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
Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, for the birth of the Messiah, the Immanuel—God with us—the Incarnate Word of God. This week we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is how God prepared Mary to receive the child Jesus on the first Christmas.
The Immaculate Conception is the dogma that says that Mary was conceived without sin. The concepts “without” and “sin” are negative concepts. Sin is the lack of a right relationship with God. This means the statement, “Mary was conceived without sin,” doesn’t say anything positive about her. Yet Scripture puts this double negative into the positive: that Mary was conceived with a good healthy relationship with God, that she was conceived as His “highly favored” daughter. In other words, that she was conceived “full of grace” (Luke 1:28,30).
Some people object to praising Mary in this way, saying that she should not be treated as an exception: she is just like the rest of us sinful creatures in need of a Messiah. But is Mary the anomaly or are we?
God also conceived Adam and Eve immaculate: when God created them, he saw what he had created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31); they even walked with God in the Garden of Eden as they had a good, healthy relationship with God. God granted them this grace so that they could fulfill their mission of parents of the human race. He would have granted this grace to all of us, had Adam and Eve not sinned. So sin created an anomaly in God’s original plan.
Yet Mary is more blessed than any woman: “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42). God blessed Mary more than he did Eve, whom he conceived without sin. Therefore it doesn’t surprise us that God prepared Mary for her more lofty mission—to be mother of the Messiah—conceiving her without sin and preserving her of all sin: “even as he chose [Mary] in him before the foundation of the world, that [she] should be holy and immaculate before him” (Ephesians 1:4).
God wants the same for each one of us. He wants us to be able to receive the Child Jesus on Christmas “holy and immaculate.” So, a good way to prepare for Christmas this Advent is to rid ourselves of sin by making a good examination of conscience and then a good confession.
Perhaps it could also be good to identify those areas in our lives where we can improve: triggers that provoke our anger or selfishness. For example, when something is not in the place where we expected it to be, do we get angry and start blaming other people? Perhaps we need to be more detached from our things and realize that they are there to help us serve others and make their lives happier.
Another example is when I am tired and want to rest—perhaps in that moment someone wants help or needs some attention from me. Do I get irritated and annoyed, and then show it in my response to them? Perhaps I need to warn the others when I’m tired: “Hey, folks, I’m tired and you know how any little thing will set me off when I’m this way… I just want to warn you.” It is amazing that such a “warning,” an act of humility, can strengthen us not to get annoyed and upset when things don’t go our way. Also, if we do lose it, we will be quicker to apologize: “Hey, I’m sorry. It’s not you but me.” Then everyone can move on and serve each other without resentments!
Let us ask Our Lady, then, to purify us of sin this Advent through a good confession and by taking steps to distance ourselves from every little thing that leads to sin.
Fr. John R. Waiss
Jesus Christ is our King the “image of the invisible God,” who makes God’s presence visible to us while ruling the Catholic Church. Through our baptism and confirmation, we all share in Christ’s kingship, priesthood, and prophetic witness, but his sacred ministers do so in a special
Christ came to rule his church, which he governs visibly through the bishops, with his priests and deacons. Deacons have a special sharing in Christ’s prophetic role with God-given authority to visibly proclaim and explain God’s word. In addition, priests offer the visible sacrifice of the Holy Mass and apply this sin-offering in the sacrament of Reconciliation. The bishops do all that but also visibly rule and govern that portion of the Church entrusted to them.
Here in Chicago, Archbishop Cupich visibly re-presents to us Christ the King. Just as fathers and mothers share Christ’s kingship by ruling the family, making sure that their children get to Mass and Confession, and get their catechetical instruction, so too Archbishop Cupich governs the Church in Lake and Cook Counties to make sure all the Catholic faithful can receive the sacraments—the Mass, Reconciliation, Baptism, Marriage, the Anointing…—and the religious formation they need to fulfill their vocation to holiness. The bishop does this principally by ordaining priests and deacons, whom he assigns to parishes, schools, and hospitals.
