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OUR CZECH HERITAGE AND HISTORY

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(Church photos courtesy of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library...NCSML.)
 

click here for tour of the church

click here for Gazette article on dedication of the church- Oct 5, 1905 
 
 

History of St. Wenceslaus
Catholic Church, Grade School, High School
1224 5th Street SE 
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401-2697

St. Wenceslaus was founded in 1874 with the original church, since demolished, being built in 1882. A grade school, demolished in 1988, was added in 1893. The current church was built in 1904 and the current rectory in 1910. A high school building was opened in 1921 with the gymnasium and auditorium being added in 1926. In 1926 the high school became the first Czech parish high school in the United States to be fully accredited. The high school closed in 1958; the grade school closed in 1969. St. Wenceslaus is designated a National Czech parish, meaning that any Catholic of Czech origin can, regardless of parish boundaries, be a member of the parish.

Our Community

Dual Communities

St. Wenceslaus High School was part of two overlapping and corresponding communities. First, it was part of the Cedar Rapids south side neighborhood - a collection of churches, schools, family homes, small businesses and large industrial sites. Secondly, it was an integral part of the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Parish.

The Neighborhood - People

The neighborhood around the St. Wenceslaus Parish campus was originally settled by Czechoslovaks (or Bohemians) who began to arrive in Cedar Rapids in the early 1850’s. Even greater numbers arrived after the Civil War and the end of the Prussian War in Austria in 1880. By the end of the century, Bohemians had become well represented in elected positions in local government and the city’s bustling economy. Initially they populated the city’s south side neighborhood east of the Cedar River but later also populated the west side directly across the river. Eventually hundreds of homes were built.

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The Neighborhood - Livelihood

The Bohemians worked in nearby businesses, small factories, and larger industrial sites such as the J. G. Cherry Company, the Carmody Foundry and the Sinclair Company meat packing plant. As the population grew, many of the Bohemians opened their small businesses, often in the lower level of a building while they and their family resided in the upper level. The properties were well kept, and usually included flower gardens and vegetable patches. A bank was established with the primary purpose of providing mortgage loans to the Bohemian population. A bridge was constructed to connect the east and west sides of the river. And a streetcar line was run to connect the Bohemian neighborhood to the main Cedar Rapids business district to the north.

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The Neighborhood - Social Institutions

Bohemian social institutions were established and grew along with the population. The immediate neighborhood was home for the Czecho-Slovak Protective Society (CSPS), the Western Bohemian Fraternal Association (ZCBJ), and a Czech Language School. The buildings housing these organizations still exist in the southeast side neighborhood. although they have been converted to different uses. Several Bohemian churches were established. The St. Wenceslaus Bohemian Catholic Church was the first and the largest.

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The Parish - Beginnings

In 1874, the St. Wenceslaus Bohemian Catholic Parish was established and a church built. The parish started slowly, with sixty families at first. But within three decades, it had grown to 1200 parishioners. In 1904, a substantial new church was built to replace the old structure which was later torn down. In 1879, a house for the pastor was added; it was replaced with the current structure in 1910. 

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The Parish - Schools

In 1894, a school was built to provide elementary education for the youth of the parish. In 1922, rooms were added to the elementary building to provide housing for the Sisters of Mercy who were teaching there and to provide room for high school classes. In 1926, the high school building was built on the site of the original church and classes were held there that year. The high school was closed in 1958. The elementary school continued on for several years. In 1968, grades seven and eight were dropped and in 1969 the entire elementary school was closed. 

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The Parish - Today

The elementary school has since been torn down but the other three buildings are still in use today. The 1904 church is active for regular religious services. The rectory serves as a business office for the parish. The high school building is used for various meetings and social events. The parish is designated as a National Czech parish, meaning that the usual parish boundaries are opened to all Catholics of Bohemian origin regardless of where they reside.


PASTORS


1874-1889
1889-1891
1891-1899
1899
1899-1900
1900-1920
1920-1945
1945-1946
1946-1968
1968-1977 
1977-1983
1983-1985
1985-1990
1990-1992
1992-2005
2005-2006
2006-2008

2008-present
Rev.Francis Chmelar
Rev. John Broz
Rev. Francis Kopecky
Rev. Vaclav Koerner
Rev. Frank Vrba
Rev. Florian Svrdlik
Rev. August Vojacek
Rev. Msgr. Wenceslaus Hradecky
Rev. Msgr. Anthony Chihak
Rev. Clarence Frana
Rev. Louis Trzil
Rev. John Kissling
Rev. Clarence Frana
Rev. Harry Koelker
Rev. Msgr. Karl Glovik
Rev. Ivan Nienhaus
Rev. Msgr. Russell Bleich
Rev. Nils Hernandez
Rev. Christopher Podhajsky

Contact our Alumni Association here! 

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