Skip to main content

St. Joseph's Church, Joliet Illinois

1891-1916 Silver Jubilee Souvenir Book, Part 2

Copyright © 1997 Slovenian Genealogy Society, all rights reseved

Note: This booklet was published early in the 20th century - about 1916 - in America and in the Slovenian language. Volunteers for the Slovenian Genealogy Society International completed this translation (including the ads) in 1997.

There are other Slovenian books with important genealogy information in them awaiting translation. The SGS requests assistance from interested persons that are bi-lingual in Slovenian and English to help further our efforts to share the Slovenian-American heritage with our members and other Slovene record searchers on the world wide web. If you think can help, please write to SGS President Al Peterlin at 52 Old Farm Road, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 17011-2604.

Chapter One

Slovene Parish of St. Joseph was established on May 17, 1673 the Canadian government ordered Louis Joliet to look over the river Mississippi, the father of the rivers. He was joined by the Jesuit Jacob Marquette who was familiar with six Indian dialects and could preach, he wanted to visit the Indians living in Illinois. On their journey they found a nice piece of land and decided to found a settlement, which got the name Joliet, in 1837 it was incorporated. There was some unrest between the white population and the Indians. The charter was revoked in 1841. Soon more settlers came, they were of different nationalities and religions.

We traced the Catholic population as far as in 1837, the first Catholic mass was celebrated in 1838, it was celebrated by Bishop Vincennes Simon Brute who was ordained in 1834, died very young five years later. In 1835 the priest Du Ponavice was on his way to Joliet, but it was Rev. Francis Zaverius Plunkett who built a little wooden church, it was St. George's Church. He met a tragic death when he was riding a horse in a snowstorm, he was on his way to a sick person. As the wind blew straight into his face, he bowed his head but struck a branch of a tree and this was fatal. It happened March 14, 1840. He was succeeded by Du Pontavice. In 1844 Rev. John Ingoldsby came to Joliet.

In 1850 he was succeeded by Rev. Hamiltton who built the present St. Parick's Church near the former St. George's Church. St. George's Church was the first church in Joliet, and it was frequented by Catholics of all nationalities. Rev. Regal was French and contacted the Germans who started to build their own church which was finished in 1892: Slovenes started to go to the German church. At Easter Rev. Solnce would come from St. Paul and hear confessions. 

But the Germans did not welcome the Slovenes. At the time when Rev. Cyprian, OFM was the pastor of the German Church the Slovenes started to make plans for their own church. Two years before Rev. Sustersic came they had a meeting at John Zupancic's home at 1109 N. Chicago St. A temporary committee was elected, John Zupancic president, Steve Stanfel secretary and Anton Golobic members. They started to collect money, the very first month they collected $800. But it came to a stop since they could not get a priest. Peter Rogina, Jacob Cesar and Frank Schwab went to see what the situation was like. 

The first plan was to build the church on the East Jackson Street, at least they decided to build the church on the place of the present parish house, 810 N. Chicago. They collected $1,300, but $450 more were needed to start the construction. The committee offered their own funds, Rev. Solonce helped out. In the morning he would hear confession on the first floor of the Irish church of St. Mary. In the afternoon there was a meeting in Wener's Hall. The following committee was elected, Marcus Krakar president, Joseph Dukel treasurer, Anton Golobic secretary. 

Rev. Solnce went to Europe to get a Slovene priest, he knew a hard working Chaplin in his village Smlednik, he wanted to take the young man with him to America. May 12, 1891 Joliet got the Slovene priest, Rev. F. S. Sustersic. He started to work immediately , he would celebrate mass in the German church at the altar, made by Anton Nemanich, his altar "boy" was Anton Golobic who folded the altar after mass. In the German school they had the meeting where it was decided what the Slovene church should be like. The very first Sunday Rev. Sustersic spent in Joliet he baptized a baby, Mary Bluth, daughter of Jacob and Maria Bluth, nee Bernik, they live in Montana now. The corner stone was blessed July 19, 1891 by the Abbott Rt. Rev. Nepomuk Jaeger, OSB from Lisle, Illinois. Many people came to this festivity, especially Polish and Croatians who wanted to join the Slovenes. 

