St. Jerome Croatian Catholic Church has its beginnings with a cry of the heart from the Croatian people. His Excellency J.E. Quigley, Archbishop of Chicago, realized the dire need of Croatians for spiritual guidance and sustenance. He requested the Holy See to send a Croatian priest to work among his people in Chicago.

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      Kardinal Stepinac Way
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      The Oldest Parishioner

This priest came in the man of Fr. Leo Medic, OFM. He was charged with the responsibility to form a new parish. He arrived in the U.S. in May 1912 and began immediately organizing his people, about 5,000 souls from Dalmatia, Banovina, Istria, Slavonia, Bosnia-Hercegovina. A church and rectory were purchased from German Protestants located on 25th near Wentworth Ave. On December 15, 1912, the Croatian Parish was blessed and opened its doors for public worship.

The beginnings of the church were fiery and controversial. A dispute concerning calling the Church Croatian or Dalmatian raged. Finally the Archbishop stepped in and proclaimed St. Jerome as a Croatian Church. Fr. Leo Medic's tenacity and fortitude overcame the obstacles that constituted the sad, stormy, yet promising beginnings of St. Jerome. Fr. Medic left St. Jerome August of 1916.

Fr. Ambrose Sirca (1916-1919) succeeded Fr. Leo. He was a good speaker and instituted the Holy Name Society that still functions today.

Fr. Placid Belavic, OFM was the third pastor at St. Jerome. Like his name indicates, he was quiet, reserved man. He was pastor until 1921.

Fr. Wenceslav Vukonic, OFM (1921-28) removed the original debt of the Church. He purchased the present Church and rectory from Swedish Lutherans. The move to the new place was on Decoration Day 1922. In the Fall of 1922, Adorers of the Precious Blood of Jesus arrived to teach in the school of four grades. The first eighth grade graduation was in 1927 with 13 graduates. Fr. Vukonic was a determined, fiery priest who left his mark on St. Jerome.

Fr. Blasé Jerkovic, OFM was the fifth pastor at St. Jerome. Fr. Blasé purchased new bells for the Church and renovated the buildings. Due to the economic situation of the Depression, not much could be accomplished in the way of physical and financial prosperity. However, societies flourished under Fr. Blasé's direction. The Third Order of St. Francis (1929), Young Ladies Society (1930), Altar Society (1931), Children of Mary (1930), and a championship basketball team were all instituted under his guidance.

Fr. Blasé's assistants were Fr. Gabro Cvitanovic, Fr. Ambrose Misetic, Fr. Anselm Sliskovic, Fr. Hugolinus Feysz, and Fr. Ferdinand Skoko. Bro. Aloysius Soldo was a member of the house staff.

Fr. Francis Cuturic, OFM succeeded Fr. Blasé as Pastor in 1936. He was known for his eloquent sermons and purchasing the hall on 28th & Princeton. He also reduced the debt of the parish. During his pastorate Fr. T. Pehar, Bonaventure Bilandic, Cornelius Ravlic were his assistants.

Fr. Ferdinand Skoko was Pastor from 1943-55. Because of the economic prosperity of the war years, the debt of the parish was cleared. After World War II, Catholic War Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary were formed under his pastorship. A new convent building was built and furnished in May 1953. Refacing of the Church was done in 1954. Assistants at this time were Charles Plese, Steve Raich, Berto Dragicevic, Marcellus Cabo, and Dominic Coric.

Fr. Serafin Vistica, OFM was pastor for one year. Fr. Skoko was reappointed in 1956 until 1958, Fr. Vitomir Naletilic was his assistant.

During Fr. Zvonko Mandurich's pastorate, he was faced with the deterioration of the school and hall. During his years, 1958-60, he saved money to tackle his problem.

Permission was granted by Cardinal Meyer in 1960 to build a new school. The old buildings were razed and the new school and hall was dedicated on September 24, 1961. Fr. Naletilic remained as pastor until 1965. Fr. Steve Raich, OFM was pastor from 1965-67 and was followed by Fr. Theodore Benkovic from 1967-69.

Fr. Marko Kozina was named Pastor on June 20, 1969. He led the Church through the changes of Vatican II. The sanctuary of the Church was renovated with a large Crucifix suspended from the ceiling with a black marble altar. Through his guidance he added a fully equipped kitchen for school and hall use. Fr. Mark is well known for his story-telling, down to earth homiletic style, and his quick wit. He left St. Jerome as he was voted superior of the Croatian Franciscan Fathers. His associates were Ivan Bradvica, Ante Cuvalo, and Dominic Coric.

