The area now known as “old Glenwood” was originally called Hickory Bend by its first settlers in 1846. The region was described as “covered with hickory trees, cut through by winding roads and a creek.” Our present-day Thorn Creek was called Hickory Creek back then. The land was largely uninhabited until the federal government offered it for sale at $1.25 per acre. James Barton and Job Campbell each purchased 160 and 320 acres of land respectively in November of 1838. Soon after, a flood of land acquisitions led to the first settlements in the area in the year 1846. The community drew farmers and eventually railroad workers with its proximity to the Chicago & Eastern Railroad.
The first church services of any kind were held in 1846 in a local farmhouse and conducted by a Baptist minister. Occasionally a Presbyterian or a congregationalist minister would visit the community, but there is no record of any Catholic priests celebrating Masses in the area during this time. In 1871, Job Campbell and Flores Young requested that the village be surveyed, and its name changed to Glenwood. Later that year was the Great Chicago Fire.
The little town of Glenwood, Illinois, was already 42 years old when the first St. John Catholic Church structure was built in 1884 under the direction of the Most Reverent Patrick A Feehan, the first Archbishop of Chicago. It was deemed there was a large enough community of Catholics living in the area, as well as vacationers visiting from Chicago, to warrant the construction. The original frame church was built on the north side of Main Street on what is now the parking lot for the Glenwood Gun and Pistol Range. The structure seated about 100 people and cost $2,000 to erect.
There is no record of how many Catholics lived in Glenwood at the time. What were the names of all the priests coming from the city in horse and buggy to minister to the new flock? We can’t be sure, but there is mention in Archdiocesan records of a Fr. Hemlock who celebrated Mass in Glenwood about once every three weeks. This was probably the Rev. John A. Hemlock, who was eventually appointed the first resident pastor of St. Agnes in Chicago Heights in 1898. Recollection has it that these circuit-riding priests would stay overnight at the Shine-Scanlon family home, the fine brick building that still stands at 122 W. Main Street, built in 1875 as a summer home for the Scanlon family.
Although Masses were celebrated at St. John from the beginning, no existing parish records indicate names of priests who ministered there when it was first constructed. It is an educated guess that circuit-riding priests celebrated Mass there for the residents of Hickory Bend and the surrounding communities of Chicago Heights, Lansing, and Hazel Crest. The first recorded baptism took place at St. John on January 6, 1885. Rev. Timothy D. O’Sullivan, pastor of St. Kevin Church at 105th and Torrence Avenue in Chicago, baptized six-day-old Margaret Joan O’Connor, daughter of Michael O’Connor and Catherine Cartin. Sacramental records from 1884-1887 were kept at St. Kevin because St. John was a mission of that parish, which Fr. O’Sullivan had founded in 1884.
Parish records for those very early years are very spotty. Some records copied from those kept at St. Kevin show baptismal surnames from 1885-1887 of Garren, Kelly, Magner, Siebert, Elskins, and McManmon. Descendants of these early families still reside in the area. There are no recorded marriages or funerals for those years. Records of these are likely lost or scattered among other older parishes in the city. St. John was attached as a mission to St. Agnes in Chicago Heights shortly after its founding of 1894.
Although officially raised to the status of a parish in 1897, it was not until 1914 that St. John in Glenwood had grown sufficiently to support a resident pastor. The first pastor of Glenwood, appointed by Most Rev. James E. Quigley, was the Rev. Armand C. Martin. Fr. Martin was an assistant at St. Louis of France Parish in Chicago. Following the completion of the rectory, Fr. Martin took up permanent residence in Glenwood.
From all that we know about him, Fr. Martin was a man of enormous energy. The history of St. John Parish is closely intertwined with many of the parishes in the south suburbs because of the work of this energetic and zealous priest. He organized St. Joseph Church in Homewood. He directed the construction of St. Ann Church in Hazel Crest in 1911. He ministered to the Catholics of Glenwood, plus those from the neighboring communities of Hazel Crest, Homewood, and Lansing. In the records kept in a school notebook, one can still read the notation of the first infant baptized by Fr. Martin, Lillie Barbara Sons, born December 14, 1914, and baptized December 30, 1914. Each entry was carefully signed, A.C. Martin. S. Joseph Mission in Homewood became a separate parish with Hazel Crest as its mission after Fr. Martin’s appointment. St. Ann Church in Lansing continued as a mission of St. John Parish until 1941.
