April 22, 2012
‘This to me is a miracle on Iowa Street’
Volunteers distribute food to neighborhood residents March 2 at Kelly Hall, a center it shares with the YMCA and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Our Lady of the Angels Mission sponsors a food giveaway the first Saturday of every month.
Kelly Hall YMCA.
During the food giveaways, volunteers and the Franciscan Sisters take turns spending time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The mission plans to offer 24-hour eucharistic adoration in the church sometime in the future.
Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Bob Lombardo celebrates Mass March 2 in the rectory. His dog Liberty keeps watch outside the chapel.
Cardinal George accepts the gifts during Mass from Christine and Emil Lombardo, the parents of Franciscan Father Bob Lombardo, director of Our Lady of the Angels Mission. The rededication Mass for the church was held April 14.
From left, Sister Alicia Torres, Father Bob Lombardo, Alan Solowski, Eric Futterer, Sisters Kate O'Leary and Stephanie Baliga stand before an image of Mary at the end of Mass. They placed roses on the altar before Mary in thanksgiving for her intercession in the mission's work.
Servers Kyle Lee and Jamie Mueller prepare the altar during the Mass. Bishops Raymond Goedert and Alberto Rojas sit to the right of Cardinal George.
Volunteers, supporters and friends filled Our Lady of the Angels Church for the rededication Mass.
After 22 years, Our Lady of the Angels Church is back in business. Friends, benefactors and alumni of Our Lady of the Angels School or Parish packed the pews at 3808 W. Iowa St., April 14 for a 4:30 p.m. Mass where Cardinal George rededicated the historic church.
The archdiocese closed the church in 1990 after the Catholic population in West Humboldt Park dwindled. Two doors down from the church is the site of a tragic school fire that on Dec. 1, 1958 claimed the lives of 92 children and three religious sisters.
The event was heralded as a positive sign for the neighborhood, which is plagued with drug trafficking and gang violence.
Today, the neighborhood is marked by “deathbringing activities” but “the neighborhood is good,” Cardinal George said during his homily.
It is a gift from God that the church and the other buildings were restored and ministry to the community started.
“The word that this historic church speaks now is peace,” he said.
Some survivors of the fire attended the Mass along with alumni of Our Lady of the Angels School.
Judy Kurczewski graduated from the school in 1956 and attended the rededication Mass with three other former classmates.
Kurczewski said she was baptized in the parish and hasn’t been back to the church in more than 50 years.
“It brought back a lot of memories just being here,” she said. “You can still feel the spirit of the congregation here.”
Seven years ago, when Cardinal George asked Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Bob Lombardo to minister at the mission most of the buildings were in a serious state of disrepair. Lombardo reached out to anyone he could think of — including alumni of his alma mater the University of Notre Dame — and God sent volunteers and donors to help repair the buildings and establish ministries at the mission.
The church was the last building to be renovated following the rectory, the Kelly Hall YMCA and the convent, which houses people on retreat, volunteers and members of the new Franciscan community started at Our Lady of the Angels.
Members of Chicago unions donated their skills on the convent and church. Others donated their time and money.
“Now we can see how God has blessed our efforts,” Lombardo told a packed church at the end of Mass. “This, to me, is a miracle on Iowa Street.”
The church will be a mission not a parish, which means there will be no catechetical programs or advertised Masses. There will be Masses and liturgies for mission functions — such as for retreats or for volunteer groups — along with opportunities for prayer and praise sessions for the community. Lombardo said they also hope to expand their food program into the church’s finished basement. The food programs at Kelly Hall will continue as well.
At Kelly Hall, which reopened in January 2009, the mission partners with the YMCA to offer tutoring, a basketball league, chastity group and other programs, including offerings for seniors. The Greater Chicago Food Depository also partners with the mission at Kelly Hall and they serve around 700 families a month.
Lombardo said they will also establish 24-hour eucharistic adoration in the church. Volunteers will be needed for these different endeavors.
For more information, visit www.missionola.com.