St. Joseph Church                                               Bethel Free Church                           St. John the Baptist Church

St. Joseph Church 
St. Joseph Catholic Church was established in 1900 by Lithuanian immigrants who, like other ethnic groups, wanted to worship in their own language. Permission was granted to form a Lithuanian church on the southeast side of Chicago via a petition. Rev. Michael Peza was appointed the first pastor. Fr. Peza started working to establish St.. Joseph. At first he said mass at the Louis Tomaszewski Hall at 8801 Commercial Avenue. He obtained property on 88th Street between Marquette and Saginaw Avenue. A small wooden church was built at 8812 Marquette. Fr. Peza remained as resident pastor until 1903. For a couple of years there was ono permanent priest assigned to the small parish. In 1905, Rev. Anthony Petraitis was assigned as pastor and was to serve the parish until 1931. One of his first tasks was to build a rectory at 8801 S. Saginaw in 1908. Father Patraitis, who was an amateur astronomer, eventually built an observatory near the church which housed the second largest telescope in Illinois. A new church was built in 1949 and a school in 1953. At the time of the diamond jubilee of the parish in 1975 there were 330 families and 210 children enrolled in the school. Due to declining enrollment the school was closed in September 1977. A few years later the parish was also closed. 

Bethel Free Church

Bethel Free Church was first organized on May 25,1907, in the home of Theodore Carlson, with fourteen charter members. Services were conducted in a school house on 103rd Street between Avenue L and Ewing, beginning Sunday, June 9, 1907. On March 10, 1908 it was decided to purchase lots at 10324 Avenue J. Here, a one story building (shown above) was constructed and dedicated June 13th, 1908. It was during the pastorate of John Hawkinson, 1919-1923, that the church was incorporated with the name, "The Swedish Evangelical Free Church in South Chicago". It was then that the first church "constitution" was formed. The need for a larger facility was met and a new church building was erected in 1925 and dedicated Sunday afternoon, March 7, 1926. This building was located in the same lot as original church building was. In 1934 a second constitution was adopted and the name of the church was changed to Bethel Free Church. In 1936 the English language almost entirely replaced Swedish. On September 13, 1966, the church voted to authorize the trustee board to negotiate a loan of $18,000.00. This money was to be used to remodel the front of the building and to redecorate the sanctuary. Bethel Free Church had difficulty finding a new pastor to minister to the decreasing number of members of the church. Community Christian Church of Chicago, located at 10323 Ewing Avenue bought Bethel Free and it is now one church under the name Community Christian Church of Chicago. The fromer Bethel Free Church building, which is located across the alley, is now referred to as the Annex Building.

St. John the Baptist 

St. John the Baptist was a Slovak Catholic parish located in South Chicago at 9129 Burley Avenue. At one time there were nine Slovak Catholic parishes in Chicago and at the time of St. John's 80th Anniversary in 1989, there were only four remaining and since that time St. John the Baptist has also closed its doors. The church was founded on May 16, 1909 to serve the needs of Slovak immigrants on Chicago's southeast side. The first pastor of the church was Rev. John Novotny. The church building (shown above) was purchased from a Protestant congregation and intended as a temporary location for the parish. It was to be the only church ever used by the parish. It was a small parish, the church seated 250, and had a meeting hall beneath the church and a rectory next door. Several organizations and societies were affiliated with the parish. St. John the Baptist was unusual because it never opened a parish school. Most Catholic parishes had a parish school, especially the national parishes, because of the desire of immigrants to maintain their native language. Religious instruction was given in the parish hall but no school was ever opened. Since its closing in the early 1990's the building has been purchased by the neighboring Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and is used for various church activities and programs. 

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