In exercising his duties to care for the spiritual welfare of Chicago Catholics, Archbishop Cupich is leading us on a renewal—titled Renew My Church—to take up “that mission as disciples with fresh vigor and enthusiasm.” In doing so, he is reminding us that Christ reigns as king from the Cross, and that he calls us to share in this work—which is his work, not ours. To join Christ will involve “a dying, a leaving behind old patterns and pathways that have made us comfortable and even complacent.”
As a member of the College of Cardinals, Archbishop Cupich has taking on a greater share of the universal governance of the Roman Catholic Church. He is asking us too to become more “catholic” or universal, to “move beyond a view of Church that is defined only by “my parish,” or “my needs,” to one that includes the good of the entire Church of Chicagoland.” The first step, grouping parishes, is almost finished. Shortly we will come together to evaluate the needs of Catholics in the broader area of our group. The Archdiocese is putting together a team to facilitate this dialogue, giving us the demographic data and other “signs of the times” to aid in making recommendation for meeting the real spiritual needs with the limited resources now at our disposal.
Renew My Church involves some dying—some parishes will combine, as did those in the West Humboldt Park grouping or some may even closed—yet if each one of us, like the Good Thief, die alongside Christ we can hope for the Resurrection: “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Renew My Church has the “potential of having an historic and transformative impact on each of our lives and the entire Church.” Its success will be measured by “how it leaves us more united as a Church – united across racial, political, ethnic and social lines… to make sure that no one feels left behind but all are included.”
Pope Francis reminded us Catholics in the United States:
“One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life” (Homily, September 26, 2015).
With immense hope we pray that Christ will inflame Chicago Catholics with a greater love for him, for their Faith, and for the souls of their neighbor. St. Mary of the Angels, pray for us!
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
Love is key to building community so as to Renew My [Christ’s] Church. Love is what attracts people to Christ, because Christ incarnates God’s love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God is ontological love and—as made in God image and likeness—love is part of our ontological makeup—love goes to the deepest root of our being, as Pope St. John Paul II reminds us:
“Only a person can love and only a person can be loved. This statement is primarily ontological in nature, and it gives rise to an ethical affirmation. Love is an ontological and ethical requirement of the person. The person must be loved, since love alone corresponds to what the person is. This explains the commandment of love… placed by Christ at the very center of the Gospel ‘ethos,’” (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women—Mulieris Dignitatem 29).
Key to love is learning to listen. When we truly listen to another we are saying to that he/she is important to us. When people get the impression that we are not listening to them—that we are not receptive… that we don’t love them just as they are—then they will turn away to someone or something that will. If children get the impression that mom and dad aren’t listening to them, then they turn to TV, Internet, music, and peers… They look for affirmation outside the family by people who often hold values contrary to their family.
Jesus was always listening. He listened to his apostles, even when they said foolish things or argued about who was the greatest (for example, John 14:1-14 and Matthew 18:1-4). Jesus listened to the Samaritan woman at the well, even when she had no time for him (see John 4:4-44). He listened to the Syrophoenician woman who had no right to speak to him (Mark 7:24-30) and in his listening openness insisted on letting little children come to him (Mark 10:13-16).
We need to listen and value the voice of millennials and all persons we wish to invite to the Church. One-on-one conversations are the most effective, but perhaps we can foster this by creating surveys and forums to invite their feedback and participation. Midtown and Metro have invited many millennials to their advisory board, giving them opportunities to make a real difference.
When we love, listen with love, and invite those outside to share in the mission of the Church we build community. This grows the Church. But our love needs to be unconditional, which means we need to listen even when the message seems negative. Although this is not easy—to hear messages that seem to say we have failed—if we love and listen then we can invite the other person to join us in finding a solution, as Jesus did with the rich lad (see Mark 10:17-21). This becomes a win-win proposition: our loving listening can draw out an invested response, or the person just goes away sad with no more complaints (Mark 10:22).
If we listen to their complaint and we ask them to help, then if they don’t they are responsible for the problem by their lack of generosity. Most millennials will appreciate the challenge, not pandering to them as kids. Not letting them take responsibility depreciates our love for and value of them.
So, let us develop a listening love, one the welcomes all into this community of love we seek to build.
Fr. John R. Waiss