When Fr. Martin left St. John, there were only about 60 registered parish families, but he had put the tiny parish on the map and left the community a rich legacy of faith and hard work. He was named pastor of St. Mary in Minooka, Illinois, in 1925, where he served until his death on April 25, 1946, at the age of 66. In his obituary, The New World noted that “he organized parishes at Homewood, Glenwood, Thorton, and Lansing, often wielding hammer and saw himself to realize the ambition of providing a place of worship for his flock.”
Fr. Edmund P. Kelley was appointed pastor of St. John Church and St. Ann Mission in 1925. Fr. Kelley cared for the spiritual needs of the Catholics in Glenwood and Lansing, a much bigger and rapidly growing town. These very difficult economic times for everyone due to the Great Depression, and sadly, Fr. Kelley was not well. He passed away on February 28, 1930, at the age of 39. What little is recorded of his tenure at St. John is found in the sacramental records of the church.
Fr. Burke took advantage of the fact that many came out to the forest preserves surrounding Glenwood on Sundays during the summer months to picnic and enjoy the outdoors. He conducted Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at 4:00 on Sunday summer afternoons. Families would travel to Glenwood by train, have a picnic in the forest preserves, and then attend Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Theresa grotto before returning home. In June 1933, the New World Reported:
“Through the initiative and industry of the Rev. James E Burke and his parishioners at St. John’s Church, Glenwood, Il., a plot of wasteland in that community has been transformed into a delightful prayer garden where outdoor services are being held Sundays at 4 p.m. Hundreds of persons from the vicinity, as well as many Chicagoans have been attracted to the charming spot which is strictly a place of prayer and meditation. The spot overlooks the Glenwood golf course and a small lake, adding to the picturesque setting of the prayer garden.”
The wooden church had been moved in 1913 from its original site on the north side of Main Street to the south side at approximately 218 E. Main. The building, “country-style” and small, was 46 years old when “Fr. Jim” became the pastor, and the years had taken their toll on the building and the parishioners. The structure was beginning to show the unmistakable signs of old age. The flooring was unsafe after a fire. We are told that Fr. Burke insisted that the 100 or so who would come to mass on Sunday divide themselves into two groups for the two Sunday masses so that no more than fifty people were in the building at any one time. The little church became hazardous and was condemned as structurally unsafe.
The nation, meanwhile, was trapped amid The Great Depression. Funds were not easy to come by, and there were few parishioners to contribute. These obstacles did not deter Fr. Burke. He had a dream. He wanted to construct a new, more permanent place of worship for his small flock. But times were hard, and there was no work to be had, and to expect the small parish community of St. John to underwrite the construction of a new church seemed impossible. Undaunted, Fr. Jim set to work making plans and contacting his many friends.
After news of the condemnation of the original wooden church building spread throughout the community, many parishioners became disheartened, but not the energetic Fr. Burke. One Sunday morning, he calmly announced to his little congregation, “We are going to build a new church.” He added that he would not place one penny of “additional tax” on them. Fr. Burke is quoted in The Hammond Times, May 4, 1940, as saying to a workman putting the finishing touches on the church, “I dreamed that I could have a beautiful place of worship for my people merely through asking for assistance from. others. I aspired to have this new church and I realized it meant a great deal of hard work before it could be attained.” The Lord provided the right person, at the right time, in the right place. It was surely Fr. Burke’s winsomeness and persuasiveness that galvanized the parishioners to dream “no small dreams.”
Fr. Burke understood his strengths and he knew how to use them. Among his talents was the ability to enlist his friends for help. He soon called upon the people of St. Basil and St. David, his first two assignments. Fr. Burke had built a life grounded in friendships, and his friends, numbering hundreds, were people of influence, heads of trade unions, executives, business owners, the rich, and just plain, hardworking folks.
The first substantial gift he received was the property for the new church. This parcel of land at approximately 220 E. Main St. was donated by the Magner family, one of the founding families of the parish. His plans began to take shape in other ways also. Fr. Burke heard about a factory being leveled in central Illinois to make way for a new apartment building. Thousands upon thousands of bricks were heaped on the ground with no demand for them. When he inquired, Fr. Burke was told to haul away all the bricks he needed. Over the next weeks, scores of trucks driven by farmers from around the Glenwood-Thornton area scurried back and forth, hauling old bricks for the new church. When finished, they had moved 100,000 bricks to the building site.
