Holy Family Church at 56405 Mayflower Road, South Bend, IN 46619-1517 US - About UsAbout Us
Holy Family Catholic Church has undoubtedly grown in the last 50 years. Yet, there is a timelessness about the surrounding area that seems to be reflected in the many children and grandchildren of the original members of this parish. Looking back upon 50 years of existence, keep in mind the faith and dedication to this parish and life in the South Bend area.
On Thursday, June 5, 1941, a meeting in the Ardmore School was brought to order by Father Aloysius Jarka, the pastor of St. Adalbert’s Parish in South Bend. This meeting was held under the direction of the Bishop, the Most Reverend John Francis Noll, for the purpose of establishing a new parish to serve the people of the nearby communities of Five Points, Ardmore, and Lydick. Thirty-four people were present at this meeting.
This was the third meeting of a small group of Catholic men who felt a parish was needed for this area. Catholics in this area had to attend Mass at Holy Cross, St. Stanislaus, Sacred Heart, or St. Adalbert in South Bend, or St. Stanislaus at Terre Coupe. At this meeting, Father Jarka explained that all services were to be in English, as this parish was to be for people of all nationalities.
The following trustees were appointed: John Galentine, John Lies, and Stanley Skovera from the Ardmore area, and Benny Soleta, Clem Lentych and John Papyczynski from the Five Points area. Leo Goepfrich was appointed secretary. John Frederick and Casimer Pytlak were named “collectors”. Mass would be celebrated alternately, two weeks at Ardmore and two weeks at Five Points (Woodrow Wilson School).
On Trinity Sunday, June 8th, the trustees and Father Jarka decided on the name “Holy Trinity” for the new mission parish.
In December, property on Fillmore Road west of Mayflower was purchased, and plans were made to erect a small building to be used as a church.
New problems soon developed. The United States had entered World War II, and food, goods, and materials, including building materials were scarce and rationed. Although the committee’s appeal to the Government for rationed materials was rejected, the members of this group continued to work for the new parish.
They set about raising funds with bingos, smokers, picnics, raffles, carnivals and bake sales. Most of these activities were held in the homes or on the properties of parishioners. Catechism classes were taught on Saturday mornings in the garage of Mr. Fred Bourbon in Ardmore, by the nuns from St. Adalbert’s . On May 23, 1943, twenty-nine children of the parish received their First Holy Communion. Father John Moskal officiated due to the illness of Father Jarka. The celebration took place in the Woodrow Wilson School auditorium.
The death of Father Jarka on September 20, 1943, was a blow to all who had worked so hard for the establishment of the new parish. However, Father Moskal assumed the position of director and work was continued with his assistance.
By September 10, 1944, the number of people attending Mass had increased to a point where it was necessary to have two Masses on Sunday.
In mid-December, 1944, four acres of land on Mayflower Road were purchased. Subsequent purchases of property adjoining the original four acres had now increased the Church property to approximately fifteen acres.
Ground was broken on January 14, 1945, by Monsignor Sabo. On February 28, 1945, Father Joseph Lesniak was appointed Pastor and would assume his new duties on March 28, 1945. On March 4, 1945, he announced that his office had been set up in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Achiel Matthys on Western Avenue. It was located approximately at what is now the northwest corner of Western Avenue and Summit Drive . On March 28th, digging of the basement for the church was finally started.
1953 Church Ground Breaking Blessing
1953 Church Ground breaking
1954 Trustees Left to Right -
Frank Deneve, Ed Jaworski, Jack Sumption, Joseph VanOverberghe, John Lies
Father Joseph Lesniak
First Pastor Residence
Rev. Edward Narcowich, son of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Narcowich, 480 Jackson Street, Gary, Indiana, attended Holy Angels Grade School and Bishop Noll High School. Father Narcowich began his studies for the priesthood at Sacred Heart Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. His philosophical and theological studies were completed at St. Meinrad Major Seminary, St. Meinard, Indiana. On May 1, 1954 Father Narcowich was ordained at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, Indiana and his first Mass was celebrated in his home parish, Holy Angels, Gary on May 3, 1953. Before coming to Holy Family Parish on August 27, 1954, Father Narcowich was assistant pastor of St. Bridget's Church, Hobart, Indiana.
The trustees purchased a Government surplus building which was located on Riverside Drive just south of Cleveland Road.It had been used by the National Youth Administration for the instruction of unemployed youths during the Great Depression. The building was moved to the Mayflower Road site and remodeled to become a house of worship and a residence and office for the pastor. Most of the work was done by the contractor, but many of the parishioners participated in finishing it. This new parish was composed of approximately forty families.
Because there were other churches in the area named Holy Trinity, mail for the Parish was being delayed by delivery to these churches, when it was addressed only as Holy Trinity Parish, South Bend, Indiana. On July 15, 1945, at special meetings of parishioners between masses, the parishioners voted to rename the parish “Holy Family”.
The first Sunday Mass as Holy Family Parish was celebrated in the basement of the new building on August 19, 1945. About this time, Father Lesniak obtained some used pews from another parish. These had to be refinished and repaired before they could be used. For Christmas, folding chairs were used. The refurbished pews were installed a short time later. New pews were not available until late 1947.
