A look at
Minonk's past
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by Barth Weistart

Prior to the opening of the Polish Catholic Church in Minonk, there had been some dissatisfaction within the Roman Catholic Church. A "nationalist" group had arisen that believed if one was from Poland they were Polish. A Polander could be Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant. The group believed that parish property should be essentially ethnic. When land was purchased for St. Stanislaus parish in Chicago the phrase, "The church is to be for the use of Poles" was added to the deed. The bishop denied the wording in the deed but approved the request for Chicago's first Polish Catholic Church. The bishop did not consecrate the church building for two years until the title was in his hands.

The second and largest group was the, "religionists" led by the clerics. The group believed that a Pole could only be Roman Catholic. A non-catholic even though he was born in Poland, was not a Pole. Keeping Poles Roman Catholic was first on their agenda. The clerics believed that church property should be held in the bishops name. Differences between the two groups persisted for several decades. Especially enduring was the question of who was to own the church property.

In July, 1908, the voices of those calling for a Polish bishop were heard when the Reverend Paul Rhode was ordained as a Roman Catholic bishop. Ownership of church property became a mute issue. The Poles had one of their own in whom they could title property and for the most part this satisfied the members.

St. Barbara's Polish church

Page 2

St. Barbara's Polish church was dedicated in Minonk in September, 1900 (see St. Barbara's Dedication ). This dedication was held eight years before the Polish bishop's ordination. It appears that supporters of both the "nationalists" and "religionists" views were represented at the dedication through the societies from St. Stanilaus and St. Bernardo and by the National Polish Society. Plans for the new Church became reality with the purchase of three lots at the south east corner of Ninth and Washington Streets. Title to the lots was transferred on November 15, 1899 from Josef and Catherine Jezinrski to "John L. Spalding Catholic Bishop of Peoria and to his successors in trust for the Polish St. Marys Congregation." It's interesting that the Bishop held the property in trust for the Congregation. Also, the name was changed between the first purchase of lots and the church dedication less than a year later. An additional six lots were purchased along Washington Street. Then on January 17, 1906, all of the property was transferred to "Rt. Rev. J.L. Spalding Bishop of Peoria, trustee for the use of St. Barbara Polish Catholic Church at Minonk." It would appear that use (and therefore control) of the Church was in the Bishops hands. Two years later ownership probably was a non-issue with the ordination of the Polish Bishop. The Church subsequently burnt down and on August 4, 1924 the lot was sold to Charles E. Sommers of Minonk.

Some of the early news stories about activities at the Polish Church were interesting not because of the ceremony but because of the people involved. Almost all had Polish names! They were familiar names at least to me. Some of the older generation will probably recall them also.

Charles Stypsock and Miss Nellie Kazenski
United in Wedlock.
Mr. Charles Stypsock and Miss Nellie Kazenski, two well-known young Polish residents of the city, were united in marriage at the Polish Catholic church at 9 o'clock yesterday morning in the presence of a large gathering of their friends. The bride was attended by her sister, Miss Stella, by Miss Bernice Greskoviak and Miss Pauline Kalinski, of Chicago. The groom's attendants were Mr. Joseph Greskoviak, Mr. Staney Moloniski and Mr. Joseph Milaczewski. Rev. Fr. Hand, of Rutland officiated. After the ceremony the bridal party proceeded to the home of the bride's father, Mr. Frank Kazenski, where a wedding breakfast was served. The wedding festivities were continued throughout the day and concluded with a dance at night. The News extends congratulations.
The Minonk News
May 2,1907

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Hey! The wedding breakfast sounds great to me but what does it mean when it says "the wedding festivities were continued throughout the day." Probably a lot of hymn singing and praying for the newlyweds, don't you think? After all they were Polish.

In the next news item notice that some of the last names were not Polish. The church must have become generally accepted or the Polish women were integrating into the population around about them.

Took First Communion.
The following took first communion on Saturday at St. Barbara's Polish Catholic church: Harry Greskoviak, Walter Knoll, Steve Stockski, Victor Kardys, Joseph Koshezak, Walter Glowacki, John Ingerski, Florence Hughes, Bernice Filipski, Etta Witoski, Josie Shultz, Agnes Golivas, Helen Ketchma.
The Minonk News
July 4, 1907

I was told that lumber from the Polish Church was used by some members in the building of their homes. This probably took place after the church sustained its destructive fire. Members of the church joined the Roman Catholic Church located on the corner of Maple and Sixth Streets. The transition seemed peaceful. The period when the Polish Church was operational undoubtedly provided the time necessary for the Polish people to better understand the English language being spoken in their adopted country. The need for a separate church where Polish was spoken became less important.