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.
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.
Ambrose Sirca (1916-1919) succeeded Fr. Leo. He was a good speaker
and instituted the Holy Name Society that still functions today.
Placid Belavic, OFM was the third pastor at St. Jerome. Like his
name indicates, he was quiet, reserved man. He was pastor until
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Serafin Vistica, OFM was pastor for one year. Fr. Skoko was reappointed
in 1956 until 1958, Fr. Vitomir Naletilic was his assistant.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.