Hegewisch Methodist             St. Francis De Sales 1909                                          St. Francis De Sales
                Church 1889                                                                                                                    Interior

Hegewisch Methodist Church

Methodism was one of the first religions to form and establish a church in Hegewisch. Meetings began in February, 1885 over a store owned by a Mr. Lewis. Mr. A.J. Bell, a lay Evangelist from the Chicago District Missionary and Church Extension Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, conducted the services, on May 7, 1885. Within a little while, the small congregation would acquire a small church building, located at 13315 Brandon Avenue, but they would get rid of this building when it was sold in 1905. Until 1906, services were held in the Old Opera House. Mr. John Harris, the first Sunday School Superintendent, went to a real estate company to ask for a lot at half price and a little book for subscriptions, which would allow them to place new members in that book after they subscribed. After that, he then went to Mr. Adolph Hegewisch, who was the president of the United States Rolling Stock Company. He and his employees, along with some other generous people, subscribed to a total of $135.00. This, at that time, was enough to buy lumber from the St. Louis World Exposition to build the new church on the land purchased. The new church was located on 13501 S. Burley Avenue. It was officially dedicated on December 9th, 1906. There would be a total of $4,000.00 in pledges made toward the church, along, with an $800.00 mortgage on the church, to complete it in its new location. Paying the mortgage was hard. At one time when the mortgage was due, Reverend Swaney, borrowed $800.00 on his own personal life insurance policy to pay off the mortgage. The parsonage was built between 1919 and 1920. The church would prosper for a long time. The church would once again have a celebration this time for their Centennial Anniversary on Sunday, September 29, 1985. The Methodist Church of Hegewisch did not just serve as a place of worship for its congregation, but as a place to socialize too. People of the church would come to play bingo, pinochle, talk, with friends, and sometimes to have a meal with one another. On January 4, 1998, the church closed its doors. This occurred due to a dwindling congregation and a growing Catholic population. The building was put on the market for $120,000.00. In its place today, is a different church, that goes by the name of the New Jerusalem Church.

St. Francis De Sales Church 

The history of St. Francis De Sales begins with Reverend Patrick Feehan, the Archbishop of Chicago. In 1888 he chose Father Mathias M. Barth, of St. Peter and Paul Church in South Chicago to organize a parish on the East Side, then called Colehour. It took him a year of hard work, but the St. Francis church and school opened in 1889. The original frme church (shown above) was located at 10215 Ewing Avenue. The original parishioners were mostly Germans and Luxemburgers although it was a territorial parish. Its boundaries were the Calumet river, Lake Michigan, the state line, and 114th Street. Father J. P. Suerth was appointed pastor in 1899. When he arrived, he found the church and school in terrible conditions. Father Suerth was a very hardworking priest who built up the parish and made it successful. In 1910, Father Suerth had the honor of being the presiding priest of the first Chinese man to convert to the Catholic faith in Chicago. Hundreds of people from all over the East Side and many priests came for the ceremony. This was also the year ground was broken for the construction of a new church and school building. It took the church 25 years to pay off the new building, which at the time cost them $250,000, in January 1925. Then a terrible tragedy occurred on the following Friday after the completed payment. The church caught fire and was left in ruins. To make things worse, Father Suerth's health began to fail which led to his death. The reason of how and why the fire exactly started still remains a mystery. Reconstruction of the church began right away, in June of the year of the fire. Less than two years later, a combination church and school building was rebuilt. George Cardinal Mundelein dedicated the new church building on May 8, 1927. A commercial high school was opened in 1908 and became a four year academic school by 1938. By the 1950s, there was a need to expand the school, but instead of an expansion on the old building, a whole new school building was built. On April 20, 1958, Archbishop William O'Brien presided at the dedication of the new building. In 1964 there were 567 students in the elementary school and 1020 in the high school. Today the elementary school is closed and the high school has only a few hundred students enrolled. 

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