A History of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish

Father Benedict Arrives

Good news came back from Eastern Europe. Rev. Benedict M. Rajcany was on his way from the old country. He was scheduled to arrive in Hammond on April 17, 1897. Father Benedict arrived on that date, Holy Saturday, to find pre-easter hustle and bustle along with a landscape of flat sandy wastes, lakes, woods and only a few farm houses, far different than the well kept homeland landscape which he had just left.

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A mass meeting was called for discussion of plans regarding the future of the parish and the church. After some lively democratic discussion and not a small bit of drama, a motion was made and passed that the little meeting hall would be transformed into a church. The church was dedicated on July 4th, 1897 to St. John the Baptist, because Father Benedict, the first pastor, himself felt like “one crying out in the wilderness” when he came to his new field of labor in the United States.

The photo at left is the first St. John the Baptist church, which was transformed from the little meeting hall of the First Catholic Slovak Union Branch #130.

Reverend Benedict M. Rajcany

First Pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish

Reverend Benedict M. Rajcany 1869- 1937

Benedict Rajcany was born February 2, 1869 in Hlohovec in what is now Slovakia. He was the son of Andrew Rajcany and Mary Nemec. He entered the Franciscan Monastery in Hlohovec, and was ordained priest in the Franciscan Order by Bishop Boltizar on January 23, 1892. Soon after his ordination, Father Benedict left the Franciscan Order and joined the diocese. Father arrived in New York April 15, 1897 and made his way to Whiting. He offered his first Holy Mass in Sacred Heart Church.

A little meeting hall of the Slovak Catholic Union Branch Number 130 became the first church. It was dedicated on July 4, 1897 to Saint John the Baptist, because Father himself felt like “one crying in the wilderness” when he came to the area.

Father Benedict was interested in the education of youth from the very start. His first school consisted of seven boys who were taught English. Classes were first held in the back room of the rectory.

Father Benedict retired in December 18, 1927 and Father Kostik was appointed pastor.

An article in the May 20, 1937 Hammond Times reported the death of Father Benedict, popularly known as the “Little Father”. He was 68 years old. He is buried the foot of the large crucifix that stands in the middle of the original part of the now Saint John/Saint Joseph cemetery.