The heads of labor unions responded to his calls for masons, plasterers, carpenters, electricians, and other skilled workers. It was said that they told their best men to “run down to Father Burke’s on your day off and give him a hand on his new church.” Scores of parishioners also donated their time and talents to the construction of the building. The women of the parish baked pies and cakes, and prepared the hot lunches served daily to the men working on the construction. Fr. Burke himself pitched in alongside the best of them. Gray-haired, ruddy-cheeked, Fr. Burke was, as he would so often say, “on the job,” with the men. Long-time parishioners recount how calloused and rough his hands became from his physical labor on the building.
Fr. Burke’s skill at finding items to furnish his new church was legendary. Parishioners were wary of inviting him into their homes, lest he appropriate some item deemed suitable for his new church. “Wouldn’t this look nice in the new church?” he would say as he carted the item out the door. Once he happened to see an unusually long, brass footrail being carried from a tavern. After learning the rail was being junked, Fr. Burke saw a treasure in that length of brass rail. He asked for and was given the rail. A short time later the brass rail from the saloon became door handles for the church. Some Jewish friends contributed light fixtures, which were promptly installed by some Protestant friends. Other friends contributed approximately $2,000.00 in cash toward Fr. Jim’s project, which covered incidental expenses. This outpouring of generosity took place while the Great Depression was so drastically unsettling the lives of families in Glenwood and communities throughout the nation. Father Burke asked, begged, beseeched anyone who would hear him out during the two years the church was under construction. He sought favors, donations and gifts from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. No one refused him. Who could refuse this engaging, friendly priest?
Fr. Burke was painfully aware that the 60 or so families constituting the parish were not financially able to pay for a new church building. From a list of contributors’ names published in a 1933 bulletin, we learn that, from July 1, 1932, to Jan. 1, 1933, weekly contributions totaled $360.60 while the Christmas collection amounted to $115.00. Below the list of contributors’ names Fr. Burke added the following comment:
“This is the official list of Parishioners of St. John’s Parish, Glenwood Ill. and it is so registered, according to Church Laws, with the Bishop. Catholic Families, whose names are not on this, are not entitled to the services of the Parish priest. All families must be on this list to receive the Sacraments, according to the Book of Church Regulations, issued in January 1932. Mistakes cheerfully corrected.” He adds further on, “A creditable place on your Parish list is a mark of honor and your Community recognizes it as such, as we read in St. Paul, ‘By their gifts to God and His Church, they will know ye.'”
An examination of the list of names is interesting. Printed at the top of the list appears the name of the largest contributor, Genevieve Hogan. She was Fr. Burke’s cousin and worked as his housekeeper. Mrs. Hogan gave a total of $25.00 for that period and $5.00 in the Christmas collection. Immediately below her name appears the name, Mrs. Michael Glusac of Thornton, with her contribution. Many of us who knew one or both ladies have fond and warm memories of them and understand their generosity.
By 1938, circumstances had not changed much. There were only 58 registered families. Another bulletin from 1938 shows the Sunday and Church Debt collection totaled $884.04, and the Christmas collection was a grand $111.75. It was also noted that Mr. and Mrs. Everett Toepler contributed 20 tons of coal to the parish. The exclusionary clause of the 1933 list, mercifully, was not added to the 1938 list of names. Remember, these were Depression times and work was scarce. Even then, the parishioners were extraordinarily generous.
Fr. Burke continued scavenging for whatever he judged useful to his new building, including pews from a Chicago church undergoing renovation. But his greatest find was a set of stained glass windows. The journey of these beautiful windows to the present church is a story in itself. The windows were designed and crafted in the 1890s in Munich, Germany. Their first home was St. Basil Church in Chicago. When a new St. Basil Church was built, the windows were moved to and installed in St. Killian Church. Finally, after another St. Killian Church was built, Fr. Burke salvaged the windows and had them installed in his new building. To the very end, these beautiful windows enhanced our church. These same lovely windows, with their rich history, provided a strong link to our past.
By 1940, after three long years of hard work, only a few finishing touches remained to be added. Only the “auditorium” beneath the church awaited completion. This space was envisioned as a gym, an auditorium, and a meeting place for the citizens of Glenwood and Thornton. While the church was being constructed, Fr. Burke found time to remodel the old rectory which was sorely in need of repair. The work on the rectory was completed about 1939.
