Like the flag of Poland, there was white and red. Blood was on the snow outside St. Hedwig church—and a bit of red pepper.
St. Hedwig parish had been founded in 1888 to serve Polish Catholics in Bucktown. The pastor was Rev. Joseph Barzynski. He was a member of a religious order—the Congregation of the Resurrection, or Resurrectionists.
Now, in the early months of 1895, the parish was engulfed in civil war. One faction supported the pastor. The other side had gathered around Rev. Anthony Kozlowski, the young assistant who’d recently arrived from Poland. Kozlowski was not a Resurrectionist.
Depending on which side you listened to, there were many reasons for the conflict. Was Kozlowski attempting a power-play to become pastor? Were the Resurrectionists too autocratic? Was someone stealing money from the St. Hedwig treasury? What role should lay people play in a parish? Who should hold title to parish property?
A majority of the parishioners backed Kozlowski. There were protests at Sunday Mass. The police placed guards at the church. On the evening of February 7, the situation turned violent.
About 3,000 people, mostly women, tried to storm the parish rectory. The pastor and his new assistant barricaded themselves inside. The police guard called for backup.
The crowd charged. They swung clubs, and tried to throw red pepper into the cops’ eyes. Gunshots were fired. A few people were injured. The police held the line.
The backup cops arrived and the crowd dispersed. A larger police detail was assigned to the property. Archbishop Feehan ordered the church temporarily shut down.
If the archbishop hoped the “time out” would cool tempers, he was wrong. More protests were staged. A new pastor was appointed and the church reopened. Kozlowski’s supporters got a court injunction blocking the action.
That summer Kozlowski founded All Saints parish a few blocks from St. Hedwig. About 1,000 families followed him, while 300 families remained at St. Hedwig. In response, Archbishop Feehan formally excommunicated Kozlowski.
The Kozlowski group affiliated with the Old Catholic Church (now known as the Polish National Catholic Church). This church has no connection with the Roman Catholic Church or the papacy. Kozlowski became a bishop. Today his congregation worships at All Saints Cathedral near Rosemont.
St. Hedwig eventually reopened as a Roman Catholic parish. Today the church continues to operate with a Resurrectionist pastor.