St. Mary Magdalene Church                                                                Sacred Heart Church
 
St. Mary Magdalene Church
St. Mary Magdalene is a Polish Catholic parish built at 84th and Marquette Avenue in 1910 to relieve overcrowding at neighboring Immaculate Conception parish which was located at 88th and Commercial. It was the second parish to be carved out of Immaculate's boundaries as the Polish population of South Chicago continued to increase in the early years of the century. Father Francis M. Wojtalewicz, pastor of Immaculate Conception bought 24 lots between Marquette and Saginaw at 84th Street for $5,375.40 and, with land secured, he requested that the Archbishop of Chicago divide his parish. Permission to divide the parish was granted and Rev. Edward Kowaleski was appointed pastor and would serve for 21 years. Plans were drawn up for a three story combination church, school, and hall. The architect was John Flizidowski and the church cost almost $100,000 when completed. The new building was dedicated on July 17, 1911. The parish grew quickly, from 200 families in 1911, to 500 families in 1913, and to 1050 families in 1917. 632 children were enrolled in the parish school at that time. Parish membership peaked in the years after WW II when 1500 families were registered as parishioners. From 1910 to the 1950s the neighborhood around the church was 90% Polish and 95% Catholic. In April 1952 ground was broken for a new church, and the cornerstone was laid on September 21, 1952. The new church building was blessed by Samuel Cardinal Stritch on May 2, 1954. In 1960 the parish celebrated its 50th anniversary and at the time 703 students attended the parish school. 

Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart was founded by immigrant Catholic Croatians who originally worshiped at St. George's, the Slovenian Catholic church on the East Side. It was located at 96th and Escanaba and was the 3rd Croatian parish in Chicago. It opened Christmas Day 1913 and was dedicated on May 17, 1914 by Archbishop James E. Quigley. There first pastor was Rev. Ivan A. Stipanovic. The parish school opened shortly after the parish opened under the direction of the sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, of Lemont, Illinois. Rev Luke Tersich, OFM was pastor of Sacred Heart from 1919 to1922. During his pastorate , enrollment in the school increased from 230 to 320 pupils. The rectory was built in 1928-1929 at 2864 E.96th Street. A structure at 9620 S. Commercial Ave was remodeled as a social center and sports facility and was referred to as Croatian Hall. By 1958 more than $100,000 had been raised for a new church and school. The school was dedicated on Sept 22, 1959 by His Eminence Cardinal Albert Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago. At that time Sacred Heart Parish was free of debt, a testament to the generosity of 600 families who made up the parish. At the parish's Golden Jubilee celebrated on Nov 10, 1963 construction was begun on a new church. The dedication ceremony took place on June 21 1964. The brick structure at 96th and Escanaba was designed by the architectural firm of Fox & Fox and completed at a cost of $350,000. A number of problems had to be overcome in the building of the new church. The only property which was available was located on Escanaba Avenue and was not large enough for the church which was planned. The alley on the north side of the church was obtained. A new alley was created which ran through the portion of the school playground. A house next to the newly acquired property was bought and torn down which added an additional 25 feet to the site. this gave the parish the minimum land necessary to build the new church. The bells from the old church are now located at St. Anthony Mission in Neopit, Wisconsin. On May 19, 1963 the blessing of the cornerstone took place. Historical documents related to the parish were sealed and placed in the cornerstone. In Oct 4, 1968 a new sisters residence was built at 2906 E 96th to replace the old one. Today the parish of Sacred Heart has over 600 families and a membership which includes families of Croatian descent who have been in the South Chicago area for years as well as Polish and Hispanic families who have been attending services as well. 

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