Homilies for Hipsters
Story and photos by Chandler West

     This Sunday, like every Sunday, St. Alphonsus is packed. The Rev. James Hulbert stands at the far end of the gothic cathedral, located in Lakeview, preaching one of his many heartfelt homilies. While the ceiling’s beautiful gold and blue arches are an interesting sight, what stands out most is what the hundreds of people filling the pews have in common. They are young.
     “If you come to our liturgy on Sundays you will see tons of people in their 20s and 30s. Its a really unusual demographic to have in a parish,” Hulbert, said.
     Of the roughly 5,000 members that make up the congregation of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church, only 200 of them are over the age of 60. Something that is a bit of a rarity in a Catholic Church but a perfect fit in the “yuppie” Chicago neighborhood of Lakeview, Hulbert, said. About 60 percent of the church attendees are between the ages of 20-40; a number that almost exactly reflects Lakeview’s demographics as a whole, according to a report by city-data.com. However, the demographic in the area might only be part of the reason so many young Catholics are drawn to the church.
     The church believes their community outreach plays a big role in connecting with the neighborhood’s youth. In addition to their daily Masses, St. Alphonsus also hosts a variety of social events ranging from sponsoring arts programs to hosting an annual Oktoberfest celebration. The church sees these things as a great way to stay connected with the community and many residents agree.
     “I like the young atmosphere at this church. We have a lot of events that I haven’t seen at other churches. Like cocktails after church or young-couples dinners,” said Dustin Beckwith, 25, of Lakeview. “We split our time between here and another church. But we come here because it’s a more modern and relaxed. More real.”
     The congregation at St. Alphonsus hasn’t always looked this way. The parish was started in 1882 and mostly served German immigrants. The German population began to dwindle and was replaced with a mostly Hispanic population. Then, once again, the neighborhood’s community began to change. As more and more young, upper-middle-class people began to flock to the area, the community developed into what it is today. The parish still holds on to its roots, however, and still holds masses in German and Spanish as well as English.
     Throughout all these shifts in the community, the St. Alphonsus parish has been dedicated to community involvement and service. The church complex holds a community center, convent, gym, theater, bowling alley, school, a home for needy women, as well as their cathedral.
     This huge complex takes up almost an entire block near the corner of Lincoln and Southport Avenues. However, maintaining such a massive complex is far from easy. In the past years, parts of the church had been left to disrepair and are now having to be renovated.
     “We are trying to catch up. It’s never ending. We still probably have about $5 million worth of work that still needs to be done,” explains Father Hulbert. Hulbert also claims that one of the churches biggest problems is it’s high turnover rate, “For most of them, because they are so young, this is their first church as an adult. We have to teach them what it means to support a parish. Then, by the time they learn, they move,” he said.
 The church is currently undergoing a project to restore the copper on the top 30 feet of its steeple. This project alone is costing roughly $400,000. Most of their restoration work is done by a Chicago based company named Daprato Rigali Studios.
     Even with the problems of an young and fluid congregation being compounded with the struggling economy, Father Hulbert is still very upbeat and positive about the future of St. Alphonsus.
     “They are young but they have jobs. And people continue to be generous,” Hulbert, said.
-  

Homilies for Hipsters

Story and photos by Chandler West


     This Sunday, like every Sunday, St. Alphonsus is packed. The Rev. James Hulbert stands at the far end of the gothic cathedral, located in Lakeview, preaching one of his many heartfelt homilies. While the ceiling’s beautiful gold and blue arches are an interesting sight, what stands out most is what the hundreds of people filling the pews have in common. They are young.

     “If you come to our liturgy on Sundays you will see tons of people in their 20s and 30s. Its a really unusual demographic to have in a parish,” Hulbert, said.

     Of the roughly 5,000 members that make up the congregation of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church, only 200 of them are over the age of 60. Something that is a bit of a rarity in a Catholic Church but a perfect fit in the “yuppie” Chicago neighborhood of Lakeview, Hulbert, said. About 60 percent of the church attendees are between the ages of 20-40; a number that almost exactly reflects Lakeview’s demographics as a whole, according to a report by city-data.com. However, the demographic in the area might only be part of the reason so many young Catholics are drawn to the church.

     The church believes their community outreach plays a big role in connecting with the neighborhood’s youth. In addition to their daily Masses, St. Alphonsus also hosts a variety of social events ranging from sponsoring arts programs to hosting an annual Oktoberfest celebration. The church sees these things as a great way to stay connected with the community and many residents agree.

     “I like the young atmosphere at this church. We have a lot of events that I haven’t seen at other churches. Like cocktails after church or young-couples dinners,” said Dustin Beckwith, 25, of Lakeview. “We split our time between here and another church. But we come here because it’s a more modern and relaxed. More real.”

     The congregation at St. Alphonsus hasn’t always looked this way. The parish was started in 1882 and mostly served German immigrants. The German population began to dwindle and was replaced with a mostly Hispanic population. Then, once again, the neighborhood’s community began to change. As more and more young, upper-middle-class people began to flock to the area, the community developed into what it is today. The parish still holds on to its roots, however, and still holds masses in German and Spanish as well as English.

     Throughout all these shifts in the community, the St. Alphonsus parish has been dedicated to community involvement and service. The church complex holds a community center, convent, gym, theater, bowling alley, school, a home for needy women, as well as their cathedral.

     This huge complex takes up almost an entire block near the corner of Lincoln and Southport Avenues. However, maintaining such a massive complex is far from easy. In the past years, parts of the church had been left to disrepair and are now having to be renovated.

     “We are trying to catch up. It’s never ending. We still probably have about $5 million worth of work that still needs to be done,” explains Father Hulbert. Hulbert also claims that one of the churches biggest problems is it’s high turnover rate, “For most of them, because they are so young, this is their first church as an adult. We have to teach them what it means to support a parish. Then, by the time they learn, they move,” he said.

The church is currently undergoing a project to restore the copper on the top 30 feet of its steeple. This project alone is costing roughly $400,000. Most of their restoration work is done by a Chicago based company named Daprato Rigali Studios.

     Even with the problems of an young and fluid congregation being compounded with the struggling economy, Father Hulbert is still very upbeat and positive about the future of St. Alphonsus.

     “They are young but they have jobs. And people continue to be generous,” Hulbert, said.

-  

Story by Tim Bowman, Photos by Michael Coyne
As you drive down Belmont Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest Side, you notice a portrait of Pope John Paul II on the wall of a large building. It is visible from a block away, his face growing larger as you inch nearer. Officials within those walls believe when people see the striking image of the late pope they will immediately know St. Ferdinand is a special Polish and Catholic place.
Located in the Belmont Central neighborhood of Chicago, St. Ferdinand Church is socially engaged with one the largest immigrant groups in the city.
St. Ferdinand at 5900 W. Barry Ave, serves a large Polish community, with 65 percent of parishioners being Poles. Every Sunday 4,000 people come to pray and worship together at the church. There is Mass in Polish and English every day, with four services on Sunday.
The church is made of white marble, spanning an entire block. The building is a beautiful structure, almost timeless in its design. A bell tower above the chapel signals the times throughout the day. Inside the main chapel, depictions of Jesus’ life adorn the walls. Fourteen sculptures circle the room, showing his birth to crucifixion. Above them, images of the saints in stained glass windows. The pews are of clean and vibrant wood, enough to sit hundreds of people each Sunday morning.
St. Ferdinand was a predominantly Italian parish when it first began in November 1927. As the parish began to grow, a larger addition to the church was completed in 1959, a sleek marble design modeled after the popular architecture in Italy of the time. The church is named after its patron Saint Ferdinand of Castile, a 13th century political leader.
The Rev. Jason Torba, 46, has been the head pastor since 2006. Born in Poland and ordained as a priest in 1991, he was sent to the U.S. in 1998 to meet the needs of Polish people in Chicago. A healthy age range of parishioners attend the church and its social events, from youth to those who have been with the parish since its opening in 1959. Parishioners are predominately from the neighborhood, but some that have moved to the western suburbs still come to the weekly services.
The neighborhood’s culture changed in the past 20 years. There was a mass influx of Polish immigrants to the U.S. during the 1980s, with a majority of them settling in Chicago. Many of them were young adults in their early 20s, hoping to create a better life in America.
“They didn’t see any future in Poland with the end of communism,” Torba said. “When I was in seminary there was nothing. It was horrible. If you go to stores it was empty stores.” St. Ferdinand  a Polish ministry 18 years ago at the request of the neighborhood and now it is the focus of the church.
Torba saw the importance of having an open community, making the church available at all times throughout the day for people to pray and seek help. Early on, his mission was difficult because there were not enough volunteers, Torba said. More churches now see its importance, but St. Ferdinand was ahead of the curve.
“We see fruits,” Torba said.
When he came to the church, it was in debt and in decline. Now it has many volunteers to take care of all the church’s needs. “We have enough to pay for everything,” Torba said. “Thanks be to God they still very generous and we have enough.” For its 50th anniversary in 2009, the Church raised $500,000 to build a new organ.
Wanda Kwiecien, 58, has attended St. Ferdinand for almost seven years.
“The St. Ferdinand Church is my second house, or maybe first house,” she said.
A Polish immigrant, Kwiecien came to America in 1985. Since she works the afternoon shift in the infant ward of a hospital, Kwiecien said St. Ferdinand’s openness is important to her.
“I feel very empty if I have a closed door and have to go to work,” she said.
She goes two times a day for Mass and prayer, once in the morning and again before heading to the hospital where she has worked for 13 years. Kwiecien also regularly writes for the Polish bulletin about the importance of the Divine Mercy outlined by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun of the early 20th century.
Torba and his parish are committed to serving the neighborhood. The social activities St. Ferdinand provides every week like “Fish Fry Friday” draws hundreds of people from the community. The event has more than 100 volunteers and serves more than 800 dinners.
“Right now people live in isolation,” Torba said. “Everybody wants to be just for yourself and forget about others, and that’s the time to be with others.”
Besides a Polish school, the building also has a preschool, elementary and the Notre Dame all-girl high school.
Torba said the Polish community feels freedom while at the church. In Poland, many were well educated with good careers, but once arriving in the U.S. they had to restart their lives.
“Some of them are very educated people in Poland. They finished, they graduated, they got master degree, but they came here and didn’t know English. They start as a very simple work,” Torb said.  
Many feel frustrated by their circumstances, having to work simple jobs like housekeeping to support their families.
“Here they can express themselves,” he said.
On Saturday mornings Polish school educators, who might be caregivers during the week, get to be real teachers again, Torba explained. The school preserves the language and culture for a generation of Polish Americans born in the U.S.
Polish immigrants face many hardships that the parish tries to assist with.
“They try to call them “illegal.” They are not illegal because they pay taxes, they take care of community, they build houses,” Torba said.
The church organizes and sometimes brings lawyers to help people with immigration problems. Some Polish immigrants cannot return to Poland for legal reasons, which divide their families. If a family member is ill or dies in Poland, the church organizes a Mass for them. At the church, people can also vote in Polish elections.
“When we organize something in the Church, we use the term “undocumented people,”’ Torba said.
St. Ferdinand struggles with openness in a community that may not necessarily want to be open all the time. Months ago the church organized a meeting for undocumented immigrants. The media came with cameras and everyone immediately left, afraid of being recognized.  Many immigrants feel terrible about their circumstances.
Since Poland has helped the U.S. with the War on Terror, sending soldiers to combat, many wonder why they face so many adversities with the immigration system. “They feel, “wow, we are kind of in some way betrayed,” Torba said.
Steven Scienski, 28, the assistant director of the Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce, described the church as an “important meeting place and ties for the community.” He estimated up to 75 percent of local businesses are Polish-owned. Several of the restaurants are always packed on Sunday with parishioners.
A predominately middle class neighborhood, the difficult economy is changing the area again. “It’s hard for them and harder for us too,” Torba said. Some families are returning to Poland now that the country’s economy is stronger, said Scienski. More Hispanics are also moving into the community. There is even a growing minority of Filipino parishioners at St. Ferdinand that have a Mass spoken in Tagalog.
St. Ferdinand united the unlikely pairing of Polish and Jamaican missionaries, two groups that on the surface appear to be polar opposites but share many similarities. Clergy and parishioners of St. Ferdinand’s went to Jamaica to help the Missionaries of the Poor, a group that began its mission in 1981 to serve the needs of the country. Torba said the Polish people can relate to the struggles in Jamaica because they remember how it used to be in Poland. In March a group from the church will travel to India for missionary work.
The vision from St. Faustina helps those at the parish facing difficult challenges in uncertain times. “For me the magic word was, “Jesus I trust in you,”’ Kwiecien said.

Story by Tim Bowman, Photos by Michael Coyne

As you drive down Belmont Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest Side, you notice a portrait of Pope John Paul II on the wall of a large building. It is visible from a block away, his face growing larger as you inch nearer. Officials within those walls believe when people see the striking image of the late pope they will immediately know St. Ferdinand is a special Polish and Catholic place.

Located in the Belmont Central neighborhood of Chicago, St. Ferdinand Church is socially engaged with one the largest immigrant groups in the city.

St. Ferdinand at 5900 W. Barry Ave, serves a large Polish community, with 65 percent of parishioners being Poles. Every Sunday 4,000 people come to pray and worship together at the church. There is Mass in Polish and English every day, with four services on Sunday.

The church is made of white marble, spanning an entire block. The building is a beautiful structure, almost timeless in its design. A bell tower above the chapel signals the times throughout the day. Inside the main chapel, depictions of Jesus’ life adorn the walls. Fourteen sculptures circle the room, showing his birth to crucifixion. Above them, images of the saints in stained glass windows. The pews are of clean and vibrant wood, enough to sit hundreds of people each Sunday morning.

St. Ferdinand was a predominantly Italian parish when it first began in November 1927. As the parish began to grow, a larger addition to the church was completed in 1959, a sleek marble design modeled after the popular architecture in Italy of the time. The church is named after its patron Saint Ferdinand of Castile, a 13th century political leader.

The Rev. Jason Torba, 46, has been the head pastor since 2006. Born in Poland and ordained as a priest in 1991, he was sent to the U.S. in 1998 to meet the needs of Polish people in Chicago. A healthy age range of parishioners attend the church and its social events, from youth to those who have been with the parish since its opening in 1959. Parishioners are predominately from the neighborhood, but some that have moved to the western suburbs still come to the weekly services.

The neighborhood’s culture changed in the past 20 years. There was a mass influx of Polish immigrants to the U.S. during the 1980s, with a majority of them settling in Chicago. Many of them were young adults in their early 20s, hoping to create a better life in America.

“They didn’t see any future in Poland with the end of communism,” Torba said. “When I was in seminary there was nothing. It was horrible. If you go to stores it was empty stores.” St. Ferdinand  a Polish ministry 18 years ago at the request of the neighborhood and now it is the focus of the church.

Torba saw the importance of having an open community, making the church available at all times throughout the day for people to pray and seek help. Early on, his mission was difficult because there were not enough volunteers, Torba said. More churches now see its importance, but St. Ferdinand was ahead of the curve.


“We see fruits,” Torba said.

When he came to the church, it was in debt and in decline. Now it has many volunteers to take care of all the church’s needs. “We have enough to pay for everything,” Torba said. “Thanks be to God they still very generous and we have enough.” For its 50th anniversary in 2009, the Church raised $500,000 to build a new organ.

Wanda Kwiecien, 58, has attended St. Ferdinand for almost seven years.

“The St. Ferdinand Church is my second house, or maybe first house,” she said.

A Polish immigrant, Kwiecien came to America in 1985. Since she works the afternoon shift in the infant ward of a hospital, Kwiecien said St. Ferdinand’s openness is important to her.

“I feel very empty if I have a closed door and have to go to work,” she said.

She goes two times a day for Mass and prayer, once in the morning and again before heading to the hospital where she has worked for 13 years. Kwiecien also regularly writes for the Polish bulletin about the importance of the Divine Mercy outlined by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun of the early 20th century.

Torba and his parish are committed to serving the neighborhood. The social activities St. Ferdinand provides every week like “Fish Fry Friday” draws hundreds of people from the community. The event has more than 100 volunteers and serves more than 800 dinners.

“Right now people live in isolation,” Torba said. “Everybody wants to be just for yourself and forget about others, and that’s the time to be with others.”

Besides a Polish school, the building also has a preschool, elementary and the Notre Dame all-girl high school.

Torba said the Polish community feels freedom while at the church. In Poland, many were well educated with good careers, but once arriving in the U.S. they had to restart their lives.

“Some of them are very educated people in Poland. They finished, they graduated, they got master degree, but they came here and didn’t know English. They start as a very simple work,” Torb said.  

Many feel frustrated by their circumstances, having to work simple jobs like housekeeping to support their families.

“Here they can express themselves,” he said.

On Saturday mornings Polish school educators, who might be caregivers during the week, get to be real teachers again, Torba explained. The school preserves the language and culture for a generation of Polish Americans born in the U.S.

Polish immigrants face many hardships that the parish tries to assist with.

“They try to call them “illegal.” They are not illegal because they pay taxes, they take care of community, they build houses,” Torba said.

The church organizes and sometimes brings lawyers to help people with immigration problems. Some Polish immigrants cannot return to Poland for legal reasons, which divide their families. If a family member is ill or dies in Poland, the church organizes a Mass for them. At the church, people can also vote in Polish elections.

“When we organize something in the Church, we use the term “undocumented people,”’ Torba said.

St. Ferdinand struggles with openness in a community that may not necessarily want to be open all the time. Months ago the church organized a meeting for undocumented immigrants. The media came with cameras and everyone immediately left, afraid of being recognized.  Many immigrants feel terrible about their circumstances.

Since Poland has helped the U.S. with the War on Terror, sending soldiers to combat, many wonder why they face so many adversities with the immigration system. “They feel, “wow, we are kind of in some way betrayed,” Torba said.

Steven Scienski, 28, the assistant director of the Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce, described the church as an “important meeting place and ties for the community.” He estimated up to 75 percent of local businesses are Polish-owned. Several of the restaurants are always packed on Sunday with parishioners.

A predominately middle class neighborhood, the difficult economy is changing the area again. “It’s hard for them and harder for us too,” Torba said. Some families are returning to Poland now that the country’s economy is stronger, said Scienski. More Hispanics are also moving into the community. There is even a growing minority of Filipino parishioners at St. Ferdinand that have a Mass spoken in Tagalog.

St. Ferdinand united the unlikely pairing of Polish and Jamaican missionaries, two groups that on the surface appear to be polar opposites but share many similarities. Clergy and parishioners of St. Ferdinand’s went to Jamaica to help the Missionaries of the Poor, a group that began its mission in 1981 to serve the needs of the country. Torba said the Polish people can relate to the struggles in Jamaica because they remember how it used to be in Poland. In March a group from the church will travel to India for missionary work.

The vision from St. Faustina helps those at the parish facing difficult challenges in uncertain times. “For me the magic word was, “Jesus I trust in you,”’ Kwiecien said.

Story and photos by Sarah Shuel
Firefighters walked among the burnt ruins of the altar at St. Hedwig Parish in Bucktown.  The huge church had filled with smoke and many of its fine paintings and wooden pews were damaged.  The front of the church was unrecognizable.  The entire altar had burned.  When a firefighter stepped onto the floor, it collapsed.  However, one object stood unharmed.  The crucifix and Christ statue placed in the middle of the altar should have been entirely engulfed by flames.  Yet it only had one small burn. 
The Rev. Stanislaw Jankowski joined the parish only a few months prior to the fire on April 9, 2008.  He immediately began seeking ways to improve the church, but he could not decide where to start.  Then, four months later, the fire gave him a starting point.  He pointed out the cross. 
“That was some kind of miracle for us,” he said, “because that was the center of the fire. Believe me all of the walls were burned - And the cross wasn’t touched.” 
 That wasn’t the only miracle the staff found in the fire.  A copy of the Lady of Monaoag, an ivory Roman Catholic idol revered in the Philippines, was enshrined in the parish.  When the floor collapsed beneath the firefighter, the copy of the idol fell. Jankowski and his staff took this to mean that Mary had saved the church “for the community and for her son Jesus.” This happened to occur on the very day of the celebration of the Lady of Monaoag in the Philippines. “These may seem like coincidences, but if you’re looking through the eyes of faith, you’ll see that it’s more,” Jankowski said.  The statue has since been replaced. 
The fire began under the altar from a short in an old electrical cable. It damaged the basement and rose up through the altar.  The parish has raised most of the money it needs for repairs.  The altar has been restored, and work has begun in the basement.  A balance of just under $50,000 remains.
   After the fire, the church was closed for seven months in a forest of scaffolding, during which Mass was celebrated in the gym of the school attached to St. Hedwig Parish. The school is staffed by the Sisters of the Nazarene. Many patrons stopped coming to the parish because they did not want to attend Mass in a gym and there are several other big churches near to them.  
St. Hedwig reopened in November 2008, and has been growing ever since.  Now, it provides services to 1,300 families, 900 of which are Polish, 300 of which are Spanish, and 100 of which are of other ethnic backgrounds.  Mass is offered in English, Spanish, and Polish.
 Jankowski, 45, is from Mieolzyizecz, a very old town in western Poland, so the church’s Polish origin is close to his heart.  He says that the church was built to cater to the Polish population that gathered in Bucktown.  
“Some of the parishioners at the Polish mass are children of those people who built the church,” he said, “and this church will always have mass in polish, will always stay true to them.”
  In two years, the parish will be celebrating its 125th anniversary.  It was organized in 1888 to serve Polish families in Bucktown that lived more than one mile from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, one of the main Polish parishes in Chicago.  St. Hedwig is staffed by the Fathers from the Congregation of the Resurrection, an international order of priests devoted to a life of service.
The church soars up from the quaint homes surrounding it.  Inside, there is a central nave and two side aisles, calling back to Romanesque churches in Europe.  The arches rise sharply overhead, adding to the sense of grandeur created by the sheer size of the structure.  Marble columns carry the eye upward to the painted ceilings.  The altar is welcoming and warm, which Jankowski says is part of the reason for the growth of the church, “The say there is a lot of wood and it’s welcoming to stay and pray.”  
Larry Babiez, 57, from Bucktown agrees with him.  Babiez stood in the back of the church, with rough hands and head hung.  He looked hurt but not yet broken.  
“I’ve been hoping and praying for a job,” he said.  He’s been coming to the church every day to pray because he doesn’t know what to do anymore.  Babiez and his brothers grew up around St. Hedwig’s.  They all went to “parochial” school there, and they were all married in St. Hedwig Parish.
“I heard about the fire,” said Babiez, “but I had a job then, so I wasn’t around much.”  He was happy to find that the green marble columns and the stained glass windows had survived.  “They’re originals,” he said, “I can remember them from a long time ago.”  
All of the stained glass windows come from Bavaria, which seems odd for a Polish church.  However, St. Hedwig was from Bavaria.  Jankowski says that she left her native land at the age of 13 for the Netherlands (then part of Poland) to marry the Dutch leader of the area, Henry I.  She had several sons and a daughter with him.  The leader and her sons died in battle.  A devastated St. Hedwig chose to join the Order of the Cistercians, and the Polish have chosen her as their patron.  
The statue of St. Hedwig residing in the Bucktown Church holds the parish in her hands. Jankowski was very proud that this image has gained a reputation in Chicago.  The people of this parish very seriously see themselves in her hands.
St. Hedwig Parish holds Mass and reconciliation every day during the week.  They also have a growing youth program and a music program connected to the neighborhood around them. “I am very very happy because we have a lot of new participants, and a lot of youth from the Bucktown community,” Jankowski said.


Story and photos by Sarah Shuel

Firefighters walked among the burnt ruins of the altar at St. Hedwig Parish in Bucktown.  The huge church had filled with smoke and many of its fine paintings and wooden pews were damaged.  The front of the church was unrecognizable.  The entire altar had burned.  When a firefighter stepped onto the floor, it collapsed.  However, one object stood unharmed.  The crucifix and Christ statue placed in the middle of the altar should have been entirely engulfed by flames.  Yet it only had one small burn.

The Rev. Stanislaw Jankowski joined the parish only a few months prior to the fire on April 9, 2008.  He immediately began seeking ways to improve the church, but he could not decide where to start.  Then, four months later, the fire gave him a starting point.  He pointed out the cross.

“That was some kind of miracle for us,” he said, “because that was the center of the fire. Believe me all of the walls were burned - And the cross wasn’t touched.”

That wasn’t the only miracle the staff found in the fire.  A copy of the Lady of Monaoag, an ivory Roman Catholic idol revered in the Philippines, was enshrined in the parish.  When the floor collapsed beneath the firefighter, the copy of the idol fell. Jankowski and his staff took this to mean that Mary had saved the church “for the community and for her son Jesus.” This happened to occur on the very day of the celebration of the Lady of Monaoag in the Philippines. “These may seem like coincidences, but if you’re looking through the eyes of faith, you’ll see that it’s more,” Jankowski said.  The statue has since been replaced.

The fire began under the altar from a short in an old electrical cable. It damaged the basement and rose up through the altar.  The parish has raised most of the money it needs for repairs.  The altar has been restored, and work has begun in the basement.  A balance of just under $50,000 remains.

  After the fire, the church was closed for seven months in a forest of scaffolding, during which Mass was celebrated in the gym of the school attached to St. Hedwig Parish. The school is staffed by the Sisters of the Nazarene. Many patrons stopped coming to the parish because they did not want to attend Mass in a gym and there are several other big churches near to them.  

St. Hedwig reopened in November 2008, and has been growing ever since.  Now, it provides services to 1,300 families, 900 of which are Polish, 300 of which are Spanish, and 100 of which are of other ethnic backgrounds.  Mass is offered in English, Spanish, and Polish.

Jankowski, 45, is from Mieolzyizecz, a very old town in western Poland, so the church’s Polish origin is close to his heart.  He says that the church was built to cater to the Polish population that gathered in Bucktown.  

“Some of the parishioners at the Polish mass are children of those people who built the church,” he said, “and this church will always have mass in polish, will always stay true to them.”

 In two years, the parish will be celebrating its 125th anniversary.  It was organized in 1888 to serve Polish families in Bucktown that lived more than one mile from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, one of the main Polish parishes in Chicago.  St. Hedwig is staffed by the Fathers from the Congregation of the Resurrection, an international order of priests devoted to a life of service.

The church soars up from the quaint homes surrounding it.  Inside, there is a central nave and two side aisles, calling back to Romanesque churches in Europe.  The arches rise sharply overhead, adding to the sense of grandeur created by the sheer size of the structure.  Marble columns carry the eye upward to the painted ceilings.  The altar is welcoming and warm, which Jankowski says is part of the reason for the growth of the church, “The say there is a lot of wood and it’s welcoming to stay and pray.”  

Larry Babiez, 57, from Bucktown agrees with him.  Babiez stood in the back of the church, with rough hands and head hung.  He looked hurt but not yet broken.  

“I’ve been hoping and praying for a job,” he said.  He’s been coming to the church every day to pray because he doesn’t know what to do anymore.  Babiez and his brothers grew up around St. Hedwig’s.  They all went to “parochial” school there, and they were all married in St. Hedwig Parish.

“I heard about the fire,” said Babiez, “but I had a job then, so I wasn’t around much.”  He was happy to find that the green marble columns and the stained glass windows had survived.  “They’re originals,” he said, “I can remember them from a long time ago.”  

All of the stained glass windows come from Bavaria, which seems odd for a Polish church.  However, St. Hedwig was from Bavaria.  Jankowski says that she left her native land at the age of 13 for the Netherlands (then part of Poland) to marry the Dutch leader of the area, Henry I.  She had several sons and a daughter with him.  The leader and her sons died in battle.  A devastated St. Hedwig chose to join the Order of the Cistercians, and the Polish have chosen her as their patron.  

The statue of St. Hedwig residing in the Bucktown Church holds the parish in her hands. Jankowski was very proud that this image has gained a reputation in Chicago.  The people of this parish very seriously see themselves in her hands.

St. Hedwig Parish holds Mass and reconciliation every day during the week.  They also have a growing youth program and a music program connected to the neighborhood around them. “I am very very happy because we have a lot of new participants, and a lot of youth from the Bucktown community,” Jankowski said.


A Home Away from HomeStory by Cassondra Castillo, Photos by Michael Reardon
         With its immense wooden doors and breathtaking entry, Holy Family Church is a timeless spectacle rising over the Near West Side landscape of Chicago. The striking bell tower dominates Roosevelt Road.  The walls are covered with enormous stained glass windows and intricate hand painted detail. Every piece of art has a story to tell and thanks to restoration efforts and donations, Holy Family has continued to welcome visitors to Chicago’s second oldest church.         Holy Family dates back to 1857 when the Rev. Arnold Damen began constructing a new church with the aim of it becoming one of Chicago’s most beautiful.         Ellen Skerrett, a Chicago historian, author, and researcher is very familiar with Holy Family Church and has written several articles on its history.         "It was built with the nickels and dimes of very poor people. It was a place of great beauty in the lives of countless generations of Chicagoans, mostly immigrants," she said.          Skerrett explained that at $200,000, Holy Family was the most expensive church erected in Chicago in the 1850s. It involved cooperation, commitment, money, and competition.         Skerrett said Holy Family’s commitment to beauty and refinement was further enhanced in 1870 with the opening of St. Ignatius College, the forerunner of Loyola University Chicago.         “As the Holy Family experience makes abundantly clear, the benefits of attending church are cultural as well as spiritual,” Skerrett said.         Holy Family has stood strong for many years and refuses to become a victim of the elements. The media relations volunteer, Dick Barry, is an expert on the history of Holy Family as well. Barry explained that the church is recognized for surviving the Chicago Fire. When the fire started in 1871, it began to spread toward Holy Family. Damen had been in Brooklyn at the time and after being informed of the danger invoked Our Lady of Perpetual Help to save the building. He promised that if the church were to be saved he would light seven candles before Our Lady’s statue. Fortunately, the winds changed course and the church was spared. The candles were lit and from that moment on seven electric lights burn at Our Lady’s shrine in the east transept of the church.         “Holy Family continues to be recognized as a modern miracle story,” Barry said.          In 1984 the church began to experience roof leaking and falling plaster. During Christmas of 1987, the pastor told the parishioners of the church that the old building was going to be torn down and replaced with a smaller structure. The people were not happy with the news and wanted to save the church.         In 1988 the Holy Family Preservation Society was incorporated along with an architect and a development director.  The preservation society was informed that it would have to raise $1 million by Dec. 31, 1990, in order to save the church or else it would be torn down. A prayer vigil was held from Dec. 26 until Dec. 31 with a motto and plea of “Say Prayers and Send Money.” People began to donate, but it became obvious it was not going to be enough. An open house known as the feast of the Holy Family was held on Dec. 30. The media were informed of the open house and thousands of people came to see the church. By midnight over $1 million had been raised. The people were able to save their church with the blessing of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.         “Over the course of 20 years, with the help of people around the world, Holy Family Church has been restored to a functional house of worship that welcomes people of all races and ethnic backgrounds,” Barry said.         Holy Family’s surrounding neighborhood includes the Illinois Medical Center, Greektown, University Village and United Center Park. The demographics are predominately black with a mix of white, Asian, and Hispanic. The median income is $29,588, and the increase in real estate values has made the area increasingly attractive to middle-class and upper-middle-class Chicagoans interested in living near downtown.         “The near West Side is going through a major renewal. With the University, the medical district and the new housing developments, Holy Family’s future looks bright,” the Rev. Jerry Boland said. “We are culturally, racially and economically quite diverse.”         Holy Family is an impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its 15,000 square foot interior holds 1,000 seats for all of its guests. It has 65 foot ceilings with the main altar situated at the north end of the church. There are round, clerestory stained glass windows, which happen to be the oldest in Chicago. Another prominent feature is the world class pipe organ that has been in the parish since 1870. The church also has 29 wooden statues created by sculptor Charles Oliver Dauphin of Montreal. This is the largest collection of his work in the world. The statues and artwork serve as reflections of the different ethnic groups that have been a part of the church for so many years.         Restoration on Holy Family Church continues today.  Sharon Van Den Hende, the administrative assistant, explained just how much work goes into the church.         “Everything in the church is in need of restoration,” she said. “We just did the doors and that was almost $200,000. We had a project where we had to refasten some of the pews because they were loose and that was $18,000. Everything in the church is expensive, because it has to meet certain standards because of the historical status.”         Van Den Hende said that anything that has to be done in the church is a major project, because everything is so detailed.         “A lot of people think that the images on the walls are wallpaper, but they are actually hand painted and hand stenciled,” she said.         Financial issues continue to set Holy Family back. The middle balcony has not yet been completed because the church ran out of money. The weekly collection goal is set at $3,000, but the church is lucky if it collects $2,000. The church lacks a maintenance staff, so in order to save money Boland does most of the work himself. He cuts the grass, shovels the snow, and even changes the light bulbs. Holy Family relies greatly on weddings for financial support. “Father has an open door policy which is nice, because most churches won’t marry non-parishioners. It’s proven beneficial because people come back and baptize their children here. They remember how kind Father is,” Van Den Hende said.         The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary are a significant part of Holy Family. They came together in Ireland as a group of dedicated Catholic women who felt the duty to serve God as religious educators. In 1867 they were invited to Chicago to teach immigrant children who were adjusting to a new land. Today they continue to value charity, freedom, justice and education. The Sisters assist new residents moving into the Roosevelt Square area, provide neighborhood residents, especially the elderly, with food once a month from the food pantry, and remain active in parish meetings and on social justice, liturgy and finance committees.         “We provide much needed community services with our food pantry and literacy center,” Boland said.         The majority of Holy Family’s visitors do not reside in the immediate area. Van Den Hende explained that most of the parishioners are commuters and from Irish, German, Hispanic, African-American and several other ethnic backgrounds. People travel all the way from Mundelein and places far south.         “We love coming here because we feel welcome and appreciated. This church is like a home to me,” parishioner Danielle Belling, 22, from Lombard said.         She has been attending Holy Family for the past two years with her boyfriend Ryan Thornton, 25.         “We try to make it at least every Sunday and would love to one day get married here. I couldn’t picture myself in any other church,” Thornton said.         The parishioners show their loyalty and continue to come back.         “Even Cardinal George’s grandmother was a parishioner here, so he’s kind of attached to our church. We’ve got a special place in his heart,” Van Den Hende said.         Boland is very proud to be a part of Holy Family Church and wishes the best for its future.         “I love giving tours of the Church. Every nook and cranny has a story to tell. It has played a great place in our city’s history as well as thousands of families,” he said. “I would hope in the future that Holy family could develop resources and ministry for supporting healthy families as well as those that are struggling.”















