Renew My Church Groupings

As you know, many churches and Catholic schools have been struggling to adapt to changes that have occurred in our church and society in recent years, including severe demographic changes and fewer priests. To meet these challenges, Cardinal Cupich has launched the Renew My Church initiative to ensure the future and sustainability of our parishes and schools. It seeks to inspire more vibrant Catholic disciples and communities who can carry on the mission for which Christ came into the world.

Some History of St. Mary of the Angels Church

In our almost 120-year history, St. Mary of the Angels has seen many such changes: in 1960 the Kennedy Expressway wiped out a third of the parish households. This was followed by a decline in the neighborhood, when the majority of the Polish families had moved out. This led to the decline of attendance and income; with the loss of sustainability, St. Mary of the Angels church buildings went into disrepair and the parish almost closed 29 years ago.

New vibrancy came to St. Mary of the Angels when in 1991the parish was entrusted to the priests of Opus Dei, who had the charism of encouraging ordinary Catholics to seek holiness and to evangelize their world through their ordinary life. This brought new parishioners from outside the parish boundaries. Loyal parishioners welcomed this and worked together repaired, reopened, and restored the church. In these last 26 years, our school and parish programs have increased in number and effectiveness.

Every Catholic Parish

In more recent years, the whole Archdiocese has experience this demographic challenge, as there are not enough church-goers to sustain all our churches. In addition, many parishes lack resources to carry out their evangelizing mission effectively. That is why Cardinal Cupich has asked every Catholic parish and school in the Archdiocese to participate in Renew My Church.

This process begins by bringing parishes together in discernment groupings. Much thought, study, and discussion went into formulate the parish groupings over the last year. Of the 24 Catholic churches within a 2.1 mile radius of St. Mary of the Angels, our parish and school has been grouped with 5 others: St. Aloysius, Holy Trinity Polish Mission, St. Hedwig, St. John Cantius, and St. Stanislaus Kostka (parish and school).

The active process of discerning the needs of our parishioners and the evangelization possibilities won’t begin until some later date—to be determined. An archdiocesan team will facilitate this discernment process. They have already begun with two pilot groupings to make sure that the Archdiocese has the proper resources for the success of this initiative.

What Will This Mean for St. Mary of the Angels?

The quick answer to this question is: we don’t know. It really is not the right question. We need to think of: What will this mean for the Catholic Church in Chicago? Renew My Church means that all parishes will be more vibrant and effective in their mission. It also means that all parishes will have the resources and priests needed to be sustainable.

Just as St. Mary of the Angels successfully faced the challenges of the new Bucktown demographics and changes in our society and church 25 years ago, now we are called to do the same for the broader Catholic community. Not only do we have much experience to share with other parishes, we can offer them hope of a successful outcome of an uncertain process.

Please continue to pray for St. Mary of the Angels and for the welfare of all Catholics and Catholic institutions as we support one another during this time of renewal and growth.

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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