The founding of St. Mary of the Angels is linked to immigration to our area of Chicago called Bucktown, which in the 1830s was mostly open fields used to pasture goats (the local people called male goats “bucks”). Many people fled war-torn Poland in the 1830s to come to the United States, the first settled in Jefferson Township, then Holstein, until Bucktown became the focus of the Polish Community. Germans and Irish also settled here.
In 1864, Polish families formed the patronage of St. Stanislaus Kostka and in 1869 bought land for a church—about a mile towards downtown from St. Mary of the Angels. The pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, Fr. Joseph Roles, approach Fr. Jerome Kajsiewicz, C.R., superior general of the newly founded Congregation of the Resurrectionists, to supply Polish priests for Chicago’s Polish and Bohemian emigrants. Until then, a Polish diocesan priest, Fr. Joseph Juszkiewicz, administered the parish. Fr. Kajsiewicz finally 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. They then took over St. Stanislaus Kostka parish.
The bishops of Chicago established more Polish churches as immigrants continue to pour into Chicago: St. Josaphat (in 1884), St. Hedwig (1888), St. John Cantius (1892), Holy Trinity (1893), St. Stanislaus Bishop-Martyr (a mission church from 1893–1901), and St. Hyacinth (1894); Holy Innocents (1905), St. Wenceslaus (1912), St. Helen (1913), St. Ladislaus and St. James (1914), St. Constance (1916), St. Thecla (1925), St. Fidelis (1926)—not to mention many other parishes on Chicago’s south and west side.
Fr. Francis Gordon, C.R.
St. Mary of the Angels was founded in the middle of this explosion of Polish parishes entrusted to the Resurrectionists. St. Stanislaus Kostka and St. Hedwig became so crowded that Fr. Barzynski, C.R., pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, asked Archbishop Feehan, in 1898, to carve out a new parish between the other two: the parish of St. Mary of the Angels was formed with Fr. Francis Gordon, age 39, as its first pastor. They broke ground for the church and school on April 21, 1899. The school was on the first floor, church on the second, and the priests’ residence in the back. Fr. Gordon celebrated the first Mass here on December 11, 1899.
The school began operations in 1900 with four Sisters of the Congregation of the Resurrection: Sister Ann Strzelecka, Sr. Casimira Szydzik, Sr. Sophie Podworska, and Sr. Mathilda Surej. These four are depicted with Fr. Gordon in the large painting on the side of the St. Joseph’s chapel.
With great fidelity to Catholicism and dedication to Polish immigrants, Fr. Francis Gordon, C.R., became a great figure in Chicago. Before becoming the founding pastor of St. Mary of the Angels, he headed the Polish newspaper, Dziennik Chicagoski, and founded the Polish Alma Mater in 1897, which served more than 10,000 youths in those years. He was called to be provincial superior of the Resurrectionists from 1918 until 1928. In 1924, Pope Pius XI award Father Gordon with the papal medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pan, for his extraordinary service to the Catholic Church in Chicago. The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Mundelein, presented the medal to him at St. Mary of the Angels church.
Father Gordon resided at St. Mary of the Angels until his death on February 13, 1931. Let us thank God for his vision and generosity.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Each year on June 26 we celebrate the Feast of St. Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei (Work of God).
He was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902. God had him “see” what He wanted of him on October 2, 1928. St. Josemaría saw Opus Dei while he was making a retreat in Madrid, and from this point on; he gave his life to the spreading of the message that God gave to him. The key element of this message is the universal call to sanctity and apostolate.
St. John Paul II, in the homily that he gave on the Ceremony of the Beatification said this about St. Josemaría:
“With supernatural intuition, Blessed Josemaría [now Saint] untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate. Christ calls everyone to become holy in the realities of everyday life. Hence, work too is a means of personal holiness and apostolate, when it is done in union with Jesus Christ, for the Son of God, in the Incarnation, has united himself in a certain way with the whole reality of man and with the whole of creation.” (May 17, 1992).
Following this message, which is clearly expressed in Sacred Scriptures (cf. Mt. 5,48 and Eph. 1,4); St. Josemaría has helped many people find Christ in and through their work, and to spread this message to other people.