           

A Home Away from Home
Story by Cassondra Castillo, Photos by Michael Reardon


        With its immense wooden doors and breathtaking entry, Holy Family Church is a timeless spectacle rising over the Near West Side landscape of Chicago. The striking bell tower dominates Roosevelt Road.  The walls are covered with enormous stained glass windows and intricate hand painted detail. Every piece of art has a story to tell and thanks to restoration efforts and donations, Holy Family has continued to welcome visitors to Chicago’s second oldest church.
        Holy Family dates back to 1857 when the Rev. Arnold Damen began constructing a new church with the aim of it becoming one of Chicago’s most beautiful.
        Ellen Skerrett, a Chicago historian, author, and researcher is very familiar with Holy Family Church and has written several articles on its history.
        "It was built with the nickels and dimes of very poor people. It was a place of great beauty in the lives of countless generations of Chicagoans, mostly immigrants," she said.          Skerrett explained that at $200,000, Holy Family was the most expensive church erected in Chicago in the 1850s. It involved cooperation, commitment, money, and competition.
        Skerrett said Holy Family’s commitment to beauty and refinement was further enhanced in 1870 with the opening of St. Ignatius College, the forerunner of Loyola University Chicago.
        “As the Holy Family experience makes abundantly clear, the benefits of attending church are cultural as well as spiritual,” Skerrett said.
        Holy Family has stood strong for many years and refuses to become a victim of the elements. The media relations volunteer, Dick Barry, is an expert on the history of Holy Family as well. Barry explained that the church is recognized for surviving the Chicago Fire. When the fire started in 1871, it began to spread toward Holy Family. Damen had been in Brooklyn at the time and after being informed of the danger invoked Our Lady of Perpetual Help to save the building. He promised that if the church were to be saved he would light seven candles before Our Lady’s statue. Fortunately, the winds changed course and the church was spared. The candles were lit and from that moment on seven electric lights burn at Our Lady’s shrine in the east transept of the church.
        “Holy Family continues to be recognized as a modern miracle story,” Barry said.
        In 1984 the church began to experience roof leaking and falling plaster. During Christmas of 1987, the pastor told the parishioners of the church that the old building was going to be torn down and replaced with a smaller structure. The people were not happy with the news and wanted to save the church.
        In 1988 the Holy Family Preservation Society was incorporated along with an architect and a development director.  The preservation society was informed that it would have to raise $1 million by Dec. 31, 1990, in order to save the church or else it would be torn down. A prayer vigil was held from Dec. 26 until Dec. 31 with a motto and plea of “Say Prayers and Send Money.” People began to donate, but it became obvious it was not going to be enough. An open house known as the feast of the Holy Family was held on Dec. 30. The media were informed of the open house and thousands of people came to see the church. By midnight over $1 million had been raised. The people were able to save their church with the blessing of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
        “Over the course of 20 years, with the help of people around the world, Holy Family Church has been restored to a functional house of worship that welcomes people of all races and ethnic backgrounds,” Barry said.
        Holy Family’s surrounding neighborhood includes the Illinois Medical Center, Greektown, University Village and United Center Park. The demographics are predominately black with a mix of white, Asian, and Hispanic. The median income is $29,588, and the increase in real estate values has made the area increasingly attractive to middle-class and upper-middle-class Chicagoans interested in living near downtown.
        “The near West Side is going through a major renewal. With the University, the medical district and the new housing developments, Holy Family’s future looks bright,” the Rev. Jerry Boland said. “We are culturally, racially and economically quite diverse.”
        Holy Family is an impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its 15,000 square foot interior holds 1,000 seats for all of its guests. It has 65 foot ceilings with the main altar situated at the north end of the church. There are round, clerestory stained glass windows, which happen to be the oldest in Chicago. Another prominent feature is the world class pipe organ that has been in the parish since 1870. The church also has 29 wooden statues created by sculptor Charles Oliver Dauphin of Montreal. This is the largest collection of his work in the world. The statues and artwork serve as reflections of the different ethnic groups that have been a part of the church for so many years.
        Restoration on Holy Family Church continues today.  Sharon Van Den Hende, the administrative assistant, explained just how much work goes into the church.
        “Everything in the church is in need of restoration,” she said. “We just did the doors and that was almost $200,000. We had a project where we had to refasten some of the pews because they were loose and that was $18,000. Everything in the church is expensive, because it has to meet certain standards because of the historical status.”
        Van Den Hende said that anything that has to be done in the church is a major project, because everything is so detailed.
        “A lot of people think that the images on the walls are wallpaper, but they are actually hand painted and hand stenciled,” she said.
        Financial issues continue to set Holy Family back. The middle balcony has not yet been completed because the church ran out of money. The weekly collection goal is set at $3,000, but the church is lucky if it collects $2,000. The church lacks a maintenance staff, so in order to save money Boland does most of the work himself. He cuts the grass, shovels the snow, and even changes the light bulbs. Holy Family relies greatly on weddings for financial support. “Father has an open door policy which is nice, because most churches won’t marry non-parishioners. It’s proven beneficial because people come back and baptize their children here. They remember how kind Father is,” Van Den Hende said.
        The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary are a significant part of Holy Family. They came together in Ireland as a group of dedicated Catholic women who felt the duty to serve God as religious educators. In 1867 they were invited to Chicago to teach immigrant children who were adjusting to a new land. Today they continue to value charity, freedom, justice and education. The Sisters assist new residents moving into the Roosevelt Square area, provide neighborhood residents, especially the elderly, with food once a month from the food pantry, and remain active in parish meetings and on social justice, liturgy and finance committees.
        “We provide much needed community services with our food pantry and literacy center,” Boland said.
        The majority of Holy Family’s visitors do not reside in the immediate area. Van Den Hende explained that most of the parishioners are commuters and from Irish, German, Hispanic, African-American and several other ethnic backgrounds. People travel all the way from Mundelein and places far south.
        “We love coming here because we feel welcome and appreciated. This church is like a home to me,” parishioner Danielle Belling, 22, from Lombard said.
        She has been attending Holy Family for the past two years with her boyfriend Ryan Thornton, 25.
        “We try to make it at least every Sunday and would love to one day get married here. I couldn’t picture myself in any other church,” Thornton said.
        The parishioners show their loyalty and continue to come back.
        “Even Cardinal George’s grandmother was a parishioner here, so he’s kind of attached to our church. We’ve got a special place in his heart,” Van Den Hende said.
        Boland is very proud to be a part of Holy Family Church and wishes the best for its future.
        “I love giving tours of the Church. Every nook and cranny has a story to tell. It has played a great place in our city’s history as well as thousands of families,” he said. “I would hope in the future that Holy family could develop resources and ministry for supporting healthy families as well as those that are struggling.”


          

Chicago’s Polish Mission Story by Mike Byra, Photos by Chelsea Zwieg     When renovations started at Holy Trinity Polish Church back in 2005, to commemorate the church’s 100th anniversary, many parishioners complained that the lavish church had one major blemish. Above the altar there was only a yellow painted wall. The church listened to its parishioners and a painter was soon brought in to fix the blemish. He was commissioned to paint the crowing of Mary in heaven, but during that time Pope John Paul II passed away, so it was decided that the late pope would also be painted. Then the church decided that Polish Saint Faustina, Polish Cardinal August Hlond and Polish Prelate Stefan Wyszynski would also be painted above the altar. Once the painting was completed, Andrew Maslejak, the pastor, hosted a group of Americans at Holy Trinity.      ”I said to them any questions? They asked father who is up there? I started to joke. You don’t know who is up there? It’s Polish heaven,” Maslejak said.      Holy Trinity isn’t just a Catholic church in Chicago. It’s also the heart, and soul of the Polish community. Sister Genowefa Potaczala, who used to work with the parish when she first came to Chicago from Poland, wrote a book in Polish about the history of the church. "This church is a part of Polish culture here. Polish immigrants built this church. This isn’t just religion," Potaczala said.     Holy Trinity Polish Church is located in Pulaski Park, which is also home to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Back in 1873, as Kostka Church became overcrowded with Polish parishioners, the need came to build a second church. Initially, there was a feud between Holy Trinity and St. Stanislaus Kosta over membership, so in 1893 the archdiocese split the two parishes.     In the 1960s as the Kennedy Expressway was being built the Polish community began to move out of the Pulaski Park neighborhood. With Cabrini Green being built not too far away, Holy Trinity’s surroundings became alarming. "By 1975 the priests and nuns of Holy Cross Fathers left the parish because the neighborhood was very dangerous and the church lost parishioners," Maslejak said. The church faced a crisis and in 1985 with few parishioners showing up for Masses the archdiocese decided to close the church. When the news reached the Polish community, it immediately organized in protest. They held up signs and even wrote letters to John Paul II in Rome to notify him of what was going on. The archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, saw the protest coverage on TV, which led him to bring in priests from the Society of Christ. The order was started in Poland in 1932 and today they serve the Polish mission in 19 countries.      ”Immediately after one or two months we had about one thousand people in the church on Sunday,” Maslejak said. The new wave of Polish Solidarity immigrants in the 90s saved the church.     ”When they built the highway in the 60s it was a curse for the parish, and now it’s a blessing because most of our parishioners live in the suburbs. They have easy access, so they are coming from all over,” Maslejak said.     The new waves of immigrants were accustomed to Holy Trinity’s Polish cathedral style architecture made of brick with wooden floors and pews.     ”I live in Norridge and taking the highway to Trinity makes it easy for me to get there real quick. The church feels like you’re back in Poland,” said parishioner Marcin Loch (19). Holy Trinity is distinct in that it is a Polish mission, so there are no community boundaries. All Polish Catholics are welcome from the Chicago area. The church has traditionally been affiliated with the PNA Polish National Alliance. The PNA organizes the Polish Constitution Day Parade every year on May 3. Each year on the Sunday before May 3, the PNA hosts a special mass at Holy Trinity. Apart from hosting Polish celebrations the church also mourns tragedy. The church held a one year anniversary honoring the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski along with countless others.      ”We had Bishop Michalik the president of Polish bishops and Cardinal George was here. The church was packed. We invited families of those killed in that plane. They came. There were two families, the wives of the men who were killed,” Maslejak said.  When standing in the center of the church one can see just why such important events take place here. The pillars are aligned with gold leaves while countless religious portraits, crosses and statues grace the interior. On one side of the church there is the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa also known as the Black Madonna.     ”It’s an icon. In every Polish church there is a copy of that icon,” Maslejak said.
     Next to the iconic painting stands an urn, similar to a vase. It holds soil from Katyn, the place where thousands of Polish nationals were massacred by the Soviets. While on the wall there’s a plaque commemorating the Polish soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino during World War II. The interior has many meaningful Polish symbols, but deep underneath the church the catacombs hold many different meaningful relics. There are famous figures of the Polish Catholic cult in the church’s collection like bone fragments of Padre Pio and Saint Faustina.
     ”This isn’t just a Polish church, but a cultural center too that still holds onto its traditions,” Maslejak said. Since renovations started during the start of the millennium, the church has spent $5 million to fix the roof, two steeples and paint the inside. With more expensive housing replacing the remains of Cabrini Green the neighborhood is becoming safer now. Still, Maslejak believes that the Polish community remains the church’s main lifeline.      ”We’re keeping the tradition, but it depends from the people, so thank God they’re coming,” said Maslejak.

Chicago’s Polish Mission
Story by Mike Byra, Photos by Chelsea Zwieg

     When renovations started at Holy Trinity Polish Church back in 2005, to commemorate the church’s 100th anniversary, many parishioners complained that the lavish church had one major blemish. Above the altar there was only a yellow painted wall. The church listened to its parishioners and a painter was soon brought in to fix the blemish. He was commissioned to paint the crowing of Mary in heaven, but during that time Pope John Paul II passed away, so it was decided that the late pope would also be painted. Then the church decided that Polish Saint Faustina, Polish Cardinal August Hlond and Polish Prelate Stefan Wyszynski would also be painted above the altar. Once the painting was completed, Andrew Maslejak, the pastor, hosted a group of Americans at Holy Trinity.
     ”I said to them any questions? They asked father who is up there? I started to joke. You don’t know who is up there? It’s Polish heaven,” Maslejak said.
     Holy Trinity isn’t just a Catholic church in Chicago. It’s also the heart, and soul of the Polish community. Sister Genowefa Potaczala, who used to work with the parish when she first came to Chicago from Poland, wrote a book in Polish about the history of the church.
"This church is a part of Polish culture here. Polish immigrants built this church. This isn’t just religion," Potaczala said.
     Holy Trinity Polish Church is located in Pulaski Park, which is also home to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Back in 1873, as Kostka Church became overcrowded with Polish parishioners, the need came to build a second church. Initially, there was a feud between Holy Trinity and St. Stanislaus Kosta over membership, so in 1893 the archdiocese split the two parishes.
     In the 1960s as the Kennedy Expressway was being built the Polish community began to move out of the Pulaski Park neighborhood. With Cabrini Green being built not too far away, Holy Trinity’s surroundings became alarming.
"By 1975 the priests and nuns of Holy Cross Fathers left the parish because the neighborhood was very dangerous and the church lost parishioners," Maslejak said.
The church faced a crisis and in 1985 with few parishioners showing up for Masses the archdiocese decided to close the church. When the news reached the Polish community, it immediately organized in protest. They held up signs and even wrote letters to John Paul II in Rome to notify him of what was going on. The archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, saw the protest coverage on TV, which led him to bring in priests from the Society of Christ. The order was started in Poland in 1932 and today they serve the Polish mission in 19 countries.
     ”Immediately after one or two months we had about one thousand people in the church on Sunday,” Maslejak said. The new wave of Polish Solidarity immigrants in the 90s saved the church.
     ”When they built the highway in the 60s it was a curse for the parish, and now it’s a blessing because most of our parishioners live in the suburbs. They have easy access, so they are coming from all over,” Maslejak said.
     The new waves of immigrants were accustomed to Holy Trinity’s Polish cathedral style architecture made of brick with wooden floors and pews.
     ”I live in Norridge and taking the highway to Trinity makes it easy for me to get there real quick. The church feels like you’re back in Poland,” said parishioner Marcin Loch (19).
Holy Trinity is distinct in that it is a Polish mission, so there are no community boundaries. All Polish Catholics are welcome from the Chicago area. The church has traditionally been affiliated with the PNA Polish National Alliance. The PNA organizes the Polish Constitution Day Parade every year on May 3. Each year on the Sunday before May 3, the PNA hosts a special mass at Holy Trinity. Apart from hosting Polish celebrations the church also mourns tragedy. The church held a one year anniversary honoring the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski along with countless others.
     ”We had Bishop Michalik the president of Polish bishops and Cardinal George was here. The church was packed. We invited families of those killed in that plane. They came. There were two families, the wives of the men who were killed,” Maslejak said.
When standing in the center of the church one can see just why such important events take place here. The pillars are aligned with gold leaves while countless religious portraits, crosses and statues grace the interior. On one side of the church there is the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa also known as the Black Madonna.
     ”It’s an icon. In every Polish church there is a copy of that icon,” Maslejak said.

     Next to the iconic painting stands an urn, similar to a vase. It holds soil from Katyn, the place where thousands of Polish nationals were massacred by the Soviets. While on the wall there’s a plaque commemorating the Polish soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino during World War II. The interior has many meaningful Polish symbols, but deep underneath the church the catacombs hold many different meaningful relics. There are famous figures of the Polish Catholic cult in the church’s collection like bone fragments of Padre Pio and Saint Faustina.

     ”This isn’t just a Polish church, but a cultural center too that still holds onto its traditions,” Maslejak said.
Since renovations started during the start of the millennium, the church has spent $5 million to fix the roof, two steeples and paint the inside. With more expensive housing replacing the remains of Cabrini Green the neighborhood is becoming safer now. Still, Maslejak believes that the Polish community remains the church’s main lifeline.
     ”We’re keeping the tradition, but it depends from the people, so thank God they’re coming,” said Maslejak.



Story by Will Livesley-O’Neill, Photos by Robby DeGraff
The clock tower of St. John Cantius Parish in West Town is a landmark both of the neighborhood and of the church’s position within the tradition of Catholicism. Its impressive gold face is hard to miss on W Chicago Avenue, where the church’s High Renaissance-style Polish architecture towers over the CVS Pharmacy, Subway and other modest businesses nearby. Looking southeast, St. John Cantius is framed by the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower downtown. This exterior image is of a church that is a bedrock of old-style Catholicism, in stark relief to the more modern world that surrounds it. In short, it looks like a place where Mass might still be in Latin.
        Indeed, St. John Cantius is one of only a few parishes remaining in the Chicagoland region to offer Mass in both English and the traditional Latin format. Both services are offered every day of the week. The church also offers both the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the current structure practiced in most Catholic churches, in both English and Latin, and the Extraordinary Form, the structure devised in 1962 before the Second Vatican Council implemented a change in the language of services from Latin to the vernacular.         But this adherence to older versions of Catholicism doesn’t necessarily indicate that St. John Cantius is stuck in the past, or unwilling to budge from its image as a bastion of old-fashioned Polish traditionalism. According to the parish office, St. John Cantius sees its attendance split equally between the English and Latin Masses. Rev. Albert Tremari, S.J.C., an associate pastor who presides over Masses in both languages, says that the services are also evenly divided in a demographic sense – both draw a diverse age range of attendees. He calls this contrary to the image of the Latin Mass as a holdout of older traditionalists that is fading away as the years since the Second Vatican Council pass by. “[The Latin Mass] gives young people a sense of reverance and awe that they didn’t grow up with,” Tremari says, a feeling to which he attributes the consistent attendance of a younger crowd to the older form of Mass.

Story by Will Livesley-O’Neill, Photos by Robby DeGraff


The clock tower of St. John Cantius Parish in West Town is a landmark both of the neighborhood and of the church’s position within the tradition of Catholicism. Its impressive gold face is hard to miss on W Chicago Avenue, where the church’s High Renaissance-style Polish architecture towers over the CVS Pharmacy, Subway and other modest businesses nearby. Looking southeast, St. John Cantius is framed by the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower downtown. This exterior image is of a church that is a bedrock of old-style Catholicism, in stark relief to the more modern world that surrounds it. In short, it looks like a place where Mass might still be in Latin.

        Indeed, St. John Cantius is one of only a few parishes remaining in the Chicagoland region to offer Mass in both English and the traditional Latin format. Both services are offered every day of the week. The church also offers both the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the current structure practiced in most Catholic churches, in both English and Latin, and the Extraordinary Form, the structure devised in 1962 before the Second Vatican Council implemented a change in the language of services from Latin to the vernacular.
        But this adherence to older versions of Catholicism doesn’t necessarily indicate that St. John Cantius is stuck in the past, or unwilling to budge from its image as a bastion of old-fashioned Polish traditionalism. According to the parish office, St. John Cantius sees its attendance split equally between the English and Latin Masses. Rev. Albert Tremari, S.J.C., an associate pastor who presides over Masses in both languages, says that the services are also evenly divided in a demographic sense – both draw a diverse age range of attendees. He calls this contrary to the image of the Latin Mass as a holdout of older traditionalists that is fading away as the years since the Second Vatican Council pass by. “[The Latin Mass] gives young people a sense of reverance and awe that they didn’t grow up with,” Tremari says, a feeling to which he attributes the consistent attendance of a younger crowd to the older form of Mass.

Saving the dome, one chocolate bar at a timeStory by Ann Wanserski, Photos by Angela Wells 
Ask any Chicagoan about the “big dome” just off the Kennedy Expressway – the one with all the angels – and they will most likely know just the place. Though many may not know that parish by name, the iconic architecture nestled adjacent to the well-traveled turnpike has been a view for commuters and Bucktown residents since its initial construction in 1899, far before the expressway or trendy neighborhood even existed.
Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the grandiose dome and capacious surrounding structures of St. Mary of the Angels Roman Catholic Church, at 1850 N. Hermitage, look far more daunting in close proximity. The ever-present glowing angels looming high on the towers make real the parish’s name. In more recent years, St. Mary’s has also gained recognition for the “Restore God’s House” campaign to save this undeniably historic architectural prize.
From the inside, a precarious net covers the expanse of the dome, protecting parishioners from falling pieces of the ceiling, a literal reminder of the dome’s deterioration and near death in 1988. It was around this time that a chunk of plaster hit a worshipper in the head, prompting the Chicago Archdiocese to close down the parish for three years.
Only due to the resolute dedication of parishioners, resorting to bake sales and small-scale fundraising, did the church reopen in 1991 under the responsibility of the Prelature of Opus Dei, a conservative order within Catholicism focused on finding holiness through ordinary life. Today, twenty years later, the parish faces eerily similar problems, as the original restorations from the 1980s have not worn well against years of harsh Chicago weather.
Taking no chances of facing another closure, the initial repairs the second time around took place through 2011, but the ethereal net harnessed across the ceiling acts as a daunting, ghostly reminder that the process is far from over. A process costing upwards of $3.2 million, to be exact. Though the scaffolding and notable “Save the Dome” banner have been removed, it has been replaced by a more impressive mass of debt to clean up.
“It was clear that the dome had to be restored, and we started that right away,” said Kasia Sonska-Niznik, the church’s donation coordinator. “So far we are just halfway through, even though the dome is already repaired, we needed to take out a loan to complete this and now we need to pay back the loan in order to continue with this project.”
Sonska-Niznik, a parishioner since her arrival in Chicago from Krakow four years ago, feels hopeful about the progress so far. The Polish immigrant community that built the church at the turn of the 20th century continues to thrive, and is not the only force propelling the campaign. Generous donors from across the country have also contributed funds thanks to recent news coverage and a heightened Internet presence.
“Last year we noticed a big growth in new registration forms, which is great because it means we are getting new parishioners,” said Sonska-Niznik. “I think once people come inside the church they love it here and they stay.”
Approximately 1,700 families are currently members of the parish, and enrollment at St. Mary of the Angels School is growing after years of decline. The school was actually the first building constructed in 1899 and housed the original church in the upstairs. Not until 1920, delayed in part due to shortages in building materials as a result of World War I, did the church and iconic dome open to the public. Today, the church and school – which are connected by a rectory – remain closely linked, with approximately 200 students from preschool through 8th grade attending classes at the school.
“We are one community, and we really try to stress that,” said Elise Bartzen, head of marketing and development for the school. “Anything that the school hosts, parish members are welcome to attend, and vice versa.”Certainly, the Bucktown neighborhood’s increasing popularity has contributed in large part to these growing numbers. Only 40 years ago, before the massive gentrification of the 1990s, parishioners recall muggings and even a drive-by shooting on the steps of the church. According to Gary Bilinovich, the church’s business manager, today the parish serves a diverse mix of “Polish, Hispanics and yuppies” regularly attending one of the 17 weekly masses and forming an integral social aspect for the area.“These historic religious structures really are neighborhood anchors,” said Johnathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an advocacy group for historic religious structures in the city. “I think an important question needs to be asked whether or not public funds can or should be used with regards to maintaining the physical brick and mortar structure of these important buildings because they do serve so many important social purposes. Even if one were never to enter them, architecturally, they contribute so much to a neighborhood.”According to Fine, from a large-scale perspective, the issue of deterioration and lack of funding for historic religious structures is a national trend. Perhaps a change in policy could offer more help for such institutions, but this remains a conversation for the future, yet to be put into action. For now, the worshippers and community members involved with fundraising at St. Mary of the Angels look for short-term solutions.   Billinovish and Sonska-Niznik estimate that fundraising will continue for several more years before the entire restoration can be completed. The full list of renovations includes repairing the dome, but also rebuilding the historic parapet (which is currently stored in the basement) and renovating the south tower of the building.“It’s a bad market to do an sort of fundraising, working for the school, we know how hard it is for people right now [financially]. The timing is just not ideal,” Bartzen said.Yet, it seems that the most small-scale fundraising efforts from die-hard devotees of the church have had the most profound impact on this community. Even in a sour economy, the parishioners who have been a part of the church for generations remember the first fight to save the dome vividly, and remain the most rigorously devoted to this campaign.“We have the older generations who saved the church 20 years ago still working again to save it,” Sonska-Niznik said. “We’ve got some young people too, but I wish we had this whole community, and crowds of people that would be willing to take actions, not just give us a check.”Despite efforts to utilize social media, including Facebook and twitter, it is these parishioners and the more traditional forms of outreach that exemplify the closeness of this community. The Rev. Hilary Mahaney, pastor of the church for 19 years, forms the backbone of this movement, and the backbone of the spiritual wellbeing of all its members.“One woman, Gene Michniak, sells candy bars after every mass, and every penny that she makes goes towards the church. And I swear she is going to be selling candy bars outside of the gates of heaven,” Bilinovich said. “She grew up with [the church], she went to school here, she was married here, her husband was buried from here, and she is here every week. She just gives completely without complaint, without questions.”Michniak is only one of the many examples that remind parishioners – despite the splendor of the rich gold-leaf frescoed interior and the tremendous towering vaulted ceiling of the dome – it is the people, not the building that bring this church to life. For all the members of this community, St. Mary of the Angels remains an undeniable social, spiritual and cultural epicenter. For Chicagoans, it must remain a home for historical and architectural beauty, and an icon of the city.“I think people need to understand that this is not just a place that you come to every Sunday or just every once in a while for mass,” Sonska-Niznik said. “This is the house of God, but also their house and they have to take care of it just as they would care for their own houses.”

Saving the dome, one chocolate bar at a time
Story by Ann Wanserski, Photos by Angela Wells

Ask any Chicagoan about the “big dome” just off the Kennedy Expressway – the one with all the angels – and they will most likely know just the place. Though many may not know that parish by name, the iconic architecture nestled adjacent to the well-traveled turnpike has been a view for commuters and Bucktown residents since its initial construction in 1899, far before the expressway or trendy neighborhood even existed.

Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the grandiose dome and capacious surrounding structures of St. Mary of the Angels Roman Catholic Church, at 1850 N. Hermitage, look far more daunting in close proximity. The ever-present glowing angels looming high on the towers make real the parish’s name. In more recent years, St. Mary’s has also gained recognition for the “Restore God’s House” campaign to save this undeniably historic architectural prize.

From the inside, a precarious net covers the expanse of the dome, protecting parishioners from falling pieces of the ceiling, a literal reminder of the dome’s deterioration and near death in 1988. It was around this time that a chunk of plaster hit a worshipper in the head, prompting the Chicago Archdiocese to close down the parish for three years.

Only due to the resolute dedication of parishioners, resorting to bake sales and small-scale fundraising, did the church reopen in 1991 under the responsibility of the Prelature of Opus Dei, a conservative order within Catholicism focused on finding holiness through ordinary life. Today, twenty years later, the parish faces eerily similar problems, as the original restorations from the 1980s have not worn well against years of harsh Chicago weather.

Taking no chances of facing another closure, the initial repairs the second time around took place through 2011, but the ethereal net harnessed across the ceiling acts as a daunting, ghostly reminder that the process is far from over. A process costing upwards of $3.2 million, to be exact. Though the scaffolding and notable “Save the Dome” banner have been removed, it has been replaced by a more impressive mass of debt to clean up.

“It was clear that the dome had to be restored, and we started that right away,” said Kasia Sonska-Niznik, the church’s donation coordinator. “So far we are just halfway through, even though the dome is already repaired, we needed to take out a loan to complete this and now we need to pay back the loan in order to continue with this project.”

Sonska-Niznik, a parishioner since her arrival in Chicago from Krakow four years ago, feels hopeful about the progress so far. The Polish immigrant community that built the church at the turn of the 20th century continues to thrive, and is not the only force propelling the campaign. Generous donors from across the country have also contributed funds thanks to recent news coverage and a heightened Internet presence.

“Last year we noticed a big growth in new registration forms, which is great because it means we are getting new parishioners,” said Sonska-Niznik. “I think once people come inside the church they love it here and they stay.”

Approximately 1,700 families are currently members of the parish, and enrollment at St. Mary of the Angels School is growing after years of decline. The school was actually the first building constructed in 1899 and housed the original church in the upstairs. Not until 1920, delayed in part due to shortages in building materials as a result of World War I, did the church and iconic dome open to the public. Today, the church and school – which are connected by a rectory – remain closely linked, with approximately 200 students from preschool through 8th grade attending classes at the school.

“We are one community, and we really try to stress that,” said Elise Bartzen, head of marketing and development for the school. “Anything that the school hosts, parish members are welcome to attend, and vice versa.”
Certainly, the Bucktown neighborhood’s increasing popularity has contributed in large part to these growing numbers. Only 40 years ago, before the massive gentrification of the 1990s, parishioners recall muggings and even a drive-by shooting on the steps of the church. According to Gary Bilinovich, the church’s business manager, today the parish serves a diverse mix of “Polish, Hispanics and yuppies” regularly attending one of the 17 weekly masses and forming an integral social aspect for the area.
“These historic religious structures really are neighborhood anchors,” said Johnathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an advocacy group for historic religious structures in the city. “I think an important question needs to be asked whether or not public funds can or should be used with regards to maintaining the physical brick and mortar structure of these important buildings because they do serve so many important social purposes. Even if one were never to enter them, architecturally, they contribute so much to a neighborhood.”
According to Fine, from a large-scale perspective, the issue of deterioration and lack of funding for historic religious structures is a national trend. Perhaps a change in policy could offer more help for such institutions, but this remains a conversation for the future, yet to be put into action. For now, the worshippers and community members involved with fundraising at St. Mary of the Angels look for short-term solutions.   
Billinovish and Sonska-Niznik estimate that fundraising will continue for several more years before the entire restoration can be completed. The full list of renovations includes repairing the dome, but also rebuilding the historic parapet (which is currently stored in the basement) and renovating the south tower of the building.
“It’s a bad market to do an sort of fundraising, working for the school, we know how hard it is for people right now [financially]. The timing is just not ideal,” Bartzen said.
Yet, it seems that the most small-scale fundraising efforts from die-hard devotees of the church have had the most profound impact on this community. Even in a sour economy, the parishioners who have been a part of the church for generations remember the first fight to save the dome vividly, and remain the most rigorously devoted to this campaign.
“We have the older generations who saved the church 20 years ago still working again to save it,” Sonska-Niznik said. “We’ve got some young people too, but I wish we had this whole community, and crowds of people that would be willing to take actions, not just give us a check.”
Despite efforts to utilize social media, including Facebook and twitter, it is these parishioners and the more traditional forms of outreach that exemplify the closeness of this community. The Rev. Hilary Mahaney, pastor of the church for 19 years, forms the backbone of this movement, and the backbone of the spiritual wellbeing of all its members.
“One woman, Gene Michniak, sells candy bars after every mass, and every penny that she makes goes towards the church. And I swear she is going to be selling candy bars outside of the gates of heaven,” Bilinovich said. “She grew up with [the church], she went to school here, she was married here, her husband was buried from here, and she is here every week. She just gives completely without complaint, without questions.”
Michniak is only one of the many examples that remind parishioners – despite the splendor of the rich gold-leaf frescoed interior and the tremendous towering vaulted ceiling of the dome – it is the people, not the building that bring this church to life. For all the members of this community, St. Mary of the Angels remains an undeniable social, spiritual and cultural epicenter. For Chicagoans, it must remain a home for historical and architectural beauty, and an icon of the city.
“I think people need to understand that this is not just a place that you come to every Sunday or just every once in a while for mass,” Sonska-Niznik said. “This is the house of God, but also their house and they have to take care of it just as they would care for their own houses.”


Until the Work for the Temple of the Lord is FinishedStory by Jordan Muck, photos by Eric Rahill
On a brisk and early Ash Wednesday morning, the voices of an undersized congregation echoed amongst the church’s wide-open interior; a strained chorus singing the praises of their beloved. The song goes unaccompanied by traditional instruments, but the clatter of construction rings loud and harsh against the melody of the faithful.
This is the way that hundreds, even thousands of services held at Chicago’s Notre Dame de Chicago Church have taken place. The church itself, now an astonishing 126-years-old, thrives on this process of renewal, undergoing a total of five complete renovations since it’s inception.
The building that stands at 1334 Flournoy Street holds the name of Notre Dame de Chicago, but in namesake only does it reflect the vision of its founders. Today, the project seems simple: resurrect an elevator that will reach the church’s sanctuary and parish hall below. It’s the notion that the church will continue to grow along with its most faithful parishioners. But the incessant tapping of hammer and whirring of a drill through mass gives a hint: this church is just getting started.
The church was founded in 1864 by a group of French Catholics who left what is now Old St. Patrick’s to start their own center for worship.  Construction on the original building was completed in 1887. The name of the architect is unknown, but the building is classified as Romanesque Revival—a style named for its goal of purifying European church architecture.
The French Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament took over Notre Dame in 1918, but the glory of the French church was short lived.
“The community has changed quite a bit over the course of the church’s existence,” said Megan Mio, pastoral associate and assistant to the Rev. Patrick Pollard, pastor at Notre Dame de Chicago.
The Near West neighborhood where the church was built became a safe haven for Irish and Italian immigrants after the 1871 Chicago fire left many residents without homes. By the1920s, Notre Dame de Chicago could no longer ignore the multicultural expansion of the neighborhood and canceled French-spoken services.
Today, the Church holds Mass in Spanish every Sunday—servicing the Hispanic population that now makes up almost 10 percent of the surrounding community.
“We’ve said mass in Spanish ever since I can remember,” said Mio, “the Spanish community has been here longer than you would think, their influence is definitely visible.”
             Mio also heads the church’s Hispanic Ministry. Now the church has adopted the slogan, “The church with heart in the heart of Chicago,” to reflect their ever-evolving, multicultural family.                In 1978, Notre Dame was put to the test. A lightning bolt struck a 9-foot-tall. statue of the Virgin Mary atop the church’s signature copper dome, igniting a dangerous fire that left significant water damage to the interior walls.
“Although the Church received extensive renovations, it was never really the same after that,” said Robert Rigali, Project Manager at religious art firm Daprato Rigali Studios.
The school attached to the church was torn down in the late 1980s to make way for a parking lot, a decision that at the time was much more economical than repairing the building, which needed over $300,000 in work.
“The open air left the church open to Chicago’s harsh wind and other weather,” said Rigali.  
Rigali and his team were hired in 1996 to assess the state of the Notre Dame de Chicago building. They found that the wooden frames holding in the church’s century-old stained glass windows had warped, and needed immediate repair among running the risk of the windows themselves cracking.
“It took us over 12 months to complete the windows. They had to be completely removed so we could rebuild the frames,” said Rigali of the massive project.
The glittering glass pieces were restored and new glass coverings were added as a protective measure. The windows were rededicated in March of 2002.
"So much has been reported about the troubles and tribulations the church is undergoing at this time," gushed the Rev. Paul Reicher to the Chicago Tribune during the rededication ceremony.
"Now, all of the sudden, we have news of a small parish making its way. It gives us a signal of hope."
Notre Dame de Chicago took that sign and ran with it. Notre Dame de Chicago also hired Daprato Rigali to rebuild the church’s marble altar, opening the space by removing pews. Rigali designed a new altar, made with Italian marble.
        “The work we did there was just…awesome,” he says, “What we did, really, was just highlight the existing architecture. It was already beautiful, it just needed a few coats of paint, so to speak.”
Although the marble project took another two years to complete, the paint wasn’t too far behind. The Church quickly hired Parma Conservation to take on the daunting task of cleaning and conserving the 2,000 square foot. “Creation” mural in the iconic dome. Originally painted in 1903, the mural was barely recognizable due to year of chipping and other damage.
Elizabeth Kendall, founder of Parma Conservation, and her team took six months to restore the painting.         
“Sometimes, you just don’t know what you are going to find underneath all of the damage. With [Notre Dame de Chicago], we found much more than we had anticipated,” Kendall said.
The finished mural includes restored scenes from the Old and New Testament, now a bright reminder of the ideology of the Catholic faith.
Overall, the $2.2 million renovations were completed in 2005, thanks in part to the Church’s Legacy Campaign. The campaign looked to restore the church to its former glory, including replacing the slate roof, installing new lighting, and replacing the old sound system. The campaign raised $770,000 in donations.
“We can always count on the generosity of [our parishioners],” said the Rev. Patrick Pollard during his Ash Wednesday homily, struggling to top the loud development below his feet.
        A testament to that statement, over one-half of the $460,000 required for the church’s Campaign for Access was paid for by money already donated to the Legacy fund. The remainder was borrowed from the Archdiocese of Chicago and will be paid back from parish donations.
“We don’t have any plans past the elevator for more renovations…yet,” said Mio. The unveiling of the new elevator is slated for the week of March 1st.

