The Memorare Legacy is part of St. Mary of the Angels’ For All Generations Campaign, raising money for the final restoration of the church. The Memorare Legacy is an opportunity for people to entrust loved-ones to Our Blessed Mother, as “never was it known that anyone who fled to [her] protection, implored [her] help, or sought [her] intercession was left unaided” (from the Memorare prayer).
A Story of St. John Vianney
St. John Vianney, the Cure (Pastor) of Ars, was a very holy parish priest in eastern France, outside the city of Lyon. He was known as a great confessor and catechist.
God gave him a very powerful gift of reading into the state of souls. For example, when a person was a bit embarrassed to confess his big sins—just having the nerve to confess his little sins, such as arguing with a sibling or friend—St. John Vianney might happen to ask the person: “But didn’t you do X, and didn’t you do Y, and didn’t you do Z?” mentioning to the penitent all the big sins he was too embarrassed to say. “Ah… Yes, Father, I did,” the penitent would say sheepishly. Then, after asking the penitent if he were sorry for those sins, the Cure of Ars would give the sacramental absolution.
One day an elderly woman came to confession to the Cure of Ars. She had been quite distraught, because her husband had died two years earlier without receiving the last sacraments. In fact, he had lived most of their married life without going to church or confession, so the woman thought: “I’ll never see my husband again, he must be in hell.” This disturbed her greatly because she loved her husband a lot.
The widow’s neighbor noticed her depressed state and encouraged her to go to confession to this holy priest in Ars. The widow said No, telling her neighbor that she didn’t have any big sins to confess, and besides she went to confession to their parish priest quite frequently, so why should she travel across France just to go to confession? Her neighbor kept pestering the widow to go until she finally acquiesced, and the two made the long trip to Ars together.
When they got to Ars and entered the church, they found a very long line for confession—some had to wait two days (the Cure of Ars heard 15 to 18 hours of confessions daily). The two did wait—they didn’t want to waste their trip. The widow went to confession, it was a pretty normal and quick as she was a pious ole-lady who didn’t have much to confess. But then as she was leaving the confessional St. John Vianney stopped her and said: “Don’t worry about your husband.” Now she hadn’t mentioned her husband at all in the confessional. The Cure of Ars continued: “Do you remember when your husband picked the flower from your garden and placed it next to the statue of the Virgin Mary in your home?” Sure enough, she vaguely remembered that years earlier her husband, probably in a moment of weakness, picked a flower from their garden and placed it next to the statue of Mary in their home. The widow had all but forgotten. Besides, what was that compared to all the big sinful things he had done, she thought.
St. John Vianney went on to say: “Well, when your husband died and went before the Judgment Seat, and Satan accused him of all he had done, ready to grab his soul and thrust it into hell… Our Lady remembered that deed and snatched his soul from the grasp of the devil. That was all that she needed.
Now people say, “Women never forget…” well Our Lady is a woman, so let’s take advantage of that—anything we do for Our Blessed Mother she will not forget!
St. Mary of the Angels, Our Help and Protection
In replacing the parapet wall of St. Mary of the Angels, above the rose window over the church entrance, we plan
to put a large image of our Blessed Mother, overlooking the raised Kennedy expressway and Metra train lines just a block and half away. The image will be made in painted ceramic tile, 26 feet tall and 15 feet wide. The image will show Our Lady holding her mantle out in protection over the church, school, and all of Chicago. On the backside of the image—which can be seen from the “606” elevated trail—will be the Memorare prayer painted on ceramic tile formed by the names of persons and institutions entrusted to Our Lady.
As many faithful Catholics wish to entrust a loved-one to Mary: perhaps a child or God-child recently baptized, asking Mary to lead that child to its vocation and to heaven; perhaps unbaptized relatives or ones who have gone astray; perhaps a sick, elderly, or frail loved-one… anyone who needs St. Mary of the Angels, Our Help and Protection. Some have loved-ones in perilous and uncertain situations—living the “gay” lifestyle, in an unhealthy or sinful relationship, addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc., etc. We can and should be “inspired by this confidence” and go to Mary’s intercession with the assurance that our prayers will be “heard and answered.”
For gifts of $1000 or more we will inscribe the name into the Memorare prayer on the back of the parapet. Our Lady appreciates gifts of any size as well as anything we do for her and her parish; nothing will be forgotten. We will find a way to entrust everyone who makes a gift to Mary.
Fr. John R. Waiss
We have been entrusted with a great treasure: St. Mary of the Angels church. Your prayer and financial helped us rebuild the Dome in 2010, restore the South Tower in 2012, eliminate 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 bury our talents, but to multiply them.
