History of Saint Blase

Posted by on Sep 15, 2010

History of Saint Blase

St. Blase Parish, located at the intersection of 61st Place and 75th Avenue in Argo, was founded as a Polish Parish in 1924. It was separated from the Parish of St. Joseph in Summit.
In 1916, Rev. Thomas Bona, then pastor of St. Joseph, created a Mission in Argo, with the construction of a brick building at 7438 W. 61st place in Argo. This building served as the parish school of St. Joseph. It was blessed on August 27, 1916. The school was staffed by Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. When in July 1918 St. Joseph Church, located near Archer Avenue, was burned, all the faithful from Summit attended Masses in the school basement in Argo, which for many years served as a place of prayer.
In 1922 the convent was built for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth at 7434 W. 61st Place. And in the year 1923 a parish hall was constructed.
On March 5, 1924 Cardinal George W. Mundelein appointed Rev. Stanislaus Koralewski (who in the years of 1921 to 1924 was a Pastor of St. Joseph Parish) as the Pastor in the parish of St. Blase. It was the day of the official beginning of the parish of St. Blase. According to annual reports Parish then had 296 families. Then, within one year the presbytery was built at 6101 S. 75th Avenue. And in 1927 the school building was expanded. It was a school, which in 1925 taught 463 students.
In January of 1932, after 8 years of laboring on the foundations of the parish, Rev. Stanislaus Koralewski was replaced by Rev. Valentine Belinski. He cared about the youth and founded the Catholic Youth Organization. The next pastor assigned in May of 1936 was Rev. Henry Piepenkotter. He worked in the parish until his death in February of 1948. In April of 1948 Rev. Joseph Mszanowski became the pastor, and started the modernization of the buildings. He led the expansion and renovation of the convent, and the renewal of the school and the school basement, which then served as the church. The Parish Hall was divided into classrooms, and dedicated to the needs of the school.

Because the number of parishioners grew, Rev. Joseph Mszanowski, on January 7, 1962, announced a plan to build a new church. The building was designed by Tobolski and Strelka Company. It has 14 stained glass windows, 8 referring to the life of Jesus and Mary, and 6 depicting the sacraments. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on February 4, 1962; the corner stone was laid on September 9, 1962. The following year, on June 30, 1963, Albert Cardinal Meyer dedicated the church of St. Blase.
St. Blase Parish did not have boundaries. The faithful came from Argo, Summit, Bridgeview, Justice, Willow Springs and Chicago.
The next pastor was Rev. Edward Radwanski, in March of 1966. In 1967 he directed the demolition and rebuilding of the old 1924 rectory. In 1972 he retired and remained in the parish as a resident.
Rev. Elmer Ruszkowski became pastor of St. Blase in October of 1972. In June of 1981, it was necessary to close the school because of the low number of students enrolled. With the closure of the school, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth left St. Blase, after 67 years of work in the parish.
Rev. Norbert Waszak became pastor in August of 1981. He was a pastor who served the parish the longest, for over 18 years. During his term, the convent was sold. At that time Father Waszak connected the church with the school building by an addition that contained an elevator. Also during his time, the parish debt was retired and a mortgage burning celebration was held on Nov. 10, 1985. In April 1996, retired auxiliary Bishop Alfred L. Abramowicz came to St. Blase as a resident and was the spiritual leader of Polish immigrants. He died in September of 1999.
In the 80’s and 90’s the parish experienced an increase in the number of Hispanic worshipers and began to adapt the liturgy for their needs.
In January 1999 Rev. Michael L. Zoufal was appointed pastor. In his time there was an increase in the parish population. The parish has become a community of three nationalities: American, Mexican and Polish. The vast majority of the parishioners are immigrants.

In the autumn of 1999, the Missionary Sisters of Christ the King for Polonia began their mission in the parish. They work in the parish and direct the St. Blase Polish Catholic School, which was founded in 2003. There are around 850 children in their school, who learn the language, history and geography of Poland. All children are enrolled in a program of catechesis that prepares them for the sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Confirmation, and introduces students to life with complete faith.
Approximately 700 children are enrolled in the CCD religious education program, which prepares children in English and Spanish languages for the sacraments and the life in the Church community.
Since 2003, the Albertine Sisters, in collaboration with Catholic Charities, care and help the neediest inhabitants of the surrounding area. Food is distributed each week, and every Wednesday evening a hot meal is served for over 100 people.
Catholic Charities also operates a program of Child Day Care in the school. There are more than 60 children, from 3-12 years of age, currently under their care.
In the parish there are several Mexican societies such as: Adoracion Nocturna (a group that prays before the Blessed Sacrament from 9 pm to 6:30 am every first Saturday of each month), Circulo de Oracion (a charismatic group which praises God every Tuesday from 7:00 pm to 9 pm by singing and praying), Sociedad Guadalupana (who sponsor events in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe), Los Jovenes (a group of teens and young adults who each year, prepare presentations on the Nativity and the Passion of Christ), Los Lectores and Estudio Biblico.
Polish children choir groups “Tecza” (Rainbow), and “Gwiazdeczki” (Little Stars) meet once a week and sing at school Masses. Since 2008 there is a very active group of altar servers which consists about 50 boys. In addition to their ongoing formation and ministry at the altar, special meetings and various trips with other parishes are organized for them.

The different cultures have participated in communal events such as: trilingual liturgies, spring and autumn Brunches, dances, Christmas “Oplatek” meetings and a parish picnic.
The Parish of St. Blase has been generous in helping others such as the annual Lenten Project for children in orphanages in Poland and Mexico, and material assistance to various other communities of the universal Church.
In the years of Pastor Rev. Michael Zoufal many changes were made to the interior of the church. There were also many upgrades and renovations to the school building, sacristy, priests’ residence and parish office. In 2011 two new energy efficient boilers were installed in the basement of the church, replacing the old original1963 boiler.
Since the Eucharistic Year 2004 there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Wednesday from 12 noon to 9 pm.
There are 7 Sunday Masses celebrated each weekend, with a combined attendance of close to 3,000 persons. During the week there are three morning Masses celebrated at 7:00 am in English, 7:30 am in Polish and 8:15 am in Spanish, with around 80 people attending those Masses. Every Saturday afternoon, the faithful have the opportunity to benefit from the sacrament of Penance.
From 2008 to 2011, Rev. Ryszard Czerniak, a priest from the Society of Christ, served as associate pastor, ministering to the Polish community.
In the years from 1999 to 2011 there was a significant religious revival in the parish. Parish records show that each year more than 200 children received the sacrament of baptism, about 200 received the sacrament of Holy Communion, more than 100 received the sacrament of Confirmation, and about 40 weddings were celebrated.
In 2011, by the decision of Cardinal Francis George, Rev. Michael Zoufal was assigned as pastor to the parish of St. Albert in Burbank, after 12 years of service in St. Blase parish. Replacing him will be Rev. Wojciech Kwiecien, previously pastor of St. James Parish in Chicago.