With the church completed, plans for the dedication began. But when Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago, died in October of 1939, the dedication ceremonies were postponed until the appointment of another bishop to lead the Archdiocese. The Most Reverend Samuel Stritch of Milwaukee, later to become a Cardinal, was named Archbishop of Chicago in December of 1939. The whole parish, numbering some 60 families from Glenwood and Thornton, anxiously awaited the solemn blessing and dedication of the new St. John the Evangelist Church, Glenwood, Illinois by their newly appointed Archbishop. The event was to take place Sunday, May 25, 1941.
The following article, dated May 27, 1941, appeared in The Chicago Heights Star.
Three Years’ Effort by Father Burke, Pastor, Bears Fruit
Three years of patient labor in the face of many obstacles was consummated Sunday as the newly-completed St. John’s [sic] Evangelist church in Glenwood was dedicated in colorful rites by the Most Reverend Samuel A. Stritch, archbishop of Chicago, in the presence of seventy visiting clergymen and an overflow crowd estimated at 2,500 persons.
The occasion was a triumph for the Rev. James E. Burke, pastor of the church for the past ten years, whose enterprise and persistence were responsible for the construction of the impressive new building. Although the entire edifice is valued at $50,000.00, it was completed without any increase in the parish debt and with an actual cash outlay of only $3,000.00.
This achievement was possible because Fr. Burke contributed his own manual labor and enlisted volunteers from among his parishioners and many other friends. The result was that materials and labor were obtained either at slight cost or as contributions. The brick structure includes a combination gymnasium and recreation hall and has a seating capacity of 600.
For the dedication Sunday a public address system was in use to carry the rites to nearly 2,000 persons who thronged the side-walks and the garden after all space inside the church had been filled. The ceremonial blessing of the exterior and interior was followed by solemn high mass celebrated by Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald, formerly of St. Agnes here and now of St. Theresa of the Little Flower, Chicago; the Rev. Martin Neary, of the Sacred Heart church, Chicago; and the Rev. Thomas Manning, of St. Robert church, Chicago.
Master of ceremonies was the Rev. William Ward, of St. Rose of Lima church, Chicago. Acolytes were the Rev. Edward Holloway, of Harvey, and the Rev. Anthony Moran, of St. Felicitas church, Chicago. Thurifer was the Rev. Lawrence Boyle, of Joliet.
Assistants to Archbishop
Serving as assistants to the archbishop were the Rev. Neil Murray, of Visitation church, Chicago and the Rev. James Fleming, of Annunciation church, Chicago. Monsignor at the throne of the archbishop was the Rt. Rev. Thomas V. Shannon, of St. Thomas the Apostle church, Chicago. Other monsignors in attendance were the Rt. Rev. Ambrose Murray, of St. Frances of Paula, Chicago; the Rt. Rev. Francis Purcet of St. Mels[sic], Chicago; and the Very Rev. Patrick Hayes, of the Cathedral.
Laymen participating were the cross-bearer, Roman Krygier, of Lansing; acolytes, Walter Krygier, of Lansing, and Eugene Zentera, of Glenwood; the candle-bearer, John Sweet, of Thornton; the book-bearer, Ralph McLaughlin, of Lansing; and Gerald Shine, of Glenwood, bearer of the archbishop’s crozier. Mrs. William Shine, of Glenwood, was in charge of the surplice choir of eighteen boys.
The clouds of war, however, were gathering in Europe and little did the participants know on that happy day what tragedies lay in wait for them and the whole world. In a few short months, the United States would be drawn into the conflict, and many of the young men who contributed their talents and energies to the building of the church would be called into the service of their country. One young parishioner, Vincent Ginkus, lost his life in the pacific during an air battle over the Marshall Islands. Unfortunately for his family, his body was never recovered. The Blessed Sacrament repository, in use for many years at St. John on Holy Thursday, was donated by his mother in Vincent’s memory. During the final years of Fr. Burke’s pastorate, he saw many young men from the surrounding communities called to serve.