Fr. Paul Maslach followed Fr. Mark. He endeared himself to the people with his easy going nature and willingness to work with people. Fr. Paul remodeled the rectory offices, made necessary changes for the kindergarten in the school, and placed new doors on the school. Fr. Leon Galic and Fr. Slavko Soldo were his associates.

Fr. Anthony Dukich became pastor in 1979. His gentle approach and kind words helped many parishioners. Under his administration, new doors with the Croatian Cross were placed on the Church, rooms were remodeled in the convent, and the Church underwent a new coat of paint. Fr Joe Cuic & Fr. Ljubo Krasic served as associates.

In 1982-85, Fr. Jerome Kucan became pastor of St. Jerome Croatian Catholic Church. He was known as being fair and social, and he continued with the necessary remodeling. He was also known for his sermons on the Church dogmas. Fr. Jerome was instrumental in receiving a statue of St. Leopold Amndic for the Church. The same year, Fr. Hrvoslav Ban (1982-1992), arrived as associate pastor. He was especially dedicated to the Croatian school, since he organized the Christmas and Mother's Day programs. His other responsibilities were preparing the "Catholic Messenger" (1986-1992) and the "Croatian Calender" (1987-1992). In 1985, the keepsake book dedicated to Kardinal Stepinac, was published with the help of Fr. Ban and the teachers and school board. The book is quite valuable, since it has over 70 photographs of students of 1984/85, with their quotes about what it meant for them to be students of the Croatian school.

In 1985, Fr. Matthew Ruyechan was appointed pastor. He was very close to his parishoners, especially the youth, because of his big heart and loving ways. Together with the associate pastor, Fr. Hrvoslav Ban, and the sisters, they prepared for the 75th anniversary of the parish in 1987. A keepsake book was published with photographs and information about the parish and its members since its founding. In 1992, the associate pastor Fr. Ban moved back to his beloved Croatia, and the associate pastors that followed him were Fr. Veselko Kvesic (1992), Fr. Miro Grubisic (1993-1994) and Fr. Marko Kozina (1994-1996). In 1995, Fr. Matthew took over as pastor at St Anthony's church in Sharon, Pennsylvania and Fr. Zvonimir Kutlesa became the new pastor until 1997. Upon his arrival, he brought his vast experience of remodeling the church facilities and most of the work is now complete.

In 1996, Fr. Jozo Grbes, the young theologian, became associate pastor. He is well-known for his great energy and powerful homilies. In 1997, Fr. Jozo Grubisic became pastor and Fr. Zvonimir went to serve in Kitchener, Canada. The great task of remodeling the church awaited the two Fr. Jozos and the whole parish community. The plans were approved by the archdiocese and the work is almost totally completed. The work officially began in the summer of 1997; the old stone was replaced by new, white stone, and a new bell tower was erected. Above the center door the following was engraved: "St. Jerome Croatian R.C. Parish".

Many special events have taken place in this short amount of time of the arrival of the two Fr. Jozos. In Septemer of 1997, Fr. Jozo Zovko, from Medugorje, held a three-day retreat which culminated with the grand opening and blessing of the statue of Our Lady of Medugorje, which stands in the grotto between the school and convent. Other special events were the organization of a concert where guests from Samobor, Croatia put on a wonderful performance, the promotion of newly-released books written by parishoners, a banquet and short program commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Cardinal Alojzija Stepinac, where Monsignor Juraj Batelja and Bishop Franjo Komarica from Zagreb honored the parish with their powerful presence for this special occassion.

As of 1997, the parish had a total of 1,050 parishoners. There were 168 students in the 8-grade grammar school, and the Croatian school had 50 students with 5 teachers. Fr. Jozo Grbes is the director of the Croatian school and Dusko Kraljevic is the current president. The parish grammar school has two nuns who teach and they are members of the Adorers of the Precious Blood, and the principal is a lay person. Besides the various groups who are traditionally associated with St. Jerome parish, there are 8 parish groups: Holy name Society, St. Jerome's Auxiliary, The Altar and Rosary Group, Mary's Society, The dance and tamburica group "Kardianl Stepinac", Catholic War Veterans, and two church choirs, one lead by Joseph Cepuran and the other by Mary Helen Ratkovic. The church bulletin is printed weekly in both Croatian and English. The first three pages contain parish information and the last page is various advertisements.

St. Jerome parish has published many keepsake books for the various anniversaries of the church and school, as well as books about the parish on an annual basis. It has been said that the most influential keepsake book was released in 1932 by pastor Blaz Jerkovic because it contained a wealth of information as well as wonderful photographs. The most important thing, though, is that the parish and its members continue with the great deeds for which they are known.

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