Writing about the intercession of St. Josemaría from heaven, Fr. Joaquin Alonso, who accompanied the saint for many years, wrote: “Reading the letters that tell of graces obtained through St. Josemaría’s intercession, you find an amazing variety of situations: from home-makers struggling with some small domestic problem, to drug addicts and the suicidal. Some letters tell terrible stories of ruined lives with seemingly no way out. Others tell of struggles against disease, or people who get a job or find something they had lost… additionally, most of them talk about coming back to God, sometimes after a life that had been lived very far from the faith.”
Prayers cards are available in the church so you can pray to him for his intercession for your needs. Some of his best-known publications are: The Way, The Forge, the Furrow, Friends of God and Christ is Passing By. The last two books are a collection of his homilies, and the others are short points to help people do mental prayer.
A final quote for St. Josemaría “We must come to know Him (God) through prayer, we must speak to him and show him through a heart to heart conversation, that we love him”.
Fr. Hilary Mahaney
Many ask about why the parish is called “St. Mary of the Angels” and not “Queen of the Angels” or “Our Lady of the Angels”?
The name “St. Mary of the Angels” goes back to a little chapel on the outskirts of Assisi called Santa Maria degli Angeli—St. Mary of the Angels— rebuilt by St. Francis. According to local accounts, the church dates back to 364 when Pope Liberius erected this chapel for the Hermits of Josephat. In 516 the Benedictines took possession of the chapel but by the time of St. Francis it was in severe disrepair.
Before founding the Franciscan Order, St. Francis had a vision while praying in the chapel of San Damiano in Assisi. In the vision, the image of the crucified Christ came alive and said: “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” His initial thought was that Jesus was referring to the chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli. So, to his father’s chagrin, he sold his horse and some other items and restored the church—our St. Mary of the Angels was also in disrepair and closed, only to be entrusted to priests of Opus Dei in 1991 and then restored with the help of many… there seems to be an interesting pattern here.
It was in the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels that St. Francis discerned his vocation and began the Franciscan order. The Benedictines entrusted the chapel to St. Francis to build the mother house of his new foundation. This was where St. Francis received the first vocations to the Friars Minor and St. Clare to found the Poor Clares. And in St. Mary of the Angels is also where St. Francis died in 1226.
Feast of St. Mary of the Angels—August 2
St. Francis had another vision in 1216. After experiencing a strong carnal temptation one night, St. Francis jumped into a thorny bush outside his cell. As he landed in the bush it sprouted beautiful roses without thorns. Two angels then took him to the little chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where he saw Christ and the Virgin Mary enveloped in light and sitting on thrones and surrounded by numerous angels (this vision is portrayed behind the high altar of our church). Jesus then asked St. Francis what reward he wanted for his heroic act, to which he answered: “An indulgence for anyone who enters into this chapel, repents and confesses his sins.” As Pope Benedict XVI described:
“Today we are contemplating St Francis of Assisi’s ardent love for the salvation of souls, which every priest must always foster. In fact today is the feast of the ‘Pardon of Assisi,’ which St Francis obtained from Pope Honorius III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula. Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a ‘full and generous pardon’ for all those who would visit that church who ‘repented and confessed their sins.’ Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: ‘Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!’ Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one” (Angelus Message, August 2, 2009)
Our church has a wonderful name and link to mercy. Let’s prepare for the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, beginning December 8, encouraging many souls to take advantage of this full and generous pardon in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which we offer so abundantly here at St. Mary of the Angels.
Fr. John Waiss
How easy it is to take the Eucharist for granted. The ability to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion is a great gift, one worth dying for. In fact, Christians did die, just to go to Mass and to bring Holy Communion to the sick.
St. Tarcisius—Martyr of Eucharistic Love
In the middle of the third century, severe persecutions against Christians broke out in Rome, during the reign of emperor Valerian, around 258. Christians were often subjected to arrest, cruel tortures, and execution, often taken to the Coliseum for sport, to fend off lions and other wild beasts before spectators who usually cheered on the devouring animals.
The Roman emperor decreed death to all Christians; those who would offer pagan sacrifice to the Roman emperor as a god could save their lives. Christians who remained faithful to Christ were executed, as well as any bishop, priest, or deacon. To avoid arrest, Christians would gather for Mass in secret. After Mass, deacons would bring Communion to Christians who were sick and those who were in prison, especially those condemned to death. Although the catacombs—underground cemeteries—were originally considered safe, out of respect for the dead, now even they became risky.
