A History of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish

Troubled Waters

By the summer of 1921, Father Benedict decided to spend some time in Florida. It seems he may have made up his mind to settle in Florida and had begun to look for someone who would be satisfactory to succeed him. It was not an easy task. Father Benedict was disposed to emphasize the English language and rapid Americanization of his own people.

Father Joseph Zalibera, from Ohio was his choice. After Father Benedict was gone, Fathers Zalibera and Kosko were the only ones at hand who could speak Slovak. Difficulty soon followed. In a July 1921 mass, Fr. Zalibera stressed in his sermon the neglect of the Slovak tounge in both church and school. Subsequent occasions emphasized the same point. Father Benedict became the object of severe criticism, with a movement underway to remove him as pastor. Delegations were sent to the Bishop who refused removal knowing there were no grounds for the accusations.

When the Bishop did act, it was to remove Fr. Zalibera. Father Benedict was petitioned in Orlando to return to the parish. Not all were pleased. While preparing for his return, prowlers around the rectory hurled a stone through the window attempting to strike an occupant at table inside (believing it to be Father Benedict). Fortunately, the stone missed, but was unfortunately followed by anonymous, threatening letters vowing to kill Father Benedict if he returned to Whiting. Undeterred, Father Benedict did return. He promptly turned the tables on the anonymous ill-wishers by handing the letters to The Hammond Times. The letters were quite a sensation in the Parish and the community.

As the letters were written in the dialect of a certain region of Slovakia, Father Benedict, an adept linguist who spoke five languages, easily could identify the malcontents from the congregation. A detective was called in and confessions were quickly obtained. Cowed by public exposure and frightened by both the detectives and possibility of prison time, Father Benedict requested mercy for the perpetrators instead of justice. The incident abated.