr. Gordon celebrated the first Mass here on December 11, 1899.
The school began operations in 1900 with four Sisters of the Congregation of the Resurrection: Sister Ann Strzelecka, Sr. Casimira Szydzik, Sr. Sophie Podworska, and Sr. Mathilda Surej. These four are depicted with Fr. Gordon in the large painting on the side of the St. Joseph’s chapel.
With great fidelity to Catholicism and dedication to Polish immigrants, Fr. Francis Gordon, C.R., became a great figure in Chicago. Before becoming the founding pastor of St. Mary of the Angels, he headed the Polish newspaper, Dziennik Chicagoski, and founded the Polish Alma Mater in 1897, which serve more than 10,000 youths in those years. He was called to be provincial superior of the Resurrectionists from 1918 until 1928. In 1924, Pope Pius XI award Father Gordon with the papal medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pan, for his extraordinary service to the Catholic Church in Chicago. The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Mundelein, presented the medal to him at St. Mary of the Angels church.
Father Gordon resided at St. Mary of the Angels until his death on February 13, 1931. Let us thank God for his vision and generosity.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Each year on June 26 we celebrate the Feast of St. Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei (Work of God).
He was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902. God had him “see” what He wanted of him on October 2, 1928. St. Josemaría saw Opus Dei while he was making a retreat in Madrid, and from this point on; he gave his life to the spreading of the message that God gave to him. The key element of this message is the universal call to sanctity and apostolate.
St. John Paul II, in the homily that he gave on the Ceremony of the Beatification said this about St. Josemaría:
“With supernatural intuition, Blessed Josemaría [now Saint] untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate. Christ calls everyone to become holy in the realities of everyday life. Hence, work too is a means of personal holiness and apostolate, when it is done in union with Jesus Christ, for the Son of God, in the Incarnation, has united himself in a certain way with the whole reality of man and with the whole of creation.” (May 17, 1992).
Following this message, which is clearly expressed in Sacred Scriptures (cf. Mt. 5,48 and Eph. 1,4); St. Josemaría has helped many people find Christ in and through their work, and to spread this message to other people.
Writing about the intercession of St. Josemaría from heaven, Fr. Joaquin Alonso, who accompanied the saint for many years, wrote: “Reading the letters that tell of graces obtained through St. Josemaría’s intercession, you find an amazing variety of situations: from home-makers struggling with some small domestic problem, to drug addicts and the suicidal. Some letters tell terrible stories of ruined lives with seemingly no way out. Others tell of struggles against disease, or people who get a job or find something they had lost… additionally, most of them talk about coming back to God, sometimes after a life that had been lived very far from the faith.”
Prayers cards are available in the church so you can pray to him for his intercession for your needs. Some of his best-known publications are: The Way, The Forge, the Furrow, Friends of God and Christ is Passing By. The last two books are a collection of his homilies, and the others are short points to help people do mental prayer.
A final quote for St. Josemaría “We must come to know Him (God) through prayer, we must speak to him and show him through a heart to heart conversation, that we love him”.
Fr. Hilary Mahaney