We all have various ideas of what “home” means to us. To me, part of that idea encompasses the notions of comfort, where we physically are located, what we put into our lives emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and where we have come from. And part of that notion also includes the idea that we can never really return “home.” Time moves forward, waiting for no man or for no reason. Yet we move on, claiming new places as home, placing into these locations people, ideas, and things that comfort and nourish us.
For me, a place that will always be considered “home” in my heart is St. Hyacinth’s parish. It’s a small parish to be sure, but it was one of the parishes built for and supported by the Polish community in Toledo. It’s history is nowhere near as grand or complex as that of say St. Hedwig’s, St. Anthony’s, or even St. Stanislaus in Toledo. Those were the original Polish parishes in Toledo. St. Hyacinth was actually a parish that developed due to the growth of second and third generation Polish Americans.
St. Hyacinth was formed in 1927 and its first Mass was said on Christmas Eve that year. It was sometime before 1930 that my father’s family moved into the parish and were one of the original families belonging to the parish. Originally, dad and his family lived on Woodstock; however, the Great Depression affected the family enough so that they lost the home on Woodstock. Eventually (I don’t know all of the details) they managed to purchase the property at 813 Evesham where my aunt and her husband remained for many years. This is where my grandparents had lived with Celia and Joe until each passed away. This property is immediately in back of the parking lot of St. Hyacinth’s elementary school.
Sometime in the 1950s, the parish outgrew its church building and instituted a fund raising drive where each parishioner who was employed donated $2 per Sunday to expand and re-build the church. Each parishioner promised to donate an additional $2 per week until his or her donations reached $300. Over 260 families contributed this amount, others exceeded it. The church was expanded to seat about 700 and was completed in 1960. As a child born during this period, I was one of the first baptized in the new church (although that really meant in the basement!–the story I’ve been told was that the baptismal font wasn’t complete yet). The church was dedicated later in 1960.
The church is amazingly beautiful with its modern architecture and stunning stained glass windows. It’s a simple design, but gorgeous! Some folks in the neighborhood have called it the “Jewel of the Boulevard.” I have no interior pictures of it handy–I’m sure I have some but these would need to be scanned. If I have a chance I’ll have to scan some. The interior is amazingly beautiful despite the fact it was not built with the traditional Gothic architecture of many of the Toledo parishes such as St. Anthony.
However, visit this blog: Catholic Architecture and History of Toledo, Ohio. Jeffery Smith has some stunning pictures of the church. In particular, see these photos he has of the stained glass windows and main altar.
A small bit of trivia: my sister was married in the church in October 1984. A beautiful wedding. However, a few hours after Mass was concluded and we completed the obligatory photo sessions, an arsonist torched the beautiful church in an attempt to cover up a robbery. Again, generous parishioners conducted a drive to collect funds to clean and restore the church after the sacristy, altar, and forward area of the interior were damaged.
You can’t miss the church as you drive down Parkside Boulevard. It’s about a mile or so from Calvary Cemetery, not far from the intersection of Parkside and Nebraska. Be sure to look for the windmills located at Scott Park. Drive towards the windmills and you’ll eventually reach the church as you come from Dorr Street.
I do have a photo of the exterior and a photo of the elementary school, taken last summer on quick trip. I would have stopped to see if I could enter; however, it was a hot July Saturday that I was photographing the cemetery and I was filthy and smelly and almost time for Saturday evening Mass. (Having mud caked on one’s knees and smelling like you’ve just rolled in a pile of it doesn’t make one feel comfortable in joining in for Saturday evening Mass, although dress restrictions have eased significantly over the years for Mass attendance!)
A special memory of the church is that it was served by Father Zygmunt Pitula, perhaps in the mid 1960s or so. Fr. Pitula was assigned to the Toledo Diocese through the years to particularly serve the Polish community–he was a native of Poznan, Poland and spent five years as a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp. A newspaper article published in the Toledo Blade on June 7, 1979 provides a small bit of his history. While the article doesn’t state it outright, Fr. Pitula had the honor of concelebrating Mass with Pope John Paul II. See article below.