The Final Chapter
I was driving south down Orleans Street last week and noticed to my right that the demolition of the old St. Dominic’s church on the corner of Sedgwick and Locust has started. A massive yellow crane was carefully taking down the exterior walls of the back sanctuary. The heavy-duty machine was positioned on the exact spot where the rectory once stood; and was dismantled in a couple of days. Back in its hey-day the rectory probably housed a handful of priests and a full-time cook.
As I stood in the parking lot, I thought to myself, if only the walls could talk and tell stories from the past. It would be interesting to go back in time and relive parish life before I was born.
It’s sad to see this historic church, with its twin bell towers and arched ceilings turned into piles of red bricks and rubble. Instead of the smell of holy incense filling the inside of the church, now a thick cloud of white construction dust hovered in the sanctuary right over where the altar once stood and Mass was celebrated.
The church was constructed on this site back in 1906. St. Dominic’s by the early 20th century was home to many groups: immigrant Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, Swedes, as well as African Americans. Its large size was built to handle 1,000 worshipers comfortably at Mass.
St. Dominic’s parish changed with the times. The church through the 50’s and 60’s rose as a beacon of hope for the area’s poor. From ministering to Italian immigrants, the church evolved into the spiritual home for Cabrini Green Catholics.
The church has been closed for a quarter of a century; and since then, all the pews, statutes and stained glass windows were removed. Several months ago, the Archdiocese of Chicago sold the property to a developer. The latest report indicated that the lot has been re-zoned. In its place will soon rise a 7 story, 40-unit condo building. With the buildings gone,
Let us hold in our prayer this week, all of the faith-filled people who ever walked through the church doors of St. Dominic’s and made it their spiritual home. We remember and give thanks for those who helped the poor; or taught religion to young children; or comforted the grieving; or celebrated the baptism of a newborn infant; or rejoiced in the union of a man and a woman on their wedding day; or prayed with their son or daughter on the day of their First Holy Communion; or cried tears of joy knowing God’s love and mercy was offered to them when they confessed their sins.
Yes, just down the block from us, God was present and close to the hearts of those who opened themselves, time and time again, to God’s grace in their life. As the final chapter of St. Dominic’s comes to a close, I am reminded again about what it means “to be church.” Church today is more than just brick and mortar, and being blessed with a beautiful ornate building. Old churches come and go in time.
When it comes to “being church” today, it’s all about the people of God actively living out their faith and love for the Risen Lord. “Church” is at its best when we embrace the gospel message and continue the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Our parishes are trying to re-start an important program, offered by the Archdiocese of Chicago, called “SPRED” –which stands for “Special Religious Development.” The program serves those with special needs and provides them some simple opportunities for helping them grow in their faith. SPRED relies on carefully developed small communities of faith for learning, fellowship, support and religious education.
We are in need of several adult volunteers to get the program up and running. Can you serve as a catechist? Can you be a partner? A friend? The process is prayerful, respectful and designed to preserve the dignity of those with special needs. Training and guidance will be provided by the representatives from the SPRED Office of the Archdiocese.
The next information meeting about the SPRED program will be held on Saturday, August 8th at 10:00 AM at the St. Joseph Parish Center. Come check it out. It is truly a rewarding ministry. For immediate questions, please contact Julia Hess at 773-539-3634 or Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cranking Out the Summer Projects
Even though parish life seems to slow down during the summer months, Colm Murphy, our Parish Facility Manager, and our maintenance crew have been busy making improvements and repairs to our parish and school facilities.
At the end of June I gave Colm a long list of summer projects that included: the painting of fences, classrooms, Immaculate Conception Church, the sacristy at St. Joseph church and offices; striping the parking lots; landscaping around the parish grounds; cleaning out old storage spaces and recycling obsolete computer and office supplies. It is amazing the stuff that accumulates over the years.
Did You See Them Yet?
You may have noticed a number of brown street signs that were recently posted by the City of Chicago that will direct people to our two parishes. They look great and will certainly help those trying to locate our parishes. Soon the larger and more decorative exterior woodcarved signs will be completed by the design company and installed at the entrances our church. When they arrive, we will first bless them at Sunday Mass before they are permanently put into place. I can’t wait to see them.
Welcome Back Fr. Bill O'Shea
Last month I got a nice call from Fr. Bill O'Shea who lives very close to Immaculate Conception parish. He graciously offered to celebrate Mass once a month for us on a Saturday night. He mentioned that on Sunday mornings he is already committed to celebrating Mass at Old St. Patrick's parish. I told Fr. Bill that we would be glad to have him join our community and lead us in prayer.
Actually, Fr. Bill is no stranger to Immaculate Conception parish. Some parishioners may remember him. A few years ago he was on the Mass schedule when Fr. Pat Lee was in need of weekend Mass help.
I also told Fr. Bill a interesting story of how I met him. Before I was assigned to the parish two years ago by Cardinal Francis George, I decided to quietly see what the parish was like, so I attended a 5:00 PM Mass. I sat incognito in the back of church. I am glad the ushers did not ask me to take up the gifts that night. I remember that Fr. Bill was the presider at the Mass, and that he did a real nice job with the liturgy.
Thank you Fr. Bill for your help and assistance. Welcome to our parish family. We look forward to sharing our faith with you.