Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
January 31, 2017 // Uncategorized

St. Casimir school alumni, Hispanic faithful cultivate successful ministries

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

The interior of St. Casimir Church, South Bend, reflects the roots of the parish’s original faith community. Today its small but active membership is a mix of Anglos, alumni of the former St. Casimir School and a large number of Hispanics who have moved into the formerly Polish neighborhood surrounding the church.

By Lisa Kochanowski

St. Casimir Parish is a ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross and was, like St. Stanislaus, originally an offshoot of St. Hedwig Catholic Church, which was at one time known as the head church for all the Polish area churches: of St. Casimir, St. Stanislaus and St. Adalbert. The church currently shares pastor Father Paul Michael Ybarra, CSC, with St. Adalbert in South Bend.

According to Father Ybarra, Masses were originally held in the school building, which was built in 1899. If visitors climb  upstairs to the gym they will find that its roof is cruciform, and there remains a lofted area above what is now a kitchen, that was once the choir loft.

The current church, built in the 1920s, is where all liturgies are held. A vigil Mass takes place on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, and Sunday English Mass is at 9:30 a.m., Sunday Spanish Mass at 11:15 a.m. The Mass with the fastest-growing attendance is the Spanish Mass.

The fairly small parish has over 200 registered families and some very large ministry groups.

“The Married Men’s Club, formed back in 1938 to support the foundation of a kindergarten for St. Casimir’s Catholic School, currently numbers about a 100 members. A very active group, they continue to support the parish in a myriad of ways, from running parish festivals to providing for needy families. Although many members of the group are not parishioners of the parish, most share ties to the parish as former school alumni, an increasing rarity given that the school was closed in 1975,” noted Father Ybarra.

Another active group is the St. Casimir Seniors Club that meets monthly. Often, over 100 seniors gather for community and fellowship in the old school building. They share a meal, engage in various activities and seek to support the parish through fundraising efforts.

“Our English RCIA community for St. Casimir and St. Adalbert meets at St. Casimir. Currently, we have 11 catechumens and candidates seeking full communion with the church,” stated Father Ybarra.

Deacon Ryan Pietrocarlo, CSC, and Yadira Gonzalez, a St. Mary’s College student and member of the Grupo de Oración at St. Casimir, South Bend, are dressed as St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary for Las Posadas in December. Las Posadas commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, their search for lodging and the birth of Christ. The Grupo de Oración also produces a yearly pastorela, a stage production covering the events of Christ’s birth from the point of view of the shepherds. Both are important traditions in Mexican culture.

The Spanish-language ministries are very large as well.

“Our charismatic prayer group, Group de Oración, meets weekly with a monthly healing Mass. It is very well attended … They sing songs and praise God in a charismatic fashion. They are also very active in their support of the parish through food sales and other fundraising efforts,” he said.

A Christ Renews His Parish program is also run out of St. Casimir.

“A wholly Spanish ministry as of the past six years, retreats regularly have 30-40 attendees who are formed over the course of the retreat weekend, four of which occur every year: two for men and two for women,” stated Father Ybarra. “Once someone lives the retreat they continue ongoing formation with weekly meetings; our group attendance for those hovers at 60 to 80 people every Friday. Topics are primarily focused on spirituality and our Catholic faith. People in formation will then serve as retreat leaders for upcoming retreats. Many of those who lived the retreat are also ministers and leaders in parish ministries across both St. Adalbert and St. Casimir.”

In 2005, evangelization and outreach were determined to be the parish’s key missions.

“I believe we are doing well in terms of evangelization to our senior citizens and Latinos living in the surrounding neighborhood. We must do better with our youth, the African-American community and our former parishioners and alumni who have moved away from the west side of South Bend,” said Father Ybarra.

When they do come, he hopes visitors find a warm, loving and merciful environment devoted to the Gospel.

“The church interior is gorgeous. We are so fortunate, we need only maintain our facilities and grow our community. I would love to reopen the school in some capacity, in accord with St. Adalbert Catholic School. Currently our children at St. Adalbert’s benefit from the use of St. Casimir’s gym for sports and (our) stage for school plays. I believe it’s a building with a great deal of potential.”


St. Casimir

1308 W. Dunham St.

South Bend, IN 46619



Mass Times:

Saturday: 5 p.m. (English) 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month

Sunday: 9:30 a.m. (English);
11:15 a.m. (Spanish)

Reconciliation: 8:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Adalbert

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