Three years after the war’s conclusion, Fr. Burke was named pastor of St. Basil in Chicago. He was to succeed the Rev. John T. Bennett, under whom he had served as assistant at St. Basil prior to coming to Glenwood. St. Basil was a large urban parish at Garfield Boulevard and Honore Street on Chicago’s south side. Fr. Burke would be leaving 70 families in Glenwood to become the shepherd of two thousand families, going from a small country parish with no school to a parish with nearly one thousand school children taught by twenty Sinsinawa Dominican nuns. Four churches the size of St. John could easily fit inside his new parish church. Fr. Jim felt right at home, however, because many of his St. Basil parishioners had helped build the church in Glenwood.
Fr. Burke served the people of St. Basil parish with the same dedication and zeal until a brain tumor took his life or January 15, 1956. True to his generous nature, during his tenure at St. Basil, he continued to finance many mission churches throughout rural areas in the United States by his contributions to the Extension Society. He also contributed surplus funds from St. Basil to assist struggling parishes in the Chicago Archdiocese. Because he had toiled so hard during his years in the Glenwood-Thornton communities, he understood the people’s needs.
Fr. Burke’s successor at St. John in 1948 was Rev. Lawrence M. Kenney, a former assistant at St. Patrick in Chicago. These were the postwar years and, with the return of the men and women from military service, the quiet life of Glenwood was about to change. During Fr. Kenney’s 20 year pastorate, Glenwood became a true suburban community with accompanying population growth. Glenwood reached a population of 600 by 1950. Between the villages of Thornton and Glenwood there were about 150 Catholic families, and by 1960 the number of Catholic families had climbed to 882. Commuter service on the Illinois Central Railroad made it possible to live in Glenwood and work in downtown Chicago. Then too, the construction of the Calumet Expressway in the 1950s and the Tri-State Tollway meant improved automobile transportation. The parish was growing. To accommodate the number of families, two masses were held on Sundays in the parish hall, which was called the “Children’s Chapel.”
Then came the building boom. Home construction for Glenwood Manor began in the summer of 1961. A short time later, an 84-acre tract of land west of Halsted, Glenwood Estates, was annexed to the village. Almost simultaneously a new subdivision known as Glenwood Forest began, with the potential of 450 new homes. The development of Brookwood Point began in 1969. This unprecedented growth placed a heavy burden on parish facilities.
Serving this growing community by himself, the demands made on Fr. Kenney’s time and energies began to take a toll on his health. He was named Pastor Emeritus in April of 1968. Msgr. Joseph J. Howard had been designated as the administrator of the parish in 1967 as Fr. Kenney’s health began to deteriorate. Fr. Kenney continued to serve as administrator of St. Paul (Slovak) Church in Chicago Heights until his death on Dec. 16, 1971, at the age of 64. Msgr. Howard remained as administrator until March 1968 when he was named the pastor of St. Frances of Rome Church in Cicero, Illinois. During Msgr. Howard’s stewardship of the parish, the land on Cottage Grove Avenue was purchased at the cost of $15,000.00.
On April 5, 1968, Reb. Stanley C. Limanowski was appointed the new pastor of St. John. Fr. Limanowski had been serving as an assistant at St. Turibius on Chicago’s south side. It was during Fr. Limanowski’s seven year tenure that Glenwood and surrounding areas underwent an enormous population growth, and the parish likewise grew. “Fr. Burke’s church” was becoming more and more inadequate to accommodate the influx of new parishioners. The CCD program had to be expanded because the student body had swelled to over 700. Religious instruction took place every day in the auditorium under the church. Limanowski realized that a larger and more contemporary facility needed to be built. Plans for a new parish complex were drawn up under his direction, but Limanowski never saw them come to fruition as he was named Pastor Emeritus due to his failing health in July 1975. He subsequently retired to Florida, leaving the completion of his dream to others.
Fr. Francis T. Menarik, appointed pastor of St. John on May 21, 1975, fell heir to the building project envisioned by Fr. Limanowski. Affectionately known as Fr. Frank by his parishioners, Menarik had been an associate pastor of St. Victor Church in Calumet City. Fr. Frank came from a family who had given much to the service of the Church in Chicago. His brother, Aloysius, was the pastor of Mater Christi parish in North Riverside, while their sister, Mary, was a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr. Frank served in many parishes throughout the Archdiocese, so he came well-seasoned to meet the challenges that lay before him.
