Annunciata Original Wooden Church                             St. Hedwig's Polish National Church
 
Annunciata Church
The Church of Annunciata was originally established because nearby St. Francis De Sales parish was not able to accommodate all of the worshipers that came to its Sunday services. There were over 800 families living in the East Side area. Another factor for the establishment of a new church was that St. Francis was about two miles away from the new houses being constructed on the south end of the East Side. Archbishop Stritch announced in 1941, the "official" parish boundaries of the new territorial Catholic parish on the East Side. The boundaries were 106th Street to the north, and 118th Street to the south, the Calumet River on the west and Lake Michigan and the Indiana boundary on the east. Annunciata held its first Mass in a maintenance garage at 3650 East 112th Street, and Fr. Philbin was the first priest to serve there. The maintenance garage was located behind the offices of Frank J. Lewis, who was a prominent real estate developer in the East Side area. He would also later donate the land where Annunciata parish is currently located. The foundation for the new parish was laid in 1941. Father Philbin contracted with the Kinnare Corporation to build the frame of the church on Avenue H, between 112th and 111th Street. Frank J. Lewis commissioned his firm to build the church for $12,000 dollars. Sts. Peter and Paul parish donated the original pews used in the frame structure. The first church of Annunciata (shown above) held its dedication on Sunday, June 21, 1942. The small wooden church became too small to handle its attendance following the end of World War II. Another problem was the number of children in the parish. There was a need to create a grade school. The school opened in September 1949 with eight classrooms and housing accommodations for eight nuns. All of the sisters thought they would have an enrollment of 40 students, but instead the enrollment started with 363 students, with more applying everyday. To accommodate the demand, six more classrooms and a temporary church, which could seat 600, were added to the school because of the increasing enrollment. The temporary church, located in the basement of the school, would later become a Parish Hall and Gymnasium with the completion of the new church in the Fall of 1970. One week following the 25th Anniversary celebration, in 1966, of the original church, the Archbishop granted permission to the parish to build a new Church, with the requirement that the parish pay one third of the cost of building. The initial groundbreaking occurred in late 1968. The total cost of the new church was not to exceed $750,000. The new building was designed by Architect William J. Butorac to resemble a desert tent. On September 29, 1970, John Cardinal Cody presided at the dedication of the new Church building. The parish has been very active in community affairs throughout its existence. Scout troops were sponsored by the parish. A priest assigned to the parish, Fr. Nicholas Norusis, Fr. Nick to all who knew him, was the founder of the Annunciata Little League, which played on fields located where the current church is sited. That organization continues today as the East Side Little League. Although two other Catholic parish schools on the East Side have closed, Annunciata School is still open and doing very well. 

St. Hedwig's Polish National Catholic Church

St. Hedwig is located at 3320 E. 134th Street in Hegewisch. It is part of the Polish National Catholic Church, not part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1897 and has differences of dogma with the Roman Catholic church. It also had disagreements over ownership of church property. The Roman Catholic Church believes that property is owned by the "church" while the PNCC believes that it is owned by the individual parish. Most of its churches, like St. Hedwig's are small and community based. There are approximately 200,000 members, mostly in the United States and Poland. The Hegewisch church was founded in 1940 and originally held its services in the Opera house at 133rd and Baltimore Avenue. The cornerstone for the current church building was blessed in 1949. In 1960, when the church celebrated its 20th Anniversary, there were 110 members that were part of the church. 

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