Father Sylvester Cichanski, C.P., Holy Cross Province (1898-1991)

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Born Frank Cichanski on June 16, 1898 in St. Louis, Missouri, he was the son of George and Margaret Cichanski. His mother was German and his father was Polish. The family moved to Detroit, Michigan where his mother had inherited property. The family had a prosperous income. In eighth grade he began to work at Stevens grocery store in Detroit. He was considered a trusted employee. He was also athletic and had training as a boxer at an old horse barn gymnasium on Trumball Avenue, Detroit. After finishing eighth grade and first year of high school at St. Leo’s school in Detroit he took his sophomore year at Christian Brothers High School. In 1915 he went to the Oblate Seminary in San Antonio, Texas where two friends, the Roberge brothers, had matriculated. He began his junior year there as he was intrigued with the idea of going to San Antonio. There he was elected captain of the baseball team and his nickname was “Rough.” When he came down with the flu Joe McCarthy, the infirmary nurse and a former Christian Brother, told Frank he did not really belong there and gave the young boy the life Venerable Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, an Italian Passionist. Frank loved the book and when he got home to Detroit he wrote the Passionist Preparatory Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio for information. In the return mail he got the “Prospectus of the Passionist Preparatory Seminary” which set forth the academic and spiritual exercises of the institution. There was also a letter inviting him to attend. Frank responded immediately. He entered having never met a Passionist! When he arrived by train in Cincinnati he had no idea where the monastery was so he asked a policeman and the policeman just pointed to the church on Mount Adams overlooking the city. After a seven month postulancy where Father Roger Aul, C.P. was his director, he was deemed eligible to proceed to the novitiate in Louisville, Kentucky. He professed his vows on April 1, 1918. His religious name was Sylvester. For the first part of the novitiate his master of novices was Father Dennis Callagee and his vice-master was Father Gabriel Sweeney, C.P. Then in the summer of 1917 Father Jerome Reuterman, C.P. was master of novices and the vice-master was Father Dominic Callahan, C.P. He was ordained on December 22, 1923 at St. Ambrose Cathedral, Des Moines, Iowa. Four of his classmates would proceed on to China. Shortly after ordination classmate Father Aelred Gassman, C.P. died. This class of 1923 was the first group of priests in Holy Cross Province who were allowed to go home after ordination in order to say their first mass in their home parish. After a year of sacred eloquence Father Cichanski was made vice-master to Father Jerome Reuterman, C.P. who was the master of novices in Louisville. That was the summer of 1925. At that time a decision was made to send some students to Rome for graduate studies. Considered for higher studies, his wish to be a preacher of parish missions was accepted. He proved to be in great demand and always praised. In 1930 he began to experience blackouts, fainting spells and nervous spasms in his colon. In 1936 it got so bad that a pastor in Cresco, Iowa drove Father Cichanski 50 miles north to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for a check up. After the check up he was not allowed to preach for two years due to vasomotor instability or fluctuations in blood pressure. He went on to live in Detroit; Sierra Madre, California; Des Moines; and St. Louis. Still he did not preach. He finally came to Daneo Hall, Chicago, Illinois.