Instead of doing the Annual Catholic Appeal this year, we will ask you to make a pledge to help us raise the moneys needed to restore our church. We will set aside $29,000—our parish goal—for the Archdiocesan appeal. The rest will fully go to restore St. Mary of the Angels.
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 priests, staff, and finance council have decided that 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, East Façade, and replace the missing Parapet Wall and also renovate school restrooms. Included is restoring the four minor cupolas—we have dismantled one of them to prepare a replacement strategy. 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.
Please help us reach these goals: first, by praying for the campaign—without God’s help this is impossible; second, please consider volunteering to make this campaign successful; finally, please consider a sacrificial gift when the time comes to make your pledge! Commitment Weekends are April 7/8 and 14/15. Let’s rededicate our church to St. Mary of the Angels for all generations!
Fr. John R. Waiss
Over the last few years, we have considered the history of St. Mary of the Angels. Yet our history must be put in context of the great pioneers of the Faith in our city and state. This should inspire us to think big, long-term, and consider how each one of us can contribute to the future of the Catholic Church where God has placed us.
Establishing Catholic Chicago
In May 1673 French Jesuit, Fr. Jacques Marquette joined his friend and explorer Louis Jolliet on an expedition to discover and map the Mississippi River. They traveled from Green Bay over to the Wisconsin River and then down to the Mississippi. Traveling down the Mississippi River the two came across Native Americans of the Illinois tribe, and entered the Indian village called “peouarea” (Peoria). They continued down the Mississippi River until it met the Arkansas River, and then returned to Lake Michigan via the Illinois Rivers. The two arrived to the mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan on December 4, 1674. Fr. Marquette recuperated in a small cabin they built before returning to mission of St. Francis Xavier in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That small cabin, where Fr. Marquette likely celebrated Holy Mass, was the first building of the future city of Chicago.
Before reaching the future location of Chicago Fr. Marquette and Jolliet came across a large village on the Illinois River of the Illinois tribe. The village was called Kaskasia. Fr. Marquette would return in 1674—as he promised the chieftains—to establish a mission among them and to share with them the Catholic Faith. Father Claude Allouez took over the mission from Fr. Marquette, who died in May 1675 at age 37.
The first Catholics in Chicago and its surroundings were French. Most were fur traders. In 1791 those of European decent in Illinois numbered only 1221. In the 1830s the Catholic population in Chicago was about 100. So Mark and Jean Baptiste Beaubien, who ran the Sauganash Hotel, decided to build the first Catholic church in Chicago, calling it St. Mary’s (it was located near the corner of State and Lake streets). Mark Beaubien petitioned the bishop of St. Louis for a priest, and Fr. John St. Cyr was sent here as pastor of St. Mary’s.
On November 28, 1843 Chicago was made a diocese with Bishop William J. Quarter has our first spiritual head. The first great wave of Catholic immigration came in 1846-48, when famine in Ireland brought many to Chicago. Bishop Quarter allowed each parish to keep its markedly ethnic identity. Although he would die in April 1848, Bishop Quarter ordained twenty-nine priests and built thirty churches.
From 1841-50 a large number of German Catholics immigrated to Chicago. By 1870, the diocese of Chicago had more than 40,000 Catholics, 142 priests, 26 parishes, and 50 Catholic schools.
In the 1850 U.S. Census, only 495 individuals (72 women) were counted of Polish origin in the whole United States. In ten years that number rose to 7,298 (309 here in Chicago). In 1864 Polish families formed the patronage of St. Stanislaus Kostka and bought land for a church—about a mile from St. Mary of the Angels towards downtown. A Polish diocesan priest, Fr. Joseph Juszkiewicz, administered the parish. A year before St. Stanislaus Kostka, Annunciation Parish was built—on the corner of Paulina and Wabansia, just a block south of St. Mary of the Angels—to serve the English-speaking Irish Catholics who lived along the Chicago River (that church was closed and razed in 1978).
The pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, Fr. Joseph Roles, approached Fr. Jerome Kajsiewicz CR superior general of the newly founded Congregation of the Resurrectionists, asking him to supply priests for Chicago’s Polish and Bohemian immigrants. Fr. Kajsiewicz visited Chicago in 1871 and met with Bishop Foley who formally agreed to entrust the Polish missions in Chicago to the Resurrectionists for the next ninety-nine years. The Resurrectionists then took possession of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish.
The real influx of Polish—along with Lithuanian and Italian Catholics—began in earnest in 1890. The Lithuanians built St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Wabansia, between Paulina and Marshfield, in 1904. By 1909 more than 2,000 Lithuanians worshipped at St. Michael’s on a given Sunday. St. Michael’s is now closed and torn down.
