History of St. Hyacinth Basilica (Bazylika Świętego Jacka)
One could ride on the Kennedy Expressway and at a distance catch glimpses of the steeples of St. Hyacinth, which tower over the roofs of houses in the Logan Square- Avondale area. As one travels Milwaukee Avenue, where in past years lampposts were draped with signs bearing names of a Polish metropolis and in the lower section announcing that one arrived at JACKOWO area (St. Hyacinth in Polish). The regular bus driver on the Milwaukee Avenue route on Sundays announces JACKOWO rather than Central Park and the greater part of passengers exit the bus for church. Three spires as outstretched arms reach to the heavens in prayer are readily seen inviting the faithful to the majestic structure.
History records the original site of a wooden building on Milwaukee and Central Park Avenues was the first parish center of worship. Many reasons could be proposed for the transfer of location of the edifice to its present place. Some suggested that the location was too noisy and being “inside” the neighborhood would be a more serene location. However, a larger expanse of ground was necessary to contain the plan of buildings for the expanding number of worshipers: a school, a convent and a rectory and later parking area would be needed and considered for the enlarged church building.
At first a wooden structure faced Wolfram Street. Then as the parish population flourished after 1910, the plan of this house of worship, tracing some of the colossal European structures, the foundations were laid. The towers were slightly higher but in 1986 a section of terra cotta fell from one tower. Upon the advice of architects that the expanding and contraction, together with water seepage into the terra cotta makes this product unsafe on high-rise structures. A specially treated metal replaced the terra cotta on the three towers.
As one nears the church the large cornerstone informs that this household of God is under the patronage of St Hyacinth (Sw. Jacka in Polish and in Spanish S. Jacinto). The date of the cornerstone: A.D. 1917.
Most everyone entering this place of worship is awed for the structure summons reverence. The focus, inevitably, is the sanctuary, which almost demands the sense to be “down in reverence” bowing. Through these 75 + years, the added decorations at the various holydays the church received the accolades of “the most decorated” and “of breathtaking beauty”. Thousands of candles burn throughout the year to express the devotion of the people. Uncountable number of flowers have enhanced the liturgical celebrations.
On April 30, 1917 Fr. John Zdechlik, C.R. blessed the ground on which this church would be built. Architects Worthman and Steinbach retained for the preparation of the construction of the church. The church cornerstone was blessed on October 21, 1917. The church walls, towers and the completed edifice was roofed in 1918. The interior of the church proceeded haltingly through 1920 – 21.
Our church doors to the newly constructed church, blessed for worship on August 7, 1921, were opened.
Fr. John Sobieszczyk, C.R. blessed the church privately on August 7, 1921. Five Masses followed with the church filled to capacity. The solemn blessing and dedication of the church took place on October 16, 1921 with Archbishop George Mundelein presiding at the ceremony.
Forty-seven years later in preparation for the 75th anniversary of the parish (1969) the church was cleaned, some areas of the church were repainted and new lighting was added.
One could ride on the Kennedy Expressway and at a distance catch glimpses of the steeples of St. Hyacinth Basilica, which tower over the roofs of houses in the Logan Square – Avondale area.
The parish began with 40 Polish families in 1894 in a small building on Milwaukee and Central Park Avenues. A priest, who came on horseback, from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish so as to minister and care for the spiritual needs of the people. Realizing the rapid increase of families, largely Polish, a larger expanse of ground was necessary to contain the plan of buildings, which would include a school, convent, rectory and sufficient parking space (for the time). In 1895 the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were invited to care for the grade school and continue to do so to this day. The school had its peak of 1150 students in the early 1960’s.
Approaching the front of the Basilica one is informed that this household of God is under the patronage of St. Hyacinth, the date of the cornerstone: A.D. 1917. Another plague at the front of the Basilica reads: Jesus Christ “ Yesterday, Today, and Forever”, Jubilee 2000 Millennium.
As the population flourished in the second decade of the century, the much larger edifice was planned:
April 30, 1917; The ground-breaking and the foundation of the present church was laid. Fr. John Zdechlik, C.R., pastor, blessed the ground for the occasion.
October 21, 1917; The church cornerstone was blessed.
1918; A roof covered the shell of the building.
August 7, 1921; After a private blessing by Fr. John Sobieszczyk, C.R., five Masses were celebrated in the new church.
October 16, 192; Archbishop George Mundelein presided at the solemn blessing and dedication of the church.
