St. Adalbert Church

Project Name
St. Adalbert

2505 W. Grace Street
South Bend, Indiana

Project Status
Church open, murals intact

Project Date/s

St. Adalbert’s parish was founded in 1910 as a Polish parish in South Bend, Indiana. Most of its parishioners were very poor. It was the last of four Polish churches in South Bend. The parish eventually outgrew its original church and a cornerstone for a new church was laid in 1923. It took three years for the parishioners to raise enough money for the church, which was completed in 1926 at a cost of $23,000.

In 1940, the Rev. Aloysius Jarka was appointed pastor. Although his pastorship at St Adalbert was short due to illness, he hired John Mallin to decorate the church in 1941. Rev. Jarka passed away in September of 1943. He can be seen in the original black and white photos of the church standing next to Mallin, who painted murals on the North and South Walls of the church, as well as the altar decorations. Stenciling above the altar and the murals can also be seen in the 1941 photos. The total cost of the decorations was $15,000.

An older, deleted version of the St Adalbert website states, “The mural on the North wall of the church best, painted by John A Mallin in 1941, epitomizes the humble but determined beginnings of the church. In the mural, Polish immigrants are shown constructing and beating their swords into plowshares. Industrial development can be seen in the form of factories in the distance and above the whole scene the people’s pastor is pointing to a cloud with the fallen Christ under his heavy cross struggling along. This struggle of Christ exemplifies what the Polish people have endured in establishing St. Adalbert’s. Far above the picture of Christ is a Polish inscription which is translated “By the sweat of your brow you have received the bread of life.” This mural can be seen in the original 1941 black and white photo as well as in the current color photo. This mural is similar to the murals Mallin did at St Joseph’s in 1943 in Hammond, Indiana, which also included images of workers including steel workers.

An article in the South Bend Tribune from June 6, 1940, also describes the 10 murals that were to be decorated by Mallin. This description most likely came from Mallin’s contract proposal for the church. The article states, “One of the murals will emphasize the interest of the church in the laboring classes, depicting a priest leading all classes of workers to Christ bearing his cross and saying to them ‘Come to Me all ye who labor.’ The murals in the sanctuary will depict the Immaculate Conception and some of the saints of Poland, including St. Andrew Bobola, a Jesuit murdered by the Russian Cossacks during the fights for Polish independence in the 18th century, and canonized as a saint by the late Pope Pius XI two years ago on Easter Sunday. The other saints will be St. Hyacinth (Jacek), St. Casimir, St. Hedwige, and Saint John Cantius. Murals in the rear section of the church will depict St. John the Baptist, to be painted above the baptismal font, and another Polish saint, St. Stanislaus Kostka.”

The other decorations in the church were also described in detail. “The main ceilings, walls, mouldings, cornices, ornamental plaster, and angel reliefs in the church will be shaded in ivory and richly embellished with 20 carat ribbon gold leaf. The panels will be done in a three color scheme, highlighted with silver and gold leaf. The lunetes above the tall gothic windows will be painted with symbols of the church. The soffit, or the ceiling above the main aisle, will be decorated with ornaments, symbols and cherubs. The many pilasters in the spacious interior will be painted in marble effect with mouldings highlighted with gold. The main cornice and all mouldings will be finished in ivory and shaded with gold leaf.”

“The sanctuary ceiling will blend with the ivory and gold scheme of the other ceilings and will carry symbolic ornaments, its walls blended, stippled, and decorated to harmonize with the rest of the color scheme. All the altars and statuary will also be painted. In the double deck choir loft, the organ case will be decorated. The lower walls of the church will be stippled with three shades of deeper color with polychrome and gold mountings, the same as the vestibule.”

The altar murals and the north and south wall murals are still intact. However, the stencil decorations that were above the altar and stained glass windows, and above the north and south murals, are gone.

The church celebrated its centennial in 2010, and currently celebrates masses in English, Spanish and Polish. The church is currently seeking contributions for the renovation of the church which will include cleaning and preservation of the murals.


St. Adalbert Parish.
“St Adalbert’s Church to be redecorated” South Bend Tribune, June 6, 1940, p.12.

St. Adalbert Brochure Page
St. Adalbert Brochure Page
St. Adalbert Brochure Page