The first Mass on the main floor of the newly finished building was celebrated at midnight on Christmas Day, 1945.
On January 6, 1945, formation of an Ushers’ Club was proposed and began functioning shortly thereafter. Social functions were then held in the basement of the church. The entertainment committee ( the forerunner of the Social Club) which had been running most of the fundraisers, began having weekly bingo games on February 25, 1946.
Dedication of Holy Family Church took place on Ascension Thursday, May 30, 1946. Monsignor Sabo filled in for the Bishop. The Ladies’ and Young Ladies’ Societies prepared and served the banquet that followed the dedication.
Bazaars, picnics, carnivals and festivals became annual events as fund raisers. For the efforts of the dedicated and selfless people who worked on these projects, the parish owes a great debt of gratitude.
In 1947, the first mission took place under the direction of Father Angelinus, OFM. At this time the Holy Name Society was formed.
On January 25, 1949, the financial committee of the parish reported, “The parish was free of debt”.
With the continued growth of the Belleville area in South Bend, more and more families joined the parish. As the parish grew, so did the number of children of school age. Parents now began to lobby for a parochial school. The trustees and Father Lesniak met with His Excellency Bishop Noll and received permission to begin a subscription and campaign to pay for the school.
Permission was granted and work on this building began with ground breaking on September 27, 1953, and the contractor began construction the very next day. Dedication of this building took place on September 26, 1954.
On August 20, 1954, five Felician sisters arrived in South Bend and stayed at St. Adalbert’s. On August 23rd, they arrived at Holy Family School to stay, but the bedrooms were unfinished so they slept on Army cots for the first four nights. The sisters were Sister M. Adonia, Superior; Sister M. Marietta; Sister M. Firmina; Sister M. Bernice, organist; and Sister M. Francesca. School officially opened on Wednesday, September 8, 1954, with 250 children enrolled.
The basement was finished in the school to be used as the temporary church until funds and approval could be obtained to build a new church. Pews were moved from the old church to the new building. Both floors of the old building were then used as social halls and meeting areas.
By February of 1954, it was reported that the parish was “growing at a rate of one family per day”. In August, 1954, Rev. Edward Narcowich became the first resident associate pastor.
By 1957, because of crowded conditions in the school building (over 400 children now enrolled), plans were made to add six more classrooms. This addition was completed in October, 1957.
Because the parish had become so large, the basement of this new addition served not only as additional classrooms but also as a chapel for an additional mass on Sundays.
By October 22, 1965, the parish was again out of debt.
After 27 years of living in somewhat cramped quarters, Father Lesniak consented to the erection of a separate rectory. This building was completed in 1972. An open house was held on November 26, 1972.
Under the leadership of Father Lesniak, the parish continued to grow and flourish as many organizations were formed. His celebrations of ten, twenty-five, and forty years as a priest were events to remember, as parishioners and school children gathered to celebrate and perform for him.
Father Lesniak served the parish for twenty-nine years until his retirement at the age of seventy in 1974. During his pastorship, the parish grew to approximately eleven hundred families. Lenten services and Stations of the Cross were held every Wednesday and Friday during Lent. Forty Hour Devotions were also an annual event.
Father Lesniak died on September 22, 1986, and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Calumet City, Illinois. He is remembered with much love by those parishioners who knew him during his long pastorate at Holy Family Parish.
Upon the retirement of Father Lesniak in 1974, Father Thomas Depa became the pastor. Father Depa retired on January 28, 1977, and died on November 28, 1987. He was a great “people priest” and could often be found among the parishioners working on various projects.
Father Daniel Peil succeeded Father Depa as pastor in February, 1977. Under Father Peil, Holy Family became a “singing parish” as the congregation joined the choir in singing hymns at mass. He moved the altar forward and made room for a small chapel to be used when attendance at daily mass was small. The Parish Center was built during his pastorate, and he also encouraged the establishment of various societies and prayer groups such as the Legion of Mary and St. Vincent de Paul.
1980 Basement of Church - Father Daniel Peil
1980 Basement of Church - Father Daniel Peil
On September 8, 1985, he was assigned to St. Bernard parish in Wabash, Indiana. He retired in 1993 and died October 27, 1994.
He was succeeded by Father John Gillig in September, 1985. Father Gillig was succeeded by Monsignor Manoski as administrator in 1986. The present pastor, Father Bernard Galic came to Holy Family on July 22, 1986.
During Father Galic’s pastorate, Holy Family has become a truly spiritual parish. Father’s business and spiritual presence have brought Holy Family to a parish looking ahead to the future. Because of him, the school and religious activity is strong and continues to grow. In 1995 the people celebrated Father Galic's 25th anniversary of his ordination with an open house in the Parish Center.
The original church, later known as the parish hall was torn down in 1983. The shrine to Our Lady and Child, which stands at the corner of Mayflower and Western Avenue, was erected and dedicated on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1988.
North view of old church
Interior of old church
South view of old church