One day the persecution became particularly fierce, such that one day no deacons appeared for Mass. So, no one was available to take Holy Communion to the Christians in prison after Mass. Tarcisius volunteered. He was a 12-year-old acolyte—an altar boy—who had experience assisting the deacons on past occasions when they brought the Eucharist to the sick and imprisoned. The bishop asked Tarcisius if he was OK with doing this, and he said “yes,” knowing that it was risky. He also knew that the Roman soldiers would not suspect a young person like Tarcisius. The bishop then wrapped the Sacred Hosts and put them into a little pouch, which Tarcisius carried around his neck as he left.
On the way to the prison, a group of neighborhood boys saw Tarcisius. He knew these boys and as a group they had played their boyhood games and sports together. They approached him, wanting him perhaps to hang out and play with them. Tarcisius clutched the linen pouch containing the Sacred Hosts and told them he was busy.
Seeing that he was carrying something valuable, the boys try to get Tarcisius to show them his little treasure and then to hand it over to them. He refused, holding the pouch even tighter to his chest. One of the boys spouted out: “He is a Christian carrying a mystery.” They then began to taunt him, and call him embarrassing and shameful names. He remained silent.
The gang of boys tried to pry the pouch from his hands, but he resisted with strength that surprised them, who—like a pack of dogs—began to shove and beat Tarcisius with sticks and stones; they then pushed him over and kicked him, while trying to pry the pouch loose from his hands. Tarcisius lost consciousness; but he would not release the pouch.
A Christian soldier heard the commotion. He rescued Tarcisius and carried him back to the catacombs where he died. The dead boy would not release the pouch he was protecting until the priest came and touched his body; then Tarcisius released the pouch containing the precious treasure of the Eucharist. Tarcisius was then buried in the catacombs of St. Callixtus.
Christ told us: “Greater love than this no man has than a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13): Jesus did so for Tarcisius and for all of us. Tarcisius returned the gift by laying down his life for Jesus. May we learn from him to value the Eucharist with our life.
Fr. John Waiss
We have new leadership in the Archdiocese that is directing all of us to become better stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us. For us at St. Mary of the Angels, we have set the goal to put our operations “in the black” by the end of the fiscal year, which comes at the end of June. With the grace of God and your generous help, our parish will reach that goal.
This past year, we made extraordinary progress toward eliminating the parish’s deficit and pay down our South Tower loan ($57,300 remaining). In addition, our parish and school has raised $88,000 for the Fr. Hilary Mahaney Scholarship Fund, half of which will benefit the school this year and half will be set aside to build up this fund for the future. Our portion of the To Teach Who Christ Is account has reached $31,000 to add bathrooms in the church. Also, we have begun to receive rent from Catholic Charities for the use of the old convent, which will help meet our expenses in the coming years. (PS: In August we will publish the full annual report for St. Mary of the Angels).
Yet, as of May 22, we have about $38,000 in the bank to pay $216,000 in outstanding bills for the parish and school. We are behind, in part, due to higher heating costs for the last two brutally cold winters (this year we had to pay $25,000 for heating cost beyond our budget for the 2014 winter and an additional $24,000 beyond what was budgeted for this year’s, 2015, winter). To help us make up the $178,000 difference (=$216,000 – $38,000), we ask you to please consider an extraordinary “Christmas in June” contribution. May God reward you for your ongoing generosity.
Cold and hot weather takes its toll on the finances in other ways as well, as bad weather often causes attendance at Mass to drop off. This means that our Sunday collections go down. Fortunately, God’s generosity does not drop off with the weather, but he continues to pour out his blessings upon us in good weather and in bad. Let’s do the same with our tithe—the gift of the first fruits of our labors. Our gift to God shows our gratitude to him for all the good he has given to us, it acknowledges that he is the number one priority in our lives, and it shows him that we entrust our future wellbeing to his almighty providence.
So, if bad weather, vacations, or other circumstances ever keep you from coming to St. Mary of the Angels and showing your gratitude and trust in God, would you consider online giving, where your contribution is donated automatically from your credit card or checking account. We appreciate those of you who are already doing this.
To set up online giving, go to www.GiveCentral.org and search for St. Mary of the Angels (search on our zip code—60622—for example). Then click away and start giving. If you have any problems, just call the parish office and Maria, Martha, or Gary will give you a hand.
Thank you for your ongoing support in our joint work of evangelization. I keep you all in my prayers and please keep praying for the continual growth of St. Mary of the Angels.
Fr. John Waiss