Remarks and photos from the Inauguration Celebration on September 17th, 2023
In the 1880s, over 200,000 Slovaks embarked on a journey to the United States. Poverty, job scarcity, and national oppression in their homeland fueled their pursuit of a better life. Most settled in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, working in mines, steel mills, and railroad construction.
Their parishes played a central role in their lives, witnessing an incredible development. An impressive 250 associations and communities emerged, all dedicated to preserving faith, customs, and the unique Slovak identity.
In 1882, under the guidance of Father Stefan Furdek, these associations began to merge, resulting in the formation of the "First Catholic Slovak Unity" and the "Slovak League." As the community grew, the "First Catholic Women's Unity," led by Anna Hurbanova was founded. This organization, with a focus on social welfare, thrives to this day. Furdek also established the enduring "Jednota" journal, which is still published today. His influence extended to the construction of numerous Catholic churches and schools, leaving behind a lasting legacy.
The settlers ventured to other U.S. states, eventually establishing a settlement in Streator, Illinois. The community witnessed a historic milestone in 1885 when they constructed the first Slovak Catholic school in the United States.
In Chicago, a total of nine Catholic churches were built leading up to the last inaugural Mass in 1926 at St. Simon the Apostle. Since then, Slovak families, including many of us here today became members of the parish and received sacraments.
As time passed, the majority of Slovaks gradually moved to the suburbs of Chicago, choosing to attend parishes nearer to their homes, which led to a decline in our community's presence within the parish.
In 2012, the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul graciously sent Father Kristian Libant to Chicago. During his time here, he served as our spiritual leader for a period of three years. Under his guidance, a considerable number of Slovaks began attending
St. Simon the Apostle once again.
After Father Kristian Libant's departure, most Slovak Catholics relocated to the Czech Catholic Mission in Brookfield, IL. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to Monsignor Dusan Hladik, who tirelessly organized the arrival of a Slovak priest. Despite the slow and demanding process, it proved to be a successful endeavor, and our gratitude towards him knows no bounds.
But the story does not end there, which brings me to why we are all here today.
Four years ago, we welcomed Father Stanislav Bindas, a member of the Congregation
of the Mission of St. Vincent De Pauls, Slovak Province, who carried a vision to establish a Slovak spiritual and cultural center.
As we recount a remarkable journey, one that has spanned four transformative years. It's a journey filled with our collective prayers, hard work, fundraising, and extensive search for the right place to fulfill our mission. In these last few weeks, something truly extraordinary happened. Our community members and dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly, day and night, giving their all to bring us to this very moment.
With hearts full of gratitude to God, we gather as a united community, bound by our shared faith and purpose. Today, we celebrate the inaugural Mass, as well as, the unveiling of our spiritual and cultural center. This center is more than a building; it is a living testament
to our continuous devotion and a tribute to our beloved patroness, our Lady of Sorrows.
This journey has been nothing short of amazing, and it's a representation of our collective spirit. As we move forward, let's carry this spirit with us, knowing that our efforts have brought us to this important moment. Together, we'll continue to walk the path of faith, hope, and unity, guided by the light of our shared purpose.
Thank you all for being a part of this incredible journey, and may God's blessings be with us as we step into this new chapter.