Until the Work for the Temple of the Lord is Finished
Story by Jordan Muck, photos by Eric Rahill

On a brisk and early Ash Wednesday morning, the voices of an undersized congregation echoed amongst the church’s wide-open interior; a strained chorus singing the praises of their beloved. The song goes unaccompanied by traditional instruments, but the clatter of construction rings loud and harsh against the melody of the faithful.

This is the way that hundreds, even thousands of services held at Chicago’s Notre Dame de Chicago Church have taken place. The church itself, now an astonishing 126-years-old, thrives on this process of renewal, undergoing a total of five complete renovations since it’s inception.

The building that stands at 1334 Flournoy Street holds the name of Notre Dame de Chicago, but in namesake only does it reflect the vision of its founders. Today, the project seems simple: resurrect an elevator that will reach the church’s sanctuary and parish hall below. It’s the notion that the church will continue to grow along with its most faithful parishioners. But the incessant tapping of hammer and whirring of a drill through mass gives a hint: this church is just getting started.

The church was founded in 1864 by a group of French Catholics who left what is now Old St. Patrick’s to start their own center for worship.  Construction on the original building was completed in 1887. The name of the architect is unknown, but the building is classified as Romanesque Revival—a style named for its goal of purifying European church architecture.

The French Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament took over Notre Dame in 1918, but the glory of the French church was short lived.

“The community has changed quite a bit over the course of the church’s existence,” said Megan Mio, pastoral associate and assistant to the Rev. Patrick Pollard, pastor at Notre Dame de Chicago.

The Near West neighborhood where the church was built became a safe haven for Irish and Italian immigrants after the 1871 Chicago fire left many residents without homes. By the1920s, Notre Dame de Chicago could no longer ignore the multicultural expansion of the neighborhood and canceled French-spoken services.

Today, the Church holds Mass in Spanish every Sunday—servicing the Hispanic population that now makes up almost 10 percent of the surrounding community.

“We’ve said mass in Spanish ever since I can remember,” said Mio, “the Spanish community has been here longer than you would think, their influence is definitely visible.”

             Mio also heads the church’s Hispanic Ministry. Now the church has adopted the slogan, “The church with heart in the heart of Chicago,” to reflect their ever-evolving, multicultural family.  
             In 1978, Notre Dame was put to the test. A lightning bolt struck a 9-foot-tall. statue of the Virgin Mary atop the church’s signature copper dome, igniting a dangerous fire that left significant water damage to the interior walls.

“Although the Church received extensive renovations, it was never really the same after that,” said Robert Rigali, Project Manager at religious art firm Daprato Rigali Studios.

The school attached to the church was torn down in the late 1980s to make way for a parking lot, a decision that at the time was much more economical than repairing the building, which needed over $300,000 in work.

“The open air left the church open to Chicago’s harsh wind and other weather,” said Rigali.  

Rigali and his team were hired in 1996 to assess the state of the Notre Dame de Chicago building. They found that the wooden frames holding in the church’s century-old stained glass windows had warped, and needed immediate repair among running the risk of the windows themselves cracking.

“It took us over 12 months to complete the windows. They had to be completely removed so we could rebuild the frames,” said Rigali of the massive project.

The glittering glass pieces were restored and new glass coverings were added as a protective measure. The windows were rededicated in March of 2002.

"So much has been reported about the troubles and tribulations the church is undergoing at this time," gushed the Rev. Paul Reicher to the Chicago Tribune during the rededication ceremony.

"Now, all of the sudden, we have news of a small parish making its way. It gives us a signal of hope."

Notre Dame de Chicago took that sign and ran with it. Notre Dame de Chicago also hired Daprato Rigali to rebuild the church’s marble altar, opening the space by removing pews. Rigali designed a new altar, made with Italian marble.

        “The work we did there was just…awesome,” he says, “What we did, really, was just highlight the existing architecture. It was already beautiful, it just needed a few coats of paint, so to speak.”

Although the marble project took another two years to complete, the paint wasn’t too far behind. The Church quickly hired Parma Conservation to take on the daunting task of cleaning and conserving the 2,000 square foot. “Creation” mural in the iconic dome. Originally painted in 1903, the mural was barely recognizable due to year of chipping and other damage.

Elizabeth Kendall, founder of Parma Conservation, and her team took six months to restore the painting.        

“Sometimes, you just don’t know what you are going to find underneath all of the damage. With [Notre Dame de Chicago], we found much more than we had anticipated,” Kendall said.

The finished mural includes restored scenes from the Old and New Testament, now a bright reminder of the ideology of the Catholic faith.

Overall, the $2.2 million renovations were completed in 2005, thanks in part to the Church’s Legacy Campaign. The campaign looked to restore the church to its former glory, including replacing the slate roof, installing new lighting, and replacing the old sound system. The campaign raised $770,000 in donations.

“We can always count on the generosity of [our parishioners],” said the Rev. Patrick Pollard during his Ash Wednesday homily, struggling to top the loud development below his feet.

        A testament to that statement, over one-half of the $460,000 required for the church’s Campaign for Access was paid for by money already donated to the Legacy fund. The remainder was borrowed from the Archdiocese of Chicago and will be paid back from parish donations.

“We don’t have any plans past the elevator for more renovations…yet,” said Mio. The unveiling of the new elevator is slated for the week of March 1st.

By Kathryn Hills              Receiving ashes on the first day of Lent is common practice for Catholics, but parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on the Southwest Side of Chicago receive something in addition to the traditional ashes.              “Parishioners will receive the ashes, of course, but they will also receive a small stone, which is representative of what weighs them down,” explained the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux of Our Lady of Guadalupe.             The extra component is in honor of the National Shrine of St. Jude, which is housed in the parish. St. Jude is the patron saint of seemingly hopeless causes, according to the Claretians, who set up the shrine.             It was the Rev. James Tort, a Claretian missionary, who began praying regularly to St. Jude in 1929 because many of his parishioners were blue collars workers at the nearby steel mills. The mills were reducing its workforce at the time, leaving 90 percent of parishioners without a paycheck.The issues are much the same today on Chicago’s South Side, according to Dr. Paul Schewe, 44, director of the University of Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence. “The closing of steel mills, with poverty and unemployment, gangs come in to fill the need. It’s [South Chicago] a multi-need kind of area of urban poverty,” Schewe said.             However, in 1923 it was Our Lady of Guadalupe that came in to fill the need, and continues to be a source for community outreach. Considered the first Mexican Catholic parish in Chicago, Our Lady of Guadalupe eventually became the first permanent Spanish-speaking church in 1923, but not without persuasion.             According to Malachy McCarthy’s dissertation on religious programs’ attempts to Americanize Mexican immigrants, “problems associated with Mexican immigration,” particularly the influx of immigrants in South Chicago and their rejection from local churches in a primarily Polish district, “exploded in South Chicago” in 1923.It was only at this time that Archbishop George Mundelein decided to respond to the religious needs of the Mexican community by building Our Lady of Guadalupe, despite previous advocacy for it.              Now, nearly 90 years later, the church originally created to address these needs has expanded to include successful elementary and religious schools, as well as numerous social outreach programs in order to be considered an anchor of South Chicago, a community in which there are still various issues.When Mundelein entrusted Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Claretian Missionary in 1924, which has staffed the church ever since, an aggressive integration of the church and its parishioners into the community began.             “To say the Claretians have a thumbprint in South Chicago is an understatement,” said Michael J. Hughes, 64, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s elementary school.              With the support of the Claretians, the elementary school has become a resource for the Hispanic community as well, as its demographics are 90 percent Hispanic and 10 percent African American, according to Hughes, who has been the principal for seven years.             Since Hughes became the principal, enrollment has increased every year, whereas enrollment has decreased in most Chicago Public Schools, along with increases in test scores, which are high above national averages.             This success is noticeable especially in comparison to many public schools in low socio-economic areas such as South Chicago, where the income per household is $19,000 and 97 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced lunches, which are currently being closed or termed as “turn around schools” because of low test scores.              “A big part of the message is that we’re all here for a certain amount of time, and we need to help someone else. The subliminal message becomes a dominant theme—this happens over time, not overnight, over time,” Hughes said about the difference of attending Our Lady of Guadalupe School.Yolanda Quesada, who sends her grandchildren to the elementary school, can attest to the difference.             “I have sent my children to public school and have seen firsthand the life changing difference that a Catholic education provides,” Quesada said. “I have a grandson with ADHD and the teachers, as well as the programs that are implemented, provide a healthy and happy method of [dealing with] this challenging situation.”             In addition to more 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, there are more than 400 students in the religious studies school, which meets every Saturday. It is overseen by the Archdiocese of Chicago, meaning it must adhere to its principles, but the school is operated independently with its own board of directors.             Like the church, the elementary school has partaken in many programs to better the community, one of which was the South Chicago United for Nonviolence (SUN) project, which aimed to investigate the prevalence of violence and intervene in productive ways, such as in youth and headstart programs.             Funded by Metropolitan Family Services, an “I Can Problem Solve” curriculum was implemented in schools in South Chicago, including Our Lady of Guadalupe School, to train teachers to encourage a dialogue about everyday issues among young children.             As a result of the program, children showed reductions in aggression, were more likely to show concern for others, had greater emotion regulation, and were less isolated. Teachers and parents also improved in knowledge each year, according to Schewe, who was the principal investigator for the initiative.             While participation in programs like this has been vital, simple things have also made Our Lady of Guadalupe a cornerstone of the Hispanic community. The fact that the church is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily is unique and, in addition to their five Spanish masses on Sunday they take steps to be immigrant friendly, providing services specific to the needs of that demographic.             These simple measures are part of the reason why they have such a loyal following, according to the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux.“We have third and fourth generation Mexicans here, so some don’t speak any Spanish, but there are others who are more comfortable with Spanish,” Quebedeaux said. “[Even though] some people may belong to another parish, they maintain a relationship here because of their roots here; many of their parents were a part of the parish.”

By Kathryn Hills

           
Receiving ashes on the first day of Lent is common practice for Catholics, but parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on the Southwest Side of Chicago receive something in addition to the traditional ashes.
            “Parishioners will receive the ashes, of course, but they will also receive a small stone, which is representative of what weighs them down,” explained the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
            The extra component is in honor of the National Shrine of St. Jude, which is housed in the parish. St. Jude is the patron saint of seemingly hopeless causes, according to the Claretians, who set up the shrine.
            It was the Rev. James Tort, a Claretian missionary, who began praying regularly to St. Jude in 1929 because many of his parishioners were blue collars workers at the nearby steel mills. The mills were reducing its workforce at the time, leaving 90 percent of parishioners without a paycheck.
The issues are much the same today on Chicago’s South Side, according to Dr. Paul Schewe, 44, director of the University of Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence.
“The closing of steel mills, with poverty and unemployment, gangs come in to fill the need. It’s [South Chicago] a multi-need kind of area of urban poverty,” Schewe said.
            However, in 1923 it was Our Lady of Guadalupe that came in to fill the need, and continues to be a source for community outreach. Considered the first Mexican Catholic parish in Chicago, Our Lady of Guadalupe eventually became the first permanent Spanish-speaking church in 1923, but not without persuasion.
            According to Malachy McCarthy’s dissertation on religious programs’ attempts to Americanize Mexican immigrants, “problems associated with Mexican immigration,” particularly the influx of immigrants in South Chicago and their rejection from local churches in a primarily Polish district, “exploded in South Chicago” in 1923.
It was only at this time that Archbishop George Mundelein decided to respond to the religious needs of the Mexican community by building Our Lady of Guadalupe, despite previous advocacy for it.
            Now, nearly 90 years later, the church originally created to address these needs has expanded to include successful elementary and religious schools, as well as numerous social outreach programs in order to be considered an anchor of South Chicago, a community in which there are still various issues.
When Mundelein entrusted Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Claretian Missionary in 1924, which has staffed the church ever since, an aggressive integration of the church and its parishioners into the community began.
            “To say the Claretians have a thumbprint in South Chicago is an understatement,” said Michael J. Hughes, 64, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s elementary school.
            With the support of the Claretians, the elementary school has become a resource for the Hispanic community as well, as its demographics are 90 percent Hispanic and 10 percent African American, according to Hughes, who has been the principal for seven years.
            Since Hughes became the principal, enrollment has increased every year, whereas enrollment has decreased in most Chicago Public Schools, along with increases in test scores, which are high above national averages.
            This success is noticeable especially in comparison to many public schools in low socio-economic areas such as South Chicago, where the income per household is $19,000 and 97 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced lunches, which are currently being closed or termed as “turn around schools” because of low test scores.
            “A big part of the message is that we’re all here for a certain amount of time, and we need to help someone else. The subliminal message becomes a dominant theme—this happens over time, not overnight, over time,” Hughes said about the difference of attending Our Lady of Guadalupe School.
Yolanda Quesada, who sends her grandchildren to the elementary school, can attest to the difference.
            “I have sent my children to public school and have seen firsthand the life changing difference that a Catholic education provides,” Quesada said. “I have a grandson with ADHD and the teachers, as well as the programs that are implemented, provide a healthy and happy method of [dealing with] this challenging situation.”
            In addition to more 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, there are more than 400 students in the religious studies school, which meets every Saturday. It is overseen by the Archdiocese of Chicago, meaning it must adhere to its principles, but the school is operated independently with its own board of directors.
            Like the church, the elementary school has partaken in many programs to better the community, one of which was the South Chicago United for Nonviolence (SUN) project, which aimed to investigate the prevalence of violence and intervene in productive ways, such as in youth and headstart programs.
            Funded by Metropolitan Family Services, an “I Can Problem Solve” curriculum was implemented in schools in South Chicago, including Our Lady of Guadalupe School, to train teachers to encourage a dialogue about everyday issues among young children.
            As a result of the program, children showed reductions in aggression, were more likely to show concern for others, had greater emotion regulation, and were less isolated. Teachers and parents also improved in knowledge each year, according to Schewe, who was the principal investigator for the initiative.
            While participation in programs like this has been vital, simple things have also made Our Lady of Guadalupe a cornerstone of the Hispanic community. The fact that the church is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily is unique and, in addition to their five Spanish masses on Sunday they take steps to be immigrant friendly, providing services specific to the needs of that demographic.
            These simple measures are part of the reason why they have such a loyal following, according to the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux.
“We have third and fourth generation Mexicans here, so some don’t speak any Spanish, but there are others who are more comfortable with Spanish,” Quebedeaux said. “[Even though] some people may belong to another parish, they maintain a relationship here because of their roots here; many of their parents were a part of the parish.”

Story by Hillary Kenyon, Photos by Jonathan Hill
     On Chicago’s West Side, amidst shuttered homes, broken glass bottles and police security cameras, a glimmer of hope remains on the corner of Iowa Street.     The Our Lady of the Angels Catholic church in Humboldt Park has survived much more than the tough neighborhood in which it is located in today. Many long-time Chicagoans recognize the name for the 1958 school fire that took the lives of 92 school children and three nuns.      “[Our Lady of the Angels] was like a lot of Catholic schools in the 1950s: very much based in the community,” said Jay Shefsky, producer of the Emmy award winning documentary Angels Too Soon. “Everybody in that neighborhood went to that school and it was the true center of the community. But the school burned down and there was a lot of trauma and a lot of bad memories.”      Around the time of the fire, Our Lady of the Angels was one of the largest parishes in Chicago with 1,200 parishioners filling the pews for the Mass upstairs, and a simultaneous Mass taking place downstairs, according to Sister Stephanie Baliga, a 23-year old Franciscan nun. At its height, people would sit on the steps to hear the sermon if there was no room inside.      But the tragedy shook the once uniquely prominent Irish, Italian and Polish parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels and throughout the years many fire survivors and families left for west suburban Melrose Park. By 1990, attendance dwindled to the point of the church’s closure and the rise and fall of the Cabrini-Green project development brought an influx of a new population to the neighborhood along with crime and poverty.      The lack of Catholic presence was replaced with a Baptist group that used the church periodically after the school shut down in 1999. This saved the structure from dilapidation and major destruction before the Rev. Bob Lombardo, a Franciscan priest from New York, made a move to Chicago to turn the church around.“The Cardinal asked me to work on this project to make sure the church is always taking care of the poor and there are a lot of poor people in Humboldt Park, so he was concerned about that,” Lombardo said. “He made sure we followed the gospel and shared with the poor. And because of the fire he wanted to make sure we kept a Catholic presence there.”       Still, when Bob Lombardo first received a phone call from Cardinal Francis George in 2005 to initiate repairs on the church, the shabby interior with water damage from years of abandonment originally deterred the priest from New York to say “yes” to the Cardinal’s offer.      “When Father Bob first came on a visit here he was shown several different parishes that had been closed that he could have gone to,” Baliga said. “This was not one of his choices because it was a mess, it was a disaster. Some of the other parishes were in better shape. So it would have been a lot easier to start a ministry instead of spending five plus years doing renovations before he could do a full-scale ministry.”     But according to Baliga, after Lombardo eventually said yes, “the Lord blessed the work of his hands.” Lombardo went from knowing little about the inner-workings of construction to making enough contacts from speaking at parishes across Illinois to collect donations and volunteers to complete the $2 million project.  Baliga, a recent University of Illinois graduate from Rockford, joined Lombardo in 2009 to help with renovations. Nearly seven years later, most of the repairs are complete, but according to Lombardo will not open as a parish remembered from the time before the fire.      Our Lady of the Angels is considered a mission and the foundation of the brick and concrete buildings sprawled across a city block are cracked and in disrepair. The sidewalk is littered and the steps are crumbling leading up to the unvarnished wood arched doorways. But inside the three sisters, two male discerners and Lombardo spread the Catholic word through outreach in one of the worst areas in Chicago.      “There’s a lot of hope from what we’re doing,” Baliga said. “The kids that we’re helping, the food we provide gives people something to look forward to: there’s someone that cares about me. There’s someone who really exists out here in this desert of a neighborhood no one wants to go into. There’s people that actually care and give people hope to look toward the future.”      The old rectory is living quarters for the sisters while across the street the old convent is a retreat center for groups of volunteers and eventually neighborhood youth. From the basement, clothing and food is piled high for a mobile food pantry held in the YMCA parking lot at Kelly Hall the first Saturday of the month to help 200 families in the Humboldt Park living in poverty.      Lombardo was weary of continuing construction on the actual church during the height of the economic recession in 2009. The basement had extensive water damage and upstairs the confessional was used previously as a “junk closet.” But by summer 2011 a change of heart brought 200 volunteers to sand the pews eventually leading to more work on the marble altar and stained glass during the winter.       Dennis Walter is a volunteer from St. Clement Church and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He stopped volunteering, but in March 2012 he returned to Our Lady of the Angels to see the results of projects he worked on like gardening the desolate landscape, cleaning out the kitchens and bathrooms and mopping the basement.      “It is just great to see where this church is now compared to where it was a couple years ago when there were no pews and the church was not completely finished,” Walter said.      In the future the church will hold a perpetual adoration with at least one person praying there all day, the entire year.  And on April 14, a Mass was held to re-dedicate the Parish to the community with an appearance by Cardinal George.      “[The Cardinal] wanted someone there to be praying for the souls of those who died, which we do everyday. So he wanted a Catholic presence charity at the site of the fire,” Baliga said. “And it has brought a lot of hope to the survivors. That there’s something coming back instead of the Parish being abandoned and because this neighborhood is horrible”      Volunteers like Walter think the renovations will not only impact victims of the tragic fire that destroyed the former thriving parish, but bring life back to the new community members as well.      “I think seeing that someone rebuilt this community for them just might give them a sense of pride as opposed to a sense of despair thinking no one is helping them,” Walter said.

Story by Hillary Kenyon, Photos by Jonathan Hill

    On Chicago’s West Side, amidst shuttered homes, broken glass bottles and police security cameras, a glimmer of hope remains on the corner of Iowa Street.
    The Our Lady of the Angels Catholic church in Humboldt Park has survived much more than the tough neighborhood in which it is located in today. Many long-time Chicagoans recognize the name for the 1958 school fire that took the lives of 92 school children and three nuns.
    “[Our Lady of the Angels] was like a lot of Catholic schools in the 1950s: very much based in the community,” said Jay Shefsky, producer of the Emmy award winning documentary Angels Too Soon. “Everybody in that neighborhood went to that school and it was the true center of the community. But the school burned down and there was a lot of trauma and a lot of bad memories.”
    Around the time of the fire, Our Lady of the Angels was one of the largest parishes in Chicago with 1,200 parishioners filling the pews for the Mass upstairs, and a simultaneous Mass taking place downstairs, according to Sister Stephanie Baliga, a 23-year old Franciscan nun. At its height, people would sit on the steps to hear the sermon if there was no room inside.
    But the tragedy shook the once uniquely prominent Irish, Italian and Polish parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels and throughout the years many fire survivors and families left for west suburban Melrose Park. By 1990, attendance dwindled to the point of the church’s closure and the rise and fall of the Cabrini-Green project development brought an influx of a new population to the neighborhood along with crime and poverty.
    The lack of Catholic presence was replaced with a Baptist group that used the church periodically after the school shut down in 1999. This saved the structure from dilapidation and major destruction before the Rev. Bob Lombardo, a Franciscan priest from New York, made a move to Chicago to turn the church around.
“The Cardinal asked me to work on this project to make sure the church is always taking care of the poor and there are a lot of poor people in Humboldt Park, so he was concerned about that,” Lombardo said. “He made sure we followed the gospel and shared with the poor. And because of the fire he wanted to make sure we kept a Catholic presence there.”  
    Still, when Bob Lombardo first received a phone call from Cardinal Francis George in 2005 to initiate repairs on the church, the shabby interior with water damage from years of abandonment originally deterred the priest from New York to say “yes” to the Cardinal’s offer.
    “When Father Bob first came on a visit here he was shown several different parishes that had been closed that he could have gone to,” Baliga said. “This was not one of his choices because it was a mess, it was a disaster. Some of the other parishes were in better shape. So it would have been a lot easier to start a ministry instead of spending five plus years doing renovations before he could do a full-scale ministry.”
    But according to Baliga, after Lombardo eventually said yes, “the Lord blessed the work of his hands.” Lombardo went from knowing little about the inner-workings of construction to making enough contacts from speaking at parishes across Illinois to collect donations and volunteers to complete the $2 million project.  Baliga, a recent University of Illinois graduate from Rockford, joined Lombardo in 2009 to help with renovations. Nearly seven years later, most of the repairs are complete, but according to Lombardo will not open as a parish remembered from the time before the fire.
    Our Lady of the Angels is considered a mission and the foundation of the brick and concrete buildings sprawled across a city block are cracked and in disrepair. The sidewalk is littered and the steps are crumbling leading up to the unvarnished wood arched doorways. But inside the three sisters, two male discerners and Lombardo spread the Catholic word through outreach in one of the worst areas in Chicago.
    “There’s a lot of hope from what we’re doing,” Baliga said. “The kids that we’re helping, the food we provide gives people something to look forward to: there’s someone that cares about me. There’s someone who really exists out here in this desert of a neighborhood no one wants to go into. There’s people that actually care and give people hope to look toward the future.”
    The old rectory is living quarters for the sisters while across the street the old convent is a retreat center for groups of volunteers and eventually neighborhood youth. From the basement, clothing and food is piled high for a mobile food pantry held in the YMCA parking lot at Kelly Hall the first Saturday of the month to help 200 families in the Humboldt Park living in poverty.
    Lombardo was weary of continuing construction on the actual church during the height of the economic recession in 2009. The basement had extensive water damage and upstairs the confessional was used previously as a “junk closet.” But by summer 2011 a change of heart brought 200 volunteers to sand the pews eventually leading to more work on the marble altar and stained glass during the winter.
     Dennis Walter is a volunteer from St. Clement Church and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He stopped volunteering, but in March 2012 he returned to Our Lady of the Angels to see the results of projects he worked on like gardening the desolate landscape, cleaning out the kitchens and bathrooms and mopping the basement.
    “It is just great to see where this church is now compared to where it was a couple years ago when there were no pews and the church was not completely finished,” Walter said.
    In the future the church will hold a perpetual adoration with at least one person praying there all day, the entire year.  And on April 14, a Mass was held to re-dedicate the Parish to the community with an appearance by Cardinal George.
    “[The Cardinal] wanted someone there to be praying for the souls of those who died, which we do everyday. So he wanted a Catholic presence charity at the site of the fire,” Baliga said. “And it has brought a lot of hope to the survivors. That there’s something coming back instead of the Parish being abandoned and because this neighborhood is horrible”
     Volunteers like Walter think the renovations will not only impact victims of the tragic fire that destroyed the former thriving parish, but bring life back to the new community members as well.
    “I think seeing that someone rebuilt this community for them just might give them a sense of pride as opposed to a sense of despair thinking no one is helping them,” Walter said.

Fighting for funds: Chicago Loop service church struggles to keep its doors open
Story by Chiara Milioulis, Photos by Emily Study

       Despite its central location in the business and finance sector of the Loop in Chicago and the millions of commuters who traverse its path, Saint Peter’s Church strives to become financially solvent.        The nearest church to the north of Saint Peter’s is Holy Name Cathedral and its Sunday collection averages from $35,000 to $45,000. Being a service church instead of parish church, like many Catholic parishes in Chicago, Saint Peter’s collects donations at every Mass during the week. Still, its weekly efforts rarely amount to $8,000.       Relying on two fundraisers a year, during Christmas and Easter, collections during Mass, earnings from the bookstore, wills and bequests, the church still faces the imminent problem of insufficient funding for its community outreach programs such as the Franciscan Outreach Association and its daily dues to continue to house and staff the Franciscan friars and service those who attend the church.        “Our ordinary income no way allows us to stay open,” said Saint Peter’s pastor, Rev. Kurt Hartrich O.F.M., 73. “We want to stay open but we can’t do it with monopoly money.” Steven Avella, reverend and history professor at Marquette University, said the status quo of the Loop is integral to the mission of the church. He said Saint Peter’s is a church for those who want to catch Mass during the workday, a confessional site for Catholics, anonymous and quiet for those who want to remain unknown and a shrine site for those who have special prayer needs. With the Franciscans having a reputation for being gentle and compassionate confessors, Saint Peter’s is seamlessly woven into the social fabric of the Loop.       “It is immersed in the heart of one of America’s busiest cities and its clientele encompasses the spectrum of Catholic life from the desperately poor to the affluent [and] from the simple to the most sophisticated,” Avella said.        Commuter attraction is not a new nuance for Saint Peter’s, as its previous location was on the corner of Clark and Polk streets in 1854, a block away from the Dearborn Train Station. Millions of German immigrants settled in the South Loop and Saint Peter’s German-speaking Franciscans served their ecclesiastical culture.       However, during World War I, German immigrants began to wane in number. Homes were torn down and warehouses were built to pave the way for an industrial society. Because of the lack of people and contributions, the Franciscans left the church and bought a new property on 110 W. Madison Street, the previous location of LaSalle Theatre. Over time, the warehouses were destroyed and lofts were built to cater to a new financial sector.        “Today, those German roots would not be much in evidence,” Avella said. “But the devotional life of the church, especially its special attention to Saint Anthony of Padua… a healer and a finder of lost objects, is a hang-over from its German days.” The $4 million project by architects Vitzthum and Burns in 1953 does not reflect financial deprivation. The prominent three-story crucifix on the rosy marble exterior mirrors the inside of the church. However, its marble interior was not meant to reflect luxury, said Hartrich. Instead, the architects wanted to cut its future maintenance costs.        Tim Samuelson, a Chicago cultural historian, said Saint Peter’s is a truly urban downtown church. However, as its surrounded by skyscrapers and high-rises, Saint Peter’s looks as if it was lowered into its spot. In fact, it blends into the buildings making it almost unrecognizable by those who walk by.       “Most churches have a commanding corner and steeple but this building sits not on a corner but on a regular Chicago block,” Samuelson said.        The change of location also brought a shift to the culture it caters. Hartrich said at any Mass there is not one prominent group of people as Saint Peter’s welcomes multi-cultural ethnicities. The church also houses foreign priests from Vietnam and Mexico who want to learn English and a number of people who come are primarily Spanish speakers from Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela.       “Those who work in the financial district come in as well as commuters and people of all ages and ethnicities,” said Fred Colantino, 63, who attends Saint Peter’s on a daily basis.        Servicing the wide range of ethnic groups, Saint Peter’s supplements what local parish churches only provide on Sundays. It offers 72 hours of confessions a week, everyday Mass and programs that provide theological, psychological and financial workshops.  Rev. Robert Pawell O.F.M., 73, a Franciscan friar and director of programs at St. Peter’s, states that the whole mission of the church is dependent on financial support to keep the doors open for Mass, these programs as well as to maintain utilities for the city inspections. Because it is not a parish church, Saint Peter’s does not receive help from Catholic organizations.        “A lot of people take us for granted. We don’t get a penny from the Archdiocese. They tax us,” Pawell said.  Arguably one of the largest programs for Saint Peter’s is the Franciscan Outreach Association, FOA, which offers daily nourishment, housing, showers, soup kitchens, laundry, a mailing address to receive government subsidies and medical and health care to those in need in three locations in Chicago.       Abbie Dangle, 31, the Streets-to-Home Case Manager of the FOA, said the program is unique because the homeless and those in need work with full time professionals to help them lead more productive lives.        “We don’t require anything religiously or spiritually out of people,” Dangle said. “We focus on relationships with people and for those who have a mental illness, have health problems or are substance abusers, this relationship becomes a resource for them.”       The FOA has become Saint Peter’s primary referral and it sponsors this program by donating $2,000 a month. Still, the FOA struggles to find the resources to keep the program running efficiently. Waiting lists for help are endless, transportation is not provided for clients and tensions grow as the homeless now need to pay for housing programs.       Through this fight, the lights remain on, the doors remain open and the programs are still alive. On Ash Wednesday alone, Saint Peter’s welcomed 40,000 people at 12 Masses. “At present, the economy is bad, but perhaps the spirits, not the souls, of the people are somewhat less fervent than in the past,” said Dr. Sam Danna, a deacon at Saint Peter’s Church and communications professor at Loyola University of Chicago.       Saint Peter’s, as described by Avella, is a church without boundaries. Samuelson remembers when Mayor Richard J. Daley would walk from city hall to Saint Peter’s on a daily basis to attend Mass. Indeed, it is a microcosm of the history of Chicago.        “We started staffing people in 1869,” said Hartrich. “And here it is in 2012 and we’re still here.”

