About Our Parish

St. Hedwig Parish, founded in 1877, is the mother parish of the Polish Catholic immigration that hit the South Bend area around the turn of the 19th Century. These immigrants desperately sought "bread and freedom!" They found both. They also learned that it takes deep faith and hard work.

Immigrants to the United States were mostly peasant farmers fleeing Poland following the failed 1863 uprising agaist the Russian Empire. They initially worshipped at St. Patrick that had been founded a few years earlier.

St Hedwig parishioners first established an elementary school (1877-1967), then a secondary school (1928-1935) as St. Hedwig High School; 1936-1953 as South Bend Catholic High School (which then evolved into the regional St. Joseph High School).

For the adults, innumerable organizations then followed- societies, fraternities, prayer groups- for mutual support in time of need, fund raising for the needs of the community, and devotional life to sustain them. The parish provided a profound sense of belonging- an identity, in an often nameless and brutal manufacturing economy with its cycles of boom and bust.

With the appointment of the first Pastor in 1877, parishioners- mostly factory workers at Oliver's, Singer's or Studebaker's- quickly constructed a wood-frame church on Monroe Street. This building was demolished by a windstorm in 1879. The present brick edifice was begun in 1881 and dedicated on April 8 1883. It has been embellished and refurnished several times with significant interior and exterior renovations, most recently in 1989 and 1998.

Other buildings were eventually added including a Rectory (1884), a three story brick school building (1896) and a two story Sisters' Convent (1930). Only the Church and the rectort remain. The present St. Hedwig Memorial Center was built in phases beginning in 1968.

Most notable are the vibrant stain glass windows depicting the Annunciation, Nativity, Jesus in the Temple, Jesus and the Children, Sermon on the Mount, the storm at sea, the healing of the daughter of Jairus and the young boy from demons, the Resurrection, the call of Peter to be Head of the Church, Pentecost and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There is artwork in the sactuary dome, the vestibule windows, the ceiling and in the loft. A painting of the Patroness, St Hedwig, Princess of Silesia, adorns the back wall of the choir.

The vestibule displays the nine former pastors of St. Hedwig- priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross until 1964- Revs. Walenty Czyzewski (1877-1913), Anthony Zubowicz (1913-1925), Stanislaus Gruza (1925-1934 and 1940-1946), Francis Luzny (1934-1940), Boleslaus Sztucko (1946-19640; and then priests of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: John Jakubielski (1964-1972), Matthew Sienkiewicz (1972-1986 d. 2014), Matthew Kafka (1986), Daryl Rybicki (1986- 1995), Leonard Chrobot (1995-2013, d.2014) and Cyril Fernandes (2013-)



Photograph courtesy of
Stephen Brown 2012