Thursday 20th September 2018

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Rescuing St. Adalbert’s Parish In Chicago

August 31, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By REY FLORES

You may recall I wrote about St. Adalbert’s last year and the efforts being made to keep its doors open by longtime parishioners and some of the folks in the surrounding community.
The fight to save St. Adalbert’s Church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood has been in its 11th hour since
June when the Society of St. Adalbert (SOSA) learned that the Archdiocese of Chicago had hired a commercial broker to sell this magnificent, cathedral-style, architectural masterpiece built by Polish immigrants in 1914.
SOSA was formed in 2017 as a nonprofit by a group of former parishioners as well as other Polish parishioners from the Chicago area to develop a plan to save the church.
Board member Margo Konieczny Dumelle explains, “My family has been parishioners for over 104 years and my grandfather laid the last brick on one of the bell towers. This parish survived 142 years until Cardinal Cupich closed it in 2016. We are devastated that this stunning church may be sold to a developer for condo or apartment development, so we set out to figure out a creative solution to maintain the religious character of the entire complex as intended by our forefathers.”
St. Adalbert’s site includes the historic, 1,800-seat church in addition to a three and one-half story convent, a three-story rectory, an elementary school (now being rented to the Chicago Public School system), a large parking lot as well as a vacant piece of land.
SOSA’s “self-sustaining plan” repurposes the convent into a 40-room, B&B-style house of pilgrimage and also seeks to designate the church as a shrine. In the short term, SOSA plans to update the rectory into a smaller, temporary B&B-style house of pilgrimage to generate cash flow. After the convent is fully converted, the rectory can then be used to house a religious order or mission.
Dumelle explains, “People travel to shrines all over the world. Given the church’s location, we know that we have a viable and achievable plan and one that does not rely on mass collections.
“We are very excited about this plan because it will not only generate more than enough income to sustain the church and entire complex, but we will also have a substantial budget for religious and community programming.”
The church requires repairs to its famous bell towers which can be seen for miles, still wrapped in scaffolding put up four years ago when work was begun but not completed.
Dumelle states, “It’s tragic that scaffolding has been in place for all this time, costing around $12,000 per month in rental fees, and repairs weren’t finished. The convent is in severe disrepair as several of the skylights are broken, and water and snow have damaged parts of the convent. We are anxious to get our hands on this property in order to secure these buildings as soon as possible to prevent further damage.”
Fellow board member Julie Sawicki, a real estate broker, discusses the pressure to sell: “The
Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago is a hot real estate market given its proximity to downtown, the University of Illinois, several major hospitals and an ‘L’ stop just a block away. But tearing down our churches to make way for condos or apartments is a short-term solution.”
Sawicki grew up in Five Holy Martyrs Parish where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1979, and which is also under threat of closure. Sawicki says, “It saddens and angers me that many of our churches, once the core of our communities, are threatened with closure and sale.
“Last year, Pope Francis stated that there is a crisis of faith around the world. And this is true. I see it everywhere, especially here in Chicago with unprecedented violence and children being killed on our streets. Instead of shuttering our churches, we should be finding ways to stay open and become relevant again”
SOSA board member Irene Moskal, former president of the Polish American Congress, and whose brother Ed Moskal is the former president of the Polish National Alliance, remembers fighting for the survival of their parish, St. John Cantius, which is thriving today.
Moskal explains, “We have to fight for our churches. St. Adalbert’s was established as a home to immigrants and today over 100 years later it is still being a home to immigrants. It speaks to the great American ideal of people from all over the world who have come to this country to be able to worship freely. If we allow this great symbol of the Catholic Church in America to be destroyed, it will truly be a sad day for the Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago, the city, and this country.”
Designed by famed church architect Henry J. Schlacks of Sullivan & Adler, who was also the founder of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, St. Adalbert’s is the third Polish parish in Chicago and the first on the South and Southwest side of Chicago. It is widely recognized as part of the heart and soul of the Polish immigrant community and as one of the most beautiful Polish churches in the United States.
According to Sawicki, “An anonymous Polish donor has already contributed $1,000,000 toward the cost of repairing the bell towers of the church. The interior of the church is in great condition. It’s the bell towers that require repair.”
SOSA’s plan relies on multiple funding sources, including a loan to convert the convent. “We are still seeking about $500,000 in additional pledges for the repair work,” Sawicki states.
“Once we have this, we will be in a strong position to return to the archdiocese with our financial plan. Our overall concept has already been shared with the archdiocese, but time is running out. I have no doubt that the commercial broker hired in June already has a buyer.”
To pledge, please email your contact information and pledge amount to info@societyofstadalbert.org. Pledges are also being accepted by calling 773-245-6050. For more information, please visit www.societyofstadalbert.org or Facebook: Society of St. Adalbert — Chicago.

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(Rey Flores can be contacted at reyfloresusa@gmail.com.)

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