Old St. John church and rectory were totally inadequate to meet the needs of the more than 600 families who now made up the parish. New families were registering every day. There had never been a parochial school at St. John and facilities for a growing CCD program were lacking. Another site for the proposed new building had to be selected because there was not enough property around the old church. The Archdiocese owned property both in Thornton and at 192nd and Cottage Grove in Glenwood. It was a difficult choice for many long-time parishioners who wanted to maintain a rural setting for their parish, but this was an unrealistic expectation. The move had to be made, so the decision was to use the property at 192nd and Cottage Grove as the site of the new building.
In keeping with the needs of a suburban parish, the plans called for a multipurpose building to accommodate the church, chapel, rectory, CCD offices, and the social hall. Ground was broken on February 29, 1976 and work began from plans drawn up by the architectural firm of Warner, Brejcha, Evans & Associates. The building was described as “a continuing step in the metamorphosis from the soaring 17th century Gothic cathedrals to contemporary religious structures, which provides the greatest amount of service and incorporates the greatest personal comfort at the least possible cost to the parish coffers-and our ecological system.” The architect for the building was Ben Nelson. His design became a model for a number of new facilities subsequently built in the Archdiocese.
Fr. Frank wanted to keep history alive in the design of the new building. A respect and love for the parish would be embodied it l the design of the new structure by incorporating as many features of the venerable old church as possible. All the furnishings, various statues, along with the church bell, were brought over to the new $850,000.00 edifice. The 75-year-old stained glass windows were removed from the old church and placed in the new building, thereby melding the old with the new. The old church on Main St. was sold to the Apostolic Assembly for Christ Jesus. Another chapter had begun in the history of St. John Parish.
On Sunday, December 19, 1976, history somber faced parishioners climbed the stairs of their homey country church on Main Street for their final Eucharistic celebration. The tiny building was filled with fond memories of the countless celebrations of years past. Tears welled up in the eyes of long-timers who sensed the passing of an era. Fr. Frank, however, was determined to celebrate Christmas in the partially completed church on Cottage Grove. Hard work and determination prepared the church area for that first glorious Christmas celebration. With an overflow crowd present, Fr. Menarik celebrated Christmas Midnight Mass 1976. This celebration signaled the beginning of another era in the history of the parish. St. John was no longer an unassuming, modest, semi-rural community of Catholics. It had blossomed into a parish of more than 800 families with more growth yet to come.
With a bustle of feverish activity, the entire structure was completed, and 14 months after the groundbreaking ceremony, John Cardinal Cody, Archbishop of Chicago, dedicated the new parish complex on April 17, 1977. Fr. Frank had accomplished much in the two short years since his arrival. Not enough can be said, however, about the cooperation and determination of the St. John parishioners for their support of their pastor in his bold project.
The design of the Cottage Grove complex is significant in many respects. The sanctuary, laid out in a pie shape, focuses the attention of the entire congregation on the Altar of Sacrifice. Parish offices and social halls are easily accessible, while the adjoining priests living quarters provide relative privacy. A small chapel for daily masses also serves as a place for families with small children to worship while attending Sunday mass. The inclusion of the original stained glass windows in the body of the church is a highlight of the decor. The new sanctuary is an appropriate setting for the Eucharistic Liturgy.
With any move, however, there is always disruption and change. Some parishioners found it difficult to leave the past behind, but the change was both inevitable and necessary. New organizational structures had to be established to bring liturgical celebrations into keeping with the directives of the Second Vatican Council. Moving into new facilities helped lay the groundwork for the superstructure of a vibrant parish life yet to come. Much work was still ahead.
Fr. Menarik had the help of Thomas Zanon who had been ordained a Permanent Deacon in 1975. Deacon Tom assisted at baptisms, took special interest in the residents of the Glenwood Terrace Nursing home, and helped to lighten some of Fr. Menarik’s burdens. Deacon Tom ministered to St. John’s parishioners until he relocated to Mesa, Arizona, in 1989.
St. John had always been a one priest parish with the pastor alone handling all of the responsibilities of directing the parish community. Other priests regularly assisted Fr. Frank on weekends and in so many other ways, which helped the transition go smoothly. His brother, Fr. Al Menarik, along with Frs. Paul White, Robert Schreiter, and Tom Brenberger were regular weekend assistants, together with the Polish Carmelites. Frs. White, Schreiter and Brenberger were on the faculty of the Catholic Theological Union and traveled from Hyde Park in the city every week. Fr. Fisherkeller, a Viatorian priest and former missionary, resided in the new rectory and helped share responsibilities. St. John’s Friendly Seniors were founded at the urging of Fr. Fisherkeller. The needs of families moving into the parish during the 1970s were being met and the parish could face the future with confidence and pride.