Fighting for funds: Chicago Loop service church struggles to keep its doors open

Story by Chiara Milioulis, Photos by Emily Study


       Despite its central location in the business and finance sector of the Loop in Chicago and the millions of commuters who traverse its path, Saint Peter’s Church strives to become financially solvent.
       The nearest church to the north of Saint Peter’s is Holy Name Cathedral and its Sunday collection averages from $35,000 to $45,000. Being a service church instead of parish church, like many Catholic parishes in Chicago, Saint Peter’s collects donations at every Mass during the week. Still, its weekly efforts rarely amount to $8,000.
       Relying on two fundraisers a year, during Christmas and Easter, collections during Mass, earnings from the bookstore, wills and bequests, the church still faces the imminent problem of insufficient funding for its community outreach programs such as the Franciscan Outreach Association and its daily dues to continue to house and staff the Franciscan friars and service those who attend the church.
       “Our ordinary income no way allows us to stay open,” said Saint Peter’s pastor, Rev. Kurt Hartrich O.F.M., 73. “We want to stay open but we can’t do it with monopoly money.”
Steven Avella, reverend and history professor at Marquette University, said the status quo of the Loop is integral to the mission of the church. He said Saint Peter’s is a church for those who want to catch Mass during the workday, a confessional site for Catholics, anonymous and quiet for those who want to remain unknown and a shrine site for those who have special prayer needs. With the Franciscans having a reputation for being gentle and compassionate confessors, Saint Peter’s is seamlessly woven into the social fabric of the Loop.
       “It is immersed in the heart of one of America’s busiest cities and its clientele encompasses the spectrum of Catholic life from the desperately poor to the affluent [and] from the simple to the most sophisticated,” Avella said.
       Commuter attraction is not a new nuance for Saint Peter’s, as its previous location was on the corner of Clark and Polk streets in 1854, a block away from the Dearborn Train Station. Millions of German immigrants settled in the South Loop and Saint Peter’s German-speaking Franciscans served their ecclesiastical culture.
       However, during World War I, German immigrants began to wane in number. Homes were torn down and warehouses were built to pave the way for an industrial society. Because of the lack of people and contributions, the Franciscans left the church and bought a new property on 110 W. Madison Street, the previous location of LaSalle Theatre. Over time, the warehouses were destroyed and lofts were built to cater to a new financial sector.
       “Today, those German roots would not be much in evidence,” Avella said. “But the devotional life of the church, especially its special attention to Saint Anthony of Padua… a healer and a finder of lost objects, is a hang-over from its German days.”
The $4 million project by architects Vitzthum and Burns in 1953 does not reflect financial deprivation. The prominent three-story crucifix on the rosy marble exterior mirrors the inside of the church. However, its marble interior was not meant to reflect luxury, said Hartrich. Instead, the architects wanted to cut its future maintenance costs.
       Tim Samuelson, a Chicago cultural historian, said Saint Peter’s is a truly urban downtown church. However, as its surrounded by skyscrapers and high-rises, Saint Peter’s looks as if it was lowered into its spot. In fact, it blends into the buildings making it almost unrecognizable by those who walk by.
       “Most churches have a commanding corner and steeple but this building sits not on a corner but on a regular Chicago block,” Samuelson said.
       The change of location also brought a shift to the culture it caters. Hartrich said at any Mass there is not one prominent group of people as Saint Peter’s welcomes multi-cultural ethnicities. The church also houses foreign priests from Vietnam and Mexico who want to learn English and a number of people who come are primarily Spanish speakers from Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela.
       “Those who work in the financial district come in as well as commuters and people of all ages and ethnicities,” said Fred Colantino, 63, who attends Saint Peter’s on a daily basis.
       Servicing the wide range of ethnic groups, Saint Peter’s supplements what local parish churches only provide on Sundays. It offers 72 hours of confessions a week, everyday Mass and programs that provide theological, psychological and financial workshops.
Rev. Robert Pawell O.F.M., 73, a Franciscan friar and director of programs at St. Peter’s, states that the whole mission of the church is dependent on financial support to keep the doors open for Mass, these programs as well as to maintain utilities for the city inspections. Because it is not a parish church, Saint Peter’s does not receive help from Catholic organizations.
       “A lot of people take us for granted. We don’t get a penny from the Archdiocese. They tax us,” Pawell said.
Arguably one of the largest programs for Saint Peter’s is the Franciscan Outreach Association, FOA, which offers daily nourishment, housing, showers, soup kitchens, laundry, a mailing address to receive government subsidies and medical and health care to those in need in three locations in Chicago.
       Abbie Dangle, 31, the Streets-to-Home Case Manager of the FOA, said the program is unique because the homeless and those in need work with full time professionals to help them lead more productive lives.
       “We don’t require anything religiously or spiritually out of people,” Dangle said. “We focus on relationships with people and for those who have a mental illness, have health problems or are substance abusers, this relationship becomes a resource for them.”
       The FOA has become Saint Peter’s primary referral and it sponsors this program by donating $2,000 a month. Still, the FOA struggles to find the resources to keep the program running efficiently. Waiting lists for help are endless, transportation is not provided for clients and tensions grow as the homeless now need to pay for housing programs.
       Through this fight, the lights remain on, the doors remain open and the programs are still alive. On Ash Wednesday alone, Saint Peter’s welcomed 40,000 people at 12 Masses.
“At present, the economy is bad, but perhaps the spirits, not the souls, of the people are somewhat less fervent than in the past,” said Dr. Sam Danna, a deacon at Saint Peter’s Church and communications professor at Loyola University of Chicago.
       Saint Peter’s, as described by Avella, is a church without boundaries. Samuelson remembers when Mayor Richard J. Daley would walk from city hall to Saint Peter’s on a daily basis to attend Mass. Indeed, it is a microcosm of the history of Chicago.
       “We started staffing people in 1869,” said Hartrich. “And here it is in 2012 and we’re still here.”

House of immigrant Catholics
By: Maria Rodriguez, Photos by Graham Henderson

Maria Diaz walks to the corner of 19th Street and Ashland Avenue every Sunday to visit a brick chapel called St. Pius V. During the other days of the week, she works at the Parish’s secondhand store, La Tiendita, which provides used clothing and household items to poor families and the homeless.
This middle-aged Mexican woman migrated to the United States 20 years ago filled with hope for a brighter future for her children.
Diaz, like hundreds of immigrants, struggled to adapt to a new environment and a whole new life. But when she arrived to St. Pius V to give thanks to God she and her husband had a job, she found in this place the strength and faith needed to overcome the obstacles of coming to a large city, with no money and speaking no English.
“ When I visited St. Pius for the first time and I listened to the preacher, I felt something touched my heart. Since that moment I have never stopped going,” Diaz said with watery eyes. 
St. Pius V was built in a Romanesque Style more than 120 years ago, inside the 14 blocks long, eight blocks wide boundary of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. For a small neighborhood, Pilsen holds a remarkable place in the history and development of the city and St. Pius V has been a visible participant.
Waves of ethnic groups have populated the southwest area of Chicago’s Loop. It was home for many Germans, Irish, Poles, Italians and Czechs. Today, along with Little Village, Pilsen has the highest concentration of Mexican-origin people in Chicago.
As the neighborhood changed through time, St. Pius V did too. It changed from being a Euro-American parish to a predominantly Mexican community and as this happened, it carefully adapted to the emotional and spiritual needs of its new parishioners. Of the eight parishes in Pilsen, St. Pius V was the first to offer the Catholic mass in Spanish.
“Being at St. Pius is like being in Mexico,” Diaz said. “With the environment, the music and the language you feel like home.”
The church’s stained glass reflects the past of the immigrants who worked hard to gain a foothold in America and it fills the new generations with hope.
Over the course of its history, St. Pius V has welcomed and assisted thousands of immigrants that walk through its doors seeking help.
“We are a safe heaven where people can come with confidence and trust and receive a warm welcome for whatever problem they have,” said the Rev. Charles W. Dahm, associate pastor of St. Pius V. “If we cannot resolve their problem, we can refer them, accompany and support them during their struggle to solve it.  St. Pius V is very welcoming and compassionate to immigrant people, showing forth the compassion of Jesus.”
The first priority for a church serving an immigrant community, where many people come with everything they own in a single suitcase, is to help them meet their immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter.  Thus, St. Pius V has committed to create social programs like the Soup Kitchen, which serves 500 hot meals weekly in the church basement, San Jose Obrero Mission, a temporary shelter for homeless men and Casa Juan Diego, a program to contribute to the personal development of children and youth through educational and recreational activities.
Among the church initiatives to help Pilsen’s community, there are other ministries and pastoral services that seek to address long-term problems of transition. Parenting classes, violence prevention through youth empowerment, legal aid education guidance, marriage counseling and a specialized program of domestic violence are some of the services St. Pius offers to Pilsen families.
“For me, Casa Juan Diego, was a blessing,” said Diaz. “I took all my children to the after school program where volunteers helped them to do their homework and created different recreational activities. That helped them to stay away from gangs and drugs and to appreciate the education they were receiving at their schools.”
These efforts to meet the needs of the community have yielded positive results and have attracted many people who live outside Pilsen’s borders. St. Pius V has become a refuge to many families that find in this church the inspiration to move forward toward spiritual growth, but also toward a more successful life. 
“Our success is showed in the numbers,” said the Rev. Brendan Curran, pastor of St. Pius V. “Over 75% of our parish commute to mass on Sundays from somewhere outside the little Pilsen area.”
As St. Pius V overcome borders and gets new parishioners, leaders think about ways to provide enrichment to them where they are. Curran said it is very important to have programs rooted in their neighborhoods, where they can get immediate assistance when needed.
“One active project that is on its first phase is Comunidades de Base,” he said. “ We have a nice network of 12 communities that gather together to analyze issues of common interest in the different neighborhoods. This is very important not only to strengthen interpersonal relationships, but to create a sense of community within a larger spectrum.”
St Pius’ leadership and continuous community awareness has helped it gain the confidence of people who have been inspired to contribute to their social activism. It has stand out from other parishes because of its community focal point and because of its prominent place in the historical pattern of immigration.
“ Sunday collection only raises 11 percent of our budget, so our ability to do this [programs] is through grants,” Curran said. “ Foundations and individuals that want to see our programs grow and continue donate to try some of the experiments we’ve done over the years.”
Over the time, St. Pius V has transformed the voiceless victims of a vulnerable community into powerful advocates full of generosity who assist each other’s necessities. It has become a place where the spirit and soul of immigrants reverberates with the essence of what it means to overcome the difficult realities of coming to a new and complex country.

House of immigrant Catholics

By: Maria Rodriguez, Photos by Graham Henderson


Maria Diaz walks to the corner of 19th Street and Ashland Avenue every Sunday to visit a brick chapel called St. Pius V. During the other days of the week, she works at the Parish’s secondhand store, La Tiendita, which provides used clothing and household items to poor families and the homeless.

This middle-aged Mexican woman migrated to the United States 20 years ago filled with hope for a brighter future for her children.

Diaz, like hundreds of immigrants, struggled to adapt to a new environment and a whole new life. But when she arrived to St. Pius V to give thanks to God she and her husband had a job, she found in this place the strength and faith needed to overcome the obstacles of coming to a large city, with no money and speaking no English.

“ When I visited St. Pius for the first time and I listened to the preacher, I felt something touched my heart. Since that moment I have never stopped going,” Diaz said with watery eyes.

St. Pius V was built in a Romanesque Style more than 120 years ago, inside the 14 blocks long, eight blocks wide boundary of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. For a small neighborhood, Pilsen holds a remarkable place in the history and development of the city and St. Pius V has been a visible participant.

Waves of ethnic groups have populated the southwest area of Chicago’s Loop. It was home for many Germans, Irish, Poles, Italians and Czechs. Today, along with Little Village, Pilsen has the highest concentration of Mexican-origin people in Chicago.

As the neighborhood changed through time, St. Pius V did too. It changed from being a Euro-American parish to a predominantly Mexican community and as this happened, it carefully adapted to the emotional and spiritual needs of its new parishioners. Of the eight parishes in Pilsen, St. Pius V was the first to offer the Catholic mass in Spanish.

“Being at St. Pius is like being in Mexico,” Diaz said. “With the environment, the music and the language you feel like home.”

The church’s stained glass reflects the past of the immigrants who worked hard to gain a foothold in America and it fills the new generations with hope.

Over the course of its history, St. Pius V has welcomed and assisted thousands of immigrants that walk through its doors seeking help.

“We are a safe heaven where people can come with confidence and trust and receive a warm welcome for whatever problem they have,” said the Rev. Charles W. Dahm, associate pastor of St. Pius V. “If we cannot resolve their problem, we can refer them, accompany and support them during their struggle to solve it.  St. Pius V is very welcoming and compassionate to immigrant people, showing forth the compassion of Jesus.”

The first priority for a church serving an immigrant community, where many people come with everything they own in a single suitcase, is to help them meet their immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter.  Thus, St. Pius V has committed to create social programs like the Soup Kitchen, which serves 500 hot meals weekly in the church basement, San Jose Obrero Mission, a temporary shelter for homeless men and Casa Juan Diego, a program to contribute to the personal development of children and youth through educational and recreational activities.

Among the church initiatives to help Pilsen’s community, there are other ministries and pastoral services that seek to address long-term problems of transition. Parenting classes, violence prevention through youth empowerment, legal aid education guidance, marriage counseling and a specialized program of domestic violence are some of the services St. Pius offers to Pilsen families.

“For me, Casa Juan Diego, was a blessing,” said Diaz. “I took all my children to the after school program where volunteers helped them to do their homework and created different recreational activities. That helped them to stay away from gangs and drugs and to appreciate the education they were receiving at their schools.”

These efforts to meet the needs of the community have yielded positive results and have attracted many people who live outside Pilsen’s borders. St. Pius V has become a refuge to many families that find in this church the inspiration to move forward toward spiritual growth, but also toward a more successful life.

“Our success is showed in the numbers,” said the Rev. Brendan Curran, pastor of St. Pius V. “Over 75% of our parish commute to mass on Sundays from somewhere outside the little Pilsen area.”

As St. Pius V overcome borders and gets new parishioners, leaders think about ways to provide enrichment to them where they are. Curran said it is very important to have programs rooted in their neighborhoods, where they can get immediate assistance when needed.

“One active project that is on its first phase is Comunidades de Base,” he said. “ We have a nice network of 12 communities that gather together to analyze issues of common interest in the different neighborhoods. This is very important not only to strengthen interpersonal relationships, but to create a sense of community within a larger spectrum.”

St Pius’ leadership and continuous community awareness has helped it gain the confidence of people who have been inspired to contribute to their social activism. It has stand out from other parishes because of its community focal point and because of its prominent place in the historical pattern of immigration.

“ Sunday collection only raises 11 percent of our budget, so our ability to do this [programs] is through grants,” Curran said. “ Foundations and individuals that want to see our programs grow and continue donate to try some of the experiments we’ve done over the years.”

Over the time, St. Pius V has transformed the voiceless victims of a vulnerable community into powerful advocates full of generosity who assist each other’s necessities. It has become a place where the spirit and soul of immigrants reverberates with the essence of what it means to overcome the difficult realities of coming to a new and complex country.


The Life Source of a CommunityBy Jessica Pearson
At any other typical Roman Catholic church one can expect a very solemn Sunday Mass with organ music playing in the background, silent prayer and every so often parishioners might chime in with the choir.
This is the complete opposite atmosphere one will find walking through the doors of St. Sabina’s church. With a gospel choir front and center, a drum set and bongos all laying under a mural of an African-American man with a halo above his afro and a neon sign that says “Jesus” hanging from the ceiling, one can tell right away that this church marches to the beat of its own drum.  
Located in the heart of the historic Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, St. Sabina’s caters to mainly African-American parishioners, many of whom have experienced more grief by the age of 16 then most people will in a lifetime.
With programs such as the ARK of St. Sabina, which provides a supportive and safe environment for  youth ages 6-24, the Social Services Center, the Elders Village, the Shekhinah Clinic,  Safe Homes for foster children, and the Beloved Community, which empowers youth and adults to be self-sufficient, St. Sabina has truly become the lifeline of this community.
Finding funding for church operations and all of its special projects here is not the case. According to Robert McClory, Northwestern journalism professor, previous priest at St. Sabina, and author of Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight for Social Justice, on a typical Sunday mass St. Sabina collects over $30,000. “Most of the black parishes in Chicago are on some kind of welfare from the Archdiocese. They can’t support themselves. [The Archdiocese] doesn’t give anything to St. Sabina because Sabina could support some of those white parishes.”
The main problem that St. Sabina faces is stopping the violence in this community. Vince Silmon, 50, a mentor at St. Sabina working in the special projects department has taken a new program under his belt- the Safety Net Works Program. St. Sabina is famous in Chicago mainly because of the pastor and his activism in the community.
“People know about St. Sabina, but they need to know about what we do” said Silmon.
Silmon, whose son was murdered in 2005 said that he and his wife are “very active, very vocal in expressing our lack of appreciation for the violence, the gun violence particularly on our youth.”Morinola Shobajo, 22, youth council member said that these community agencies need to keep putting out resources to combat the violence. She feels that this church and Pfleger is doing a tremendous job with reaching out to the community, especially the youth.
Amad Tobar, 16, has been coming to St. Sabina’s church his entire life and he feels that in this community, with the violence and with as much crime as there is, Safety Net Works has made him a better person. St. Sabina and its mentoring program “gives me great advice. They’re like role models.”
He enjoys attending mass at St. Sabina’s because “It’s like a celebration… There’s a real connection.” Amad looks up to Pfleger  because he is like a big brother and because he always has a smile on his face.
On February 7, 2012 Francis Cardinal George announced that. Pfleger will share the pastorship of St. Sabina with the Rev. Thulani Magwaza effective July 1. There has been long time discrepancies between Cardinal George and Pfleger because of Pleger’s non traditional ways of operating his church.
“Pleger is a powerful personality and that’s one of the things that sometimes bothers people. He’s like a railroad train and you can’t stand in front of him and slow him down. He’ll run right over you.”
McClory served as a priest at St. Sabina from 1964-1971 and at the time when  Pfleger was assigned to the church in 1975 there were only a handful of African-American parishioners. When McClory first met Pfleger he was “impressed with his eagerness but I also felt like, oh he’s going to have a terrible let down.” McClory said that his “first impression was that he had so much energy. The downside I though was he can’t sustain that energy and he proved me wrong in that respect.”
According to McCloy, a pastor is assigned to a church for six years and you do a fine job there, you are allowed another six and very rarely does it extend form there. Rev. Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for 30 years and he has fought to stay there.
“I think that the cardinal has let him stay simply because this is one of the few parishes in the poorer parishes that is not only self-supporting, but it’s the only parish in a poor neighborhood that has grown fantastically…He is so active in ministry in doing things, not just things for Catholics but doing things for the community…Because of that George is smart enough to know I can’t replace him, I can’t replace him with someone who I’ll be able to keep this place going.”
Marchae Miller, 30, Special Projects Coordinator at the ARK of St. Sabina and parishioner says that “St. Sabina is the hub of this community and a lot of programs filter through like the Christmas Turkey Giveaway, the Senior Citizen Community and giving water out to the community.”
As a general consensus from parishioners, special project workers, mentors and youth, without Rev. Pfleger, St. Sabina certainly would not run the way it does but his new copastor position will not change the way the people feel about the church.
Joanna Marsh, 18, says that she comes to St. Sabina because “I love my pastor and secondly because it’s comfortable.” Joanna, similar to other parishioners, does not think anything will change because of Pfleger’s new position.
Professor McClory thinks that Thulani, is “not as aggressive, not as ambitious as Pleger is. He’s a good first mate but he’s not a captain.”

The Life Source of a Community
By Jessica Pearson

At any other typical Roman Catholic church one can expect a very solemn Sunday Mass with organ music playing in the background, silent prayer and every so often parishioners might chime in with the choir.

This is the complete opposite atmosphere one will find walking through the doors of St. Sabina’s church. With a gospel choir front and center, a drum set and bongos all laying under a mural of an African-American man with a halo above his afro and a neon sign that says “Jesus” hanging from the ceiling, one can tell right away that this church marches to the beat of its own drum.  

Located in the heart of the historic Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, St. Sabina’s caters to mainly African-American parishioners, many of whom have experienced more grief by the age of 16 then most people will in a lifetime.

With programs such as the ARK of St. Sabina, which provides a supportive and safe environment for  youth ages 6-24, the Social Services Center, the Elders Village, the Shekhinah Clinic,  Safe Homes for foster children, and the Beloved Community, which empowers youth and adults to be self-sufficient, St. Sabina has truly become the lifeline of this community.

Finding funding for church operations and all of its special projects here is not the case. According to Robert McClory, Northwestern journalism professor, previous priest at St. Sabina, and author of Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight for Social Justice, on a typical Sunday mass St. Sabina collects over $30,000. “Most of the black parishes in Chicago are on some kind of welfare from the Archdiocese. They can’t support themselves. [The Archdiocese] doesn’t give anything to St. Sabina because Sabina could support some of those white parishes.”

The main problem that St. Sabina faces is stopping the violence in this community. Vince Silmon, 50, a mentor at St. Sabina working in the special projects department has taken a new program under his belt- the Safety Net Works Program. St. Sabina is famous in Chicago mainly because of the pastor and his activism in the community.

“People know about St. Sabina, but they need to know about what we do” said Silmon.

Silmon, whose son was murdered in 2005 said that he and his wife are “very active, very vocal in expressing our lack of appreciation for the violence, the gun violence particularly on our youth.”
Morinola Shobajo, 22, youth council member said that these community agencies need to keep putting out resources to combat the violence. She feels that this church and Pfleger is doing a tremendous job with reaching out to the community, especially the youth.

Amad Tobar, 16, has been coming to St. Sabina’s church his entire life and he feels that in this community, with the violence and with as much crime as there is, Safety Net Works has made him a better person. St. Sabina and its mentoring program “gives me great advice. They’re like role models.”

He enjoys attending mass at St. Sabina’s because “It’s like a celebration… There’s a real connection.”
Amad looks up to Pfleger  because he is like a big brother and because he always has a smile on his face.

On February 7, 2012 Francis Cardinal George announced that. Pfleger will share the pastorship of St. Sabina with the Rev. Thulani Magwaza effective July 1. There has been long time discrepancies between Cardinal George and Pfleger because of Pleger’s non traditional ways of operating his church.

“Pleger is a powerful personality and that’s one of the things that sometimes bothers people. He’s like a railroad train and you can’t stand in front of him and slow him down. He’ll run right over you.”

McClory served as a priest at St. Sabina from 1964-1971 and at the time when  Pfleger was assigned to the church in 1975 there were only a handful of African-American parishioners. When McClory first met Pfleger he was “impressed with his eagerness but I also felt like, oh he’s going to have a terrible let down.” McClory said that his “first impression was that he had so much energy. The downside I though was he can’t sustain that energy and he proved me wrong in that respect.”

According to McCloy, a pastor is assigned to a church for six years and you do a fine job there, you are allowed another six and very rarely does it extend form there. Rev. Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for 30 years and he has fought to stay there.

“I think that the cardinal has let him stay simply because this is one of the few parishes in the poorer parishes that is not only self-supporting, but it’s the only parish in a poor neighborhood that has grown fantastically…He is so active in ministry in doing things, not just things for Catholics but doing things for the community…Because of that George is smart enough to know I can’t replace him, I can’t replace him with someone who I’ll be able to keep this place going.”

Marchae Miller, 30, Special Projects Coordinator at the ARK of St. Sabina and parishioner says that “St. Sabina is the hub of this community and a lot of programs filter through like the Christmas Turkey Giveaway, the Senior Citizen Community and giving water out to the community.”

As a general consensus from parishioners, special project workers, mentors and youth, without Rev. Pfleger, St. Sabina certainly would not run the way it does but his new copastor position will not change the way the people feel about the church.

Joanna Marsh, 18, says that she comes to St. Sabina because “I love my pastor and secondly because it’s comfortable.” Joanna, similar to other parishioners, does not think anything will change because of Pfleger’s new position.

Professor McClory thinks that Thulani, is “not as aggressive, not as ambitious as Pleger is. He’s a good first mate but he’s not a captain.”

Building a Future Alongside the PastStory and photos by Reilly GillStanding underneath St. Stanislaus Kotska’s metal scaffolding ceiling, the church’s historian Lorenzo Smith folded his hands across his stomach and looked towards the main altar. “St. Stan’s has meant so much to so many people,” he said. “There’s so much history here. We just want to preserve all of that.” St. Stanislaus Kostka is currently in the beginning stages of a $4.4 million restoration project, the first major restoration performed on the church since its completion in 1904.This church has seen the development of Bucktown home since its roots its beginning at Chicago’s predominant Polish neighborhood. Being the first Polish Catholic church and parish in Chicago, it has also seen its fair share of close calls ranging from an exploding church population to near demolition.St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was ultimately founded by Peter Kiobassa, who headed a group of 30 Polish immigrant families in a movement towards establishing a Polish Catholic parish in Chicago. The group purchased four lots surrounding the land that St. Stanislaus Kostka sits on today for $1,700 and began building the church in 1869.What began as a modest one-story wooden building with under 150 attendees in 1867 quickly exploded into the largest parish in the world. In 1892 alone, there were 2,260 baptisms, 372 marriages, and 1,029 funerals at St. Stanislaus’ upper and lower sanctuaries.  Over 40,000 people regularly attended mass at St. Stanislaus during this time, resulting in twelve masses being held in the church every Sunday. These parishioners were accommodated in the St. Stanislaus church that stands today, which was constructed from 1876 to 1892.  Though St. Stanislaus endured the stresses that go into becoming the primary place of worship for the massive Polish population in Chicago, it experienced its greatest challenge in the 1950s upon the construction of the Kennedy Expressway. Former Speaker of the House Daniel Rostenkowski is the subject of a sort of urban legend involving St. Stanislaus surviving the construction of the Kennedy Expressway and this legend has some truth to it.The Kennedy Expressway curves directly behind St. Stanislaus. There is a walkway behind the church building that separates the church from the expressway that is narrower than a broad man’s shoulders. St. Stanislaus was scheduled to be demolished in 1955 upon the construction of the Kennedy, which was to be built next to the railroad tracks behind the church. “Once the funds were approved and the plans made public, the route was revealed as going right through St. Stan’s and the heart of Kostkaville (the name for the Polish neighborhood in which St. Stanislaus is located). The church was directly in sights of a crane operator with a wrecking ball.  There’s simply no room for an expressway between the church and the railroad,” explained Polish historian and former member of the St. Stanislaus parish Dennis Benarz.At this time, Dan Rostenkowski was a rising power in the Illinois House of Representatives. He was a close cohort of the Kennedy family and was highly regarded among major players in national government. More importantly, Rostenkowski’s childhood home was across the street from St. Stanislaus and he grew up attending the church.Benarz said, “It has been my impression that several groups allied themselves in protesting the route. Together their angry chorus caused the both the railroad tracks and the expressway to be moved farther to the east. Danny (Rostenkowski) certainly had a large personal stake in that his family’s house and his offices risked being demolished.” Smith also credited these groups for their efforts, but the curious amount of power held by Rostenkowski is undeniable. “The parishioners who stood up deserve the credit for saving the church,” he said. “Of course, Rostenkowski being on their team couldn’t have hurt.”This is the first ever major remodel on St. Stanislaus. Daparato Rigali Studios, a Chicago-based art restoration studio is in charge on repairs. Robert Rigali is a fourth generation member of Daparato Rigali Studios and is heading the project.“These are pretty standard repairs for a church this old,” Rigali shrugged just after descending from the metal scaffolds that stretch all the way to the church’s ceiling. Rigali visits St. Stanislaus every day to supervise the repairs.During a trip to the top of the scaffolds, Rigali pointed out two thick metal cables stretching from one upper wall to another. These were the repair team’s first task. The church was falling away from itself and required the cable to use the church’s own tension to keep hold it together.  Aside from the steel cables, the church’s ceiling, floors, pews, and frescos are being redone. “Honestly, the scaffolding was the hardest part,” Rigali explained. The rest of the repairs hold true to the time period in which St. Stanislaus was built. The new pews, which are currently substituted by rows of folding chairs, will be made from the original pews. The same paint formula used for the original walls and ceiling will be used for the repairs. The floors will be tiled over, a more historically accurate finish than the current wood and carpet finish. Samples for all of the future plans are on display in the foyer of the church and are a major attraction for church visitors.St. Stanislaus has changed since its early days, but the immense historical and personal connections to this church drive its current repairs. Benarz reminisced, “St. Stan’s was the home parish of my paternal and maternal families 100 years ago. Many of my uncles, aunts, and cousins were baptized, confirmed, wed, and requiemed there.” Smith fondly recalls his 17 years as a parishioner and three years as church historian. Tour groups come from all over the world to see St. Stanislaus because of its significance to Polish Catholicism. “A woman on a tour recently stood in the aisle with tears streaming down her face explaining how her family built this church and it meant so much to them,” said Smith.Personal anecdotes aside, St. Stanislaus is a huge part of Polish history in Chicago. It was built from the ground up by Polish Catholics for Polish Catholics. The church survived the Chicago fire. Normal parishioners fought the federal government to keep the church open. St. Stanislaus is regarded as the mother church for all Polish Catholic churches in Chicago, inspiring the construction of at least eight other churches in the area. The church encompasses a trying history of nearly 150 years and the memories of every person who was affected by the church in those years. As a parish, St. Stanislaus has no intentions of stopping at what has happened thus far.The population in the area surrounding St. Stan’s is largely Hispanic Catholics, many of whom attend mass at St. Stan’s. There are also an increasing number of young couples that are new to the neighborhood attending the church. “I counted twelve new couples at mass last Sunday,” said Smith.While it is not longer the largest parish in the world, St. Stanislaus is working to prepare a place that is suitable for its future to unfold.  “The restoration and beautification of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish…will give evidence of our gratitude to those who came before us,” wrote the church’s priest Fr. Anthony Bus. “Most importantly, the restoration of the church will be the gift we leave to those who come after us.”  

Building a Future Alongside the Past
Story and photos by Reilly Gill

Standing underneath St. Stanislaus Kotska’s metal scaffolding ceiling, the church’s historian Lorenzo Smith folded his hands across his stomach and looked towards the main altar. “St. Stan’s has meant so much to so many people,” he said. “There’s so much history here. We just want to preserve all of that.” St. Stanislaus Kostka is currently in the beginning stages of a $4.4 million restoration project, the first major restoration performed on the church since its completion in 1904.
This church has seen the development of Bucktown home since its roots its beginning at Chicago’s predominant Polish neighborhood. Being the first Polish Catholic church and parish in Chicago, it has also seen its fair share of close calls ranging from an exploding church population to near demolition.
St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was ultimately founded by Peter Kiobassa, who headed a group of 30 Polish immigrant families in a movement towards establishing a Polish Catholic parish in Chicago. The group purchased four lots surrounding the land that St. Stanislaus Kostka sits on today for $1,700 and began building the church in 1869.
What began as a modest one-story wooden building with under 150 attendees in 1867 quickly exploded into the largest parish in the world. In 1892 alone, there were 2,260 baptisms, 372 marriages, and 1,029 funerals at St. Stanislaus’ upper and lower sanctuaries.  Over 40,000 people regularly attended mass at St. Stanislaus during this time, resulting in twelve masses being held in the church every Sunday. These parishioners were accommodated in the St. Stanislaus church that stands today, which was constructed from 1876 to 1892.  
Though St. Stanislaus endured the stresses that go into becoming the primary place of worship for the massive Polish population in Chicago, it experienced its greatest challenge in the 1950s upon the construction of the Kennedy Expressway. Former Speaker of the House Daniel Rostenkowski is the subject of a sort of urban legend involving St. Stanislaus surviving the construction of the Kennedy Expressway and this legend has some truth to it.
The Kennedy Expressway curves directly behind St. Stanislaus. There is a walkway behind the church building that separates the church from the expressway that is narrower than a broad man’s shoulders. St. Stanislaus was scheduled to be demolished in 1955 upon the construction of the Kennedy, which was to be built next to the railroad tracks behind the church. “Once the funds were approved and the plans made public, the route was revealed as going right through St. Stan’s and the heart of Kostkaville (the name for the Polish neighborhood in which St. Stanislaus is located). The church was directly in sights of a crane operator with a wrecking ball.  There’s simply no room for an expressway between the church and the railroad,” explained Polish historian and former member of the St. Stanislaus parish Dennis Benarz.
At this time, Dan Rostenkowski was a rising power in the Illinois House of Representatives. He was a close cohort of the Kennedy family and was highly regarded among major players in national government. More importantly, Rostenkowski’s childhood home was across the street from St. Stanislaus and he grew up attending the church.
Benarz said, “It has been my impression that several groups allied themselves in protesting the route. Together their angry chorus caused the both the railroad tracks and the expressway to be moved farther to the east. Danny (Rostenkowski) certainly had a large personal stake in that his family’s house and his offices risked being demolished.” Smith also credited these groups for their efforts, but the curious amount of power held by Rostenkowski is undeniable. “The parishioners who stood up deserve the credit for saving the church,” he said. “Of course, Rostenkowski being on their team couldn’t have hurt.”
This is the first ever major remodel on St. Stanislaus. Daparato Rigali Studios, a Chicago-based art restoration studio is in charge on repairs. Robert Rigali is a fourth generation member of Daparato Rigali Studios and is heading the project.
“These are pretty standard repairs for a church this old,” Rigali shrugged just after descending from the metal scaffolds that stretch all the way to the church’s ceiling. Rigali visits St. Stanislaus every day to supervise the repairs.
During a trip to the top of the scaffolds, Rigali pointed out two thick metal cables stretching from one upper wall to another. These were the repair team’s first task. The church was falling away from itself and required the cable to use the church’s own tension to keep hold it together.  
Aside from the steel cables, the church’s ceiling, floors, pews, and frescos are being redone. “Honestly, the scaffolding was the hardest part,” Rigali explained. The rest of the repairs hold true to the time period in which St. Stanislaus was built. The new pews, which are currently substituted by rows of folding chairs, will be made from the original pews. The same paint formula used for the original walls and ceiling will be used for the repairs. The floors will be tiled over, a more historically accurate finish than the current wood and carpet finish. Samples for all of the future plans are on display in the foyer of the church and are a major attraction for church visitors.
St. Stanislaus has changed since its early days, but the immense historical and personal connections to this church drive its current repairs. Benarz reminisced, “St. Stan’s was the home parish of my paternal and maternal families 100 years ago. Many of my uncles, aunts, and cousins were baptized, confirmed, wed, and requiemed there.” Smith fondly recalls his 17 years as a parishioner and three years as church historian. Tour groups come from all over the world to see St. Stanislaus because of its significance to Polish Catholicism. “A woman on a tour recently stood in the aisle with tears streaming down her face explaining how her family built this church and it meant so much to them,” said Smith.
Personal anecdotes aside, St. Stanislaus is a huge part of Polish history in Chicago. It was built from the ground up by Polish Catholics for Polish Catholics. The church survived the Chicago fire. Normal parishioners fought the federal government to keep the church open. St. Stanislaus is regarded as the mother church for all Polish Catholic churches in Chicago, inspiring the construction of at least eight other churches in the area. The church encompasses a trying history of nearly 150 years and the memories of every person who was affected by the church in those years. As a parish, St. Stanislaus has no intentions of stopping at what has happened thus far.
The population in the area surrounding St. Stan’s is largely Hispanic Catholics, many of whom attend mass at St. Stan’s. There are also an increasing number of young couples that are new to the neighborhood attending the church. “I counted twelve new couples at mass last Sunday,” said Smith.
While it is not longer the largest parish in the world, St. Stanislaus is working to prepare a place that is suitable for its future to unfold.  “The restoration and beautification of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish…will give evidence of our gratitude to those who came before us,” wrote the church’s priest Fr. Anthony Bus. “Most importantly, the restoration of the church will be the gift we leave to those who come after us.”  

