By REY FLORES
Like a symphony so glorious, an old Catholic church stands as an almost living and breathing witness to the beauty and majesty of God Himself.
I could say that the old churches I grew up around in Chicago were my little taste of Heaven, but it was actually a great big serving of sacred art, sacred music, and just pure, unadulterated sacredness all around.
An old traditional Catholic church in America will not only have all of the blood, pain, and sacrifice of our Lord in full display, but the blood, sweat, tears, pain, and sacrifices of the Catholic immigrants who gave all to build these beautiful churches.
These churches and their pastors were the epicenter of a community. They were the anchor that kept the ship from drifting away due to any inclement immoral climate or any secular winds or currents. These churches were our home away from home — even if the church was two blocks away. There is no place like home in the beautiful old sanctuary of an older Catholic church.
When one enters a Catholic church, there should be no mistake about the place one has just entered. Much like the fruit in Mary’s womb, there is the tabernacle in every Catholic church across the world, inhabited by the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ: verbum caro factum est.
Unlike many of today’s sterile architectural gymnasiums that are passed off as Catholic churches, the very center of every Catholic church had the tabernacle in the very center of a glorious altar which pointed up to Heaven, much like the tall steeples outside of them. There was no Protestantized sterility in either the brick and mortar or the ritual and rubrics.
Having said all of this, a Wanderer reader reached out to me to see if I could help promote the efforts to preserve the beautiful Church of St. Adalbert in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Like many old churches in Chicago, St. Adalbert’s is in danger of ceasing to be a church and instead becoming some mixed-use piece of real estate — in this particular case being sold to the Chicago Academy of Music.
Whether it was the “white flight” in the 1960s and 1970s that caused many parish communities to shut down many beautiful old Catholic churches, or the gentrification of certain trendy neighborhoods which no longer had any use for a church or even the faith itself, the result was the same. At the end of the day, it’s just one more piece of our Catholic heritage chipped away into the annals of history.
What I wouldn’t give to now attend one of the beautiful old Chicago churches like St. John Cantius, or Our Lady of Sorrows on West Jackson Boulevard, or St. Hyacinth in the North Side, all of which are absolutely gorgeous examples of what Catholic churches should look like and speak volumes about how important our Catholic faith was to our ancestors. We are blessed to have these living Chicago parishes.
On its website and in their newsletters, the St. Adalbert Preservation Society states it would like to have a dialogue with the Archdiocese of Chicago and an opportunity to present their plans for the church complex, as well as have the Archdiocese of Chicago disclose its provisions for ensuring proper liturgical use of St. Adalbert Church in efforts to preserve its integrity.
For generations this church has celebrated thousands of sacraments for Bohemian, Polish, and now Mexican-American Catholics and their families who all have a great devotion to the church in their community.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to see yet another church like St. Adalbert’s go by the wayside and become a thing of the past. I have never figured out why the archdiocesan bureaucracies in big cities like New York and Chicago — archdioceses with so many historical treasures — can allow these things to happen.
Why wouldn’t we make any and all efforts to save our history and our legacy by preserving our old churches that have saved so many souls? When did we stop caring?
I know that several archdioceses and dioceses throughout the country have suffered many financial problems, mainly because of the horrible child abuse crimes committed by a tiny minority of rogue and wayward priests. Multimillion-dollar settlements, court and legal costs, the implementation of expensive child protection trainings and programs have all cost the Church much more than we could ever have imagined.
It goes to show the long-term repercussions of those horrid sins and how they may affect the eternal fate of many souls who may not have churches like St. Adalbert’s in the future to save them from perdition.
I have seen the remnants of old Catholic churches like St. Mary Carmelite in downtown Joliet, Ill. What was once a glorious palace for the King of Kings was “wreckified” after the Second Vatican Council and reduced to green carpeting and ugly modernist felt banners, still hanging there years after the last Mass was celebrated. The church now stands as a silent and hulking witness to our loss of devotion and faith as a society.
Let’s not let that happen to St. Adalbert’s in Chicago. I want all readers to add the preservation of this glorious church to their prayer intentions, especially now during Lent. Pray that the hearts of the Archdiocese of Chicago and especially of Blase Cardinal Cupich be open to hearing the voices of this community of so many faithful people.
Pray that old churches like St. Adalbert be preserved for the edification of so many souls here today and in the future. Pray that they may always have beautiful sanctuaries like this church to pray and worship and bring their loved ones ever closer to Christ and our beloved Virgin Mary. We ask that St. Adalbert himself intercede in saving this holy place, that it may serve this community for many generations to come.
Lastly, we pray for the souls of every holy priest who has celebrated Mass at St. Adalbert. We pray that those priests who have made it to Heaven please also intercede to save this parish.
Please visit www.SaveStAdalbertChurch.org to see how you can join in this important effort. Thank you.
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(Rey Flores is a Catholic writer and speaker. Please contact Rey at firstname.lastname@example.org.)