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St. Joseph's Church, Joliet Illinois

1891-1916 Silver Jubilee Souvenir Book, Part 1

Copyright © 1997 Slovenian Genealogy Society, all rights reseved

Note: This booklet was published early in the 20th century, in Slovenia. Volunteers for the Slovenian Genealogy Society completed a translation, including ads.


Taking the seat opposite the treasury, he observed the crowd putting money into the collecting box. Many of the wealthy put the sizable amounts; but one poor widow came and put in two small copper coins worth a few cents. He called his disciples and told them; "I want you to observe that this poor widow contributed more than all others who donated to the treasury. They gave from their surplus wealth, but she gave from her want, all that she had to live on. "Mac. 12;41-44; Luke 21;-4. I'd like to point out that the above mentioned words pertain to many of our parishioners. Even more, many a parishioner would borrow some money so he could contribute towards the building fund of our church. Our dear Lord is watching everybody, he will reward each and everyone hundredfold. God bless you.

We'd like to preserve this historic moment to our future generations, that's why we decided to publish this booklet. First of all, we'd like to thank the author of the booklet. Rev. John Pleznik who put lots of efforts to compile the material for the book, then I'd like to thank all those who helped him , our Sisters, Filip Gorup, editor of the paper The American Slovene. Mr. Alexander F. Ross, foreman at the just mentioned publication, Lodge secretaries, church elders, parishioners, especially our pioneer parishioners, who furnished many historic data.

The older generation should be proud of the book, the younger generation should try to keep with the traditions. This book is a living proof that a difficult task can be performed when people are united, it's a proof that the Slovene are religious. May this booklet help us to know better one another and respect each and every one.

Twenty-five years have passed, twenty-five years of progress. May God Bless you and guide us in future.

Joliet, Illinois on St. Mary's Day 1916.
Rev. John Plevnik

Rev. Francis Salesius Sustarsic

This man has not died, his work will live forever.
(Free translation by Simon Gregoric)

It's very difficult to write the history of great men. They are like simple violet blossom, hidden among leaves and thorns, great men were guiding, teaching and performing difficult tasks without seeking a reward. Their lives were full of obstacles, and there are just a few who could value their work. When a man grows up and takes over a public office, he is exposed to all kinds of difficulties. As a child he would notice just the flowers, but later on he would have to face thorns. But a hard working man and a man of strong character is not scared, he walks forward. Blood is dripping, drop by drop, but a courageous man knows the blood is soiling the fertile ground. Nature lover would enjoy the view on high picks as he would stand in a green valley, and his wish is to reach the top of the mountain one day. He does this without looking for the reward.

A man who does a good job for the people does not seek rewards either, he knows too well that he is working for the welfare of the mankind. He knows that he will be able to watch the results of his work from his eternal dwelling, high up over the stars. But while the big man are still among us we do not recognize their work, we are just people, average people not able to recognize great ideas. Many times we do not cherish a precious tree while it's growing, but we are proud of the fruit. Many time great men get the recognition after death. I do hope sincerely that it's not too late to give a recognition to Rev. Francis Salesuis Sustersic.

Rev. Francis Salesuis Sustarsic was born on January 22, 1864 in the village Vic near Ljubljana (now a suburb), the villagers called the house "At The Little Drum", He attended grade as well as high school in Ljublana, the capital of Slovenia; He attended seminary there and was ordained July 21, 1886, he celebrated the first mass on August 8, 1886. He was Chaplin in the village of Smlednik near Ljubljana, then in Smartno near Litija (West of Ljubljana). His friend Rev. John Solnce from St. Paul, Minnesota knew that America would be the right territory for Francis. He knew Joliet, was familiar with parishioners, and wanted to give them a good priest.