Photos by Shawna Sellmeyer

Photos by Shawna Sellmeyer

Homilies for Hipsters
Story and photos by Chandler West

     This Sunday, like every Sunday, St. Alphonsus is packed. The Rev. James Hulbert stands at the far end of the gothic cathedral, located in Lakeview, preaching one of his many heartfelt homilies. While the ceiling’s beautiful gold and blue arches are an interesting sight, what stands out most is what the hundreds of people filling the pews have in common. They are young.
     “If you come to our liturgy on Sundays you will see tons of people in their 20s and 30s. Its a really unusual demographic to have in a parish,” Hulbert, said.
     Of the roughly 5,000 members that make up the congregation of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church, only 200 of them are over the age of 60. Something that is a bit of a rarity in a Catholic Church but a perfect fit in the “yuppie” Chicago neighborhood of Lakeview, Hulbert, said. About 60 percent of the church attendees are between the ages of 20-40; a number that almost exactly reflects Lakeview’s demographics as a whole, according to a report by city-data.com. However, the demographic in the area might only be part of the reason so many young Catholics are drawn to the church.
     The church believes their community outreach plays a big role in connecting with the neighborhood’s youth. In addition to their daily Masses, St. Alphonsus also hosts a variety of social events ranging from sponsoring arts programs to hosting an annual Oktoberfest celebration. The church sees these things as a great way to stay connected with the community and many residents agree.
     “I like the young atmosphere at this church. We have a lot of events that I haven’t seen at other churches. Like cocktails after church or young-couples dinners,” said Dustin Beckwith, 25, of Lakeview. “We split our time between here and another church. But we come here because it’s a more modern and relaxed. More real.”
     The congregation at St. Alphonsus hasn’t always looked this way. The parish was started in 1882 and mostly served German immigrants. The German population began to dwindle and was replaced with a mostly Hispanic population. Then, once again, the neighborhood’s community began to change. As more and more young, upper-middle-class people began to flock to the area, the community developed into what it is today. The parish still holds on to its roots, however, and still holds masses in German and Spanish as well as English.
     Throughout all these shifts in the community, the St. Alphonsus parish has been dedicated to community involvement and service. The church complex holds a community center, convent, gym, theater, bowling alley, school, a home for needy women, as well as their cathedral.
     This huge complex takes up almost an entire block near the corner of Lincoln and Southport Avenues. However, maintaining such a massive complex is far from easy. In the past years, parts of the church had been left to disrepair and are now having to be renovated.
     “We are trying to catch up. It’s never ending. We still probably have about $5 million worth of work that still needs to be done,” explains Father Hulbert. Hulbert also claims that one of the churches biggest problems is it’s high turnover rate, “For most of them, because they are so young, this is their first church as an adult. We have to teach them what it means to support a parish. Then, by the time they learn, they move,” he said.
 The church is currently undergoing a project to restore the copper on the top 30 feet of its steeple. This project alone is costing roughly $400,000. Most of their restoration work is done by a Chicago based company named Daprato Rigali Studios.
     Even with the problems of an young and fluid congregation being compounded with the struggling economy, Father Hulbert is still very upbeat and positive about the future of St. Alphonsus.
     “They are young but they have jobs. And people continue to be generous,” Hulbert, said.
-  

Homilies for Hipsters

Story and photos by Chandler West


     This Sunday, like every Sunday, St. Alphonsus is packed. The Rev. James Hulbert stands at the far end of the gothic cathedral, located in Lakeview, preaching one of his many heartfelt homilies. While the ceiling’s beautiful gold and blue arches are an interesting sight, what stands out most is what the hundreds of people filling the pews have in common. They are young.

     “If you come to our liturgy on Sundays you will see tons of people in their 20s and 30s. Its a really unusual demographic to have in a parish,” Hulbert, said.

     Of the roughly 5,000 members that make up the congregation of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church, only 200 of them are over the age of 60. Something that is a bit of a rarity in a Catholic Church but a perfect fit in the “yuppie” Chicago neighborhood of Lakeview, Hulbert, said. About 60 percent of the church attendees are between the ages of 20-40; a number that almost exactly reflects Lakeview’s demographics as a whole, according to a report by city-data.com. However, the demographic in the area might only be part of the reason so many young Catholics are drawn to the church.

     The church believes their community outreach plays a big role in connecting with the neighborhood’s youth. In addition to their daily Masses, St. Alphonsus also hosts a variety of social events ranging from sponsoring arts programs to hosting an annual Oktoberfest celebration. The church sees these things as a great way to stay connected with the community and many residents agree.

     “I like the young atmosphere at this church. We have a lot of events that I haven’t seen at other churches. Like cocktails after church or young-couples dinners,” said Dustin Beckwith, 25, of Lakeview. “We split our time between here and another church. But we come here because it’s a more modern and relaxed. More real.”

     The congregation at St. Alphonsus hasn’t always looked this way. The parish was started in 1882 and mostly served German immigrants. The German population began to dwindle and was replaced with a mostly Hispanic population. Then, once again, the neighborhood’s community began to change. As more and more young, upper-middle-class people began to flock to the area, the community developed into what it is today. The parish still holds on to its roots, however, and still holds masses in German and Spanish as well as English.

     Throughout all these shifts in the community, the St. Alphonsus parish has been dedicated to community involvement and service. The church complex holds a community center, convent, gym, theater, bowling alley, school, a home for needy women, as well as their cathedral.

     This huge complex takes up almost an entire block near the corner of Lincoln and Southport Avenues. However, maintaining such a massive complex is far from easy. In the past years, parts of the church had been left to disrepair and are now having to be renovated.

     “We are trying to catch up. It’s never ending. We still probably have about $5 million worth of work that still needs to be done,” explains Father Hulbert. Hulbert also claims that one of the churches biggest problems is it’s high turnover rate, “For most of them, because they are so young, this is their first church as an adult. We have to teach them what it means to support a parish. Then, by the time they learn, they move,” he said.

The church is currently undergoing a project to restore the copper on the top 30 feet of its steeple. This project alone is costing roughly $400,000. Most of their restoration work is done by a Chicago based company named Daprato Rigali Studios.

     Even with the problems of an young and fluid congregation being compounded with the struggling economy, Father Hulbert is still very upbeat and positive about the future of St. Alphonsus.

     “They are young but they have jobs. And people continue to be generous,” Hulbert, said.

-  

Story by Tim Bowman, Photos by Michael Coyne
As you drive down Belmont Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest Side, you notice a portrait of Pope John Paul II on the wall of a large building. It is visible from a block away, his face growing larger as you inch nearer. Officials within those walls believe when people see the striking image of the late pope they will immediately know St. Ferdinand is a special Polish and Catholic place.
Located in the Belmont Central neighborhood of Chicago, St. Ferdinand Church is socially engaged with one the largest immigrant groups in the city.
St. Ferdinand at 5900 W. Barry Ave, serves a large Polish community, with 65 percent of parishioners being Poles. Every Sunday 4,000 people come to pray and worship together at the church. There is Mass in Polish and English every day, with four services on Sunday.
The church is made of white marble, spanning an entire block. The building is a beautiful structure, almost timeless in its design. A bell tower above the chapel signals the times throughout the day. Inside the main chapel, depictions of Jesus’ life adorn the walls. Fourteen sculptures circle the room, showing his birth to crucifixion. Above them, images of the saints in stained glass windows. The pews are of clean and vibrant wood, enough to sit hundreds of people each Sunday morning.
St. Ferdinand was a predominantly Italian parish when it first began in November 1927. As the parish began to grow, a larger addition to the church was completed in 1959, a sleek marble design modeled after the popular architecture in Italy of the time. The church is named after its patron Saint Ferdinand of Castile, a 13th century political leader.
The Rev. Jason Torba, 46, has been the head pastor since 2006. Born in Poland and ordained as a priest in 1991, he was sent to the U.S. in 1998 to meet the needs of Polish people in Chicago. A healthy age range of parishioners attend the church and its social events, from youth to those who have been with the parish since its opening in 1959. Parishioners are predominately from the neighborhood, but some that have moved to the western suburbs still come to the weekly services.
The neighborhood’s culture changed in the past 20 years. There was a mass influx of Polish immigrants to the U.S. during the 1980s, with a majority of them settling in Chicago. Many of them were young adults in their early 20s, hoping to create a better life in America.
“They didn’t see any future in Poland with the end of communism,” Torba said. “When I was in seminary there was nothing. It was horrible. If you go to stores it was empty stores.” St. Ferdinand  a Polish ministry 18 years ago at the request of the neighborhood and now it is the focus of the church.
Torba saw the importance of having an open community, making the church available at all times throughout the day for people to pray and seek help. Early on, his mission was difficult because there were not enough volunteers, Torba said. More churches now see its importance, but St. Ferdinand was ahead of the curve.
“We see fruits,” Torba said.
When he came to the church, it was in debt and in decline. Now it has many volunteers to take care of all the church’s needs. “We have enough to pay for everything,” Torba said. “Thanks be to God they still very generous and we have enough.” For its 50th anniversary in 2009, the Church raised $500,000 to build a new organ.
Wanda Kwiecien, 58, has attended St. Ferdinand for almost seven years.
“The St. Ferdinand Church is my second house, or maybe first house,” she said.
A Polish immigrant, Kwiecien came to America in 1985. Since she works the afternoon shift in the infant ward of a hospital, Kwiecien said St. Ferdinand’s openness is important to her.
“I feel very empty if I have a closed door and have to go to work,” she said.
She goes two times a day for Mass and prayer, once in the morning and again before heading to the hospital where she has worked for 13 years. Kwiecien also regularly writes for the Polish bulletin about the importance of the Divine Mercy outlined by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun of the early 20th century.
Torba and his parish are committed to serving the neighborhood. The social activities St. Ferdinand provides every week like “Fish Fry Friday” draws hundreds of people from the community. The event has more than 100 volunteers and serves more than 800 dinners.
“Right now people live in isolation,” Torba said. “Everybody wants to be just for yourself and forget about others, and that’s the time to be with others.”
Besides a Polish school, the building also has a preschool, elementary and the Notre Dame all-girl high school.
Torba said the Polish community feels freedom while at the church. In Poland, many were well educated with good careers, but once arriving in the U.S. they had to restart their lives.
“Some of them are very educated people in Poland. They finished, they graduated, they got master degree, but they came here and didn’t know English. They start as a very simple work,” Torb said.  
Many feel frustrated by their circumstances, having to work simple jobs like housekeeping to support their families.
“Here they can express themselves,” he said.
On Saturday mornings Polish school educators, who might be caregivers during the week, get to be real teachers again, Torba explained. The school preserves the language and culture for a generation of Polish Americans born in the U.S.
Polish immigrants face many hardships that the parish tries to assist with.
“They try to call them “illegal.” They are not illegal because they pay taxes, they take care of community, they build houses,” Torba said.
The church organizes and sometimes brings lawyers to help people with immigration problems. Some Polish immigrants cannot return to Poland for legal reasons, which divide their families. If a family member is ill or dies in Poland, the church organizes a Mass for them. At the church, people can also vote in Polish elections.
“When we organize something in the Church, we use the term “undocumented people,”’ Torba said.
St. Ferdinand struggles with openness in a community that may not necessarily want to be open all the time. Months ago the church organized a meeting for undocumented immigrants. The media came with cameras and everyone immediately left, afraid of being recognized.  Many immigrants feel terrible about their circumstances.
Since Poland has helped the U.S. with the War on Terror, sending soldiers to combat, many wonder why they face so many adversities with the immigration system. “They feel, “wow, we are kind of in some way betrayed,” Torba said.
Steven Scienski, 28, the assistant director of the Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce, described the church as an “important meeting place and ties for the community.” He estimated up to 75 percent of local businesses are Polish-owned. Several of the restaurants are always packed on Sunday with parishioners.
A predominately middle class neighborhood, the difficult economy is changing the area again. “It’s hard for them and harder for us too,” Torba said. Some families are returning to Poland now that the country’s economy is stronger, said Scienski. More Hispanics are also moving into the community. There is even a growing minority of Filipino parishioners at St. Ferdinand that have a Mass spoken in Tagalog.
St. Ferdinand united the unlikely pairing of Polish and Jamaican missionaries, two groups that on the surface appear to be polar opposites but share many similarities. Clergy and parishioners of St. Ferdinand’s went to Jamaica to help the Missionaries of the Poor, a group that began its mission in 1981 to serve the needs of the country. Torba said the Polish people can relate to the struggles in Jamaica because they remember how it used to be in Poland. In March a group from the church will travel to India for missionary work.
The vision from St. Faustina helps those at the parish facing difficult challenges in uncertain times. “For me the magic word was, “Jesus I trust in you,”’ Kwiecien said.

Story by Tim Bowman, Photos by Michael Coyne

As you drive down Belmont Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest Side, you notice a portrait of Pope John Paul II on the wall of a large building. It is visible from a block away, his face growing larger as you inch nearer. Officials within those walls believe when people see the striking image of the late pope they will immediately know St. Ferdinand is a special Polish and Catholic place.

Located in the Belmont Central neighborhood of Chicago, St. Ferdinand Church is socially engaged with one the largest immigrant groups in the city.

St. Ferdinand at 5900 W. Barry Ave, serves a large Polish community, with 65 percent of parishioners being Poles. Every Sunday 4,000 people come to pray and worship together at the church. There is Mass in Polish and English every day, with four services on Sunday.

The church is made of white marble, spanning an entire block. The building is a beautiful structure, almost timeless in its design. A bell tower above the chapel signals the times throughout the day. Inside the main chapel, depictions of Jesus’ life adorn the walls. Fourteen sculptures circle the room, showing his birth to crucifixion. Above them, images of the saints in stained glass windows. The pews are of clean and vibrant wood, enough to sit hundreds of people each Sunday morning.

St. Ferdinand was a predominantly Italian parish when it first began in November 1927. As the parish began to grow, a larger addition to the church was completed in 1959, a sleek marble design modeled after the popular architecture in Italy of the time. The church is named after its patron Saint Ferdinand of Castile, a 13th century political leader.

The Rev. Jason Torba, 46, has been the head pastor since 2006. Born in Poland and ordained as a priest in 1991, he was sent to the U.S. in 1998 to meet the needs of Polish people in Chicago. A healthy age range of parishioners attend the church and its social events, from youth to those who have been with the parish since its opening in 1959. Parishioners are predominately from the neighborhood, but some that have moved to the western suburbs still come to the weekly services.

The neighborhood’s culture changed in the past 20 years. There was a mass influx of Polish immigrants to the U.S. during the 1980s, with a majority of them settling in Chicago. Many of them were young adults in their early 20s, hoping to create a better life in America.

“They didn’t see any future in Poland with the end of communism,” Torba said. “When I was in seminary there was nothing. It was horrible. If you go to stores it was empty stores.” St. Ferdinand  a Polish ministry 18 years ago at the request of the neighborhood and now it is the focus of the church.

Torba saw the importance of having an open community, making the church available at all times throughout the day for people to pray and seek help. Early on, his mission was difficult because there were not enough volunteers, Torba said. More churches now see its importance, but St. Ferdinand was ahead of the curve.


“We see fruits,” Torba said.

When he came to the church, it was in debt and in decline. Now it has many volunteers to take care of all the church’s needs. “We have enough to pay for everything,” Torba said. “Thanks be to God they still very generous and we have enough.” For its 50th anniversary in 2009, the Church raised $500,000 to build a new organ.

Wanda Kwiecien, 58, has attended St. Ferdinand for almost seven years.

“The St. Ferdinand Church is my second house, or maybe first house,” she said.

A Polish immigrant, Kwiecien came to America in 1985. Since she works the afternoon shift in the infant ward of a hospital, Kwiecien said St. Ferdinand’s openness is important to her.

“I feel very empty if I have a closed door and have to go to work,” she said.

She goes two times a day for Mass and prayer, once in the morning and again before heading to the hospital where she has worked for 13 years. Kwiecien also regularly writes for the Polish bulletin about the importance of the Divine Mercy outlined by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun of the early 20th century.

Torba and his parish are committed to serving the neighborhood. The social activities St. Ferdinand provides every week like “Fish Fry Friday” draws hundreds of people from the community. The event has more than 100 volunteers and serves more than 800 dinners.

“Right now people live in isolation,” Torba said. “Everybody wants to be just for yourself and forget about others, and that’s the time to be with others.”

Besides a Polish school, the building also has a preschool, elementary and the Notre Dame all-girl high school.

Torba said the Polish community feels freedom while at the church. In Poland, many were well educated with good careers, but once arriving in the U.S. they had to restart their lives.

“Some of them are very educated people in Poland. They finished, they graduated, they got master degree, but they came here and didn’t know English. They start as a very simple work,” Torb said.  

Many feel frustrated by their circumstances, having to work simple jobs like housekeeping to support their families.

“Here they can express themselves,” he said.

On Saturday mornings Polish school educators, who might be caregivers during the week, get to be real teachers again, Torba explained. The school preserves the language and culture for a generation of Polish Americans born in the U.S.

Polish immigrants face many hardships that the parish tries to assist with.

“They try to call them “illegal.” They are not illegal because they pay taxes, they take care of community, they build houses,” Torba said.

The church organizes and sometimes brings lawyers to help people with immigration problems. Some Polish immigrants cannot return to Poland for legal reasons, which divide their families. If a family member is ill or dies in Poland, the church organizes a Mass for them. At the church, people can also vote in Polish elections.

“When we organize something in the Church, we use the term “undocumented people,”’ Torba said.

St. Ferdinand struggles with openness in a community that may not necessarily want to be open all the time. Months ago the church organized a meeting for undocumented immigrants. The media came with cameras and everyone immediately left, afraid of being recognized.  Many immigrants feel terrible about their circumstances.

Since Poland has helped the U.S. with the War on Terror, sending soldiers to combat, many wonder why they face so many adversities with the immigration system. “They feel, “wow, we are kind of in some way betrayed,” Torba said.

Steven Scienski, 28, the assistant director of the Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce, described the church as an “important meeting place and ties for the community.” He estimated up to 75 percent of local businesses are Polish-owned. Several of the restaurants are always packed on Sunday with parishioners.

A predominately middle class neighborhood, the difficult economy is changing the area again. “It’s hard for them and harder for us too,” Torba said. Some families are returning to Poland now that the country’s economy is stronger, said Scienski. More Hispanics are also moving into the community. There is even a growing minority of Filipino parishioners at St. Ferdinand that have a Mass spoken in Tagalog.

St. Ferdinand united the unlikely pairing of Polish and Jamaican missionaries, two groups that on the surface appear to be polar opposites but share many similarities. Clergy and parishioners of St. Ferdinand’s went to Jamaica to help the Missionaries of the Poor, a group that began its mission in 1981 to serve the needs of the country. Torba said the Polish people can relate to the struggles in Jamaica because they remember how it used to be in Poland. In March a group from the church will travel to India for missionary work.

The vision from St. Faustina helps those at the parish facing difficult challenges in uncertain times. “For me the magic word was, “Jesus I trust in you,”’ Kwiecien said.

Story and photos by Sarah Shuel
Firefighters walked among the burnt ruins of the altar at St. Hedwig Parish in Bucktown.  The huge church had filled with smoke and many of its fine paintings and wooden pews were damaged.  The front of the church was unrecognizable.  The entire altar had burned.  When a firefighter stepped onto the floor, it collapsed.  However, one object stood unharmed.  The crucifix and Christ statue placed in the middle of the altar should have been entirely engulfed by flames.  Yet it only had one small burn. 
The Rev. Stanislaw Jankowski joined the parish only a few months prior to the fire on April 9, 2008.  He immediately began seeking ways to improve the church, but he could not decide where to start.  Then, four months later, the fire gave him a starting point.  He pointed out the cross. 
“That was some kind of miracle for us,” he said, “because that was the center of the fire. Believe me all of the walls were burned - And the cross wasn’t touched.” 
 That wasn’t the only miracle the staff found in the fire.  A copy of the Lady of Monaoag, an ivory Roman Catholic idol revered in the Philippines, was enshrined in the parish.  When the floor collapsed beneath the firefighter, the copy of the idol fell. Jankowski and his staff took this to mean that Mary had saved the church “for the community and for her son Jesus.” This happened to occur on the very day of the celebration of the Lady of Monaoag in the Philippines. “These may seem like coincidences, but if you’re looking through the eyes of faith, you’ll see that it’s more,” Jankowski said.  The statue has since been replaced. 
The fire began under the altar from a short in an old electrical cable. It damaged the basement and rose up through the altar.  The parish has raised most of the money it needs for repairs.  The altar has been restored, and work has begun in the basement.  A balance of just under $50,000 remains.
   After the fire, the church was closed for seven months in a forest of scaffolding, during which Mass was celebrated in the gym of the school attached to St. Hedwig Parish. The school is staffed by the Sisters of the Nazarene. Many patrons stopped coming to the parish because they did not want to attend Mass in a gym and there are several other big churches near to them.  
St. Hedwig reopened in November 2008, and has been growing ever since.  Now, it provides services to 1,300 families, 900 of which are Polish, 300 of which are Spanish, and 100 of which are of other ethnic backgrounds.  Mass is offered in English, Spanish, and Polish.
 Jankowski, 45, is from Mieolzyizecz, a very old town in western Poland, so the church’s Polish origin is close to his heart.  He says that the church was built to cater to the Polish population that gathered in Bucktown.  
“Some of the parishioners at the Polish mass are children of those people who built the church,” he said, “and this church will always have mass in polish, will always stay true to them.”
  In two years, the parish will be celebrating its 125th anniversary.  It was organized in 1888 to serve Polish families in Bucktown that lived more than one mile from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, one of the main Polish parishes in Chicago.  St. Hedwig is staffed by the Fathers from the Congregation of the Resurrection, an international order of priests devoted to a life of service.
The church soars up from the quaint homes surrounding it.  Inside, there is a central nave and two side aisles, calling back to Romanesque churches in Europe.  The arches rise sharply overhead, adding to the sense of grandeur created by the sheer size of the structure.  Marble columns carry the eye upward to the painted ceilings.  The altar is welcoming and warm, which Jankowski says is part of the reason for the growth of the church, “The say there is a lot of wood and it’s welcoming to stay and pray.”  
Larry Babiez, 57, from Bucktown agrees with him.  Babiez stood in the back of the church, with rough hands and head hung.  He looked hurt but not yet broken.  
“I’ve been hoping and praying for a job,” he said.  He’s been coming to the church every day to pray because he doesn’t know what to do anymore.  Babiez and his brothers grew up around St. Hedwig’s.  They all went to “parochial” school there, and they were all married in St. Hedwig Parish.
“I heard about the fire,” said Babiez, “but I had a job then, so I wasn’t around much.”  He was happy to find that the green marble columns and the stained glass windows had survived.  “They’re originals,” he said, “I can remember them from a long time ago.”  
All of the stained glass windows come from Bavaria, which seems odd for a Polish church.  However, St. Hedwig was from Bavaria.  Jankowski says that she left her native land at the age of 13 for the Netherlands (then part of Poland) to marry the Dutch leader of the area, Henry I.  She had several sons and a daughter with him.  The leader and her sons died in battle.  A devastated St. Hedwig chose to join the Order of the Cistercians, and the Polish have chosen her as their patron.  
The statue of St. Hedwig residing in the Bucktown Church holds the parish in her hands. Jankowski was very proud that this image has gained a reputation in Chicago.  The people of this parish very seriously see themselves in her hands.
St. Hedwig Parish holds Mass and reconciliation every day during the week.  They also have a growing youth program and a music program connected to the neighborhood around them. “I am very very happy because we have a lot of new participants, and a lot of youth from the Bucktown community,” Jankowski said.


Story and photos by Sarah Shuel

Firefighters walked among the burnt ruins of the altar at St. Hedwig Parish in Bucktown.  The huge church had filled with smoke and many of its fine paintings and wooden pews were damaged.  The front of the church was unrecognizable.  The entire altar had burned.  When a firefighter stepped onto the floor, it collapsed.  However, one object stood unharmed.  The crucifix and Christ statue placed in the middle of the altar should have been entirely engulfed by flames.  Yet it only had one small burn.

The Rev. Stanislaw Jankowski joined the parish only a few months prior to the fire on April 9, 2008.  He immediately began seeking ways to improve the church, but he could not decide where to start.  Then, four months later, the fire gave him a starting point.  He pointed out the cross.

“That was some kind of miracle for us,” he said, “because that was the center of the fire. Believe me all of the walls were burned - And the cross wasn’t touched.”

That wasn’t the only miracle the staff found in the fire.  A copy of the Lady of Monaoag, an ivory Roman Catholic idol revered in the Philippines, was enshrined in the parish.  When the floor collapsed beneath the firefighter, the copy of the idol fell. Jankowski and his staff took this to mean that Mary had saved the church “for the community and for her son Jesus.” This happened to occur on the very day of the celebration of the Lady of Monaoag in the Philippines. “These may seem like coincidences, but if you’re looking through the eyes of faith, you’ll see that it’s more,” Jankowski said.  The statue has since been replaced.

The fire began under the altar from a short in an old electrical cable. It damaged the basement and rose up through the altar.  The parish has raised most of the money it needs for repairs.  The altar has been restored, and work has begun in the basement.  A balance of just under $50,000 remains.

  After the fire, the church was closed for seven months in a forest of scaffolding, during which Mass was celebrated in the gym of the school attached to St. Hedwig Parish. The school is staffed by the Sisters of the Nazarene. Many patrons stopped coming to the parish because they did not want to attend Mass in a gym and there are several other big churches near to them.  

St. Hedwig reopened in November 2008, and has been growing ever since.  Now, it provides services to 1,300 families, 900 of which are Polish, 300 of which are Spanish, and 100 of which are of other ethnic backgrounds.  Mass is offered in English, Spanish, and Polish.

Jankowski, 45, is from Mieolzyizecz, a very old town in western Poland, so the church’s Polish origin is close to his heart.  He says that the church was built to cater to the Polish population that gathered in Bucktown.  

“Some of the parishioners at the Polish mass are children of those people who built the church,” he said, “and this church will always have mass in polish, will always stay true to them.”

 In two years, the parish will be celebrating its 125th anniversary.  It was organized in 1888 to serve Polish families in Bucktown that lived more than one mile from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, one of the main Polish parishes in Chicago.  St. Hedwig is staffed by the Fathers from the Congregation of the Resurrection, an international order of priests devoted to a life of service.

The church soars up from the quaint homes surrounding it.  Inside, there is a central nave and two side aisles, calling back to Romanesque churches in Europe.  The arches rise sharply overhead, adding to the sense of grandeur created by the sheer size of the structure.  Marble columns carry the eye upward to the painted ceilings.  The altar is welcoming and warm, which Jankowski says is part of the reason for the growth of the church, “The say there is a lot of wood and it’s welcoming to stay and pray.”  

Larry Babiez, 57, from Bucktown agrees with him.  Babiez stood in the back of the church, with rough hands and head hung.  He looked hurt but not yet broken.  

“I’ve been hoping and praying for a job,” he said.  He’s been coming to the church every day to pray because he doesn’t know what to do anymore.  Babiez and his brothers grew up around St. Hedwig’s.  They all went to “parochial” school there, and they were all married in St. Hedwig Parish.

“I heard about the fire,” said Babiez, “but I had a job then, so I wasn’t around much.”  He was happy to find that the green marble columns and the stained glass windows had survived.  “They’re originals,” he said, “I can remember them from a long time ago.”  

All of the stained glass windows come from Bavaria, which seems odd for a Polish church.  However, St. Hedwig was from Bavaria.  Jankowski says that she left her native land at the age of 13 for the Netherlands (then part of Poland) to marry the Dutch leader of the area, Henry I.  She had several sons and a daughter with him.  The leader and her sons died in battle.  A devastated St. Hedwig chose to join the Order of the Cistercians, and the Polish have chosen her as their patron.  

The statue of St. Hedwig residing in the Bucktown Church holds the parish in her hands. Jankowski was very proud that this image has gained a reputation in Chicago.  The people of this parish very seriously see themselves in her hands.

St. Hedwig Parish holds Mass and reconciliation every day during the week.  They also have a growing youth program and a music program connected to the neighborhood around them. “I am very very happy because we have a lot of new participants, and a lot of youth from the Bucktown community,” Jankowski said.


A Home Away from HomeStory by Cassondra Castillo, Photos by Michael Reardon
         With its immense wooden doors and breathtaking entry, Holy Family Church is a timeless spectacle rising over the Near West Side landscape of Chicago. The striking bell tower dominates Roosevelt Road.  The walls are covered with enormous stained glass windows and intricate hand painted detail. Every piece of art has a story to tell and thanks to restoration efforts and donations, Holy Family has continued to welcome visitors to Chicago’s second oldest church.         Holy Family dates back to 1857 when the Rev. Arnold Damen began constructing a new church with the aim of it becoming one of Chicago’s most beautiful.         Ellen Skerrett, a Chicago historian, author, and researcher is very familiar with Holy Family Church and has written several articles on its history.         "It was built with the nickels and dimes of very poor people. It was a place of great beauty in the lives of countless generations of Chicagoans, mostly immigrants," she said.          Skerrett explained that at $200,000, Holy Family was the most expensive church erected in Chicago in the 1850s. It involved cooperation, commitment, money, and competition.         Skerrett said Holy Family’s commitment to beauty and refinement was further enhanced in 1870 with the opening of St. Ignatius College, the forerunner of Loyola University Chicago.         “As the Holy Family experience makes abundantly clear, the benefits of attending church are cultural as well as spiritual,” Skerrett said.         Holy Family has stood strong for many years and refuses to become a victim of the elements. The media relations volunteer, Dick Barry, is an expert on the history of Holy Family as well. Barry explained that the church is recognized for surviving the Chicago Fire. When the fire started in 1871, it began to spread toward Holy Family. Damen had been in Brooklyn at the time and after being informed of the danger invoked Our Lady of Perpetual Help to save the building. He promised that if the church were to be saved he would light seven candles before Our Lady’s statue. Fortunately, the winds changed course and the church was spared. The candles were lit and from that moment on seven electric lights burn at Our Lady’s shrine in the east transept of the church.         “Holy Family continues to be recognized as a modern miracle story,” Barry said.          In 1984 the church began to experience roof leaking and falling plaster. During Christmas of 1987, the pastor told the parishioners of the church that the old building was going to be torn down and replaced with a smaller structure. The people were not happy with the news and wanted to save the church.         In 1988 the Holy Family Preservation Society was incorporated along with an architect and a development director.  The preservation society was informed that it would have to raise $1 million by Dec. 31, 1990, in order to save the church or else it would be torn down. A prayer vigil was held from Dec. 26 until Dec. 31 with a motto and plea of “Say Prayers and Send Money.” People began to donate, but it became obvious it was not going to be enough. An open house known as the feast of the Holy Family was held on Dec. 30. The media were informed of the open house and thousands of people came to see the church. By midnight over $1 million had been raised. The people were able to save their church with the blessing of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.         “Over the course of 20 years, with the help of people around the world, Holy Family Church has been restored to a functional house of worship that welcomes people of all races and ethnic backgrounds,” Barry said.         Holy Family’s surrounding neighborhood includes the Illinois Medical Center, Greektown, University Village and United Center Park. The demographics are predominately black with a mix of white, Asian, and Hispanic. The median income is $29,588, and the increase in real estate values has made the area increasingly attractive to middle-class and upper-middle-class Chicagoans interested in living near downtown.         “The near West Side is going through a major renewal. With the University, the medical district and the new housing developments, Holy Family’s future looks bright,” the Rev. Jerry Boland said. “We are culturally, racially and economically quite diverse.”         Holy Family is an impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its 15,000 square foot interior holds 1,000 seats for all of its guests. It has 65 foot ceilings with the main altar situated at the north end of the church. There are round, clerestory stained glass windows, which happen to be the oldest in Chicago. Another prominent feature is the world class pipe organ that has been in the parish since 1870. The church also has 29 wooden statues created by sculptor Charles Oliver Dauphin of Montreal. This is the largest collection of his work in the world. The statues and artwork serve as reflections of the different ethnic groups that have been a part of the church for so many years.         Restoration on Holy Family Church continues today.  Sharon Van Den Hende, the administrative assistant, explained just how much work goes into the church.         “Everything in the church is in need of restoration,” she said. “We just did the doors and that was almost $200,000. We had a project where we had to refasten some of the pews because they were loose and that was $18,000. Everything in the church is expensive, because it has to meet certain standards because of the historical status.”         Van Den Hende said that anything that has to be done in the church is a major project, because everything is so detailed.         “A lot of people think that the images on the walls are wallpaper, but they are actually hand painted and hand stenciled,” she said.         Financial issues continue to set Holy Family back. The middle balcony has not yet been completed because the church ran out of money. The weekly collection goal is set at $3,000, but the church is lucky if it collects $2,000. The church lacks a maintenance staff, so in order to save money Boland does most of the work himself. He cuts the grass, shovels the snow, and even changes the light bulbs. Holy Family relies greatly on weddings for financial support. “Father has an open door policy which is nice, because most churches won’t marry non-parishioners. It’s proven beneficial because people come back and baptize their children here. They remember how kind Father is,” Van Den Hende said.         The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary are a significant part of Holy Family. They came together in Ireland as a group of dedicated Catholic women who felt the duty to serve God as religious educators. In 1867 they were invited to Chicago to teach immigrant children who were adjusting to a new land. Today they continue to value charity, freedom, justice and education. The Sisters assist new residents moving into the Roosevelt Square area, provide neighborhood residents, especially the elderly, with food once a month from the food pantry, and remain active in parish meetings and on social justice, liturgy and finance committees.         “We provide much needed community services with our food pantry and literacy center,” Boland said.         The majority of Holy Family’s visitors do not reside in the immediate area. Van Den Hende explained that most of the parishioners are commuters and from Irish, German, Hispanic, African-American and several other ethnic backgrounds. People travel all the way from Mundelein and places far south.         “We love coming here because we feel welcome and appreciated. This church is like a home to me,” parishioner Danielle Belling, 22, from Lombard said.         She has been attending Holy Family for the past two years with her boyfriend Ryan Thornton, 25.         “We try to make it at least every Sunday and would love to one day get married here. I couldn’t picture myself in any other church,” Thornton said.         The parishioners show their loyalty and continue to come back.         “Even Cardinal George’s grandmother was a parishioner here, so he’s kind of attached to our church. We’ve got a special place in his heart,” Van Den Hende said.         Boland is very proud to be a part of Holy Family Church and wishes the best for its future.         “I love giving tours of the Church. Every nook and cranny has a story to tell. It has played a great place in our city’s history as well as thousands of families,” he said. “I would hope in the future that Holy family could develop resources and ministry for supporting healthy families as well as those that are struggling.”