But the parish needed a regular associate pastor and, at Fr. Menarik’s request, Rev. John R. Kauzlarich was appointed to the parish in June of 1978. Fr. Kauzlarich, ordained in 1955, came from St. John of the Cross parish, Western Springs. Fr. John taught mathematics and chemistry at the Archdiocesan minor seminaries for elev11en years and served in numerous parishes on the south side of Chicago.
Fr. Frank enjoyed playing golf as his pastoral duties allowed. On March 25, 1981, the Feast of the Annunciation, tragedy struck St. John Parish when Fr. Menarik suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf in the pleasant early spring weather. The news of his death spread quickly throughout the parish and was received with sorrow by the parishioners who loved and respected him. His many friends also mourned the loss. Parishioners and friends came together in unprecedented numbers not just to mourn but above all to celebrate Fr. Frank’s life. He was laid to rest in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, leaving behind a legacy of a parish beginning a new period in its history. God’s Providence had determined that his role in the history of the parish was concluded.
On June 14, 1981, Rev. John R. Kauzlarich was installed as the 7th pastor of St. John Parish by Fr. Raymond Nugent, the local Dean at the time. Fr. Kauzlarich was already a familiar figure around the parish by now. As with every beginning, there are always some tasks left to be completed. Since Fr. Menarik and the parishioners had worked so hard to finance and build the new facilities, some permanent recognition had to be given to them. A special Memorial Fund Collection raised more than $10,000. A bronze plaque honoring the memory of Fr. Menarik and his predecessors was commissioned and placed outside the parish social hall, now renamed Fr. Menarik Hall. In addition, an electronic bell system was purchased and dedicated to the memory of those parishioners who had gone before. These bells invited us to Sunday mass as they reminded us of the presence of the Lord. They called us to prayer every day by tolling the Angelus at noon and six o’clock in the evening. Many remarked how much they appreciated their vibrant tones heard on a warm summer’s evening. They linked us with our past.
The parish, however, was now left without an associate pastor . Fortunately, in May of 1982, Fr. Hubert Hoffman was appointed as an associate priest at St. John. Fr. Hoffman had been the pastor of St. Bridget parish in Chicago. St. Bridget, among the oldest parishes in the Archdiocese, had been a very demanding pastorate. Fr. “Hubie,” as he was affectionately known, had decided to step down from these responsibilities until his retirement in a few years. Fr. Hoffman brought with him a wealth of experience and a lifetime of dedicated service to the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Fr. Hoffman had been ordained at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in 1941. He knew Fr. Burke well having served as an assistant with him at St. Basil parish in the city. It was Fr. Hoffman who looked after Fr. Burke in his last illness. He could tell many a delightful story about Fr. Jimmy Burke in his last years, who apparently had not changed much from his days in Glenwood. He was still his gentle and winsome self.
Fr. Hubie served the people of St. John parish with equal enthusiasm. He loved music and had gathered an extensive record library that ran the gamut from classical to jazz. He had a sophisticated stereo sound system with which to enjoy the music he so loved and also relished reading and playing golf. He had studied Spanish to minister to the Spanish speaking parishioners where he was assigned. Fr. Hoffman was, indeed, a man of many remarkable talents, who was looking forward to his retirement in 1986 at the age of 70. But this was not the Lord’s plan for him. During his service to the parish, he underwent bypass heart surgery. After recuperating, Fr. Hubie did resume his duties, but on a limited scale, and he never quite regained his full health. On New Year’s Eve 1985, he suffered a massive stroke and died the following February 25, 1986. For a second time within a few short years, a beloved parish priest was laid to rest. Once again, in tribute, hundreds came to show their respect and gratitude to this devoted priest.
The parish was again left without an associate pastor. It was at this time that Fr. John Vander Beek, O.S.A. came to help on weekends. Fr. Vander Beek, born in Holland and originally destined for the missions of South America, had been a teacher at St. Rita High School in Chicago for many years. He had also obtained his Doctorate of Psychology from Notre Dame University. It was while he was working as a clinical psychologist at Tolentine Hall in Olympia Fields that he came to St. John to assist the parish on weekends. He brought to the parish remarkable talents, loyal dedication, and an unparalleled sense of humor. The good Lord was, indeed, looking out for the people of St. John Parish.
