St. John of God Church at 52nd and Throop St. on the south side of Chicago was organized in 1906 to serve Polish families who lived south of 43rd St. and east of Ashland Ave. in the old Town of Lake. The nearest Polish parish, St. Joseph, was then centered at 48th and Paulina St.
Rev. John G. Jendrzejek, a former pastor of Holy Rosary Church in North Chicago, IL, began the work of organizing this national parish. He purchased 36 lots-an entire square block-at 52nd and Throop St. and on Apr. 10, 1907, construction began on a combination church-school-and convent. Archbishop James E. Quigley dedicated St. John of God Church on Oct. 27, 1907. William J. Brinkman designed the three story brick building which was located on the east side of Throop St., just south of 51st St. The cost of land, materials, and labor, was estimated at $75,000.
Located within the boundaries of the territorial (English-speaking) parish of St. Rose of Lima at 48th and Ashland Ave., St. John of God Church was established in close proximity to the German parish of St. Augustine at 5037 S. Laflin St. and the French parish of St. John the Baptist at 50th p1. and Peoria St. To the south were the English-speaking parishes of St. Basil at Garfield blvd. (55th St.) and Honore St. and Visitation at Garfield blvd. and Peoria St.
At the time Father Jendrzejek died on Sept. 19, 1908, 300 families and a large number of single men and women belonged to the parish and 360 children were enrolled in the school under the direction of five Felician Sisters. Rev. Francis J. Karabasz served as temporary administrator of this parish; he later organized the Polish parish of Sacred Heart at 46th and Wolcott Ave.
Rev. Louis Grudzinski began his 39 year pastorate at St. John of God parish in June 1909. Prior to this assignment, he had served as administrator of St. Joseph parish.
Between 1912 and 1916, enrollment in the parish school increased from 527 to 700 children. The present rectory at 1234 W. 52nd St. was completed by 1918. In order to accommodate the increasing number of school-age children, portable classrooms were erected. Before long, work began on the present church, the cornerstone of which was laid on Oct. 13, 1918. St. John of God Church was completed at the northeast corner of 52nd and Throop St., overlooking ShermanPark. The first Mass in this Renaissance-style edifice was celebrated on Palm Sunday, Mar. 28, 1920.
Father Grudzinski was an enthusiastic supporter of Polish societies. He was a founder, along with the pastors of Sacred Heart and St. Joseph parishes, of Guardian Angel Day Nursery. This settlement, established at 46th and Gross (now McDowell Ave.) in 1913, ministered to the needs of Polish families, especially working mothers with children.
The growth of St. John of God parish was amazing: a census taken on Oct. 22, 1922 revealed that 2,400 families belonged to the parish and that 2,506 children were enrolled in the school. Following the completion of the new church, the former church quarters in the combination building were converted into classrooms. The convent at 5129 S. Throop St. was enlarged in 1944.
Father Grudzinski celebrated the silver jubilee of his ordination on Aug. 26, 1928. He continued to serve as pastor until his death on Sept. 23, 1948 at the age of 70.
In December 1948, Rev. Henry Jagodzinski, former pastor of St. Salomea Church, was named pastor and he celebrated Mass in St. John of God Church on Christmas Day. Under his leadership, many improvements were made in the parish in 1949 and 1950. The heating system was replaced in the church and school and the rectory was remodeled. In March 1952, ground at 5130 S. Elizabeth St. was broken for a new parish school. Work on the $300,000 modern brick structure was begun on Apr. 22 according to plans drawn up by architect Leo Strelka. Samuel Cardinal Stritch dedicated the 12 classroom building on June 21, 1953. Following the completion of this structure, the old school next to the convent on Throop St. was remodeled as a parish hall.
On Oct. 13, 1957, a triple ceremony was planned: the golden jubilee of the dedication of the first parish church; the 50th anniversary of Father Jagodzinski's ordination; and the investiture of the pastor as a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor. On the eve of the celebration, a 2-11 alarm fire broke out in the school causing $50,000 damage. Nevertheless, the festivities were held with Cardinal Stritch presiding. Approximately 200 children of the parish attended school the following week in the frame barracks which had been used as classrooms many years earlier.
Msgr. Jagodzinski died on Jan. 2, 1963 at the age of 78. His successor was Rev. Louis E. Nowak, who came to St. John of God parish on Feb. 21, 1963 from St. Adalbert Church where he had been pastor. Under Father Nowak's leadership, a physical education program was begun in the school. He also directed a program of renovation which included the tuckpointing of the buildings and the air conditioning of the parish hall and meeting rooms. A new floor was installed in the church as well as a new communion railing and pulpit.
Throughout the 1960s, parishes in the Back of the Yards community declined in membership as hundreds of families moved to other neighborhoods on the southwest side of the city, or to the suburbs. Enrollment in area Catholic schools also declined and in 1975 nearby St. John the Baptist school was consolidated. The 50 pupils who had attended St. John the Baptist school, 933 W. 50th Pl. were invited to enroll at either St. John of God school or St. Augustine school, 50th and Laflin St.
Named pastor emeritus in December 1976, Father Nowak continued to reside in the parish rectory until his death on June 27, 1979
at the age of 72.
Rev. Raymond J. Jasinski has been pastor of St. John of God Church since Dec. 29, 1976. Prior to this assignment, he served as pastor of St. Helena of the Cross parish.
In 1978, 239 students were enrolled in the parish school under the direction of five Felician Sisters and six lay teachers. A member of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, St. John of God parish supports a Parish Council, School Board, Holy Name Society, Ushers Club, Mothers Club, Good Fellows Society, and a scouting program.
Associate pastors include Rev. John A. Rolek, a member of the Archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, and Rev. Thaddeus F. Winceniak.
From "A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1980
Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.