           

A Home Away from Home
Story by Cassondra Castillo, Photos by Michael Reardon


        With its immense wooden doors and breathtaking entry, Holy Family Church is a timeless spectacle rising over the Near West Side landscape of Chicago. The striking bell tower dominates Roosevelt Road.  The walls are covered with enormous stained glass windows and intricate hand painted detail. Every piece of art has a story to tell and thanks to restoration efforts and donations, Holy Family has continued to welcome visitors to Chicago’s second oldest church.
        Holy Family dates back to 1857 when the Rev. Arnold Damen began constructing a new church with the aim of it becoming one of Chicago’s most beautiful.
        Ellen Skerrett, a Chicago historian, author, and researcher is very familiar with Holy Family Church and has written several articles on its history.
        "It was built with the nickels and dimes of very poor people. It was a place of great beauty in the lives of countless generations of Chicagoans, mostly immigrants," she said.          Skerrett explained that at $200,000, Holy Family was the most expensive church erected in Chicago in the 1850s. It involved cooperation, commitment, money, and competition.
        Skerrett said Holy Family’s commitment to beauty and refinement was further enhanced in 1870 with the opening of St. Ignatius College, the forerunner of Loyola University Chicago.
        “As the Holy Family experience makes abundantly clear, the benefits of attending church are cultural as well as spiritual,” Skerrett said.
        Holy Family has stood strong for many years and refuses to become a victim of the elements. The media relations volunteer, Dick Barry, is an expert on the history of Holy Family as well. Barry explained that the church is recognized for surviving the Chicago Fire. When the fire started in 1871, it began to spread toward Holy Family. Damen had been in Brooklyn at the time and after being informed of the danger invoked Our Lady of Perpetual Help to save the building. He promised that if the church were to be saved he would light seven candles before Our Lady’s statue. Fortunately, the winds changed course and the church was spared. The candles were lit and from that moment on seven electric lights burn at Our Lady’s shrine in the east transept of the church.
        “Holy Family continues to be recognized as a modern miracle story,” Barry said.
        In 1984 the church began to experience roof leaking and falling plaster. During Christmas of 1987, the pastor told the parishioners of the church that the old building was going to be torn down and replaced with a smaller structure. The people were not happy with the news and wanted to save the church.
        In 1988 the Holy Family Preservation Society was incorporated along with an architect and a development director.  The preservation society was informed that it would have to raise $1 million by Dec. 31, 1990, in order to save the church or else it would be torn down. A prayer vigil was held from Dec. 26 until Dec. 31 with a motto and plea of “Say Prayers and Send Money.” People began to donate, but it became obvious it was not going to be enough. An open house known as the feast of the Holy Family was held on Dec. 30. The media were informed of the open house and thousands of people came to see the church. By midnight over $1 million had been raised. The people were able to save their church with the blessing of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
        “Over the course of 20 years, with the help of people around the world, Holy Family Church has been restored to a functional house of worship that welcomes people of all races and ethnic backgrounds,” Barry said.
        Holy Family’s surrounding neighborhood includes the Illinois Medical Center, Greektown, University Village and United Center Park. The demographics are predominately black with a mix of white, Asian, and Hispanic. The median income is $29,588, and the increase in real estate values has made the area increasingly attractive to middle-class and upper-middle-class Chicagoans interested in living near downtown.
        “The near West Side is going through a major renewal. With the University, the medical district and the new housing developments, Holy Family’s future looks bright,” the Rev. Jerry Boland said. “We are culturally, racially and economically quite diverse.”
        Holy Family is an impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Its 15,000 square foot interior holds 1,000 seats for all of its guests. It has 65 foot ceilings with the main altar situated at the north end of the church. There are round, clerestory stained glass windows, which happen to be the oldest in Chicago. Another prominent feature is the world class pipe organ that has been in the parish since 1870. The church also has 29 wooden statues created by sculptor Charles Oliver Dauphin of Montreal. This is the largest collection of his work in the world. The statues and artwork serve as reflections of the different ethnic groups that have been a part of the church for so many years.
        Restoration on Holy Family Church continues today.  Sharon Van Den Hende, the administrative assistant, explained just how much work goes into the church.
        “Everything in the church is in need of restoration,” she said. “We just did the doors and that was almost $200,000. We had a project where we had to refasten some of the pews because they were loose and that was $18,000. Everything in the church is expensive, because it has to meet certain standards because of the historical status.”
        Van Den Hende said that anything that has to be done in the church is a major project, because everything is so detailed.
        “A lot of people think that the images on the walls are wallpaper, but they are actually hand painted and hand stenciled,” she said.
        Financial issues continue to set Holy Family back. The middle balcony has not yet been completed because the church ran out of money. The weekly collection goal is set at $3,000, but the church is lucky if it collects $2,000. The church lacks a maintenance staff, so in order to save money Boland does most of the work himself. He cuts the grass, shovels the snow, and even changes the light bulbs. Holy Family relies greatly on weddings for financial support. “Father has an open door policy which is nice, because most churches won’t marry non-parishioners. It’s proven beneficial because people come back and baptize their children here. They remember how kind Father is,” Van Den Hende said.
        The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary are a significant part of Holy Family. They came together in Ireland as a group of dedicated Catholic women who felt the duty to serve God as religious educators. In 1867 they were invited to Chicago to teach immigrant children who were adjusting to a new land. Today they continue to value charity, freedom, justice and education. The Sisters assist new residents moving into the Roosevelt Square area, provide neighborhood residents, especially the elderly, with food once a month from the food pantry, and remain active in parish meetings and on social justice, liturgy and finance committees.
        “We provide much needed community services with our food pantry and literacy center,” Boland said.
        The majority of Holy Family’s visitors do not reside in the immediate area. Van Den Hende explained that most of the parishioners are commuters and from Irish, German, Hispanic, African-American and several other ethnic backgrounds. People travel all the way from Mundelein and places far south.
        “We love coming here because we feel welcome and appreciated. This church is like a home to me,” parishioner Danielle Belling, 22, from Lombard said.
        She has been attending Holy Family for the past two years with her boyfriend Ryan Thornton, 25.
        “We try to make it at least every Sunday and would love to one day get married here. I couldn’t picture myself in any other church,” Thornton said.
        The parishioners show their loyalty and continue to come back.
        “Even Cardinal George’s grandmother was a parishioner here, so he’s kind of attached to our church. We’ve got a special place in his heart,” Van Den Hende said.
        Boland is very proud to be a part of Holy Family Church and wishes the best for its future.
        “I love giving tours of the Church. Every nook and cranny has a story to tell. It has played a great place in our city’s history as well as thousands of families,” he said. “I would hope in the future that Holy family could develop resources and ministry for supporting healthy families as well as those that are struggling.”


          

Chicago’s Polish Mission Story by Mike Byra, Photos by Chelsea Zwieg     When renovations started at Holy Trinity Polish Church back in 2005, to commemorate the church’s 100th anniversary, many parishioners complained that the lavish church had one major blemish. Above the altar there was only a yellow painted wall. The church listened to its parishioners and a painter was soon brought in to fix the blemish. He was commissioned to paint the crowing of Mary in heaven, but during that time Pope John Paul II passed away, so it was decided that the late pope would also be painted. Then the church decided that Polish Saint Faustina, Polish Cardinal August Hlond and Polish Prelate Stefan Wyszynski would also be painted above the altar. Once the painting was completed, Andrew Maslejak, the pastor, hosted a group of Americans at Holy Trinity.      ”I said to them any questions? They asked father who is up there? I started to joke. You don’t know who is up there? It’s Polish heaven,” Maslejak said.      Holy Trinity isn’t just a Catholic church in Chicago. It’s also the heart, and soul of the Polish community. Sister Genowefa Potaczala, who used to work with the parish when she first came to Chicago from Poland, wrote a book in Polish about the history of the church. "This church is a part of Polish culture here. Polish immigrants built this church. This isn’t just religion," Potaczala said.     Holy Trinity Polish Church is located in Pulaski Park, which is also home to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Back in 1873, as Kostka Church became overcrowded with Polish parishioners, the need came to build a second church. Initially, there was a feud between Holy Trinity and St. Stanislaus Kosta over membership, so in 1893 the archdiocese split the two parishes.     In the 1960s as the Kennedy Expressway was being built the Polish community began to move out of the Pulaski Park neighborhood. With Cabrini Green being built not too far away, Holy Trinity’s surroundings became alarming. "By 1975 the priests and nuns of Holy Cross Fathers left the parish because the neighborhood was very dangerous and the church lost parishioners," Maslejak said. The church faced a crisis and in 1985 with few parishioners showing up for Masses the archdiocese decided to close the church. When the news reached the Polish community, it immediately organized in protest. They held up signs and even wrote letters to John Paul II in Rome to notify him of what was going on. The archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, saw the protest coverage on TV, which led him to bring in priests from the Society of Christ. The order was started in Poland in 1932 and today they serve the Polish mission in 19 countries.      ”Immediately after one or two months we had about one thousand people in the church on Sunday,” Maslejak said. The new wave of Polish Solidarity immigrants in the 90s saved the church.     ”When they built the highway in the 60s it was a curse for the parish, and now it’s a blessing because most of our parishioners live in the suburbs. They have easy access, so they are coming from all over,” Maslejak said.     The new waves of immigrants were accustomed to Holy Trinity’s Polish cathedral style architecture made of brick with wooden floors and pews.     ”I live in Norridge and taking the highway to Trinity makes it easy for me to get there real quick. The church feels like you’re back in Poland,” said parishioner Marcin Loch (19). Holy Trinity is distinct in that it is a Polish mission, so there are no community boundaries. All Polish Catholics are welcome from the Chicago area. The church has traditionally been affiliated with the PNA Polish National Alliance. The PNA organizes the Polish Constitution Day Parade every year on May 3. Each year on the Sunday before May 3, the PNA hosts a special mass at Holy Trinity. Apart from hosting Polish celebrations the church also mourns tragedy. The church held a one year anniversary honoring the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski along with countless others.      ”We had Bishop Michalik the president of Polish bishops and Cardinal George was here. The church was packed. We invited families of those killed in that plane. They came. There were two families, the wives of the men who were killed,” Maslejak said.  When standing in the center of the church one can see just why such important events take place here. The pillars are aligned with gold leaves while countless religious portraits, crosses and statues grace the interior. On one side of the church there is the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa also known as the Black Madonna.     ”It’s an icon. In every Polish church there is a copy of that icon,” Maslejak said.
     Next to the iconic painting stands an urn, similar to a vase. It holds soil from Katyn, the place where thousands of Polish nationals were massacred by the Soviets. While on the wall there’s a plaque commemorating the Polish soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino during World War II. The interior has many meaningful Polish symbols, but deep underneath the church the catacombs hold many different meaningful relics. There are famous figures of the Polish Catholic cult in the church’s collection like bone fragments of Padre Pio and Saint Faustina.
     ”This isn’t just a Polish church, but a cultural center too that still holds onto its traditions,” Maslejak said. Since renovations started during the start of the millennium, the church has spent $5 million to fix the roof, two steeples and paint the inside. With more expensive housing replacing the remains of Cabrini Green the neighborhood is becoming safer now. Still, Maslejak believes that the Polish community remains the church’s main lifeline.      ”We’re keeping the tradition, but it depends from the people, so thank God they’re coming,” said Maslejak.

Chicago’s Polish Mission
Story by Mike Byra, Photos by Chelsea Zwieg

     When renovations started at Holy Trinity Polish Church back in 2005, to commemorate the church’s 100th anniversary, many parishioners complained that the lavish church had one major blemish. Above the altar there was only a yellow painted wall. The church listened to its parishioners and a painter was soon brought in to fix the blemish. He was commissioned to paint the crowing of Mary in heaven, but during that time Pope John Paul II passed away, so it was decided that the late pope would also be painted. Then the church decided that Polish Saint Faustina, Polish Cardinal August Hlond and Polish Prelate Stefan Wyszynski would also be painted above the altar. Once the painting was completed, Andrew Maslejak, the pastor, hosted a group of Americans at Holy Trinity.
     ”I said to them any questions? They asked father who is up there? I started to joke. You don’t know who is up there? It’s Polish heaven,” Maslejak said.
     Holy Trinity isn’t just a Catholic church in Chicago. It’s also the heart, and soul of the Polish community. Sister Genowefa Potaczala, who used to work with the parish when she first came to Chicago from Poland, wrote a book in Polish about the history of the church.
"This church is a part of Polish culture here. Polish immigrants built this church. This isn’t just religion," Potaczala said.
     Holy Trinity Polish Church is located in Pulaski Park, which is also home to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. Back in 1873, as Kostka Church became overcrowded with Polish parishioners, the need came to build a second church. Initially, there was a feud between Holy Trinity and St. Stanislaus Kosta over membership, so in 1893 the archdiocese split the two parishes.
     In the 1960s as the Kennedy Expressway was being built the Polish community began to move out of the Pulaski Park neighborhood. With Cabrini Green being built not too far away, Holy Trinity’s surroundings became alarming.
"By 1975 the priests and nuns of Holy Cross Fathers left the parish because the neighborhood was very dangerous and the church lost parishioners," Maslejak said.
The church faced a crisis and in 1985 with few parishioners showing up for Masses the archdiocese decided to close the church. When the news reached the Polish community, it immediately organized in protest. They held up signs and even wrote letters to John Paul II in Rome to notify him of what was going on. The archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, saw the protest coverage on TV, which led him to bring in priests from the Society of Christ. The order was started in Poland in 1932 and today they serve the Polish mission in 19 countries.
     ”Immediately after one or two months we had about one thousand people in the church on Sunday,” Maslejak said. The new wave of Polish Solidarity immigrants in the 90s saved the church.
     ”When they built the highway in the 60s it was a curse for the parish, and now it’s a blessing because most of our parishioners live in the suburbs. They have easy access, so they are coming from all over,” Maslejak said.
     The new waves of immigrants were accustomed to Holy Trinity’s Polish cathedral style architecture made of brick with wooden floors and pews.
     ”I live in Norridge and taking the highway to Trinity makes it easy for me to get there real quick. The church feels like you’re back in Poland,” said parishioner Marcin Loch (19).
Holy Trinity is distinct in that it is a Polish mission, so there are no community boundaries. All Polish Catholics are welcome from the Chicago area. The church has traditionally been affiliated with the PNA Polish National Alliance. The PNA organizes the Polish Constitution Day Parade every year on May 3. Each year on the Sunday before May 3, the PNA hosts a special mass at Holy Trinity. Apart from hosting Polish celebrations the church also mourns tragedy. The church held a one year anniversary honoring the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski along with countless others.
     ”We had Bishop Michalik the president of Polish bishops and Cardinal George was here. The church was packed. We invited families of those killed in that plane. They came. There were two families, the wives of the men who were killed,” Maslejak said.
When standing in the center of the church one can see just why such important events take place here. The pillars are aligned with gold leaves while countless religious portraits, crosses and statues grace the interior. On one side of the church there is the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa also known as the Black Madonna.
     ”It’s an icon. In every Polish church there is a copy of that icon,” Maslejak said.

     Next to the iconic painting stands an urn, similar to a vase. It holds soil from Katyn, the place where thousands of Polish nationals were massacred by the Soviets. While on the wall there’s a plaque commemorating the Polish soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino during World War II. The interior has many meaningful Polish symbols, but deep underneath the church the catacombs hold many different meaningful relics. There are famous figures of the Polish Catholic cult in the church’s collection like bone fragments of Padre Pio and Saint Faustina.

     ”This isn’t just a Polish church, but a cultural center too that still holds onto its traditions,” Maslejak said.
Since renovations started during the start of the millennium, the church has spent $5 million to fix the roof, two steeples and paint the inside. With more expensive housing replacing the remains of Cabrini Green the neighborhood is becoming safer now. Still, Maslejak believes that the Polish community remains the church’s main lifeline.
     ”We’re keeping the tradition, but it depends from the people, so thank God they’re coming,” said Maslejak.



Story by Will Livesley-O’Neill, Photos by Robby DeGraff
The clock tower of St. John Cantius Parish in West Town is a landmark both of the neighborhood and of the church’s position within the tradition of Catholicism. Its impressive gold face is hard to miss on W Chicago Avenue, where the church’s High Renaissance-style Polish architecture towers over the CVS Pharmacy, Subway and other modest businesses nearby. Looking southeast, St. John Cantius is framed by the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower downtown. This exterior image is of a church that is a bedrock of old-style Catholicism, in stark relief to the more modern world that surrounds it. In short, it looks like a place where Mass might still be in Latin.
        Indeed, St. John Cantius is one of only a few parishes remaining in the Chicagoland region to offer Mass in both English and the traditional Latin format. Both services are offered every day of the week. The church also offers both the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the current structure practiced in most Catholic churches, in both English and Latin, and the Extraordinary Form, the structure devised in 1962 before the Second Vatican Council implemented a change in the language of services from Latin to the vernacular.         But this adherence to older versions of Catholicism doesn’t necessarily indicate that St. John Cantius is stuck in the past, or unwilling to budge from its image as a bastion of old-fashioned Polish traditionalism. According to the parish office, St. John Cantius sees its attendance split equally between the English and Latin Masses. Rev. Albert Tremari, S.J.C., an associate pastor who presides over Masses in both languages, says that the services are also evenly divided in a demographic sense – both draw a diverse age range of attendees. He calls this contrary to the image of the Latin Mass as a holdout of older traditionalists that is fading away as the years since the Second Vatican Council pass by. “[The Latin Mass] gives young people a sense of reverance and awe that they didn’t grow up with,” Tremari says, a feeling to which he attributes the consistent attendance of a younger crowd to the older form of Mass.

Story by Will Livesley-O’Neill, Photos by Robby DeGraff


The clock tower of St. John Cantius Parish in West Town is a landmark both of the neighborhood and of the church’s position within the tradition of Catholicism. Its impressive gold face is hard to miss on W Chicago Avenue, where the church’s High Renaissance-style Polish architecture towers over the CVS Pharmacy, Subway and other modest businesses nearby. Looking southeast, St. John Cantius is framed by the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower downtown. This exterior image is of a church that is a bedrock of old-style Catholicism, in stark relief to the more modern world that surrounds it. In short, it looks like a place where Mass might still be in Latin.

        Indeed, St. John Cantius is one of only a few parishes remaining in the Chicagoland region to offer Mass in both English and the traditional Latin format. Both services are offered every day of the week. The church also offers both the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the current structure practiced in most Catholic churches, in both English and Latin, and the Extraordinary Form, the structure devised in 1962 before the Second Vatican Council implemented a change in the language of services from Latin to the vernacular.
        But this adherence to older versions of Catholicism doesn’t necessarily indicate that St. John Cantius is stuck in the past, or unwilling to budge from its image as a bastion of old-fashioned Polish traditionalism. According to the parish office, St. John Cantius sees its attendance split equally between the English and Latin Masses. Rev. Albert Tremari, S.J.C., an associate pastor who presides over Masses in both languages, says that the services are also evenly divided in a demographic sense – both draw a diverse age range of attendees. He calls this contrary to the image of the Latin Mass as a holdout of older traditionalists that is fading away as the years since the Second Vatican Council pass by. “[The Latin Mass] gives young people a sense of reverance and awe that they didn’t grow up with,” Tremari says, a feeling to which he attributes the consistent attendance of a younger crowd to the older form of Mass.

Saving the dome, one chocolate bar at a timeStory by Ann Wanserski, Photos by Angela Wells 
Ask any Chicagoan about the “big dome” just off the Kennedy Expressway – the one with all the angels – and they will most likely know just the place. Though many may not know that parish by name, the iconic architecture nestled adjacent to the well-traveled turnpike has been a view for commuters and Bucktown residents since its initial construction in 1899, far before the expressway or trendy neighborhood even existed.
Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the grandiose dome and capacious surrounding structures of St. Mary of the Angels Roman Catholic Church, at 1850 N. Hermitage, look far more daunting in close proximity. The ever-present glowing angels looming high on the towers make real the parish’s name. In more recent years, St. Mary’s has also gained recognition for the “Restore God’s House” campaign to save this undeniably historic architectural prize.
From the inside, a precarious net covers the expanse of the dome, protecting parishioners from falling pieces of the ceiling, a literal reminder of the dome’s deterioration and near death in 1988. It was around this time that a chunk of plaster hit a worshipper in the head, prompting the Chicago Archdiocese to close down the parish for three years.
Only due to the resolute dedication of parishioners, resorting to bake sales and small-scale fundraising, did the church reopen in 1991 under the responsibility of the Prelature of Opus Dei, a conservative order within Catholicism focused on finding holiness through ordinary life. Today, twenty years later, the parish faces eerily similar problems, as the original restorations from the 1980s have not worn well against years of harsh Chicago weather.
Taking no chances of facing another closure, the initial repairs the second time around took place through 2011, but the ethereal net harnessed across the ceiling acts as a daunting, ghostly reminder that the process is far from over. A process costing upwards of $3.2 million, to be exact. Though the scaffolding and notable “Save the Dome” banner have been removed, it has been replaced by a more impressive mass of debt to clean up.
“It was clear that the dome had to be restored, and we started that right away,” said Kasia Sonska-Niznik, the church’s donation coordinator. “So far we are just halfway through, even though the dome is already repaired, we needed to take out a loan to complete this and now we need to pay back the loan in order to continue with this project.”
Sonska-Niznik, a parishioner since her arrival in Chicago from Krakow four years ago, feels hopeful about the progress so far. The Polish immigrant community that built the church at the turn of the 20th century continues to thrive, and is not the only force propelling the campaign. Generous donors from across the country have also contributed funds thanks to recent news coverage and a heightened Internet presence.
“Last year we noticed a big growth in new registration forms, which is great because it means we are getting new parishioners,” said Sonska-Niznik. “I think once people come inside the church they love it here and they stay.”
Approximately 1,700 families are currently members of the parish, and enrollment at St. Mary of the Angels School is growing after years of decline. The school was actually the first building constructed in 1899 and housed the original church in the upstairs. Not until 1920, delayed in part due to shortages in building materials as a result of World War I, did the church and iconic dome open to the public. Today, the church and school – which are connected by a rectory – remain closely linked, with approximately 200 students from preschool through 8th grade attending classes at the school.
“We are one community, and we really try to stress that,” said Elise Bartzen, head of marketing and development for the school. “Anything that the school hosts, parish members are welcome to attend, and vice versa.”Certainly, the Bucktown neighborhood’s increasing popularity has contributed in large part to these growing numbers. Only 40 years ago, before the massive gentrification of the 1990s, parishioners recall muggings and even a drive-by shooting on the steps of the church. According to Gary Bilinovich, the church’s business manager, today the parish serves a diverse mix of “Polish, Hispanics and yuppies” regularly attending one of the 17 weekly masses and forming an integral social aspect for the area.“These historic religious structures really are neighborhood anchors,” said Johnathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an advocacy group for historic religious structures in the city. “I think an important question needs to be asked whether or not public funds can or should be used with regards to maintaining the physical brick and mortar structure of these important buildings because they do serve so many important social purposes. Even if one were never to enter them, architecturally, they contribute so much to a neighborhood.”According to Fine, from a large-scale perspective, the issue of deterioration and lack of funding for historic religious structures is a national trend. Perhaps a change in policy could offer more help for such institutions, but this remains a conversation for the future, yet to be put into action. For now, the worshippers and community members involved with fundraising at St. Mary of the Angels look for short-term solutions.   Billinovish and Sonska-Niznik estimate that fundraising will continue for several more years before the entire restoration can be completed. The full list of renovations includes repairing the dome, but also rebuilding the historic parapet (which is currently stored in the basement) and renovating the south tower of the building.“It’s a bad market to do an sort of fundraising, working for the school, we know how hard it is for people right now [financially]. The timing is just not ideal,” Bartzen said.Yet, it seems that the most small-scale fundraising efforts from die-hard devotees of the church have had the most profound impact on this community. Even in a sour economy, the parishioners who have been a part of the church for generations remember the first fight to save the dome vividly, and remain the most rigorously devoted to this campaign.“We have the older generations who saved the church 20 years ago still working again to save it,” Sonska-Niznik said. “We’ve got some young people too, but I wish we had this whole community, and crowds of people that would be willing to take actions, not just give us a check.”Despite efforts to utilize social media, including Facebook and twitter, it is these parishioners and the more traditional forms of outreach that exemplify the closeness of this community. The Rev. Hilary Mahaney, pastor of the church for 19 years, forms the backbone of this movement, and the backbone of the spiritual wellbeing of all its members.“One woman, Gene Michniak, sells candy bars after every mass, and every penny that she makes goes towards the church. And I swear she is going to be selling candy bars outside of the gates of heaven,” Bilinovich said. “She grew up with [the church], she went to school here, she was married here, her husband was buried from here, and she is here every week. She just gives completely without complaint, without questions.”Michniak is only one of the many examples that remind parishioners – despite the splendor of the rich gold-leaf frescoed interior and the tremendous towering vaulted ceiling of the dome – it is the people, not the building that bring this church to life. For all the members of this community, St. Mary of the Angels remains an undeniable social, spiritual and cultural epicenter. For Chicagoans, it must remain a home for historical and architectural beauty, and an icon of the city.“I think people need to understand that this is not just a place that you come to every Sunday or just every once in a while for mass,” Sonska-Niznik said. “This is the house of God, but also their house and they have to take care of it just as they would care for their own houses.”

Saving the dome, one chocolate bar at a time
Story by Ann Wanserski, Photos by Angela Wells

Ask any Chicagoan about the “big dome” just off the Kennedy Expressway – the one with all the angels – and they will most likely know just the place. Though many may not know that parish by name, the iconic architecture nestled adjacent to the well-traveled turnpike has been a view for commuters and Bucktown residents since its initial construction in 1899, far before the expressway or trendy neighborhood even existed.

Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the grandiose dome and capacious surrounding structures of St. Mary of the Angels Roman Catholic Church, at 1850 N. Hermitage, look far more daunting in close proximity. The ever-present glowing angels looming high on the towers make real the parish’s name. In more recent years, St. Mary’s has also gained recognition for the “Restore God’s House” campaign to save this undeniably historic architectural prize.

From the inside, a precarious net covers the expanse of the dome, protecting parishioners from falling pieces of the ceiling, a literal reminder of the dome’s deterioration and near death in 1988. It was around this time that a chunk of plaster hit a worshipper in the head, prompting the Chicago Archdiocese to close down the parish for three years.

Only due to the resolute dedication of parishioners, resorting to bake sales and small-scale fundraising, did the church reopen in 1991 under the responsibility of the Prelature of Opus Dei, a conservative order within Catholicism focused on finding holiness through ordinary life. Today, twenty years later, the parish faces eerily similar problems, as the original restorations from the 1980s have not worn well against years of harsh Chicago weather.

Taking no chances of facing another closure, the initial repairs the second time around took place through 2011, but the ethereal net harnessed across the ceiling acts as a daunting, ghostly reminder that the process is far from over. A process costing upwards of $3.2 million, to be exact. Though the scaffolding and notable “Save the Dome” banner have been removed, it has been replaced by a more impressive mass of debt to clean up.

“It was clear that the dome had to be restored, and we started that right away,” said Kasia Sonska-Niznik, the church’s donation coordinator. “So far we are just halfway through, even though the dome is already repaired, we needed to take out a loan to complete this and now we need to pay back the loan in order to continue with this project.”

Sonska-Niznik, a parishioner since her arrival in Chicago from Krakow four years ago, feels hopeful about the progress so far. The Polish immigrant community that built the church at the turn of the 20th century continues to thrive, and is not the only force propelling the campaign. Generous donors from across the country have also contributed funds thanks to recent news coverage and a heightened Internet presence.

“Last year we noticed a big growth in new registration forms, which is great because it means we are getting new parishioners,” said Sonska-Niznik. “I think once people come inside the church they love it here and they stay.”

Approximately 1,700 families are currently members of the parish, and enrollment at St. Mary of the Angels School is growing after years of decline. The school was actually the first building constructed in 1899 and housed the original church in the upstairs. Not until 1920, delayed in part due to shortages in building materials as a result of World War I, did the church and iconic dome open to the public. Today, the church and school – which are connected by a rectory – remain closely linked, with approximately 200 students from preschool through 8th grade attending classes at the school.

“We are one community, and we really try to stress that,” said Elise Bartzen, head of marketing and development for the school. “Anything that the school hosts, parish members are welcome to attend, and vice versa.”
Certainly, the Bucktown neighborhood’s increasing popularity has contributed in large part to these growing numbers. Only 40 years ago, before the massive gentrification of the 1990s, parishioners recall muggings and even a drive-by shooting on the steps of the church. According to Gary Bilinovich, the church’s business manager, today the parish serves a diverse mix of “Polish, Hispanics and yuppies” regularly attending one of the 17 weekly masses and forming an integral social aspect for the area.
“These historic religious structures really are neighborhood anchors,” said Johnathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, an advocacy group for historic religious structures in the city. “I think an important question needs to be asked whether or not public funds can or should be used with regards to maintaining the physical brick and mortar structure of these important buildings because they do serve so many important social purposes. Even if one were never to enter them, architecturally, they contribute so much to a neighborhood.”
According to Fine, from a large-scale perspective, the issue of deterioration and lack of funding for historic religious structures is a national trend. Perhaps a change in policy could offer more help for such institutions, but this remains a conversation for the future, yet to be put into action. For now, the worshippers and community members involved with fundraising at St. Mary of the Angels look for short-term solutions.   
Billinovish and Sonska-Niznik estimate that fundraising will continue for several more years before the entire restoration can be completed. The full list of renovations includes repairing the dome, but also rebuilding the historic parapet (which is currently stored in the basement) and renovating the south tower of the building.
“It’s a bad market to do an sort of fundraising, working for the school, we know how hard it is for people right now [financially]. The timing is just not ideal,” Bartzen said.
Yet, it seems that the most small-scale fundraising efforts from die-hard devotees of the church have had the most profound impact on this community. Even in a sour economy, the parishioners who have been a part of the church for generations remember the first fight to save the dome vividly, and remain the most rigorously devoted to this campaign.
“We have the older generations who saved the church 20 years ago still working again to save it,” Sonska-Niznik said. “We’ve got some young people too, but I wish we had this whole community, and crowds of people that would be willing to take actions, not just give us a check.”
Despite efforts to utilize social media, including Facebook and twitter, it is these parishioners and the more traditional forms of outreach that exemplify the closeness of this community. The Rev. Hilary Mahaney, pastor of the church for 19 years, forms the backbone of this movement, and the backbone of the spiritual wellbeing of all its members.
“One woman, Gene Michniak, sells candy bars after every mass, and every penny that she makes goes towards the church. And I swear she is going to be selling candy bars outside of the gates of heaven,” Bilinovich said. “She grew up with [the church], she went to school here, she was married here, her husband was buried from here, and she is here every week. She just gives completely without complaint, without questions.”
Michniak is only one of the many examples that remind parishioners – despite the splendor of the rich gold-leaf frescoed interior and the tremendous towering vaulted ceiling of the dome – it is the people, not the building that bring this church to life. For all the members of this community, St. Mary of the Angels remains an undeniable social, spiritual and cultural epicenter. For Chicagoans, it must remain a home for historical and architectural beauty, and an icon of the city.
“I think people need to understand that this is not just a place that you come to every Sunday or just every once in a while for mass,” Sonska-Niznik said. “This is the house of God, but also their house and they have to take care of it just as they would care for their own houses.”


Until the Work for the Temple of the Lord is FinishedStory by Jordan Muck, photos by Eric Rahill
On a brisk and early Ash Wednesday morning, the voices of an undersized congregation echoed amongst the church’s wide-open interior; a strained chorus singing the praises of their beloved. The song goes unaccompanied by traditional instruments, but the clatter of construction rings loud and harsh against the melody of the faithful.
This is the way that hundreds, even thousands of services held at Chicago’s Notre Dame de Chicago Church have taken place. The church itself, now an astonishing 126-years-old, thrives on this process of renewal, undergoing a total of five complete renovations since it’s inception.
The building that stands at 1334 Flournoy Street holds the name of Notre Dame de Chicago, but in namesake only does it reflect the vision of its founders. Today, the project seems simple: resurrect an elevator that will reach the church’s sanctuary and parish hall below. It’s the notion that the church will continue to grow along with its most faithful parishioners. But the incessant tapping of hammer and whirring of a drill through mass gives a hint: this church is just getting started.
The church was founded in 1864 by a group of French Catholics who left what is now Old St. Patrick’s to start their own center for worship.  Construction on the original building was completed in 1887. The name of the architect is unknown, but the building is classified as Romanesque Revival—a style named for its goal of purifying European church architecture.
The French Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament took over Notre Dame in 1918, but the glory of the French church was short lived.
“The community has changed quite a bit over the course of the church’s existence,” said Megan Mio, pastoral associate and assistant to the Rev. Patrick Pollard, pastor at Notre Dame de Chicago.
The Near West neighborhood where the church was built became a safe haven for Irish and Italian immigrants after the 1871 Chicago fire left many residents without homes. By the1920s, Notre Dame de Chicago could no longer ignore the multicultural expansion of the neighborhood and canceled French-spoken services.
Today, the Church holds Mass in Spanish every Sunday—servicing the Hispanic population that now makes up almost 10 percent of the surrounding community.
“We’ve said mass in Spanish ever since I can remember,” said Mio, “the Spanish community has been here longer than you would think, their influence is definitely visible.”
             Mio also heads the church’s Hispanic Ministry. Now the church has adopted the slogan, “The church with heart in the heart of Chicago,” to reflect their ever-evolving, multicultural family.                In 1978, Notre Dame was put to the test. A lightning bolt struck a 9-foot-tall. statue of the Virgin Mary atop the church’s signature copper dome, igniting a dangerous fire that left significant water damage to the interior walls.
“Although the Church received extensive renovations, it was never really the same after that,” said Robert Rigali, Project Manager at religious art firm Daprato Rigali Studios.
The school attached to the church was torn down in the late 1980s to make way for a parking lot, a decision that at the time was much more economical than repairing the building, which needed over $300,000 in work.
“The open air left the church open to Chicago’s harsh wind and other weather,” said Rigali.  
Rigali and his team were hired in 1996 to assess the state of the Notre Dame de Chicago building. They found that the wooden frames holding in the church’s century-old stained glass windows had warped, and needed immediate repair among running the risk of the windows themselves cracking.
“It took us over 12 months to complete the windows. They had to be completely removed so we could rebuild the frames,” said Rigali of the massive project.
The glittering glass pieces were restored and new glass coverings were added as a protective measure. The windows were rededicated in March of 2002.
"So much has been reported about the troubles and tribulations the church is undergoing at this time," gushed the Rev. Paul Reicher to the Chicago Tribune during the rededication ceremony.
"Now, all of the sudden, we have news of a small parish making its way. It gives us a signal of hope."
Notre Dame de Chicago took that sign and ran with it. Notre Dame de Chicago also hired Daprato Rigali to rebuild the church’s marble altar, opening the space by removing pews. Rigali designed a new altar, made with Italian marble.
        “The work we did there was just…awesome,” he says, “What we did, really, was just highlight the existing architecture. It was already beautiful, it just needed a few coats of paint, so to speak.”
Although the marble project took another two years to complete, the paint wasn’t too far behind. The Church quickly hired Parma Conservation to take on the daunting task of cleaning and conserving the 2,000 square foot. “Creation” mural in the iconic dome. Originally painted in 1903, the mural was barely recognizable due to year of chipping and other damage.
Elizabeth Kendall, founder of Parma Conservation, and her team took six months to restore the painting.         
“Sometimes, you just don’t know what you are going to find underneath all of the damage. With [Notre Dame de Chicago], we found much more than we had anticipated,” Kendall said.
The finished mural includes restored scenes from the Old and New Testament, now a bright reminder of the ideology of the Catholic faith.
Overall, the $2.2 million renovations were completed in 2005, thanks in part to the Church’s Legacy Campaign. The campaign looked to restore the church to its former glory, including replacing the slate roof, installing new lighting, and replacing the old sound system. The campaign raised $770,000 in donations.
“We can always count on the generosity of [our parishioners],” said the Rev. Patrick Pollard during his Ash Wednesday homily, struggling to top the loud development below his feet.
        A testament to that statement, over one-half of the $460,000 required for the church’s Campaign for Access was paid for by money already donated to the Legacy fund. The remainder was borrowed from the Archdiocese of Chicago and will be paid back from parish donations.
“We don’t have any plans past the elevator for more renovations…yet,” said Mio. The unveiling of the new elevator is slated for the week of March 1st.