The new building was functional in almost every respect. There was one vexing problem, however: how to accommodate the large number of children attending the parish religious education program? In the 1980s there were more than 400 children in the program. They were scattered among five different sites, three schools in Glenwood and two in Thornton. This was an unwieldy situation for the children, their parents, and teachers. It was difficult for the parish CCD teachers to maintain any consistency from week to week. Something had to be done, but what? There was an outstanding debt of more than $200,000 on the new building. Which was more important, incurring more debt, or improving the quality of the parish CCD program? After several parish meetings, and with the approval of the Archdiocese, it was decided that the existing social hall should be enlarged and movable walls installed. Construction began in 1983 and the work was finished a year later. The social hall could now be transformed into eight class rooms or one large hall. This change, although costly, created a marked difference within the whole Religious Education Program. The behavior of the children and the quality of instruction were remarkably improved. The teachers were able to focus their energies on the religious education of the children.
After Fr. Hoffman’s death, and with the increasing shortage of priests, it appeared that there would not be an associate appointed to the parish. Again, the people were fortunate, when Rev. Paul E. Schwartz, an associate pastor of St. Kieran parish, was appointed associate pastor in June of 1986. Fr. Schwartz had also served at St. Ann in Lansing and was very familiar with the people of the south suburbs. Since his ordination in 1953, he had served in parishes throughout the Archdiocese and came into the community with a wealth of experience and committed zeal for his priestly work. The parish was blessed with his gentlemanly qualities. He immediately became involved in parish ministries and even took over the editorship of the parish bulletin, The Carillon. The future of the parish again looked bright and promising. As an associate pastor, Fr. Schwartz gave his time and talents without reserve to the service of the people of the parish. He served until his retirement in May 1997.
An array of other events took place behind the scenes. The parish debt was paid off in 1993. The entire roof was replaced at a cost of nearly $100,000.00, without incurring additional debt. These achievements are a tribute to the generosity of the parishioners. In the meantime, the cyber age was blossoming. With hesitation and trepidation, the parish staff gingerly stepped into this new and cryptic epoch. Priests and staff eventually mastered computers after being dragged, screaming and kicking, into this mysterious new world.
A major contribution to the life of the parish was the establishment of the Parish Advisory Board. The original group of 12 board members worked hard and long to write a parish mission statement and the by-laws under which they would operate. Their function was to encourage, make suggestions, and advise the pastor. A Financial Committee was also established to plan budgets and assure the fiscal soundness of parish finances. A Liturgy Committee began, under the direction of Fr. Schwartz, to enrich parish worship.
Again, much of this is the account of physical things being done, but the true mission of any parish is the work of spreading the “Good News.” Many Ministries began and more responsibilities were properly given over to laity. These new ministries had to be nurtured just as one cares for a tender shoot.
HELP WANTED: ARE THERE ANY FORMER ST. JOHN PARISHIONERS OUT THERE WHO CAN FILL IN THE HISTORY OF THE PAST TWO DECADES? Please contact [email protected].
Former St. Ann pastor, Fr. William McFarlane came to us in 2018, after a brief stint at Nativity Church in Chicago. He was very happy to have a fenced yard for his three canine companions, Leo, Rita, and Dee, and they often accompanied him to the office.
In 2020, we found out that St. John would be going through the Renew My Church program in a grouping with our neighboring parishes of St. Ann in Lansing and St. James in Sauk Village. Representatives of all three parishes spent months assessing all of our strengths and weaknesses under the direction of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and it was ultimately announced that we would become a new parish with a new name together with the other two churches. July 1, 2021, St. John merged with St. James and St. Ann. St. John Church was permanently closed, with St. Ann and St. James remaining open as worship sites, and St. Ann hosting the administrative functions and parish records for all three former parishes. In October 2021, Cardinal Blaise Cupich determined that our new name would be All Souls Catholic Parish. He recognized that the name is truly Catholic, or universal, and includes all of the souls in heaven, in purgatory, and in hell, as well as all sainted, blessed, and venerable souls, thus making it truly inclusive of all.