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Tuesday
Nov152011

OLV Parish History

 

    

      Our Lady of Victory Church was organized on September 10, 1906, as a mission of St. Edward parish. Rev. Martin M. Lennartz CS (Viatorian) cared for the small Catholic community, and celebrated Mass in a hall on Milwaukee Avenue, on the southeast corner of Lawrence Avenue. On August 18, 1906, a "Lawn Social" for the benefit of the new Catholic church in Jefferson Park" was held on the lawn of the J.S Dietchert home. At that time, there were wooden sidewalks, wooden block streets, and streetcars which operated to Lawrence and Milwaukee Avenues only in the summertime. The Milwaukee streetcar going South went to Armitage. The people then transferred to a cable car which took them to the loop by means of the Washington Street tunnel. The cable cars were identical to those used in San Francisco today.

   Horse drawn carriages and surreys with the fringe on top could be seen on the streets. Every now and then a horse would run away and frighten the pedestrians. Occasionally, the hook and ladder fire engine, drawn by horses, would go clanging their bells down the old plank road.

   It was an area of wide open prairies, stretching westward from Laramie Avenue. Wild strawberries and violets covered the fields. Some of the old timers remember the creek that ran along Windsor Avenue where many a youngster went swimming. Alongside this creek was a railroad spur, a supply line to the State Hospital at Narragansett.

   Some parishioners speak of the cornfield on the site of the Wilson Park play field, of the apple trees on the East side of Milwaukee Avenue between Montrose and Agatite, and of Silverman's pond near 4900 Sunnyside Avenue. Others recall the red painted Dickenson Inn at the bend on Milwaukee Avenue near Warner (Lincoln slept there, so the story goes), the horse and chicken barn on the church grounds, and the three foot high black iron rail circling the parish grounds.

   In 1907 a cottage at 4741 N. Linder Avenue was acquired for use as a church. During the Eucharistic celebration in this frame structure, the men occupied one side of the room and the women the other. In 1907 the congregation numbered about 25 families.

   The parish boundaries extended from Mayfair (Cicero Avenue) on the East to the Des Plaines river on the West, and from Belmont Avenue on the South to Higgins Avenue.

   Elizabeth Massmann was instrumental in organizing the Catholics of the district, and she solicited donations for the new church from shopkeeper along Milwaukee and Lawrence. Her fondness for a Catholic Church in Ohio named Our Lady of Victory, promoted her to request that the new parish be named "Our Lady of Victory."

   It appears that for a short time, Rev. Edward J. Mullaly, CSP, an assistant at Old St. Mary Church, cared for the small Catholic congregation in Jefferson Park.

   On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1909, Rev. Francis Cichozki, former assistant at the German parish of St. Joseph in Wilmette, began his tenure of 41 years as pastor of Our Lady of Victory. One of his first acts was to appoint a church committee, the members which were drawn from the three ethnic groups in the parish - German, Polish, and Irish. The committeemen were Gabriel Marcenkowski, August Kowalski, George Bezold, George Lux, Andrew Killoren and Edward Cox.

   In March 1910, 20 lots at the present parish site were purchased, and construction began on a combination church-school building. The cornerstone was laid on May 22, 1910. This three story structure, located at 4444 Laramie was dedicated on May 28, 1911, by Archbishop James E. Quigley. The New World commented that:

   "The development of Our Lady of Victory parish has been phenomenal. Only a few years ago the place where the church is now situated, as well as the surrounding territory, was nothing but farm land and pasture. Today beautiful residences and modern flat buildings are in evidence everywhere...many of the Catholic families of the inner city, who are anxious to get away from the smoke and congestion and who wish to give their children a beautiful home, near a parochial school and church are locating in the new parish. The Milwaukee Avenue car line cuts diagonally through the entire section in which Our Lady of Victory parish is located. The church property is at 52nd [Laramie] and Sunnyside Avenues, only one block West of Milwaukee Avenue."

   The School Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, opened the parish school in the fall of 1911; and The New World reported that nearly 200 children were enrolled.

   Father Frank bought an old farm house which stood on Milwaukee Avenue near Agatite. It was moved across Milwaukee Avenue at night because the trolley wires had to be cut. The building became the Rectory and is presently known as the "Club House."

   To help the parish grow financially, chance books were much in circulation and picnics were scheduled every summer. These were held usually in July at Elm Tree Grove or at Kolze's near Narragansett on Irving Park Road. The children enjoyed the merry-go-round (pulled by a tired old horse) and the boat-like wooden swings at Elm Tree Grove. There were many willing workers on the grounds, and the kitchen was quite a drawing card as ham sandwiches, cake, coffee or milk could be purchased for twenty five cents. Ice cream cones were only a nickel. Streetcar fare to the grove was seven cents for adults and children over five paid three cents. Those were the good old days.

