Civil War at St. Hedwig (2-9-1895)

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?

The original St. Hedwig's Church

The original St. Hedwig’s Church

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.

Anthony Kozlowski (far left, standing) as a bishop, 1900

Anthony Kozlowski (far left, standing) as a bishop, 1900

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.



4 Responses to “Civil War at St. Hedwig (2-9-1895)”

  1. 1 benson February 9, 2016 at 11:03 am

    John, very interesting post. A close family friend was the long time organist at the Polish National Catholic church.

    Also,a question. I don’t know if you know anymore about the second photograph (with the clergy). It appears the two clergy on the far right are Orthodox, based on their head gear and the facial hair. Just curious if there’s more information with that photo.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt February 9, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Yes, those two clergymen are Orthodox. The occasion was the installation of an Anglican bishop, and bishops from various other Christian denominations (including Kozlowski) attended the event. I included the picture because it was the only photo of Kozlowski available to me.

      • 3 Isa Almisry August 3, 2016 at 7:56 pm

        Actually, all three were Orthodox clergy, and now glorified as canonized saints.

        To the far right is St. Tikhon, at the time the Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and North America. He returned to Russia and was elected the first Patriarch of Moscow in two centuries, and was martyred as a confessor by the Bolsheviks.

        Next to the left is St. Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovich, the first native born (he mother went into labor as their immigrant ship was sailing into San Francisco Bay) Orthodox priest in North American of European descent. He was intended to be consecrated as the first Serbian bishop in North America, but returned to serve as a chaplain to the Serbian armies in WWI, and stayed on serving the Patriarchate of Serbia in Yugoslavia.

        Next is the clean shaven St. Fr. John Kochurov, who returned to Russia and was martyred as the first neo-martyr of the Bolshevik yoke. His great-grandson Igor (most Orthodox priests are married) was in seminary when his ancestor was canonized in a newly freed Russia.

        All three were pivotal figures in the establishment of Orthodoxy in North America.

  2. 4 Evan February 10, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for sharing, John. I am a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church, which now owns the “white cathedral” build by the All Saints congregation. Understanding more of the history of the churches and the neighborhood is very interesting.

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