A few questions have arisen since we announced the For All Generations campaign in November. One question—asked by a young person, along with a drawing: How did you bild this coirch [= How did you build this church]? Why is this church so high? Why are there so much [sic] benches?
The church was build with the faith of Polish immigrants, who wanted to give thanks to God for bringing them safely to the United States and for giving them an opportunity to prosper and have a family. It was built “so high” because those immigrants wanted to be generous with God and to help lift their sights to God every time they entered the church. There are so many benches because a hundred years ago there were so many people going to church to show their love and appreciation to Go.
Why the Campaign now when the Archdiocese is trying to close churches?
The Archdiocese is going through the Renew My Church program, to consolidate resources—including parishes—in an effort to better direct personnel and financial resources to effectively meet the spiritual needs of Chicago Catholics and to evangelize non-Catholics and fallen away Catholics. So—one may ask—if we don’t know how Renew My Church is going to impact St. Mary of the Angels, then why spend the time and money to fix the church?
Shortly after Renew My Church was announced, one of the cornices fell off the church building. We responded to this by surveying the exterior of the whole church, identifying safety issues and repair needs. Parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels responded by raising over $1 million in cash and pledges. We spent $150,000 of emergency repairs, leaving about $1 million dollars for building needs.
Having consulted with the Archdiocese of Chicago, the parish leadership decided not to sit back and wait, but to continue the restoration that began in 1990. We will not sit on our hands, put off maintenance of the church and school, which would let things decay further and pass on to the next generation the burden of dilapidated buildings.
We recognize that things have changed: the Polish community who built this church over 100 years ago has left a great treasure. While the Kennedy Expressway, built in 1960, cut off a third of our parishioners, it now brings hundreds of thousands of people pass the St. Mary of the Angels each day. This is not a detriment but a great opportunity to further our parish’s evangelizing efforts.
A number of people have recently told me about how they or how their spouses were drawn to the church’s beauty—perhaps initially out of curiosity—and through their encounter with beauty they experienced an encounter with Jesus Christ and with his Blessed Mother. This is priceless! Think of how many more people we can bring to Christ if we can improve our exterior witness with a beautiful mosaic of Mary overlooking Chicago, the Kennedy Expressway, and the Metra Train lines.
Let’s look at Renew My Church and our For All Generations campaign as an opportunity to grow our parish: there will be more Confessions, more attending sacramental preparation, more interest in the Faith and our RCIA program, more weddings, more kids in our CCD program, etc. More too will take interest in the great school we have, and want to send their children here. As we go through the process, let’s look at the possibilities of making our parish and our Archdiocese stronger and more effective.
Please pray for St. Mary of the Angels and our For All Generations campaign as we support one another during this time of renewal and growth.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Like in today’s Gospel, our Lord showed how he entrusts talents to each of us: to some, 5 talents; to others, 2 talents; to still others, one. A talent of gold would be worth $1.25 million in today’s currency—that’s a lot of money! The person with 5 talents earned 5 more, totally $12.5 million; the person with 2, earned 2 more… $5 million; the person with one talent, buried it.
We have been entrusted with a great treasure: St. Mary of the Angels church. Through your prayer and financial help we rebuilt the Dome in 2010, restored the South Tower in 2012, eliminated our debt in 2013, and have now raised over $1 million in donations and pledges ear-marked for restoration, but our needs are greater… We don’t want to invoke God’s anger by burying our talent, but to multiply those talents.
Did you know that wire mesh covers the top of the North Tower and the beams between the columns as well as the balcony railing above those columns in the front of the church? This is to keep loose bricks, concrete, and terra cotta from falling, because water penetration have rusted interior steel causing mortar to disintegrate, and large cracks in the bricks and terra cotta.
Did you know the parapet above the façade was removed in 1990 due to structural weakness—it is flat between the two towers—and that our four minor cupolas are wrapped in heavy canvas to prevent falling debris?
Did you know that our church and boilers are 100 and 120 years old? Of course you know that our church restrooms are inadequate for a parish of our size and that we only have an antiquated stair lift chair—no elevator—to provide handicap accessibility. In addition our roofs are 25 years old and need replacing; we just relined some cracked interior downspouts that had damaged interior plaster. Also, metal bars have been placed to keep some stained glass windows from falling out due to cracked window tracery.
Other needs include our current church sound system that is no longer reliable and does not transmit sound to all areas of the church; our old lighting is inefficient and adequate, leaving some areas dark; only one of our two beloved South Tower bells functions, and the 120 year-old school building—also used by our C.C.D. program and Midtown Center—needs repairs and upgrades.
Our parish office also is too small, staff offices and rooms for catechesis and apostolic activities use make-do and repurposed spaces scattered around the church basement and former garage.
The For All Generation Campaign
Instead of burying our one talent, the priests, staff, and finance council have decided to kick off a campaign to make talents multiply. It is time, with God’s grace, to fully restore the church to its glory and to rededicate St. Mary of the Angels to Our Lady For All Generations, the name of our campaign!
Phase 1: When we reach $3,000,000 we will restore the North Tower, four cupolas, East Façade, and replace the missing Parapet Wall and also renovate school restrooms. Phase 2: When we reach $5,000,000 we will tuck point the remaining church walls, repair or replace damaged window tracery, sound system, lighting, bells, and install new roofs to protect the church. We will crown the East Parapet with a 25’ high Marian image, evoking Our Lady’s protection over the parish and the City of Chicago. Phase 3: When we reach $7,000,000 we will replace our boilers with high-efficient HVAC systems and build an addition to improve security and give elevator access to the church, office, and basement meeting rooms. A 10% tithe on monies raised will provide ongoing aid to students and families in need through the Fr. Hilary Scholarship Fund.
You can use the talents God has given you to help us reach these goals: first, the talent of praying for the campaign—without God’s help this is impossible; second, the talent of your time: we need many volunteers to make this campaign successful—please fill out a volunteer willingness card; finally, the talent of your financial support—please consider a sacrificial gift when the time comes to make your pledge. Thus your talents will multiply!
Coming up we’ll share more details about our needs at our Kick-Off Celebration on December 10th and the campaign will conclude in February with Commitment Weekend.
Let’s make our talents truly fruitful in rededicating our church to St. Mary of the Angels for all generations!
Fr. John R. Waiss