Until the Work for the Temple of the Lord is Finished
Story by Jordan Muck, photos by Eric Rahill

On a brisk and early Ash Wednesday morning, the voices of an undersized congregation echoed amongst the church’s wide-open interior; a strained chorus singing the praises of their beloved. The song goes unaccompanied by traditional instruments, but the clatter of construction rings loud and harsh against the melody of the faithful.

This is the way that hundreds, even thousands of services held at Chicago’s Notre Dame de Chicago Church have taken place. The church itself, now an astonishing 126-years-old, thrives on this process of renewal, undergoing a total of five complete renovations since it’s inception.

The building that stands at 1334 Flournoy Street holds the name of Notre Dame de Chicago, but in namesake only does it reflect the vision of its founders. Today, the project seems simple: resurrect an elevator that will reach the church’s sanctuary and parish hall below. It’s the notion that the church will continue to grow along with its most faithful parishioners. But the incessant tapping of hammer and whirring of a drill through mass gives a hint: this church is just getting started.

The church was founded in 1864 by a group of French Catholics who left what is now Old St. Patrick’s to start their own center for worship.  Construction on the original building was completed in 1887. The name of the architect is unknown, but the building is classified as Romanesque Revival—a style named for its goal of purifying European church architecture.

The French Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament took over Notre Dame in 1918, but the glory of the French church was short lived.

“The community has changed quite a bit over the course of the church’s existence,” said Megan Mio, pastoral associate and assistant to the Rev. Patrick Pollard, pastor at Notre Dame de Chicago.

The Near West neighborhood where the church was built became a safe haven for Irish and Italian immigrants after the 1871 Chicago fire left many residents without homes. By the1920s, Notre Dame de Chicago could no longer ignore the multicultural expansion of the neighborhood and canceled French-spoken services.

Today, the Church holds Mass in Spanish every Sunday—servicing the Hispanic population that now makes up almost 10 percent of the surrounding community.

“We’ve said mass in Spanish ever since I can remember,” said Mio, “the Spanish community has been here longer than you would think, their influence is definitely visible.”

             Mio also heads the church’s Hispanic Ministry. Now the church has adopted the slogan, “The church with heart in the heart of Chicago,” to reflect their ever-evolving, multicultural family.  
             In 1978, Notre Dame was put to the test. A lightning bolt struck a 9-foot-tall. statue of the Virgin Mary atop the church’s signature copper dome, igniting a dangerous fire that left significant water damage to the interior walls.

“Although the Church received extensive renovations, it was never really the same after that,” said Robert Rigali, Project Manager at religious art firm Daprato Rigali Studios.

The school attached to the church was torn down in the late 1980s to make way for a parking lot, a decision that at the time was much more economical than repairing the building, which needed over $300,000 in work.

“The open air left the church open to Chicago’s harsh wind and other weather,” said Rigali.  

Rigali and his team were hired in 1996 to assess the state of the Notre Dame de Chicago building. They found that the wooden frames holding in the church’s century-old stained glass windows had warped, and needed immediate repair among running the risk of the windows themselves cracking.

“It took us over 12 months to complete the windows. They had to be completely removed so we could rebuild the frames,” said Rigali of the massive project.

The glittering glass pieces were restored and new glass coverings were added as a protective measure. The windows were rededicated in March of 2002.

"So much has been reported about the troubles and tribulations the church is undergoing at this time," gushed the Rev. Paul Reicher to the Chicago Tribune during the rededication ceremony.

"Now, all of the sudden, we have news of a small parish making its way. It gives us a signal of hope."

Notre Dame de Chicago took that sign and ran with it. Notre Dame de Chicago also hired Daprato Rigali to rebuild the church’s marble altar, opening the space by removing pews. Rigali designed a new altar, made with Italian marble.

        “The work we did there was just…awesome,” he says, “What we did, really, was just highlight the existing architecture. It was already beautiful, it just needed a few coats of paint, so to speak.”

Although the marble project took another two years to complete, the paint wasn’t too far behind. The Church quickly hired Parma Conservation to take on the daunting task of cleaning and conserving the 2,000 square foot. “Creation” mural in the iconic dome. Originally painted in 1903, the mural was barely recognizable due to year of chipping and other damage.

Elizabeth Kendall, founder of Parma Conservation, and her team took six months to restore the painting.        

“Sometimes, you just don’t know what you are going to find underneath all of the damage. With [Notre Dame de Chicago], we found much more than we had anticipated,” Kendall said.

The finished mural includes restored scenes from the Old and New Testament, now a bright reminder of the ideology of the Catholic faith.

Overall, the $2.2 million renovations were completed in 2005, thanks in part to the Church’s Legacy Campaign. The campaign looked to restore the church to its former glory, including replacing the slate roof, installing new lighting, and replacing the old sound system. The campaign raised $770,000 in donations.

“We can always count on the generosity of [our parishioners],” said the Rev. Patrick Pollard during his Ash Wednesday homily, struggling to top the loud development below his feet.

        A testament to that statement, over one-half of the $460,000 required for the church’s Campaign for Access was paid for by money already donated to the Legacy fund. The remainder was borrowed from the Archdiocese of Chicago and will be paid back from parish donations.

“We don’t have any plans past the elevator for more renovations…yet,” said Mio. The unveiling of the new elevator is slated for the week of March 1st.

By Kathryn Hills              Receiving ashes on the first day of Lent is common practice for Catholics, but parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on the Southwest Side of Chicago receive something in addition to the traditional ashes.              “Parishioners will receive the ashes, of course, but they will also receive a small stone, which is representative of what weighs them down,” explained the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux of Our Lady of Guadalupe.             The extra component is in honor of the National Shrine of St. Jude, which is housed in the parish. St. Jude is the patron saint of seemingly hopeless causes, according to the Claretians, who set up the shrine.             It was the Rev. James Tort, a Claretian missionary, who began praying regularly to St. Jude in 1929 because many of his parishioners were blue collars workers at the nearby steel mills. The mills were reducing its workforce at the time, leaving 90 percent of parishioners without a paycheck.The issues are much the same today on Chicago’s South Side, according to Dr. Paul Schewe, 44, director of the University of Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence. “The closing of steel mills, with poverty and unemployment, gangs come in to fill the need. It’s [South Chicago] a multi-need kind of area of urban poverty,” Schewe said.             However, in 1923 it was Our Lady of Guadalupe that came in to fill the need, and continues to be a source for community outreach. Considered the first Mexican Catholic parish in Chicago, Our Lady of Guadalupe eventually became the first permanent Spanish-speaking church in 1923, but not without persuasion.             According to Malachy McCarthy’s dissertation on religious programs’ attempts to Americanize Mexican immigrants, “problems associated with Mexican immigration,” particularly the influx of immigrants in South Chicago and their rejection from local churches in a primarily Polish district, “exploded in South Chicago” in 1923.It was only at this time that Archbishop George Mundelein decided to respond to the religious needs of the Mexican community by building Our Lady of Guadalupe, despite previous advocacy for it.              Now, nearly 90 years later, the church originally created to address these needs has expanded to include successful elementary and religious schools, as well as numerous social outreach programs in order to be considered an anchor of South Chicago, a community in which there are still various issues.When Mundelein entrusted Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Claretian Missionary in 1924, which has staffed the church ever since, an aggressive integration of the church and its parishioners into the community began.             “To say the Claretians have a thumbprint in South Chicago is an understatement,” said Michael J. Hughes, 64, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s elementary school.              With the support of the Claretians, the elementary school has become a resource for the Hispanic community as well, as its demographics are 90 percent Hispanic and 10 percent African American, according to Hughes, who has been the principal for seven years.             Since Hughes became the principal, enrollment has increased every year, whereas enrollment has decreased in most Chicago Public Schools, along with increases in test scores, which are high above national averages.             This success is noticeable especially in comparison to many public schools in low socio-economic areas such as South Chicago, where the income per household is $19,000 and 97 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced lunches, which are currently being closed or termed as “turn around schools” because of low test scores.              “A big part of the message is that we’re all here for a certain amount of time, and we need to help someone else. The subliminal message becomes a dominant theme—this happens over time, not overnight, over time,” Hughes said about the difference of attending Our Lady of Guadalupe School.Yolanda Quesada, who sends her grandchildren to the elementary school, can attest to the difference.             “I have sent my children to public school and have seen firsthand the life changing difference that a Catholic education provides,” Quesada said. “I have a grandson with ADHD and the teachers, as well as the programs that are implemented, provide a healthy and happy method of [dealing with] this challenging situation.”             In addition to more 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, there are more than 400 students in the religious studies school, which meets every Saturday. It is overseen by the Archdiocese of Chicago, meaning it must adhere to its principles, but the school is operated independently with its own board of directors.             Like the church, the elementary school has partaken in many programs to better the community, one of which was the South Chicago United for Nonviolence (SUN) project, which aimed to investigate the prevalence of violence and intervene in productive ways, such as in youth and headstart programs.             Funded by Metropolitan Family Services, an “I Can Problem Solve” curriculum was implemented in schools in South Chicago, including Our Lady of Guadalupe School, to train teachers to encourage a dialogue about everyday issues among young children.             As a result of the program, children showed reductions in aggression, were more likely to show concern for others, had greater emotion regulation, and were less isolated. Teachers and parents also improved in knowledge each year, according to Schewe, who was the principal investigator for the initiative.             While participation in programs like this has been vital, simple things have also made Our Lady of Guadalupe a cornerstone of the Hispanic community. The fact that the church is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily is unique and, in addition to their five Spanish masses on Sunday they take steps to be immigrant friendly, providing services specific to the needs of that demographic.             These simple measures are part of the reason why they have such a loyal following, according to the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux.“We have third and fourth generation Mexicans here, so some don’t speak any Spanish, but there are others who are more comfortable with Spanish,” Quebedeaux said. “[Even though] some people may belong to another parish, they maintain a relationship here because of their roots here; many of their parents were a part of the parish.”

By Kathryn Hills

           
Receiving ashes on the first day of Lent is common practice for Catholics, but parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on the Southwest Side of Chicago receive something in addition to the traditional ashes.
            “Parishioners will receive the ashes, of course, but they will also receive a small stone, which is representative of what weighs them down,” explained the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
            The extra component is in honor of the National Shrine of St. Jude, which is housed in the parish. St. Jude is the patron saint of seemingly hopeless causes, according to the Claretians, who set up the shrine.
            It was the Rev. James Tort, a Claretian missionary, who began praying regularly to St. Jude in 1929 because many of his parishioners were blue collars workers at the nearby steel mills. The mills were reducing its workforce at the time, leaving 90 percent of parishioners without a paycheck.
The issues are much the same today on Chicago’s South Side, according to Dr. Paul Schewe, 44, director of the University of Chicago’s Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Violence.
“The closing of steel mills, with poverty and unemployment, gangs come in to fill the need. It’s [South Chicago] a multi-need kind of area of urban poverty,” Schewe said.
            However, in 1923 it was Our Lady of Guadalupe that came in to fill the need, and continues to be a source for community outreach. Considered the first Mexican Catholic parish in Chicago, Our Lady of Guadalupe eventually became the first permanent Spanish-speaking church in 1923, but not without persuasion.
            According to Malachy McCarthy’s dissertation on religious programs’ attempts to Americanize Mexican immigrants, “problems associated with Mexican immigration,” particularly the influx of immigrants in South Chicago and their rejection from local churches in a primarily Polish district, “exploded in South Chicago” in 1923.
It was only at this time that Archbishop George Mundelein decided to respond to the religious needs of the Mexican community by building Our Lady of Guadalupe, despite previous advocacy for it.
            Now, nearly 90 years later, the church originally created to address these needs has expanded to include successful elementary and religious schools, as well as numerous social outreach programs in order to be considered an anchor of South Chicago, a community in which there are still various issues.
When Mundelein entrusted Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Claretian Missionary in 1924, which has staffed the church ever since, an aggressive integration of the church and its parishioners into the community began.
            “To say the Claretians have a thumbprint in South Chicago is an understatement,” said Michael J. Hughes, 64, principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s elementary school.
            With the support of the Claretians, the elementary school has become a resource for the Hispanic community as well, as its demographics are 90 percent Hispanic and 10 percent African American, according to Hughes, who has been the principal for seven years.
            Since Hughes became the principal, enrollment has increased every year, whereas enrollment has decreased in most Chicago Public Schools, along with increases in test scores, which are high above national averages.
            This success is noticeable especially in comparison to many public schools in low socio-economic areas such as South Chicago, where the income per household is $19,000 and 97 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced lunches, which are currently being closed or termed as “turn around schools” because of low test scores.
            “A big part of the message is that we’re all here for a certain amount of time, and we need to help someone else. The subliminal message becomes a dominant theme—this happens over time, not overnight, over time,” Hughes said about the difference of attending Our Lady of Guadalupe School.
Yolanda Quesada, who sends her grandchildren to the elementary school, can attest to the difference.
            “I have sent my children to public school and have seen firsthand the life changing difference that a Catholic education provides,” Quesada said. “I have a grandson with ADHD and the teachers, as well as the programs that are implemented, provide a healthy and happy method of [dealing with] this challenging situation.”
            In addition to more 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, there are more than 400 students in the religious studies school, which meets every Saturday. It is overseen by the Archdiocese of Chicago, meaning it must adhere to its principles, but the school is operated independently with its own board of directors.
            Like the church, the elementary school has partaken in many programs to better the community, one of which was the South Chicago United for Nonviolence (SUN) project, which aimed to investigate the prevalence of violence and intervene in productive ways, such as in youth and headstart programs.
            Funded by Metropolitan Family Services, an “I Can Problem Solve” curriculum was implemented in schools in South Chicago, including Our Lady of Guadalupe School, to train teachers to encourage a dialogue about everyday issues among young children.
            As a result of the program, children showed reductions in aggression, were more likely to show concern for others, had greater emotion regulation, and were less isolated. Teachers and parents also improved in knowledge each year, according to Schewe, who was the principal investigator for the initiative.
            While participation in programs like this has been vital, simple things have also made Our Lady of Guadalupe a cornerstone of the Hispanic community. The fact that the church is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily is unique and, in addition to their five Spanish masses on Sunday they take steps to be immigrant friendly, providing services specific to the needs of that demographic.
            These simple measures are part of the reason why they have such a loyal following, according to the Rev. Carl Quebedeaux.
“We have third and fourth generation Mexicans here, so some don’t speak any Spanish, but there are others who are more comfortable with Spanish,” Quebedeaux said. “[Even though] some people may belong to another parish, they maintain a relationship here because of their roots here; many of their parents were a part of the parish.”

Story by Hillary Kenyon, Photos by Jonathan Hill
     On Chicago’s West Side, amidst shuttered homes, broken glass bottles and police security cameras, a glimmer of hope remains on the corner of Iowa Street.     The Our Lady of the Angels Catholic church in Humboldt Park has survived much more than the tough neighborhood in which it is located in today. Many long-time Chicagoans recognize the name for the 1958 school fire that took the lives of 92 school children and three nuns.      “[Our Lady of the Angels] was like a lot of Catholic schools in the 1950s: very much based in the community,” said Jay Shefsky, producer of the Emmy award winning documentary Angels Too Soon. “Everybody in that neighborhood went to that school and it was the true center of the community. But the school burned down and there was a lot of trauma and a lot of bad memories.”      Around the time of the fire, Our Lady of the Angels was one of the largest parishes in Chicago with 1,200 parishioners filling the pews for the Mass upstairs, and a simultaneous Mass taking place downstairs, according to Sister Stephanie Baliga, a 23-year old Franciscan nun. At its height, people would sit on the steps to hear the sermon if there was no room inside.      But the tragedy shook the once uniquely prominent Irish, Italian and Polish parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels and throughout the years many fire survivors and families left for west suburban Melrose Park. By 1990, attendance dwindled to the point of the church’s closure and the rise and fall of the Cabrini-Green project development brought an influx of a new population to the neighborhood along with crime and poverty.      The lack of Catholic presence was replaced with a Baptist group that used the church periodically after the school shut down in 1999. This saved the structure from dilapidation and major destruction before the Rev. Bob Lombardo, a Franciscan priest from New York, made a move to Chicago to turn the church around.“The Cardinal asked me to work on this project to make sure the church is always taking care of the poor and there are a lot of poor people in Humboldt Park, so he was concerned about that,” Lombardo said. “He made sure we followed the gospel and shared with the poor. And because of the fire he wanted to make sure we kept a Catholic presence there.”       Still, when Bob Lombardo first received a phone call from Cardinal Francis George in 2005 to initiate repairs on the church, the shabby interior with water damage from years of abandonment originally deterred the priest from New York to say “yes” to the Cardinal’s offer.      “When Father Bob first came on a visit here he was shown several different parishes that had been closed that he could have gone to,” Baliga said. “This was not one of his choices because it was a mess, it was a disaster. Some of the other parishes were in better shape. So it would have been a lot easier to start a ministry instead of spending five plus years doing renovations before he could do a full-scale ministry.”     But according to Baliga, after Lombardo eventually said yes, “the Lord blessed the work of his hands.” Lombardo went from knowing little about the inner-workings of construction to making enough contacts from speaking at parishes across Illinois to collect donations and volunteers to complete the $2 million project.  Baliga, a recent University of Illinois graduate from Rockford, joined Lombardo in 2009 to help with renovations. Nearly seven years later, most of the repairs are complete, but according to Lombardo will not open as a parish remembered from the time before the fire.      Our Lady of the Angels is considered a mission and the foundation of the brick and concrete buildings sprawled across a city block are cracked and in disrepair. The sidewalk is littered and the steps are crumbling leading up to the unvarnished wood arched doorways. But inside the three sisters, two male discerners and Lombardo spread the Catholic word through outreach in one of the worst areas in Chicago.      “There’s a lot of hope from what we’re doing,” Baliga said. “The kids that we’re helping, the food we provide gives people something to look forward to: there’s someone that cares about me. There’s someone who really exists out here in this desert of a neighborhood no one wants to go into. There’s people that actually care and give people hope to look toward the future.”      The old rectory is living quarters for the sisters while across the street the old convent is a retreat center for groups of volunteers and eventually neighborhood youth. From the basement, clothing and food is piled high for a mobile food pantry held in the YMCA parking lot at Kelly Hall the first Saturday of the month to help 200 families in the Humboldt Park living in poverty.      Lombardo was weary of continuing construction on the actual church during the height of the economic recession in 2009. The basement had extensive water damage and upstairs the confessional was used previously as a “junk closet.” But by summer 2011 a change of heart brought 200 volunteers to sand the pews eventually leading to more work on the marble altar and stained glass during the winter.       Dennis Walter is a volunteer from St. Clement Church and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He stopped volunteering, but in March 2012 he returned to Our Lady of the Angels to see the results of projects he worked on like gardening the desolate landscape, cleaning out the kitchens and bathrooms and mopping the basement.      “It is just great to see where this church is now compared to where it was a couple years ago when there were no pews and the church was not completely finished,” Walter said.      In the future the church will hold a perpetual adoration with at least one person praying there all day, the entire year.  And on April 14, a Mass was held to re-dedicate the Parish to the community with an appearance by Cardinal George.      “[The Cardinal] wanted someone there to be praying for the souls of those who died, which we do everyday. So he wanted a Catholic presence charity at the site of the fire,” Baliga said. “And it has brought a lot of hope to the survivors. That there’s something coming back instead of the Parish being abandoned and because this neighborhood is horrible”      Volunteers like Walter think the renovations will not only impact victims of the tragic fire that destroyed the former thriving parish, but bring life back to the new community members as well.      “I think seeing that someone rebuilt this community for them just might give them a sense of pride as opposed to a sense of despair thinking no one is helping them,” Walter said.

Story by Hillary Kenyon, Photos by Jonathan Hill

    On Chicago’s West Side, amidst shuttered homes, broken glass bottles and police security cameras, a glimmer of hope remains on the corner of Iowa Street.
    The Our Lady of the Angels Catholic church in Humboldt Park has survived much more than the tough neighborhood in which it is located in today. Many long-time Chicagoans recognize the name for the 1958 school fire that took the lives of 92 school children and three nuns.
    “[Our Lady of the Angels] was like a lot of Catholic schools in the 1950s: very much based in the community,” said Jay Shefsky, producer of the Emmy award winning documentary Angels Too Soon. “Everybody in that neighborhood went to that school and it was the true center of the community. But the school burned down and there was a lot of trauma and a lot of bad memories.”
    Around the time of the fire, Our Lady of the Angels was one of the largest parishes in Chicago with 1,200 parishioners filling the pews for the Mass upstairs, and a simultaneous Mass taking place downstairs, according to Sister Stephanie Baliga, a 23-year old Franciscan nun. At its height, people would sit on the steps to hear the sermon if there was no room inside.
    But the tragedy shook the once uniquely prominent Irish, Italian and Polish parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels and throughout the years many fire survivors and families left for west suburban Melrose Park. By 1990, attendance dwindled to the point of the church’s closure and the rise and fall of the Cabrini-Green project development brought an influx of a new population to the neighborhood along with crime and poverty.
    The lack of Catholic presence was replaced with a Baptist group that used the church periodically after the school shut down in 1999. This saved the structure from dilapidation and major destruction before the Rev. Bob Lombardo, a Franciscan priest from New York, made a move to Chicago to turn the church around.
“The Cardinal asked me to work on this project to make sure the church is always taking care of the poor and there are a lot of poor people in Humboldt Park, so he was concerned about that,” Lombardo said. “He made sure we followed the gospel and shared with the poor. And because of the fire he wanted to make sure we kept a Catholic presence there.”  
    Still, when Bob Lombardo first received a phone call from Cardinal Francis George in 2005 to initiate repairs on the church, the shabby interior with water damage from years of abandonment originally deterred the priest from New York to say “yes” to the Cardinal’s offer.
    “When Father Bob first came on a visit here he was shown several different parishes that had been closed that he could have gone to,” Baliga said. “This was not one of his choices because it was a mess, it was a disaster. Some of the other parishes were in better shape. So it would have been a lot easier to start a ministry instead of spending five plus years doing renovations before he could do a full-scale ministry.”
    But according to Baliga, after Lombardo eventually said yes, “the Lord blessed the work of his hands.” Lombardo went from knowing little about the inner-workings of construction to making enough contacts from speaking at parishes across Illinois to collect donations and volunteers to complete the $2 million project.  Baliga, a recent University of Illinois graduate from Rockford, joined Lombardo in 2009 to help with renovations. Nearly seven years later, most of the repairs are complete, but according to Lombardo will not open as a parish remembered from the time before the fire.
    Our Lady of the Angels is considered a mission and the foundation of the brick and concrete buildings sprawled across a city block are cracked and in disrepair. The sidewalk is littered and the steps are crumbling leading up to the unvarnished wood arched doorways. But inside the three sisters, two male discerners and Lombardo spread the Catholic word through outreach in one of the worst areas in Chicago.
    “There’s a lot of hope from what we’re doing,” Baliga said. “The kids that we’re helping, the food we provide gives people something to look forward to: there’s someone that cares about me. There’s someone who really exists out here in this desert of a neighborhood no one wants to go into. There’s people that actually care and give people hope to look toward the future.”
    The old rectory is living quarters for the sisters while across the street the old convent is a retreat center for groups of volunteers and eventually neighborhood youth. From the basement, clothing and food is piled high for a mobile food pantry held in the YMCA parking lot at Kelly Hall the first Saturday of the month to help 200 families in the Humboldt Park living in poverty.
    Lombardo was weary of continuing construction on the actual church during the height of the economic recession in 2009. The basement had extensive water damage and upstairs the confessional was used previously as a “junk closet.” But by summer 2011 a change of heart brought 200 volunteers to sand the pews eventually leading to more work on the marble altar and stained glass during the winter.
     Dennis Walter is a volunteer from St. Clement Church and was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. He stopped volunteering, but in March 2012 he returned to Our Lady of the Angels to see the results of projects he worked on like gardening the desolate landscape, cleaning out the kitchens and bathrooms and mopping the basement.
    “It is just great to see where this church is now compared to where it was a couple years ago when there were no pews and the church was not completely finished,” Walter said.
    In the future the church will hold a perpetual adoration with at least one person praying there all day, the entire year.  And on April 14, a Mass was held to re-dedicate the Parish to the community with an appearance by Cardinal George.
    “[The Cardinal] wanted someone there to be praying for the souls of those who died, which we do everyday. So he wanted a Catholic presence charity at the site of the fire,” Baliga said. “And it has brought a lot of hope to the survivors. That there’s something coming back instead of the Parish being abandoned and because this neighborhood is horrible”
     Volunteers like Walter think the renovations will not only impact victims of the tragic fire that destroyed the former thriving parish, but bring life back to the new community members as well.
    “I think seeing that someone rebuilt this community for them just might give them a sense of pride as opposed to a sense of despair thinking no one is helping them,” Walter said.

Fighting for funds: Chicago Loop service church struggles to keep its doors open
Story by Chiara Milioulis, Photos by Emily Study

       Despite its central location in the business and finance sector of the Loop in Chicago and the millions of commuters who traverse its path, Saint Peter’s Church strives to become financially solvent.        The nearest church to the north of Saint Peter’s is Holy Name Cathedral and its Sunday collection averages from $35,000 to $45,000. Being a service church instead of parish church, like many Catholic parishes in Chicago, Saint Peter’s collects donations at every Mass during the week. Still, its weekly efforts rarely amount to $8,000.       Relying on two fundraisers a year, during Christmas and Easter, collections during Mass, earnings from the bookstore, wills and bequests, the church still faces the imminent problem of insufficient funding for its community outreach programs such as the Franciscan Outreach Association and its daily dues to continue to house and staff the Franciscan friars and service those who attend the church.        “Our ordinary income no way allows us to stay open,” said Saint Peter’s pastor, Rev. Kurt Hartrich O.F.M., 73. “We want to stay open but we can’t do it with monopoly money.” Steven Avella, reverend and history professor at Marquette University, said the status quo of the Loop is integral to the mission of the church. He said Saint Peter’s is a church for those who want to catch Mass during the workday, a confessional site for Catholics, anonymous and quiet for those who want to remain unknown and a shrine site for those who have special prayer needs. With the Franciscans having a reputation for being gentle and compassionate confessors, Saint Peter’s is seamlessly woven into the social fabric of the Loop.       “It is immersed in the heart of one of America’s busiest cities and its clientele encompasses the spectrum of Catholic life from the desperately poor to the affluent [and] from the simple to the most sophisticated,” Avella said.        Commuter attraction is not a new nuance for Saint Peter’s, as its previous location was on the corner of Clark and Polk streets in 1854, a block away from the Dearborn Train Station. Millions of German immigrants settled in the South Loop and Saint Peter’s German-speaking Franciscans served their ecclesiastical culture.       However, during World War I, German immigrants began to wane in number. Homes were torn down and warehouses were built to pave the way for an industrial society. Because of the lack of people and contributions, the Franciscans left the church and bought a new property on 110 W. Madison Street, the previous location of LaSalle Theatre. Over time, the warehouses were destroyed and lofts were built to cater to a new financial sector.        “Today, those German roots would not be much in evidence,” Avella said. “But the devotional life of the church, especially its special attention to Saint Anthony of Padua… a healer and a finder of lost objects, is a hang-over from its German days.” The $4 million project by architects Vitzthum and Burns in 1953 does not reflect financial deprivation. The prominent three-story crucifix on the rosy marble exterior mirrors the inside of the church. However, its marble interior was not meant to reflect luxury, said Hartrich. Instead, the architects wanted to cut its future maintenance costs.        Tim Samuelson, a Chicago cultural historian, said Saint Peter’s is a truly urban downtown church. However, as its surrounded by skyscrapers and high-rises, Saint Peter’s looks as if it was lowered into its spot. In fact, it blends into the buildings making it almost unrecognizable by those who walk by.       “Most churches have a commanding corner and steeple but this building sits not on a corner but on a regular Chicago block,” Samuelson said.        The change of location also brought a shift to the culture it caters. Hartrich said at any Mass there is not one prominent group of people as Saint Peter’s welcomes multi-cultural ethnicities. The church also houses foreign priests from Vietnam and Mexico who want to learn English and a number of people who come are primarily Spanish speakers from Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela.       “Those who work in the financial district come in as well as commuters and people of all ages and ethnicities,” said Fred Colantino, 63, who attends Saint Peter’s on a daily basis.        Servicing the wide range of ethnic groups, Saint Peter’s supplements what local parish churches only provide on Sundays. It offers 72 hours of confessions a week, everyday Mass and programs that provide theological, psychological and financial workshops.  Rev. Robert Pawell O.F.M., 73, a Franciscan friar and director of programs at St. Peter’s, states that the whole mission of the church is dependent on financial support to keep the doors open for Mass, these programs as well as to maintain utilities for the city inspections. Because it is not a parish church, Saint Peter’s does not receive help from Catholic organizations.        “A lot of people take us for granted. We don’t get a penny from the Archdiocese. They tax us,” Pawell said.  Arguably one of the largest programs for Saint Peter’s is the Franciscan Outreach Association, FOA, which offers daily nourishment, housing, showers, soup kitchens, laundry, a mailing address to receive government subsidies and medical and health care to those in need in three locations in Chicago.       Abbie Dangle, 31, the Streets-to-Home Case Manager of the FOA, said the program is unique because the homeless and those in need work with full time professionals to help them lead more productive lives.        “We don’t require anything religiously or spiritually out of people,” Dangle said. “We focus on relationships with people and for those who have a mental illness, have health problems or are substance abusers, this relationship becomes a resource for them.”       The FOA has become Saint Peter’s primary referral and it sponsors this program by donating $2,000 a month. Still, the FOA struggles to find the resources to keep the program running efficiently. Waiting lists for help are endless, transportation is not provided for clients and tensions grow as the homeless now need to pay for housing programs.       Through this fight, the lights remain on, the doors remain open and the programs are still alive. On Ash Wednesday alone, Saint Peter’s welcomed 40,000 people at 12 Masses. “At present, the economy is bad, but perhaps the spirits, not the souls, of the people are somewhat less fervent than in the past,” said Dr. Sam Danna, a deacon at Saint Peter’s Church and communications professor at Loyola University of Chicago.       Saint Peter’s, as described by Avella, is a church without boundaries. Samuelson remembers when Mayor Richard J. Daley would walk from city hall to Saint Peter’s on a daily basis to attend Mass. Indeed, it is a microcosm of the history of Chicago.        “We started staffing people in 1869,” said Hartrich. “And here it is in 2012 and we’re still here.”