Fr. John R. Waiss
The joy of Christmas all began with Mary’s generous response to God through the angel Gabriel. When Gabriel told Mary: “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son… He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High… [as] the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35), Mary responded “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). This brought her great joy, the joy of having Jesus inside her: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48). Christmas is a time for all of us to share in Mary’s joy.
As God called Mary to help bring the Child Jesus into the world, God calls us to do so too. What better way to bring joy to the world and to other people than to bring people to Mary who brings them to Christ? Mary’s joy overflows into others. Her joy overflowed into John the Baptist who danced in Elizabeth’s womb at the Visitation. Mary’s joy overflowed into the angels who then announced it to the shepherds on Christmas night: “I bring you good news of a great joy… to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). The three Magi also experienced a share in Mary’s great joy when they arrived to worship the divine King of the Jews. As we bring others to her, Mary’s joy will help them experience the Christmas joy of having the Emmanuel, God with us.
Joy is the fruit of love. We ask: St. Mary of the Angels, Teach us how to love with a love that gives itself away. As St. Josemaría would put it: “beg Our Lord, through his Mother who is our Mother too, to increase his love in us, to grant us a taste of the sweetness of his presence. Only when we love do we attain the fullest freedom: the freedom of not wanting ever to abandon, for all eternity, the object of our love” (Friends of God 38).
To help bring Mary’s Christmas joy to others for all generations we have begun our For All Generations campaign. It is a campaign to restore the North Tower, façade, parapet, roofs, the four small cupolas, and other elements of the church exterior. Part of our dream is to put up a large image of the Blessed Virgin Mary—overlooking Chicago as our Protectrix—as we restore the parapet to the front façade.
Even before we began our campaign we had received over $1 million in donations and pledges—up from the $400,000 we had last year at this time. What joy this must bring to Our Blessed Mother—your generosity certainly gives us great joy.
Let’s never take for granted, but keep marveling at the beautify legacy of St. Mary of the Angels church. It is a legacy that we have received from past generations, so let us now work to pass it on for future and for all generations. In this way our Christmas joy will be full as more people encounter Christ through Mary.
Always united to the Child Jesus and to his Mother and ours,
Fr. John Waiss, Fr. Hilary Mahaney, Fr. Charles Ferrer, Fr. Deogracias Rosales,
Fr. Krzysztof Świerczyński, Deacon Glenn Tylutki and Staff of St. Mary of the Angels.
What a surprise we received on Tuesday, December 12, when we received an email from the artist, Raúl Berzosa, that did our painting of St. Juan Diego, the painting next to the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The artist pointed out that our painting—which we commissioned, installed, and had blessed by Bishop Rojas last February—was used in St. Peter’s Basilica for the cover of their worship aid used for the Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe presided over by Pope Francis.
The Virgin Mary appear to Juan Diego and left her image on his tilma, the poncho-like cloak that indigenous Mexican used at that time: 1531. St. Juan Diego was one of the few Native American Mexicans that had converted during the early colonization of the New World. Most Native Americans were suspicious of the European colonizers, seeing their lust for gold as a kind of idolatry. Also the sometimes brutal and humiliating treatment of the indigenous people by the colonizers also created deep-seated mistrust.
But when Our Blessed Mother left her image on that tilma, miracles of grace began to occur. Native American Mexicans began to come on their own to be baptized, two or three hundred at a time… then by the thousands, men and women, young and old, and from every Mexican tribe. Some walked for days to come to see the Virgin Mother of God, often bringing their sick relatives. The Franciscan missionaries were exhausted because they were so few; once two missionaries baptized over fifteen thousand in one day.
The conversions were real. The converts knew they had to abandon polygamy and be married to one person for life. Prior to Our Lady’s appearance to St. Juan Diego, missionaries had a hard time convincing indigenous Mexicans to accept monogamy and Christian marriage. After Mary’s appearance, Native Americans came to the priests to be married in droves: one day more than five hundred couples came forward to be married in the Church.
The newly baptized also came in great numbers to be catechized, deepening their knowledge of Jesus Christ. This brought about a true transformation in their way of living and led many to confess their sins in Reconciliation and struggle more decisively against sin and temptation. Some would travel for days to get to the missions to go to Confession.
Mary did it all through that image she left on St. Juan Diego’s tilma. Here at St. Mary of the Angels, as we seek to restore the church, especially the North Tower and the Parapet above the façade, we see the potential evangelizing impact that a 25 foot image of St. Mary of the Angels, Our Hope and Protectress, could have. This is in our restoration plan and why we have launched the For All Generations campaign.
Just like the missionaries of old were stymied by the difficult cultural environment confronting them, we know that we can’t do anything without the help of our Blessed Mother.
Fr. John R. Waiss