Mid-1930’s ; Fr. Stephen Kowalczyk, C.R. engaged the John A. Malin Co. to paint the church interior. It took two years of planning and another two years to execute the planned paintings.
The Stained Glass Windows: identified as prepared by Meyer Co. of Munich, Georgia and some by the Zettler Co. of New York were installed in 1921.
The organ: A mid-sized Kilgen Organ (of St. Louis, Missouri) with 34 ranks was likewise installed in the church in 1921 at a cost of $16,500. (The estimated value of the organ today is $480,000.)
The church Bells: a product of McShoe Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland were blessed and placed in the steeples in April, 1924.
The Stations of the Cross: presently priceless were built in the 1830’s; probably in Austria.
Bar-relief of St. Hyacinth above the main altar;
Statues of the main altars: St. Peter and St. Paul;
Statues at lesser altars: Sacred Heart of Jesus and Blessed Mother (Immaculate Conception);
Alcoves: Our Lady of Sorrows (Pieta) and icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa;
The statues: St. Joseph / St. Ann / Infant of Prague / St. Maximilian Kolbe / St. Francis Assisi / St. Anthony of Padua / St. Barbara / St. Therese of Lisieux.
35 relics are encased and presented to the faithful on All Saints Day, as well as the memorial day of each saint.
May 1999 – April 2000; The restoration of the artistic beauty of the church interior by Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A wood-replacement of the sanctuary floor enhances the beauty of the church.
January 9, 2000; Cardinal George, OMI blessed the Millennium Plaque at the front of the church as well as the church bells, which were repaired, having been muted for several years.
July 2000; Cardinals George and Glemp grace the parish family.
October 8, 2000; Cardinal Glemp, primate of Poland, leads the rededication of the newly redecorated church. A millennium banquet completed the celebration.
2001; A pictorial review and explanation of the redecorated artistry are offered as a memento to the parishioners and friends.
2002 – 2003; Replacement of the floor of the body of the church with granite tiles and refurbishing of the pews.
The praising of the beauty of the church by Cardinals George and Glemp instigate the desire to have the church graced with the title: Minor Basilica.
January 2003; Having approval of the proposal and Cardinal George encouraged to request Rome for the title: Minor Basilica.
June 21, 2003; Announcement in Rome that the church has been graced with the title: Minor Basilica.
2003; A more accessible ramp for the handicapped is erected at the parking lot adjacent to the church.
November 30, 2003; Cardinal George in a solemn PROCLAMATION renders the title: Minor Basilica. An enlarged papal document hangs adjacent to the Pieta recess.
2004; Another pictorial book (without words) bearing various segments of the Basilica and appurtenances is printed to offer a meditation of the Basilica.
Within the front lobby of the Basilica two plaques (one in English; another in Polish) briefly present the history of our parish.
2005; Through the generosity of several families the front doors were replaced by bronze masterpieces of craftmanship.
The center doors (principle entrance) offer a history of St. Hyacinth Basilica, a primary focus of the image of our patron, St. Hyacinth, who carries the Blessed Sacrament in his right hand, another focus presents the coat-of-arms of the Congregation of the Resurrection. The handle area of the door bears the imprint of 1917-1921, the years of construction of the church-building.
As for the history of the Congregation of the Resurrection, a vignette in the sketch of Sacre-Coeur of Paris, where the 19th century Polish emigrants located themselves: Bogdan Janski, Peter Semenenko and Jerome Kajsiewicz, who principally founded the Congregation.
The other handle carries the foundation date: Paris 2-17-1886 and in another handle the date of ratification of the Constitutions of the Congregation: Rome: 3-10-1880.
1886; Arrival of the Resurrectionists to Texas and 1870, the arrival of the Congregation to Chicago.
Another door boldly depicts John Paul II, the 1stPolish pope “dearly beloved” the Pope who changed the world. (Never has a pope so profoundly affected the course of events throughout the world.
2005; At the same time a 17-foot bronze statue of John Paul II was erected in the parish Memorial Garden.
2007; The replacement of the front stairs with granite.
June 29, 2008; As principal celebrant of the 12:30 p.m. Mass, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the personal secretary of the former Pope John Paul II, blessed the crowns for the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The crowns have been made from hundreds of gold chains, rings, and other objects offered by the parishioners and friends of the basilica parish. Through the generous contributions of the parishioners the gold was smelted and creatively crafted into two tiaras.