When Rev. Solnce visited his native land in 1891, he took with him Rev. Sustersic on returning trip. They left Europe April `13, 1891 and arrived in America May 2. He stopped at the archdiocese in Chicago and archbishop the Most Rev. Patrick A. Freehan, D.D. picked Rev. Sustersic to become the founder of the parish in Joliet. The very first day of the arrival, on May 12, 1891 he started to work. He was a little homesick, and visited his native land in 1897. Rev. John Plevnik, the newly ordained priest took temporarily the duties of the parish priest over. He visited his native land for the second time in 1901, he was substituted by Rev. Francis Jager, his third visit to his native land was in 1907, he was substituted by Rev. A.M. Kraschowitz. The hard work in the parish took its toll, his health was failing, the physicians suggested a trip to Europe, he went in 1910. It was difficult to say good-bye, in his farewell speech he pointed out the immigrants should not forget their native and mother's tongue.

His love for his native land had no limits. He was honored at a farewell banquet on July 5, 1910, the auditorium of the KSKJ (Kranjsko Slovenska Katoliska Jednota - Carniolan Slovene Catholic Benefit Society) building was packed with parishioners, men, women, children who want to express their appreciation and love to their beloved pastor. A special committee was organized and elected to Get everything ready for the banquet. The hall was nicely decorated with fresh flowers. Rev. Sustersic came in the company of Rev. Kraschowitz, his successor, Mr. George Sonich, a church elder was MC.

After the supper Mr. Joseph Stukel, one of the pioneer parishioners pointed out in his speech the history of the parish in the first 19 years of the existence, by that time there were 400 families and 436 children in the parish, more accurately, 436 children attended the parish school. He pointed out that Rev. Sustersic was the editor of the first Slovene newspaper in America, he was the founder of the large fraternal benefit society. Next guest speaker was Mr. Anton Nemanich who compared Rev. Sustersic with Christoper Columbus, he presented him with a golden pen as a reward towards hard work with the Slovene publication. Rev. Sustersic had tears in his eyes when he thanked each and every one and pointed out that he did not expect such an honor. At the end the mentioned that he sincerely hoped to be back from Europe and honor the parishioners at the occasion.

He visited the native land three time out of his free will, but the fourth trip is on advise of his doctors. No eye remained dry when Rev. Sustersic went from table and shake hands with his beloved parishioners, he had to leave earlier, so many more speeches followed. Everybody expresses the desire Rev. Sustersic to be back in no time.

But Rev. Sustersic passed away March 24, 1911 at one o'clock, next day the office of American Slovene received the telegram, sent by Bishop Staiha. We just could not believe that he left us so soon, since everybody was hoping he was coming back. The printery of American Slovene sent a telegram to Ljubljana, requesting to put a wreath with the inscription of the Office of American Slovene, A. Nemanich president, F. Gorup Editor, J. Klepec manager. A telegram wired from the office of the KSKJ, requesting a wreath too, Anton Nemanich president, Joseph Zalar secretary. The bells of St. Joseph's Church were ringing, the parishioners soon came to learn the sad news. The church, as well as many private buildings were draped in the white-black and violet. School children were crying, and hurried home from school to tell their parents the sad news. Masses for the repose of the soul were celebrated. The newspaper The Slovene, published in Ljubljana, Slvoenia, published an article pertaining to the funeral of Rev. Sustersic.

It's been mentioned that on the day of the funeral the weather was very bad, it was a downpour, but many people came to bid the last farewell to a man who did a tremendous work among the American Slovene and succumbed to a timely death. Two wreaths with the inscriptions of American organizations covered the casket, funeral services were conducted by Bishop Ivan Stariha, assisted by local priests, 14 coaches, horse driven, of course, were in the funeral procession, the local church in Glince-St. Vid, home parish of Rev. Sustersic, was packed. He was the last of the family, known as "Little Drum", the family used to be well-off and honored in the past.

