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429 Bellwood Avenue
About St. Simeon Catholic Church
St. Simeon Mission
The community of St. Simeon embraces unity for the sake of bringing people closer to God as part of a welcoming spiritual family, respecting each other's expression of God's love through the celebration of the sacraments and the strength of our ministries.
History of St. Simeon
Bellwood was originally a community of Catholics of Polish descent. With no church of their own, the faithful attended Mass either at Sacred Heart or Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Melrose Park or St. Domitilla in Hillside. In 1920 these first pioneers realized the need for their own church and set out to raise enough money to purchase two lots. In 1924 the 45 Polish Catholic families celebrated the construction of their first church which was known as St. Michael's Missionary Church in honor of St. Michael the Archangel. In 1929 the first resident pastor was appointed by His Eminence, George Cardinal Mundelein. With this appointment the parish was no longer a mission church; it was now a church with the new name of St. Simeon's.
Until 1943 the priests were required to rent their living and working quarters, and Rev. Walter Kozlowski, the pastor at that time, felt this situation need to be addressed. Land was purchased at Butterfield and Bohland Avenues where the construction of the first rectory began in 1945.
In 1949, under the direction of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Edward E. Plawinski, the first temporary school was opened to accommodate an enrollment of 106 students, with the Sisters of St. Joseph accepting the assignment to this new school. By 1951 construction was completed on the new facility which became one of the finest parish schools in the Chicago Archdiocese. Enrollment continued to grow and by 1953 there were 1800 families living in St. Simeon Parish. In 1958 construction began for a new convent to expand the living facilities for additional nuns needed to meet the increased school enrollment.
In 1962 a new parish, St. John Chrysostom, was established in the Bellwood/Berkley area. This resulted in 500 children and 800 families transferring from St. Simeon to St. John Chrysostom. While this move helped with the problem of overcrowding, it was difficult to lose those parishioners. To remain positive and look to the future with the New Liturgy, plans were made for a new church. When this second church was built in 1964, it was designed by Casimir Krajawski with a fan-shaped edifice of rich black and gold rippled Italian marble. A 22-foot high resurrected Christ rises above the altar which was designed by artist Odell Prather. She also designed the 2500 square foot stained glass windows at the rear of the church focusing on the corporal works of mercy, as well as the windows along the side walls. The bell tower extends 98 feet from the ground to the top, an impressive sight to behold. This second church of St. Simeon was completed in 1966.
Because of cultural changes and declining enrollment over the years, it became necessary to close the school and to sell the remaining properties of the convent and the first rectory. The church of St. Simeon remains strong and active with a community of both Hispanics and African-Americans.
On August 5, 2007, Father Kombo Livingstone Peshu was officially installed as the new Pastor of St. Simeon Parish with a bi-lingual Mass officiated by Bishop Thomas Paprocki.
About Our Patron Saint
Although not as well known as many saints, St. Simeon was the nephew both to St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, the second Bishop of Jerusalem, and a martyr. In the year 62 St. James the Lesser, first Bishop of Jerusalem and brother of St. Simeon was murdered in a campaign of persecution by the Jews against the Christians. Because of his experience in assisting his brother in the administration of the See, St. Simeon was chosen to be the new leader. An order had been given by the emperor that all who were of the family of David were to be put to death. After a number of years of escaping capture, Simeon was betrayed by a group of Jews and heretics and turned over to the Romans. The Roman Governor Atticus condemned Simeon to be tortured and executed for being both a Christian and of the family of David. Although he endured days of torture, Simeon was crucified and died in the year 107 - at the age of 120 - and after overseeing the affairs of the Church in Jerusalem for 43 years.