Fighting for funds: Chicago Loop service church struggles to keep its doors open

Story by Chiara Milioulis, Photos by Emily Study


       Despite its central location in the business and finance sector of the Loop in Chicago and the millions of commuters who traverse its path, Saint Peter’s Church strives to become financially solvent.
       The nearest church to the north of Saint Peter’s is Holy Name Cathedral and its Sunday collection averages from $35,000 to $45,000. Being a service church instead of parish church, like many Catholic parishes in Chicago, Saint Peter’s collects donations at every Mass during the week. Still, its weekly efforts rarely amount to $8,000.
       Relying on two fundraisers a year, during Christmas and Easter, collections during Mass, earnings from the bookstore, wills and bequests, the church still faces the imminent problem of insufficient funding for its community outreach programs such as the Franciscan Outreach Association and its daily dues to continue to house and staff the Franciscan friars and service those who attend the church.
       “Our ordinary income no way allows us to stay open,” said Saint Peter’s pastor, Rev. Kurt Hartrich O.F.M., 73. “We want to stay open but we can’t do it with monopoly money.”
Steven Avella, reverend and history professor at Marquette University, said the status quo of the Loop is integral to the mission of the church. He said Saint Peter’s is a church for those who want to catch Mass during the workday, a confessional site for Catholics, anonymous and quiet for those who want to remain unknown and a shrine site for those who have special prayer needs. With the Franciscans having a reputation for being gentle and compassionate confessors, Saint Peter’s is seamlessly woven into the social fabric of the Loop.
       “It is immersed in the heart of one of America’s busiest cities and its clientele encompasses the spectrum of Catholic life from the desperately poor to the affluent [and] from the simple to the most sophisticated,” Avella said.
       Commuter attraction is not a new nuance for Saint Peter’s, as its previous location was on the corner of Clark and Polk streets in 1854, a block away from the Dearborn Train Station. Millions of German immigrants settled in the South Loop and Saint Peter’s German-speaking Franciscans served their ecclesiastical culture.
       However, during World War I, German immigrants began to wane in number. Homes were torn down and warehouses were built to pave the way for an industrial society. Because of the lack of people and contributions, the Franciscans left the church and bought a new property on 110 W. Madison Street, the previous location of LaSalle Theatre. Over time, the warehouses were destroyed and lofts were built to cater to a new financial sector.
       “Today, those German roots would not be much in evidence,” Avella said. “But the devotional life of the church, especially its special attention to Saint Anthony of Padua… a healer and a finder of lost objects, is a hang-over from its German days.”
The $4 million project by architects Vitzthum and Burns in 1953 does not reflect financial deprivation. The prominent three-story crucifix on the rosy marble exterior mirrors the inside of the church. However, its marble interior was not meant to reflect luxury, said Hartrich. Instead, the architects wanted to cut its future maintenance costs.
       Tim Samuelson, a Chicago cultural historian, said Saint Peter’s is a truly urban downtown church. However, as its surrounded by skyscrapers and high-rises, Saint Peter’s looks as if it was lowered into its spot. In fact, it blends into the buildings making it almost unrecognizable by those who walk by.
       “Most churches have a commanding corner and steeple but this building sits not on a corner but on a regular Chicago block,” Samuelson said.
       The change of location also brought a shift to the culture it caters. Hartrich said at any Mass there is not one prominent group of people as Saint Peter’s welcomes multi-cultural ethnicities. The church also houses foreign priests from Vietnam and Mexico who want to learn English and a number of people who come are primarily Spanish speakers from Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela.
       “Those who work in the financial district come in as well as commuters and people of all ages and ethnicities,” said Fred Colantino, 63, who attends Saint Peter’s on a daily basis.
       Servicing the wide range of ethnic groups, Saint Peter’s supplements what local parish churches only provide on Sundays. It offers 72 hours of confessions a week, everyday Mass and programs that provide theological, psychological and financial workshops.
Rev. Robert Pawell O.F.M., 73, a Franciscan friar and director of programs at St. Peter’s, states that the whole mission of the church is dependent on financial support to keep the doors open for Mass, these programs as well as to maintain utilities for the city inspections. Because it is not a parish church, Saint Peter’s does not receive help from Catholic organizations.
       “A lot of people take us for granted. We don’t get a penny from the Archdiocese. They tax us,” Pawell said.
Arguably one of the largest programs for Saint Peter’s is the Franciscan Outreach Association, FOA, which offers daily nourishment, housing, showers, soup kitchens, laundry, a mailing address to receive government subsidies and medical and health care to those in need in three locations in Chicago.
       Abbie Dangle, 31, the Streets-to-Home Case Manager of the FOA, said the program is unique because the homeless and those in need work with full time professionals to help them lead more productive lives.
       “We don’t require anything religiously or spiritually out of people,” Dangle said. “We focus on relationships with people and for those who have a mental illness, have health problems or are substance abusers, this relationship becomes a resource for them.”
       The FOA has become Saint Peter’s primary referral and it sponsors this program by donating $2,000 a month. Still, the FOA struggles to find the resources to keep the program running efficiently. Waiting lists for help are endless, transportation is not provided for clients and tensions grow as the homeless now need to pay for housing programs.
       Through this fight, the lights remain on, the doors remain open and the programs are still alive. On Ash Wednesday alone, Saint Peter’s welcomed 40,000 people at 12 Masses.
“At present, the economy is bad, but perhaps the spirits, not the souls, of the people are somewhat less fervent than in the past,” said Dr. Sam Danna, a deacon at Saint Peter’s Church and communications professor at Loyola University of Chicago.
       Saint Peter’s, as described by Avella, is a church without boundaries. Samuelson remembers when Mayor Richard J. Daley would walk from city hall to Saint Peter’s on a daily basis to attend Mass. Indeed, it is a microcosm of the history of Chicago.
       “We started staffing people in 1869,” said Hartrich. “And here it is in 2012 and we’re still here.”

House of immigrant Catholics
By: Maria Rodriguez, Photos by Graham Henderson

Maria Diaz walks to the corner of 19th Street and Ashland Avenue every Sunday to visit a brick chapel called St. Pius V. During the other days of the week, she works at the Parish’s secondhand store, La Tiendita, which provides used clothing and household items to poor families and the homeless.
This middle-aged Mexican woman migrated to the United States 20 years ago filled with hope for a brighter future for her children.
Diaz, like hundreds of immigrants, struggled to adapt to a new environment and a whole new life. But when she arrived to St. Pius V to give thanks to God she and her husband had a job, she found in this place the strength and faith needed to overcome the obstacles of coming to a large city, with no money and speaking no English.
“ When I visited St. Pius for the first time and I listened to the preacher, I felt something touched my heart. Since that moment I have never stopped going,” Diaz said with watery eyes. 
St. Pius V was built in a Romanesque Style more than 120 years ago, inside the 14 blocks long, eight blocks wide boundary of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. For a small neighborhood, Pilsen holds a remarkable place in the history and development of the city and St. Pius V has been a visible participant.
Waves of ethnic groups have populated the southwest area of Chicago’s Loop. It was home for many Germans, Irish, Poles, Italians and Czechs. Today, along with Little Village, Pilsen has the highest concentration of Mexican-origin people in Chicago.
As the neighborhood changed through time, St. Pius V did too. It changed from being a Euro-American parish to a predominantly Mexican community and as this happened, it carefully adapted to the emotional and spiritual needs of its new parishioners. Of the eight parishes in Pilsen, St. Pius V was the first to offer the Catholic mass in Spanish.
“Being at St. Pius is like being in Mexico,” Diaz said. “With the environment, the music and the language you feel like home.”
The church’s stained glass reflects the past of the immigrants who worked hard to gain a foothold in America and it fills the new generations with hope.
Over the course of its history, St. Pius V has welcomed and assisted thousands of immigrants that walk through its doors seeking help.
“We are a safe heaven where people can come with confidence and trust and receive a warm welcome for whatever problem they have,” said the Rev. Charles W. Dahm, associate pastor of St. Pius V. “If we cannot resolve their problem, we can refer them, accompany and support them during their struggle to solve it.  St. Pius V is very welcoming and compassionate to immigrant people, showing forth the compassion of Jesus.”
The first priority for a church serving an immigrant community, where many people come with everything they own in a single suitcase, is to help them meet their immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter.  Thus, St. Pius V has committed to create social programs like the Soup Kitchen, which serves 500 hot meals weekly in the church basement, San Jose Obrero Mission, a temporary shelter for homeless men and Casa Juan Diego, a program to contribute to the personal development of children and youth through educational and recreational activities.
Among the church initiatives to help Pilsen’s community, there are other ministries and pastoral services that seek to address long-term problems of transition. Parenting classes, violence prevention through youth empowerment, legal aid education guidance, marriage counseling and a specialized program of domestic violence are some of the services St. Pius offers to Pilsen families.
“For me, Casa Juan Diego, was a blessing,” said Diaz. “I took all my children to the after school program where volunteers helped them to do their homework and created different recreational activities. That helped them to stay away from gangs and drugs and to appreciate the education they were receiving at their schools.”
These efforts to meet the needs of the community have yielded positive results and have attracted many people who live outside Pilsen’s borders. St. Pius V has become a refuge to many families that find in this church the inspiration to move forward toward spiritual growth, but also toward a more successful life. 
“Our success is showed in the numbers,” said the Rev. Brendan Curran, pastor of St. Pius V. “Over 75% of our parish commute to mass on Sundays from somewhere outside the little Pilsen area.”
As St. Pius V overcome borders and gets new parishioners, leaders think about ways to provide enrichment to them where they are. Curran said it is very important to have programs rooted in their neighborhoods, where they can get immediate assistance when needed.
“One active project that is on its first phase is Comunidades de Base,” he said. “ We have a nice network of 12 communities that gather together to analyze issues of common interest in the different neighborhoods. This is very important not only to strengthen interpersonal relationships, but to create a sense of community within a larger spectrum.”
St Pius’ leadership and continuous community awareness has helped it gain the confidence of people who have been inspired to contribute to their social activism. It has stand out from other parishes because of its community focal point and because of its prominent place in the historical pattern of immigration.
“ Sunday collection only raises 11 percent of our budget, so our ability to do this [programs] is through grants,” Curran said. “ Foundations and individuals that want to see our programs grow and continue donate to try some of the experiments we’ve done over the years.”
Over the time, St. Pius V has transformed the voiceless victims of a vulnerable community into powerful advocates full of generosity who assist each other’s necessities. It has become a place where the spirit and soul of immigrants reverberates with the essence of what it means to overcome the difficult realities of coming to a new and complex country.

House of immigrant Catholics

By: Maria Rodriguez, Photos by Graham Henderson


Maria Diaz walks to the corner of 19th Street and Ashland Avenue every Sunday to visit a brick chapel called St. Pius V. During the other days of the week, she works at the Parish’s secondhand store, La Tiendita, which provides used clothing and household items to poor families and the homeless.

This middle-aged Mexican woman migrated to the United States 20 years ago filled with hope for a brighter future for her children.

Diaz, like hundreds of immigrants, struggled to adapt to a new environment and a whole new life. But when she arrived to St. Pius V to give thanks to God she and her husband had a job, she found in this place the strength and faith needed to overcome the obstacles of coming to a large city, with no money and speaking no English.

“ When I visited St. Pius for the first time and I listened to the preacher, I felt something touched my heart. Since that moment I have never stopped going,” Diaz said with watery eyes.

St. Pius V was built in a Romanesque Style more than 120 years ago, inside the 14 blocks long, eight blocks wide boundary of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. For a small neighborhood, Pilsen holds a remarkable place in the history and development of the city and St. Pius V has been a visible participant.

Waves of ethnic groups have populated the southwest area of Chicago’s Loop. It was home for many Germans, Irish, Poles, Italians and Czechs. Today, along with Little Village, Pilsen has the highest concentration of Mexican-origin people in Chicago.

As the neighborhood changed through time, St. Pius V did too. It changed from being a Euro-American parish to a predominantly Mexican community and as this happened, it carefully adapted to the emotional and spiritual needs of its new parishioners. Of the eight parishes in Pilsen, St. Pius V was the first to offer the Catholic mass in Spanish.

“Being at St. Pius is like being in Mexico,” Diaz said. “With the environment, the music and the language you feel like home.”

The church’s stained glass reflects the past of the immigrants who worked hard to gain a foothold in America and it fills the new generations with hope.

Over the course of its history, St. Pius V has welcomed and assisted thousands of immigrants that walk through its doors seeking help.

“We are a safe heaven where people can come with confidence and trust and receive a warm welcome for whatever problem they have,” said the Rev. Charles W. Dahm, associate pastor of St. Pius V. “If we cannot resolve their problem, we can refer them, accompany and support them during their struggle to solve it.  St. Pius V is very welcoming and compassionate to immigrant people, showing forth the compassion of Jesus.”

The first priority for a church serving an immigrant community, where many people come with everything they own in a single suitcase, is to help them meet their immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter.  Thus, St. Pius V has committed to create social programs like the Soup Kitchen, which serves 500 hot meals weekly in the church basement, San Jose Obrero Mission, a temporary shelter for homeless men and Casa Juan Diego, a program to contribute to the personal development of children and youth through educational and recreational activities.

Among the church initiatives to help Pilsen’s community, there are other ministries and pastoral services that seek to address long-term problems of transition. Parenting classes, violence prevention through youth empowerment, legal aid education guidance, marriage counseling and a specialized program of domestic violence are some of the services St. Pius offers to Pilsen families.

“For me, Casa Juan Diego, was a blessing,” said Diaz. “I took all my children to the after school program where volunteers helped them to do their homework and created different recreational activities. That helped them to stay away from gangs and drugs and to appreciate the education they were receiving at their schools.”

These efforts to meet the needs of the community have yielded positive results and have attracted many people who live outside Pilsen’s borders. St. Pius V has become a refuge to many families that find in this church the inspiration to move forward toward spiritual growth, but also toward a more successful life.

“Our success is showed in the numbers,” said the Rev. Brendan Curran, pastor of St. Pius V. “Over 75% of our parish commute to mass on Sundays from somewhere outside the little Pilsen area.”

As St. Pius V overcome borders and gets new parishioners, leaders think about ways to provide enrichment to them where they are. Curran said it is very important to have programs rooted in their neighborhoods, where they can get immediate assistance when needed.

“One active project that is on its first phase is Comunidades de Base,” he said. “ We have a nice network of 12 communities that gather together to analyze issues of common interest in the different neighborhoods. This is very important not only to strengthen interpersonal relationships, but to create a sense of community within a larger spectrum.”

St Pius’ leadership and continuous community awareness has helped it gain the confidence of people who have been inspired to contribute to their social activism. It has stand out from other parishes because of its community focal point and because of its prominent place in the historical pattern of immigration.

“ Sunday collection only raises 11 percent of our budget, so our ability to do this [programs] is through grants,” Curran said. “ Foundations and individuals that want to see our programs grow and continue donate to try some of the experiments we’ve done over the years.”

Over the time, St. Pius V has transformed the voiceless victims of a vulnerable community into powerful advocates full of generosity who assist each other’s necessities. It has become a place where the spirit and soul of immigrants reverberates with the essence of what it means to overcome the difficult realities of coming to a new and complex country.


The Life Source of a CommunityBy Jessica Pearson
At any other typical Roman Catholic church one can expect a very solemn Sunday Mass with organ music playing in the background, silent prayer and every so often parishioners might chime in with the choir.
This is the complete opposite atmosphere one will find walking through the doors of St. Sabina’s church. With a gospel choir front and center, a drum set and bongos all laying under a mural of an African-American man with a halo above his afro and a neon sign that says “Jesus” hanging from the ceiling, one can tell right away that this church marches to the beat of its own drum.  
Located in the heart of the historic Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, St. Sabina’s caters to mainly African-American parishioners, many of whom have experienced more grief by the age of 16 then most people will in a lifetime.
With programs such as the ARK of St. Sabina, which provides a supportive and safe environment for  youth ages 6-24, the Social Services Center, the Elders Village, the Shekhinah Clinic,  Safe Homes for foster children, and the Beloved Community, which empowers youth and adults to be self-sufficient, St. Sabina has truly become the lifeline of this community.
Finding funding for church operations and all of its special projects here is not the case. According to Robert McClory, Northwestern journalism professor, previous priest at St. Sabina, and author of Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight for Social Justice, on a typical Sunday mass St. Sabina collects over $30,000. “Most of the black parishes in Chicago are on some kind of welfare from the Archdiocese. They can’t support themselves. [The Archdiocese] doesn’t give anything to St. Sabina because Sabina could support some of those white parishes.”
The main problem that St. Sabina faces is stopping the violence in this community. Vince Silmon, 50, a mentor at St. Sabina working in the special projects department has taken a new program under his belt- the Safety Net Works Program. St. Sabina is famous in Chicago mainly because of the pastor and his activism in the community.
“People know about St. Sabina, but they need to know about what we do” said Silmon.
Silmon, whose son was murdered in 2005 said that he and his wife are “very active, very vocal in expressing our lack of appreciation for the violence, the gun violence particularly on our youth.”Morinola Shobajo, 22, youth council member said that these community agencies need to keep putting out resources to combat the violence. She feels that this church and Pfleger is doing a tremendous job with reaching out to the community, especially the youth.
Amad Tobar, 16, has been coming to St. Sabina’s church his entire life and he feels that in this community, with the violence and with as much crime as there is, Safety Net Works has made him a better person. St. Sabina and its mentoring program “gives me great advice. They’re like role models.”
He enjoys attending mass at St. Sabina’s because “It’s like a celebration… There’s a real connection.” Amad looks up to Pfleger  because he is like a big brother and because he always has a smile on his face.
On February 7, 2012 Francis Cardinal George announced that. Pfleger will share the pastorship of St. Sabina with the Rev. Thulani Magwaza effective July 1. There has been long time discrepancies between Cardinal George and Pfleger because of Pleger’s non traditional ways of operating his church.
“Pleger is a powerful personality and that’s one of the things that sometimes bothers people. He’s like a railroad train and you can’t stand in front of him and slow him down. He’ll run right over you.”
McClory served as a priest at St. Sabina from 1964-1971 and at the time when  Pfleger was assigned to the church in 1975 there were only a handful of African-American parishioners. When McClory first met Pfleger he was “impressed with his eagerness but I also felt like, oh he’s going to have a terrible let down.” McClory said that his “first impression was that he had so much energy. The downside I though was he can’t sustain that energy and he proved me wrong in that respect.”
According to McCloy, a pastor is assigned to a church for six years and you do a fine job there, you are allowed another six and very rarely does it extend form there. Rev. Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for 30 years and he has fought to stay there.
“I think that the cardinal has let him stay simply because this is one of the few parishes in the poorer parishes that is not only self-supporting, but it’s the only parish in a poor neighborhood that has grown fantastically…He is so active in ministry in doing things, not just things for Catholics but doing things for the community…Because of that George is smart enough to know I can’t replace him, I can’t replace him with someone who I’ll be able to keep this place going.”
Marchae Miller, 30, Special Projects Coordinator at the ARK of St. Sabina and parishioner says that “St. Sabina is the hub of this community and a lot of programs filter through like the Christmas Turkey Giveaway, the Senior Citizen Community and giving water out to the community.”
As a general consensus from parishioners, special project workers, mentors and youth, without Rev. Pfleger, St. Sabina certainly would not run the way it does but his new copastor position will not change the way the people feel about the church.
Joanna Marsh, 18, says that she comes to St. Sabina because “I love my pastor and secondly because it’s comfortable.” Joanna, similar to other parishioners, does not think anything will change because of Pfleger’s new position.
Professor McClory thinks that Thulani, is “not as aggressive, not as ambitious as Pleger is. He’s a good first mate but he’s not a captain.”

The Life Source of a Community
By Jessica Pearson

At any other typical Roman Catholic church one can expect a very solemn Sunday Mass with organ music playing in the background, silent prayer and every so often parishioners might chime in with the choir.

This is the complete opposite atmosphere one will find walking through the doors of St. Sabina’s church. With a gospel choir front and center, a drum set and bongos all laying under a mural of an African-American man with a halo above his afro and a neon sign that says “Jesus” hanging from the ceiling, one can tell right away that this church marches to the beat of its own drum.  

Located in the heart of the historic Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, St. Sabina’s caters to mainly African-American parishioners, many of whom have experienced more grief by the age of 16 then most people will in a lifetime.

With programs such as the ARK of St. Sabina, which provides a supportive and safe environment for  youth ages 6-24, the Social Services Center, the Elders Village, the Shekhinah Clinic,  Safe Homes for foster children, and the Beloved Community, which empowers youth and adults to be self-sufficient, St. Sabina has truly become the lifeline of this community.

Finding funding for church operations and all of its special projects here is not the case. According to Robert McClory, Northwestern journalism professor, previous priest at St. Sabina, and author of Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church and the Fight for Social Justice, on a typical Sunday mass St. Sabina collects over $30,000. “Most of the black parishes in Chicago are on some kind of welfare from the Archdiocese. They can’t support themselves. [The Archdiocese] doesn’t give anything to St. Sabina because Sabina could support some of those white parishes.”

The main problem that St. Sabina faces is stopping the violence in this community. Vince Silmon, 50, a mentor at St. Sabina working in the special projects department has taken a new program under his belt- the Safety Net Works Program. St. Sabina is famous in Chicago mainly because of the pastor and his activism in the community.

“People know about St. Sabina, but they need to know about what we do” said Silmon.

Silmon, whose son was murdered in 2005 said that he and his wife are “very active, very vocal in expressing our lack of appreciation for the violence, the gun violence particularly on our youth.”
Morinola Shobajo, 22, youth council member said that these community agencies need to keep putting out resources to combat the violence. She feels that this church and Pfleger is doing a tremendous job with reaching out to the community, especially the youth.

Amad Tobar, 16, has been coming to St. Sabina’s church his entire life and he feels that in this community, with the violence and with as much crime as there is, Safety Net Works has made him a better person. St. Sabina and its mentoring program “gives me great advice. They’re like role models.”

He enjoys attending mass at St. Sabina’s because “It’s like a celebration… There’s a real connection.”
Amad looks up to Pfleger  because he is like a big brother and because he always has a smile on his face.

On February 7, 2012 Francis Cardinal George announced that. Pfleger will share the pastorship of St. Sabina with the Rev. Thulani Magwaza effective July 1. There has been long time discrepancies between Cardinal George and Pfleger because of Pleger’s non traditional ways of operating his church.

“Pleger is a powerful personality and that’s one of the things that sometimes bothers people. He’s like a railroad train and you can’t stand in front of him and slow him down. He’ll run right over you.”

McClory served as a priest at St. Sabina from 1964-1971 and at the time when  Pfleger was assigned to the church in 1975 there were only a handful of African-American parishioners. When McClory first met Pfleger he was “impressed with his eagerness but I also felt like, oh he’s going to have a terrible let down.” McClory said that his “first impression was that he had so much energy. The downside I though was he can’t sustain that energy and he proved me wrong in that respect.”

According to McCloy, a pastor is assigned to a church for six years and you do a fine job there, you are allowed another six and very rarely does it extend form there. Rev. Pfleger has been at St. Sabina for 30 years and he has fought to stay there.

“I think that the cardinal has let him stay simply because this is one of the few parishes in the poorer parishes that is not only self-supporting, but it’s the only parish in a poor neighborhood that has grown fantastically…He is so active in ministry in doing things, not just things for Catholics but doing things for the community…Because of that George is smart enough to know I can’t replace him, I can’t replace him with someone who I’ll be able to keep this place going.”

Marchae Miller, 30, Special Projects Coordinator at the ARK of St. Sabina and parishioner says that “St. Sabina is the hub of this community and a lot of programs filter through like the Christmas Turkey Giveaway, the Senior Citizen Community and giving water out to the community.”

As a general consensus from parishioners, special project workers, mentors and youth, without Rev. Pfleger, St. Sabina certainly would not run the way it does but his new copastor position will not change the way the people feel about the church.

Joanna Marsh, 18, says that she comes to St. Sabina because “I love my pastor and secondly because it’s comfortable.” Joanna, similar to other parishioners, does not think anything will change because of Pfleger’s new position.

Professor McClory thinks that Thulani, is “not as aggressive, not as ambitious as Pleger is. He’s a good first mate but he’s not a captain.”

Building a Future Alongside the PastStory and photos by Reilly GillStanding underneath St. Stanislaus Kotska’s metal scaffolding ceiling, the church’s historian Lorenzo Smith folded his hands across his stomach and looked towards the main altar. “St. Stan’s has meant so much to so many people,” he said. “There’s so much history here. We just want to preserve all of that.” St. Stanislaus Kostka is currently in the beginning stages of a $4.4 million restoration project, the first major restoration performed on the church since its completion in 1904.This church has seen the development of Bucktown home since its roots its beginning at Chicago’s predominant Polish neighborhood. Being the first Polish Catholic church and parish in Chicago, it has also seen its fair share of close calls ranging from an exploding church population to near demolition.St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was ultimately founded by Peter Kiobassa, who headed a group of 30 Polish immigrant families in a movement towards establishing a Polish Catholic parish in Chicago. The group purchased four lots surrounding the land that St. Stanislaus Kostka sits on today for $1,700 and began building the church in 1869.What began as a modest one-story wooden building with under 150 attendees in 1867 quickly exploded into the largest parish in the world. In 1892 alone, there were 2,260 baptisms, 372 marriages, and 1,029 funerals at St. Stanislaus’ upper and lower sanctuaries.  Over 40,000 people regularly attended mass at St. Stanislaus during this time, resulting in twelve masses being held in the church every Sunday. These parishioners were accommodated in the St. Stanislaus church that stands today, which was constructed from 1876 to 1892.  Though St. Stanislaus endured the stresses that go into becoming the primary place of worship for the massive Polish population in Chicago, it experienced its greatest challenge in the 1950s upon the construction of the Kennedy Expressway. Former Speaker of the House Daniel Rostenkowski is the subject of a sort of urban legend involving St. Stanislaus surviving the construction of the Kennedy Expressway and this legend has some truth to it.The Kennedy Expressway curves directly behind St. Stanislaus. There is a walkway behind the church building that separates the church from the expressway that is narrower than a broad man’s shoulders. St. Stanislaus was scheduled to be demolished in 1955 upon the construction of the Kennedy, which was to be built next to the railroad tracks behind the church. “Once the funds were approved and the plans made public, the route was revealed as going right through St. Stan’s and the heart of Kostkaville (the name for the Polish neighborhood in which St. Stanislaus is located). The church was directly in sights of a crane operator with a wrecking ball.  There’s simply no room for an expressway between the church and the railroad,” explained Polish historian and former member of the St. Stanislaus parish Dennis Benarz.At this time, Dan Rostenkowski was a rising power in the Illinois House of Representatives. He was a close cohort of the Kennedy family and was highly regarded among major players in national government. More importantly, Rostenkowski’s childhood home was across the street from St. Stanislaus and he grew up attending the church.Benarz said, “It has been my impression that several groups allied themselves in protesting the route. Together their angry chorus caused the both the railroad tracks and the expressway to be moved farther to the east. Danny (Rostenkowski) certainly had a large personal stake in that his family’s house and his offices risked being demolished.” Smith also credited these groups for their efforts, but the curious amount of power held by Rostenkowski is undeniable. “The parishioners who stood up deserve the credit for saving the church,” he said. “Of course, Rostenkowski being on their team couldn’t have hurt.”This is the first ever major remodel on St. Stanislaus. Daparato Rigali Studios, a Chicago-based art restoration studio is in charge on repairs. Robert Rigali is a fourth generation member of Daparato Rigali Studios and is heading the project.“These are pretty standard repairs for a church this old,” Rigali shrugged just after descending from the metal scaffolds that stretch all the way to the church’s ceiling. Rigali visits St. Stanislaus every day to supervise the repairs.During a trip to the top of the scaffolds, Rigali pointed out two thick metal cables stretching from one upper wall to another. These were the repair team’s first task. The church was falling away from itself and required the cable to use the church’s own tension to keep hold it together.  Aside from the steel cables, the church’s ceiling, floors, pews, and frescos are being redone. “Honestly, the scaffolding was the hardest part,” Rigali explained. The rest of the repairs hold true to the time period in which St. Stanislaus was built. The new pews, which are currently substituted by rows of folding chairs, will be made from the original pews. The same paint formula used for the original walls and ceiling will be used for the repairs. The floors will be tiled over, a more historically accurate finish than the current wood and carpet finish. Samples for all of the future plans are on display in the foyer of the church and are a major attraction for church visitors.St. Stanislaus has changed since its early days, but the immense historical and personal connections to this church drive its current repairs. Benarz reminisced, “St. Stan’s was the home parish of my paternal and maternal families 100 years ago. Many of my uncles, aunts, and cousins were baptized, confirmed, wed, and requiemed there.” Smith fondly recalls his 17 years as a parishioner and three years as church historian. Tour groups come from all over the world to see St. Stanislaus because of its significance to Polish Catholicism. “A woman on a tour recently stood in the aisle with tears streaming down her face explaining how her family built this church and it meant so much to them,” said Smith.Personal anecdotes aside, St. Stanislaus is a huge part of Polish history in Chicago. It was built from the ground up by Polish Catholics for Polish Catholics. The church survived the Chicago fire. Normal parishioners fought the federal government to keep the church open. St. Stanislaus is regarded as the mother church for all Polish Catholic churches in Chicago, inspiring the construction of at least eight other churches in the area. The church encompasses a trying history of nearly 150 years and the memories of every person who was affected by the church in those years. As a parish, St. Stanislaus has no intentions of stopping at what has happened thus far.The population in the area surrounding St. Stan’s is largely Hispanic Catholics, many of whom attend mass at St. Stan’s. There are also an increasing number of young couples that are new to the neighborhood attending the church. “I counted twelve new couples at mass last Sunday,” said Smith.While it is not longer the largest parish in the world, St. Stanislaus is working to prepare a place that is suitable for its future to unfold.  “The restoration and beautification of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish…will give evidence of our gratitude to those who came before us,” wrote the church’s priest Fr. Anthony Bus. “Most importantly, the restoration of the church will be the gift we leave to those who come after us.”  

Building a Future Alongside the Past
Story and photos by Reilly Gill

Standing underneath St. Stanislaus Kotska’s metal scaffolding ceiling, the church’s historian Lorenzo Smith folded his hands across his stomach and looked towards the main altar. “St. Stan’s has meant so much to so many people,” he said. “There’s so much history here. We just want to preserve all of that.” St. Stanislaus Kostka is currently in the beginning stages of a $4.4 million restoration project, the first major restoration performed on the church since its completion in 1904.
This church has seen the development of Bucktown home since its roots its beginning at Chicago’s predominant Polish neighborhood. Being the first Polish Catholic church and parish in Chicago, it has also seen its fair share of close calls ranging from an exploding church population to near demolition.
St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish was ultimately founded by Peter Kiobassa, who headed a group of 30 Polish immigrant families in a movement towards establishing a Polish Catholic parish in Chicago. The group purchased four lots surrounding the land that St. Stanislaus Kostka sits on today for $1,700 and began building the church in 1869.
What began as a modest one-story wooden building with under 150 attendees in 1867 quickly exploded into the largest parish in the world. In 1892 alone, there were 2,260 baptisms, 372 marriages, and 1,029 funerals at St. Stanislaus’ upper and lower sanctuaries.  Over 40,000 people regularly attended mass at St. Stanislaus during this time, resulting in twelve masses being held in the church every Sunday. These parishioners were accommodated in the St. Stanislaus church that stands today, which was constructed from 1876 to 1892.  
Though St. Stanislaus endured the stresses that go into becoming the primary place of worship for the massive Polish population in Chicago, it experienced its greatest challenge in the 1950s upon the construction of the Kennedy Expressway. Former Speaker of the House Daniel Rostenkowski is the subject of a sort of urban legend involving St. Stanislaus surviving the construction of the Kennedy Expressway and this legend has some truth to it.
The Kennedy Expressway curves directly behind St. Stanislaus. There is a walkway behind the church building that separates the church from the expressway that is narrower than a broad man’s shoulders. St. Stanislaus was scheduled to be demolished in 1955 upon the construction of the Kennedy, which was to be built next to the railroad tracks behind the church. “Once the funds were approved and the plans made public, the route was revealed as going right through St. Stan’s and the heart of Kostkaville (the name for the Polish neighborhood in which St. Stanislaus is located). The church was directly in sights of a crane operator with a wrecking ball.  There’s simply no room for an expressway between the church and the railroad,” explained Polish historian and former member of the St. Stanislaus parish Dennis Benarz.
At this time, Dan Rostenkowski was a rising power in the Illinois House of Representatives. He was a close cohort of the Kennedy family and was highly regarded among major players in national government. More importantly, Rostenkowski’s childhood home was across the street from St. Stanislaus and he grew up attending the church.
Benarz said, “It has been my impression that several groups allied themselves in protesting the route. Together their angry chorus caused the both the railroad tracks and the expressway to be moved farther to the east. Danny (Rostenkowski) certainly had a large personal stake in that his family’s house and his offices risked being demolished.” Smith also credited these groups for their efforts, but the curious amount of power held by Rostenkowski is undeniable. “The parishioners who stood up deserve the credit for saving the church,” he said. “Of course, Rostenkowski being on their team couldn’t have hurt.”
This is the first ever major remodel on St. Stanislaus. Daparato Rigali Studios, a Chicago-based art restoration studio is in charge on repairs. Robert Rigali is a fourth generation member of Daparato Rigali Studios and is heading the project.
“These are pretty standard repairs for a church this old,” Rigali shrugged just after descending from the metal scaffolds that stretch all the way to the church’s ceiling. Rigali visits St. Stanislaus every day to supervise the repairs.
During a trip to the top of the scaffolds, Rigali pointed out two thick metal cables stretching from one upper wall to another. These were the repair team’s first task. The church was falling away from itself and required the cable to use the church’s own tension to keep hold it together.  
Aside from the steel cables, the church’s ceiling, floors, pews, and frescos are being redone. “Honestly, the scaffolding was the hardest part,” Rigali explained. The rest of the repairs hold true to the time period in which St. Stanislaus was built. The new pews, which are currently substituted by rows of folding chairs, will be made from the original pews. The same paint formula used for the original walls and ceiling will be used for the repairs. The floors will be tiled over, a more historically accurate finish than the current wood and carpet finish. Samples for all of the future plans are on display in the foyer of the church and are a major attraction for church visitors.
St. Stanislaus has changed since its early days, but the immense historical and personal connections to this church drive its current repairs. Benarz reminisced, “St. Stan’s was the home parish of my paternal and maternal families 100 years ago. Many of my uncles, aunts, and cousins were baptized, confirmed, wed, and requiemed there.” Smith fondly recalls his 17 years as a parishioner and three years as church historian. Tour groups come from all over the world to see St. Stanislaus because of its significance to Polish Catholicism. “A woman on a tour recently stood in the aisle with tears streaming down her face explaining how her family built this church and it meant so much to them,” said Smith.
Personal anecdotes aside, St. Stanislaus is a huge part of Polish history in Chicago. It was built from the ground up by Polish Catholics for Polish Catholics. The church survived the Chicago fire. Normal parishioners fought the federal government to keep the church open. St. Stanislaus is regarded as the mother church for all Polish Catholic churches in Chicago, inspiring the construction of at least eight other churches in the area. The church encompasses a trying history of nearly 150 years and the memories of every person who was affected by the church in those years. As a parish, St. Stanislaus has no intentions of stopping at what has happened thus far.
The population in the area surrounding St. Stan’s is largely Hispanic Catholics, many of whom attend mass at St. Stan’s. There are also an increasing number of young couples that are new to the neighborhood attending the church. “I counted twelve new couples at mass last Sunday,” said Smith.
While it is not longer the largest parish in the world, St. Stanislaus is working to prepare a place that is suitable for its future to unfold.  “The restoration and beautification of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish…will give evidence of our gratitude to those who came before us,” wrote the church’s priest Fr. Anthony Bus. “Most importantly, the restoration of the church will be the gift we leave to those who come after us.”  

Photos by Shawna Sellmeyer

Photos by Shawna Sellmeyer

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These features were created as a collabroation between LUC Journalism and Photojournalism students.

{Page edited by Chandler West}

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