The corner stone could still be seen, it's on the south-east corner of the parish house. Marcus Krakar donated stone for the construction, the carpenter Jacob Malaric was guiding the work, he was the first Slovene to be married in the Slovene parish on May 25, he married Catherine Kocevar , but at the same time there was the first funeral, too, a ten month old baby girl Marija Legan died and buried on August 6. The construction work progressed nicely, the collection was satisfactory, the building was finished in 3 months. The construction was made out of cut stone, 90 ft. The construction was made out of cut stone, 90 ft. long and 52 ft. wide with gas light, it was St. Joseph's Church, since St. Joseph's Society was the oldest society in Joliet and they purchased St. Joseph statue for the main altar, the statues was imported from Paris, France.

Slovene women purchased a precious altar cloth, Messrs Jacob Bluth and Steven Stanfel purchased the priest's gown for $50, the mass book was purchased by Jacob Bluth who lives in Montana now, the first chalice was purchased by Joseph Stuket. The Slovenes from communities sent money to help out the Slovene parish. Micael Butala from Sugar Creek (Brown's Station), Iowa sent $800, St. Joseph's Society #2 KSKJ purchased and donated the monstrance, Mary Stonich and many other parishioners donated many articles, necessary in the church, Rev.Sustersic spent all his moneys. Many parishioners requested that donation should not be announced in the church, many of the parishioners who assisted the first construction are still among us, those pioneers should be an example to future generations.

Slovaks helped out too, they donated the statue of St.Cyrilus and Methodius, October 18 the church was blessed. St. Martin's Society, now St. Stpehen's from Chicago, came to festivities. They were welcomed by the band, directed by Mr. Kresal. The Marshall from Chicago came to a fast agreement with the Marshalls from Joliet, Anton Nemanich and Steve Stanfel, all were riding the white horses and guiding the parade. It was a festive scene, one which hasn't been experienced in Joliet yet. The Czech Knights prepared a special show with scepters, it was a difficult task because of the noise, music, bands. At the entrance the Czech Knights were lined up at each side of the side walk, and representatives of the local societies were the first to enter the church, followed by the Abbott Bernard Locniskar in the bishop's ornate, the parish priest F. Sustersic.

J. Molitor, a Czech priest from Chicago, F. Ciprian, OSF, and Fr. Managan, the Irish priest from Joliet. There was a procession round the church as well in the church, followed by litanies in Latin, the guest speaker was the Abbott who spoke in Slovene and mentioned how important the new church was for the Slovene population, Rev. Sustersic, assisted by Fr. Ciprian and Fr. Molitor celebrated the mass, during the mass there were sermons in other languages, and the end of the mass was round one p. m. At 4 p. m. there was the benediction which marked the end of the festivities. 

Soon a harmonium found its place in the church, the first organist was Mrs. Kraker, but the first steady organist was Frank Bernik who held this job till 1894, followed by A. Grcar who played organ for ten years. The very same year two side altars were added in the church, a donation from J. Zupancic who donated two big angles for the main altar, Steve Stukel donated The Blessed Heart, the above mentioned statue of Virgin Mary still decorates the main altar. Step by step new decorations were added, but the walls were still empty. Many families as well as single men promised to donate the Stations of The Cross which was blessed February 28, 1892. 

But the Slovene immigrants missed the bells, they were used to listen to bells ringing in their native land. They started donations and organized a party to collect some money. In no time they collected a nice sum, the names of those who donated at least $10 are inscribed on the bells, the larger bell who was named after St. Joseph has got the following names.

St. Joseph's Society, Joseph Pezdirc, Joseph Stukelj, Mathias Puhek, Anton Goloic, Martin Kapsch, Peter Jurjevcic, Jacob Kren, Jacob Zeljko, John Vranicar; the middle bells are St. George's bell, the following names are to be read, St. George's Society (more accurate St. George's Knights), Anton Nemanic, Jacob Bluth, Steve Stanfel, Steve Kukar, Metthew Bradeska, the little one is Santa Maria's bell; the bells are the work of Stucksteder Smelt in St. Louis, they are tuned to F-A-C, their weight 3,000 lbs., the price $800. 