   In 1914, St. Pascal parish was organized at 4242 N. Austin Avenue; and in 1917, St. Bartholomew parish was established at Addison Street and Lavergne Avenue. On October 7, 1917, Archbishop George W. Mundelein blessed St. Constance Church at 5809 W. Strong Street. This parish had been established by 90 Polish families who formerly belonged to Our Lady of Victory Church. All of these parishes were originally within O.L.V. borderlines.

   In 1919, the O.L.V. school was enlarged by the addition of three bungalows which were erected on Sunnyside Avenue. A 1925 Catholic directory listed Our Lady of Victory as a "German and English" parish. In that year, 706 children were enrolled in the school.

   The Catholic population of this district was growing so rapidly that, in 1925, St. Cornelius Church was established at 5430 W. Foster Avenue.

   Plans for a new convent and church were drawn up by the architectural firm of E. Brielmaier & Sons, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The firm also designed the rectory, which was built at 5212 W. Agatite Avenue. On April 27, 1927, ground was broken for the new structures on Agatite Avenue. The Sister's convent at 5240 W. Agatite Avenue was completed on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1927. Mass was celebrated in the substructure of the church on Palm Sunday, April 1, 1928. On May 12, 1929, Cardinal Mundelein dedicated this portion of the church.

   In 1930, St. Robert Bellarmine parish was established to serve Catholic families who lived West of Central Avenue. Despite a loss in O.L.V. territory, the membership at Our Lady of Victory parish continued to increase.

   In 1934, Father Frank Cichozki celebrated the 25th anniversary of his appointment as pastor. During the 1940's he directed the modernization of the parish plant. The new school building was completed in 1949, at 4434 N. Laramie Avenue, at a cost of $300,000.

   When Father Cichozki's health began to fail, Rev. Gerald Morrisey was appointed parish administrator. He served in this capacity from September of 1948 until March of 1950.

   At the time of Father Cichozki's death on March 5, 1950, Our Lady of Victory parish numbered 2,500 families with approximately 1,100 children enrolled in the school. Rev. Daniel Stokes, a former assistant at this parish became pastor. Under Fr. Stokes leadership, work was resumed on the upper church. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the building complete; he died on June 20, 1953, at the age of 55.

   Father Henry Fitzgerald, a former pastor of St. Bridget Church, began his tenure in July, 1953. Under his direction, construction continued on the upper church, which was opened for services on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1954. Samuel Cardinal Stritch dedicated the magnificent structure, completed at a cost of more than $1 million.

   Following Fr. Fitzgerald's death in November of 1958, Msgr. Raymond Zock was named pastor. During his  tenure, the junior high school building was constructed, and it was dedicated on December 15, 1964, by Albert Cardinal Meyer. Despite an additional increase of $400,000 to the parish financial burden Monsignor Zock eliminated the parish debt by 1969.

   After Msgr. Zock's retirement in 1973, Fr. Francis Nolan was named pastor in October of 1973. He directed the renovation of the lower church which is known as the "Marian Chapel", and the reconfiguration of the upper church to conform to the Vatican II guidelines.

   Fr. Nolan passed away in December of 1978 and Fr. John Kuzinskas began his pastorate on March 25, 1979. Under his leadership OLV celebrated it's 75th Anniversary on September 21, 1981 with Bishop Abramowicz presiding.

   In January of 1986, OLV bid a fond farewell to Fr. Kuzinskas and welcomed Fr. Daniel McCarthy as its new pastor.  Fr. McCarthy served OLV as its pastor for a dozen years until 1998.

   Fr. McCarthy was succeeded by Fr. Philip Cyscon, who served as pastor of OLV from 1999 until 2004.  Fr. Cyscon was succeeded by Fr. Christopher Doering from 2004 through 2010, when Fr. Doering left OLV and became a U. S. Army chaplain.  The OLV Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2006.  Fr. Doering was succeeded by Fr. Robert Fedek who served as pastor of OLV from 2010 until 2017.

The Parish property continues to occupy 3 acres, consisting of the church, the rectory, the convent, the school building and a parking area. The parish membership remains over 500 families.

In August of 2016 the parish community witnessed the opening of Pope Francis Global Academy, a regional Catholic school founded by four parishes: Our Lady of Victory, St. Pascal, St. Cornelius and St. Tarcissus.  Pope Francis Global Academy is the transformation of four founding member schools into one faith-filled academic center of excellence. 

The current pastor of OLV since July 1st, 2017 is Fr. Michael Wyrzykowski.