About the Parish

The History of the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish

One of the first problems which concerned Bishop Peter J. Muldoon when he became the first bishop of the Rockford Diocese was that of caring for foreign-born Catholics, many of whom did not as yet understand or speak the language of their new land. As with other nationalities, so it was with the Polish.
Father Julius Grzezinski, ordained for the diocese, came to Rockford late in 1909 to work among the Polish Catholics as a distinct group. For three months he worked here, gathering them together to attend a regular Sunday Mass of their own at St. James Pro-Cathedral.
The Polish population gradually increased and by 1911 it became evident that soon they would need a church of their own. In September of that year, Bishop Muldoon purchased two lots at the corner of Buckbee and Magnolia Streets. The following January 12, 1912, he called a meeting of the Polish Catholics in the hall of St. James School, at which he told them of his plans for their parish. Another meeting was held on January 21, to plan for the raising of the necessary funds. On February 4, he issued a letter advising that Joseph Bondick, Joseph Wisniewski and John Wilgiert had been appointed as members of a committee to collect funds for the new parish church. So enthusiastic was the fund raising effort that ground was broken for the church on April 6 and completed early in August that year.
On the Feast of the Assumption, the new church was dedicated by Bishop Muldoon. Three altars were donated by St. Patrick’s Parish in Amboy. The Catholic Women’s League donated the linens and St. Mary’s parish, Durand, presented the organ. A house, located on Magnolia Street, diagonally across from the church, was purchased in the spring of 1913 for use as a rectory. A parochial school was built in 1923 and classes began in 1924.
Father Julian Burzynski of Chicago became the first pastor of the parish on June 6, 1912, largely through the efforts of Bishop Muldoon. Father completed organization of the parish and also served as chaplain of St. Anthony Hospital. He served St. Stanislaus faithfully for over 15 years and died on November 15, 1927, after a short illness. Father Ladizlaus Jasinski was the next pastor and was assisted for two years by Father Joseph Rzeszotko, a newly ordained son of the parish. In 1931, failing health caused Father Jasinski to retire. Because of the scarcity of Polish Clergy, Bishop Hoban invited the Franciscan Conventual Fathers of Buffalo to administer the parish and Father Clemens Kacprzynski, O.F.M. Conv., was appointed pastor on May 24, 1931, to begin a long unbroken line of Franciscan priests to serve as pastors.
When the parish was established in 1912, the membership consisted of some 30 families. It had grown to 380 families. With this substantial growth, and the old church seating about 170 people, His Excellency Bishop Lane gave permission for the construction of a new church and rectory on May 26, 1959. Permission to tear down the old church was granted in July, 1960 and on April 23. 1961, Bishop Lane performed the blessing and laying of the cornerstone of the new church to be erected on the site of the original church. The present church seats 500 and the Friary adjoins the church on the east. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated Christmas Eve, 1961. School children of St. Stanislaus continued to attend classes until June, 1973, at which time the students of St. Stanislaus, St. Peter & Paul and St. Anthony were combined into one school system named St. Francis Consolidated School in honor of the teaching order of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, whose members staffed all three schools. Unfortunately, declining enrollment and rising financial obligations led to closing of the three-parish school system in 1985 and students were free to enroll in any parochial school of their choice. In order to teach and preserve our beloved Polish heritage, language and traditions the Nicholas Copernicus Polish Language School, founded on November 6, 1971, continues its operation to this day. Classes are held on Saturdays in the St. Stanislaus school building.
After 74 years, in August, 2005, St. Stanislaus changed from the Conventual Franciscans of the St. Bonaventure Provinces to the Conventual Franciscans of the St. Anthony of Padua and Blessed James of Strepa Province from Krakow, Poland. Father Peter Sarnicki was installed as the first pastor from this province.
Established by Father Denis Janicki, the first Polish Fest was held in August 1982. Under his leadership, the fest was such an enormous success that it has become an annual event. Dozens of dedicated parishioners have devoted untold hours to make this occasion the social highlight of the year for our parish, as well as, the Rockford, Illinois community.
The spiritual life of our parish has remained vibrant for one hundred years. Cherished traditions such as the Easter basket blessing (Święconka) and the Corpus Christi procession are reverently celebrated each year. As the tradition of devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus and Saint Faustina Kowalska continued to grow, Bishop Thomas J. Doran designated St. Stanislaus Kostka Church as the approved shrine in the Diocese of Rockford on 1993. Many of the faithful join our parish family each year for Divine Mercy Sunday, declared by our beloved Pope, John Paul II, to be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, 2011, Bishop Thomas G. Doran blessed the relief of Blessed Pope John Paul II. His first-class relic was dedicated the following year.
Through the generosity of our parishioners, this artistic rendition of the Holy Father is an endearing reminder of our Catholic Faith and expresses our devotion and gratitude for this Servant of God, the native son of our beloved Poland.
As we celebrate this centennial year, it is our hope and prayer that the generations to come will continue the good work of our Polish ancestors. Cherishing what has gone before, may they go forth with courage to build the future in the love and service of God.