Church of Saint Casimir

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Polka Mass at St. Casimir Reflects Older Polish-American Custom at Priest's First Mass

Saint Casimir Parish was established in 1892. Large companies and several railroads were arriving in the area, increasing the number of Poles in St. Paul. In 1888 they organized themselves into a society named from St. Casimir Prince. A committee was formed to collect funds for a church building. 

In 1890 three lots at the corner of Forest & Jessamine were purchased. Economic conditions prevented the beginning of construction until 1892. 

Rev. Henry Jazdzewski became pastor in 1892. The first building housed both a school on the ground floor (which opened in September of 1893 with an enrollment of 50) and a church on the upper floor. The building was blessed on November 27, 1892. The first mass was celebrated on December 3, 1892. The temporary rectory was at 924 East Jessamine.  

The next pastor was Rev. Roman Guzowski. In 1895 a new rectory was built at the corner of Forest and Geranium. 

Polish immigrants and other nationalities joined St. Casimir parish. The Franciscan Sisters, who were stationed in the parish mainly to teach in the parish school, lived in a convent at 1130 Forest.  

When Rev. Guzowski died suddenly in 1899, Rev. Casimir Koblylinski became pastor.  Several building projects were begun, including a convent in 1901 and a Romanesque church in 1903. The cornerstone was put into place in September 1904 and the structure was blessed on November 27, 1904 by Archbbishop John Ireland. The first mass in the new church was also celebrated that day.

From 1908-1987 the Felician Sisters served St. Casimir Parish. Their last year of teaching was the 1986-87 school year.   

Due to ill health, Rev Kobylinski returned to Poland in 1910. He was replaced by Fr. Paul Kupferschmidt, who was priest for three years until his death in 1913.  

Rev. Henry Jazdzewski was again appointed pastor. On March 4, 1916 he was in front of the Church hearing confessions at 6:00 pm when Aneila Dudek, a 38 year old Minneapolis woman, entered the church from the side door with her hands concealed in a muff.  She approached the priest and then aimed a .32 caliber revolver at his head, squeezed the trigger, hitting him just above the left eye. She fired four more shots, all of them unnecessary; the first bullet had been fatal. 

It was later learned that this was the third attempt Mrs. Dudek had made on the priest�s life. She had also filed three lawsuits against him, but lost all three. She claimed he had violated his vow of celibacy and that he was responsible for her youngest child. She was not brought to trial until her mental condition was evaluated, but the major consensus was that she was mentally and emotionally unstable. (No information is available on whether or not she was convicted of murder). 

Rev. Jazdzewski's funeral was held on March 9, 1916 at St. Adalbert's Church. No service could be held in St. Casimir since a house of worship violated by human bloodshed had to be re-consecrated by a bishop, and Bishop Ireland was in Europe at the time.  

The parish was without a pastor until April 15, 1916 when Rev. Andrew Stojer, OMI, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, was appointed. He stands out as the most dominant pastor in the parish�s history not only because of the length of his service (until 1955) but because of the developments in the Church during that time. He always took the Sunday collection himself that is, he collected the money in person, even in the Choir loft. His masses often lasted over 2 hours (oh, the good old days), and his sermons were delivered in both Polish and English. Fr. Stojar  arrival began the presence of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate presence as overseers of the parish, a relationship that lasts to this day. 

The parish silver Jubilee was celebrated on November 8, 1917. 

A new school was built in 1923. A Fall Festival lasting a week was held to raise funds for the building. The school was blessed on November 4, 1923 and had a capacity of 600 students.    

In 1929 land for a new convent was purchased and construction began the following year, with completion in 1932. 

During the 1920's the parish received its first assistant pastor, Fr. Kosian, OMI from Poland. The number of Polish immigrants to the area decreased after 1918 when Poland gained its independence.

In 1942 St. Casimir celebrated its Golden Jubilee. 

There was a setback in projects in 1945 when two young boys lighting candles were involved in a scuffle, causing a fire which nearly destroyed the organ and the altar. The Blessed Sacrament was rescued by Rev. John Maslowski, assistant pastor, and the vessels were rescued by the nuns. 

In June of 1955 Fr. Stojar collapsed twice while celebrating the mass but stumbled back to his feet both times. An ambulance was summoned, but he refused the stretcher and walked to the vehicle. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, but died shortly thereafter. 

Fr. John Maslowski, OMI was named pastor, and completed the building of the rectory begun under Fr. Stojar. There were plans to improve the church building in 1956, but Fr. Maslowski died suddenly in October of that year. The work was finished by Fr. Paul Grzesiak, OMI. In 1960 ground was broken for the new school addition (Geranium Street side). Rev. Paul Latusek, OMI became the pastor in 1962 with the mandate that he reduce the $400,000 debt of the parish. 

In 1969, Fr. Charles Sellars, OMI, became pastor and remained until 1972 when Fr. Robert Eimer, OMI, was appointed. During his tenure, the basement of the Church was redecorated to include a chapel and community room, with a new entrance on the west side of the Church. 

Fr. Wayne Like, OMI, Fr. Norman Pahl, OMI, and Fr. Tom Meyer, OMI were the pastors through 1990. 

Fr. John Ettensohn, OMI came to St. Casimir in July of 1989 as a Deacon, was ordained a priest in September and became pastor of the parish in 1990. The 100th anniversary of the parish was celebrated in 1992, shortly after the church was redecorated. No major improvements have been made to the church since that time.     

From 1992 to 2000, Frs. Pat Casey, OMI, and Martin Machovec served as pastors. Fr. Chester Cappucci, OMI served as the administrator of the parish for several months until June 2001 when Fr. Greg Gallagher, OMI, a native to the parish, returned to St. Casimir to become the pastor. Fr. Stanley Zowada, OMI, a recent arrival to the United States from Poland, and served as the associate pastor until August, 2003.

Since June 2001 the parish has made great strides in making our facility handicap accessible. An elevator project began April 8, 2003. Other capital improvements include tuck-pointing the steeples and placing copper shingles on the steeples. 

November 2004 was the 100th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church (building) 

Fr. Greg Gallagher, OMI made lots of improvements to the Church and School. Fr. Greg moved on to Belleville, IL in July of 2007 where he will be the Director for the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

Fr. Joseph Ferraioli, OMI arrived in July of 2007. He has 30+ years of parish experience and is a native of Massachusetts.  Fr. Joseph has moved to Chula Vista, CA for his new assignment.

Fr. William O'Donnell, OMI arrived at St. Casimir on August 10, 2011. He is now the current Pastor of St. Casimir and St. Patrick. His previous assignment was Administrative Assistant and Personnel Director for the Oblates in Washinton, DC. Fr. William O' Donnell, OMI left for Rome on June 4, 2013. He has made a smooth transition of the cluster parish communities and improved tenant communication, while he was here in St. Paul.

 Fr. Greg Cholewa, OMI will arrive July 27, 2013 as the new pastor of St. Casimir and St. Patrick. He has been teaching Math and Science for the last 24 years at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Chicago, IL. He was ordained at St. Casimir in 1976.

 

St Casimir Catholic Church
934 Geranium Avenue East
St Paul, MN 55106-2694
Phone: (651) 774-0365
fax: (651) 774-0508

email: office@stcasimirchurch.org

 

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