On August 31, 2008, Cardinal Francis George, OMI rendered the official CORONATION of the parish patroness, Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Christ-child.
At Christmas, 2008, the life-size figures of the Nativity were set amid the live animals in the parish Memorial Garden.
The visits of Cardinals George and Glemp, who remarked of the â€œbeautyâ€ of the church, engendered the desire of the Polish people to seek the title of Minor Basilica.
Immediately adjoining the pieta chapel is the letter (enlarged) from Rome announcing that the honorific title of Minor Basilica has been granted on June 21, 2003.
A conopoeum (pavilion); a gold and red velvet umbrella with gold fringes (the papal colors). Like a tent to shelter the patriarch, the pavilion is surmounted by a gilt copper cross. Originally, this umbrella would cover and protect the Holy Father or the Patriarch from inclement weather. The pavilion or conopoeum is kept partially open as a sign that the basilica is always ready and able to welcome the Holy Father to celebrate the liturgy. The conopoeum has several panels depicting local or diocesan symbols.
A tintinabulum (small bell on a poll) is used to announce the arrival of the hierarchical member and would lead the procession at such an occasion.
The escucheon (coat-of-arms) of the Holy Father is displayed in a very noticeable manner above the tintinabulum (the papal triple tiara and crossed keys).
REQUISITES OF THE BASILICA
- Size; our seating capacity (including the two choir levels) is over 2,000.
- Use; At the present our 5 Polish and 4 English Masses on the weekend have more than 8,000 in attendance. (The most populated 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass has well over 2,000 people and the 12:00 p.m. Mass has more than 1,500 people present).
- A historical and/or cultural reason is realized with the Polish people who have made this the Chicago’s northwest side center of Polonia, and the arena for the Polish religious, political and aesthetic events.
- 4,000 people on Holy Saturday approach the altar to have their baskets of Easter foods to be blessed;
- 2,500 people attend the Easter morning (sun-rise) Mass and Christmas Midnight (12 a.m.) Mass;
- 2,000 people attend the Corpus Christi procession, in which 12 blocks of the parish are covered;
- Polish presidents Lech Walesa and Lech Kaczynski, as well as Polish cardinals, bishops and other prominent persons graced the parish.
Polish concerts and other events are held in the Basilica;
Services rendered to the people:
The sacrament of reconciliation (confession)Â is available every morning and evening â€¦ with thousands availing themselves of the sacrament at Easter and Christmas;
The Polish Saturday and Sunday schools attract 500 youngsters in the study of catechism in Polish;
The regular parochial school operates throughout the week;
Various prayer groups, choir groups and social events are given attention.
Adjoining the Our Lady of Czestochowa chapel is a plaque to honor John Paul II, during whose pontificate the church was titled a Minor Basilica.
Memorabilia of John Paul II hangs next to the Plaque.
The responsibility of the Basilica staff is to maintain a historical and spiritual importance and center of active and pastoral liturgy.
Our church doors to the newly constructed church, blessed for worship on August 7, 1921, were opened. If only one person entered and exited through each door each day, the doors would be opened over 450,000 times. But today, just on Sunday, over 8000 people come through the doors to worship.
Parishioner and friends come through the doors to find peace in prayer, with tears or sorrow, at a time of death or a loss, or in moments of anxiety.
They come in joy-filled times, to receive the Sacraments: Baptism and Confirmation, First Communion, Marriage and Ordination, Reconciliation and Penance.
They come in thanksgiving prayer, and moments of meditation.
Here we are able to transcend, the meaningless, the phony,and expose our passionate longing for God.
We are able to purify, the doubts, fears, resentments, and disappointments, cowardice, hurt and bitterness, to refresh ourselves from routine and complacency, non-relevant living, settled well-worn grooves.
Here we are able to be glorious with HIM, JESUS, with HIS Mother, Mary, with the saints triumphant, to remind us, to prod us as we are the Church Militant in Communion with others.
It is here to bare our souls, forgiveness, to resolve disputes, to heal enmities, to be reconciled, to be refreshed in companionship, encouragement and support.
For we are WITNESSES to love with our whole hearts, because God loved us first, and called each of us by name.
Yes, the doors open, to a PARISH THAT CARES!
The Basilica doors, majestic, are a greeting to parishioners and others.
The doors serve simultaneously to glorify God, they are a reminder that one is at the threshold of the sacred, a preparation for the spiritual experience waiting within!