90 years ago, Father Daniel Murphy founded St. Cajetan Parish. He was given the task of establishing a parish in what was then the far reaches of Chicago, with only a few scattered Catholic families. The first Mass was celebrated on July 3rd 1927 in the assembly hall of the Western Avenue Public School. Only nine people were present. The parish was to build a Church for worship and a school to spread the sacred deposit of our cherished faith and Fr. Murphy was given very little money to begin.
In July 1927, a tiny prefabricated frame Church was set up at the corner of Artesian and 112th Street. The streets were not paved and there were no street lights or sidewalks. This is our humble beginning. From nothingness the parish leaders went to work on an intense fundraising and building campaign. We also remember that three years later the stock market crashed and the country entered into The Great Depression.
In 1932 Fr. Meade was assigned as the 2nd Pastor of St. Cajetan. He worked against all odds and succeeded in building a school and rectory, twice enlarged the tiny prefabricated Church and had found, for the Sinsinawa Dominicans who faithfully taught in our school, a place to live.
In 1943, Fr. Sharp was appointed as the 3rd Pastor of St. Cajetan. He enlarged the rectory and added three more classrooms. Ground was broken for a new Church and it was designed so that it could be used as a gym if the parish every outgrew the Church. During Fr. Sharp’s pastorate a convent was constructed, Memorial Hall and six additional classrooms were added, and the Church we worship in today was built and dedicated.
Father Schomburg built the new rectory in 1970 as the one the priests were living in was too small for the number of priests assigned to the parish. Fathers Boyle, Sivore, Burke, Maloney, and Barkemeyer all shepherded this community of faith building on the foundations laid by those who have gone before them. They improved and continue to build our community of faith.
In 2000, the Archdiocese launched the Millennium Campaign and all parishes were required to participate. The campaign was successful and with the proceeds Fr. Barkemeyer improved the physical plant by tuck-pointing the buildings, modernizing the boilers, installed new roofs on the Church and on one of the school buildings. In 2005, the interior of the nave of the Church was renovated with the installation of a new tile floor and new pews. St. Cajetan’s buildings were in excellent condition and ready to face the future.
In 2005, Fr. Frank A. Kurucz was appointed the 10th Pastor of St. Cajetan. A new grand piano was purchased for the Church to enhance our liturgies and in 2015 the sanctuary of the Church was renovated with a new altar, ambo, presider and deacon chairs, cantor stand, and a new crucifix. The new sanctuary invites worshipers to enter more prayerfully into the mystery of Christ.
In July of 2018, Fr. Steven G Dombrowski became the 11th pastor of St. Cajetan Parish. Fr. Steve will oversee the largest of the facility improvements funded by the “To Teach Who Christ Is” capital campaign. The summer of 2019 will see the installation of all new windows in the Lower Grade Center building. Additional improvements and upgrades are planned for the church, as well.
We should be grateful for the all the priests, sisters, deacons, and lay people who ministered to this community over the past 90 + years. We should be grateful to the faithful who sacrificed their time, talent, and treasure to form and built our great parish. This was no easy task during the depression and World War II.
However, we cannot live in the past, rejoicing in our glorious history. We must now embrace our future facing the challenges that our world sets before us.
It is by the grace of God that we have such a great history. It is also by the grace of God that we will have a glorious future.