ST. PANCRATIUS SCHOOL K-8
2940 W. 40th Pl.
Chicago, Illinois, 60632
St. Pancratius Church at 40th Pl. and Sacramento Ave. on the southwest side of Chicago was established in March 1924 to serve Polish families in Brighton Park who formerly belonged to Five Holy Martyrs parish. From 1909 until 1920 when a new Five Holy Martyrs Church was built at 43rd and Richmond St., Polish Catholics had worshipped in a combination building at 3141 W. 41st St. The St. Anthony Society, Group 380 of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, drew up a petition on Sept. 8, 1923 for a national parish on behalf of 773 families (a total of 3,879 persons, many of whom were recent Polish immigrants) who lived in the area bounded by the Santa Fe railroad tracks, Archer Ave., Kedzie Ave., and California Ave. These families wanted a parish of their own for two reasons: Five Holy Martyrs Church had become overcrowded and their children had to cross busy Archer Ave. in order to attend school.
Archbishop George W. Mundelein was reluctant to form national parishes based on language, preferring instead to establish English-speaking territorial parishes where families of many ethnic backgrounds could worship. However he decided in favor of establishing St. Pancratius as a national parish in order to thwart the formation of a Polish National Church in the neighborhood. Finally, in March 1924 he announced the organization of the new national parish, the first parish he established after being named to the College of Cardinals.
Cardinal-elect Mundelein appointed Rev. Stanislaus Radniecki, former pastor of St. Valentine Church in Cicero, IL, as pastor and he celebrated Mass for the first time on Mar. 9. 1924 in the combination building on 41st St. near Kedzie Ave. which had housed the original Five Holy Martyrs Church and school. The structure was located across the street from the main entrance of the Crane Company, where many St. Pancratius parishioners were employed. The two story brick church and school building was renovated at a cost of $150,000 and classes were begun under the direction of Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Kunegunda, The nuns resided at Five Holy Martyrs convent until June 1925, when their present quarters at 2940 W. 40th Pl. were completed. In that year, Father Radniecki moved into a building at 4037 S. Sacramento Ave. which served as the rectory for the next 11 years.
On Nov. 9, 1924, the cornerstone of a new school building was laid. The three story brick structure, completed at 2938 W. 40th Pl. according to plans drawn up by architect Leo Strelka, contained 16 classrooms and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 800 persons. At the time St. Pancratius school was dedicated on May 9. 1926, more than 900 children were enrolled.
Named pastor of St. Barbara Church on Sept. 14, 1934, Father Radniecki was succeeded by Rev. Vincent J. Nowicki, former pastor of St. Florian Church. He directed the remodeling of the church and the construction of the present rectory which was completed in 1936 at 4025 S. Sacramento Ave. according to the plans of architect Monroe Sandel.
As a result of economic setbacks suffered during the Depression years, parishioners were not able to liquidate the parish debt until 1948. However in that year, a fund was begun for a new church. Although Father Nowicki purchased real estate at a cost of $70,000, he did not live long enough to see the new church constructed. Following Father Nowicki's death on Sept. 6, 1955, Rev. Boleslaus Niec was named pastor. Father Niec was well known in the parish, having served as an assistant from 1934 to 1941 and again from 1947 until his formal apointntent as pastor on Jan. 13, 1956.
To make way for the new church, four homes on the east side of Sacramento Ave. were acquired and demolished. On Mar. 23, 1958, a pledge drive was inaugurated to raise $200,000 for the new church, the cornerstone of which was laid on June 15, 1958. The Stations of the Cross from the old church were trimmed down and repaired and installed in the new edifice and the same was done with the Stations of Our Lady of Sorrows. The main altar was consecrated by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger on Aug. 8, 1959 and the church was opened for public worship on the following day. In a solemn ceremony, parish societies carried their banners from the old church and placed them in the new brick edifice which had been completed at the southeast corner of 40th Pl. and Sacramento Ave.
Albert Cardinal Meyer dedicated St. Pancratius Church on May 8, 1960. The imposing structure had been constructed at a cost of $850,000 according to plans drawn up by Peter Ziroli and Frank Chapelle, structural engineers, and Emil Mastrandea and George Uitti of the architectural firm of Thomas Higgins.
Named pastor emeritus on Dec. 22, 1969, Father Niec celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination on Apr. 25, 1976. He continues to live in the parish rectory where he has spent so many years of his priestly life.
Rev. Walter Stefanski was appointed pastor of St. Pancratius Church on Jan. 3, 1970. He came to Brighton Park from Chicago Heights, IL, where he had been pastor of St. Joseph Church.
The golden jubilee of the founding of St. Pancratius parish was celebrated on Oct. 20, 1974. Auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz, pastor of nearby Five Holy Martyrs parish, was principal celebrant of the Mass of Thanksgiving. At the time of the 50th anniversary, 285 children were enrolled in the parish school.
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