They were blessed on Sunday November 23, 1892 with great festivities, next day they were pulled into the tower, from that moment the bells invited the people to the mass, prayers, they would bid farewell to the parishioners who passed away, and they would announce the pleasant moments at holidays. They were hung the same way the bells in the native Slovenia were hung, on holidays it's nice to listen to chiming. But there were big tasks to be performed, the parish has neither a school or cemetery, the dead ones were buried either on the Irish or German cemetery, but they asked a high price, the Germans at last refuse to bury the Slovenes since they were afraid the Slovenes might take over the cemetery. 

So the parishioners started to make plans, at the same time they started to make plans for the parish school. At the opening of the church there were only 12 school children of Slovene parentage, on Saturdays Fr. Sustersic would teach Slovene children how to read and write in 
Slovene, on Sundays he would offer religious instructions, on weekdays they attended either English or German school.

But many Slovene families moved to Joliet since they heard of the Slovene church, so the number of school children increased. Plans were made, some money was collected, but at the same time depression started, soon after the World Fair in Chicago. Plants would close, many workers lost the jobs, factories in Joliet were closed for 18 months. All savings were gone, and it was impossible to make plans how to purchase land for the new school building. There was no doubt that the Slovenes would help. 

As soon as the factories were open again, the collection increased. In spring of 1895, 5 acres were purchased, two miles on the west side two miles from a village hall, the blessing of the cross erected by M. Stukelj took place May 26, representatives of all four societies, St. Joseph's, St. George's Knights, St. Cyrillus and Methodius and St. John's The Baptist were marching through the town toward the new lot, everybody liked the place with a nice big quilled cross in the center, the lot was $1,500, the fence, the cross, landscaping-$500, soon the parishioners started to collect money for the purchase of the land for the future cemetery.

In September of the same year the new school building was erected and was opened on October 2, 1895, this was one story building, 60 ft. long, 30 ft. wide, there was running water in the building, the cost $3,000. At the opening 64 children were enrolled into the new school, two sisters from St. Francis Order were teaching, singing was introduced by the church organist. 

Soon altar boys were trained, Sister Ferdinanda thought Joseph Stukel who read on Palm Sunday Christ's sufferings in Slovene while the priest was reading it in Latin, at the very beginning John Pezdirc had this task. Next year, in 1896 the parishioners donated a new organ, manufactured by Story And Clark in Chicago, they had 24 registers, the price $475, the very same year the newly ordained priest Rev. M. Savs celebrated his first mass.

In 1879 the bishops of Chicago promised to hold confirmation. The church was repainted at the cost of $200. But on April 28 it was raining cats and dogs so all outdoor festivities had to be canceled. That day 24 Slovene children were confirmed, since in those days it was not customary that the children at a tender age would receive the first communion. At the beginning of the church construction there were 73 families, soon there were more than 200 families in the parish, on May 24, 1897 they purchased a lot, 165 ft. long and 66 ft. wide at the cost of $1,200, it was situated near the church and school. 

June 20, 1897 Rev. John Plevnik, newly ordained, celebrated the mass, in 1898 the parish house was built, the church got an addition, the second floor. The old parish house was not suitable for a dwelling, that's why they decided to build a new parish house, the builder Charles Wallace from Joliet made the plans, the new parish house was built on the corner of Chicago and 
Clay Street, it had two floors, 12 rooms including the kitchen, the cost without the furnishings was $4,000, it was furnished with modern furnishings, and was dedicated on October 16, 1898, soon the new school was built and dedicated. 

At the beginnings, the sisters, teachers were walking about 15 minutes to their dwellings. But soon a sister's house was erected, a nice playground was the pride of the parishioners, and the pleasure of the school children, all improvement were done at the price of $4,000. At Christmas 1900 the church got a wonderful manger, no church in Joliet had one so wonderful and huge. It was a donation of St. Joseph's Society. The novena was held in 1907 from March 17-25 under the guidance of Rev. F. X. Bajec from Fairfax, Minnesota.