Tuesday March 28 there was a requiem Mass, celebrated by Rev. P. Dunne. The Dean, Archbishop James E. Quigley was in the audience with many dignitaries, after the mass Rev. John Kranjec spoke in Slovene, Archbishop Quigley in English. Requiescat in pacem. Many condolences were received, the first one was wired by Rev. A. Sojar, his first chaplain who mentioned a famous line, written by the Slovene poet Simon Gregorcic, he called Rev. Sustersic "a little man" who performed great tasks. Joliet can never be mentioned without having mentioned Rev. Sustersic. The Slovene community in America lost his best editor, the Slovene priest in America lost their consultant and friend. He did not ask monetary rewards, he was kidding on occasion: may people consider me rich so they may respect me more. His love for his native land had no limits, and he had a sense of humor, too he did not complain, but he tried to comfort himself with humor. 

He left this native land, a part of Austro-Hungarian monarchy to find limitless opportunities to apply his abilities and work among Slovenes in a foreign land. Nearly twenty years he lived with his parishioners. Dear friend, you passed all 14 Stations of the Cross, when your beloved mother passed away in your native land, you could not pay her respect since you were sick. Rev. John Kranjec mentioned that the death of Rev. Sustersic is a tremendous loss for the parish in Joliet. When he came to Joliet 20 years ago, there were about 20 families there. The Beginnings were simple, but with hard work he erected an eternal monument. He was a distinguished priest, there are no Slovene communities Rev. Sustersic did not visit and preach. He published two booklets one of them Advice To Those Who Want To Emigrate To America, and Cathecismus for Catholic schools in the USA. He was the editor of the paper The American Slovene when the paper was moved to Joliet, Illinois. 

A Telegram was wired from Rev. A. J. Kastigar from LaSalle, Illinois on March 28. Among the lines we could read how happy with a picture post card from Ljubljana and the sea resort of Losinj. Another telegram was wired by Dr. M. J. Ivec, the foremen for the Slovene printery Joseph Klepec mentioned that he was still a schoolboy when he read an article about Rev. Sustersic in the almanac published by The Society of St. Mohor ( in celovec-Klagenfurt), he did not dream that one day he would work so closely with such an honorable man. When the news of his death reached our printery, he wrote, we just could not believe since we hoped that he would come back. He was our friend and adviser. He was the best editor. He was strict in teaching, but when a mistake was made he corrected in a friendly tone. 

In 1902 he became the president of the Association of Slovene Priests in America, he paid a visit to Slovene communities, and offered comfort to those who were without a priest. LaSalle consider Rev. Sustersic its founder. In 1900 he was the president of the church committee. The very same year he went to Peoria, accompanied by J. Oberstar and P. Perusek. They asked Bishop to send the community a Slovene priest. He visited Roanoke and Wenona, small communities, to small to be able to support a priest. Rev. Sustersic is the founder of the Slovene parish in Springfield , as well as in Chicago and Waukegan.

He was founder of the Slovene parish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Indianapolis, Indiana. He performed some missionary work in Kansas City, and smaller communities in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia, also tho tired he never rested. He would travel to Ljubljana, Slovenia looking for younger blood willing to become priests. He loved his native tongue, the Slovenia language. In his native land he would encourage young ladies to join the Order of St. Francis who could then teach in Slovene parish schools. He published an informative article about America in the Almanac of the Society of St. Mohor, his information is a realistic one.

In 1896 he compiled a primer for the parish school which was a great help, Catechism which was in use in his native land was to clumsy for an American child, so he published a nice hand -book for American Catholic Schools. He did a tremendous job as an editor of the publication, The American Slovene. Many an immigrant was cheated on the way to the United States, many had a picture that America was a godless land, he published a book, 132 pages, Advises To My Fellow Slovenes. When he saw on the sage the play about St. Elizabeth, he wanted to translate it, yet the author put some obstacles. Who could put down all useful writings. He was tired, and deserved the rest. His work was the work of love, love for his native land, love for his new homeland, lover for his fellow man, love for God.