The Gothic Revival Church, Convent and Rectory on 31st and Aberdeen Streets have served the community of Bridgeport for over 110 years, first as a Parish of the Immaculate Conception and, since 1991, as a Monastery of the Holy Cross.
And the buildings will likely be preserved even longer, as a city commission voted last Thursday to recommend that city council grant the structures monument status.
It’s the right move – prompted by the monks themselves who have applied for landmark status for the complex – that will protect a solid piece of religious architecture in the neighborhood that once belonged to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. .
This should be the fate of the wealth of churches currently owned by the Archdiocese of Chicago that the accounts are currently closed as part of the Archdiocese’s Renew My Church initiative.
But after padlocking one large building after another since 2016 as part of a church consolidation program, the Archdiocese has been pretty much silent on what will happen to those structures.
It shouldn’t be. It is a practice that must end.
Although the churches belong to the Archdiocese – and we sympathize with their financial difficulties – the practical reality is that the buildings belong to all of us.
And because of this, the Archdiocese has a responsibility to do better with these buildings.
The architectural beauty of the city under threat
The Archdiocese launched its Renew My Church initiative in 2016 and began closing and consolidating churches in response to a drastically reduced membership.
It is difficult to know exactly how many churches have been closed. A spokesperson for the archdiocese did not respond to repeated requests for information.
But the churches that have been closed are some of the most beautiful structures in the city.
For example, Corpus Christi Church, a 120-year-old Italian Revival beauty located at 49th Street and King Drive with a dazzling coffered ceiling, closed in June.
St. Ignatius Church, 6559 N. Glenwood Ave., a limestone building with a majestic entrance marked by six elegant Corinthian columns, celebrated its last regular mass earlier this month after 113 years.
The closures concern the conservatives because the archdiocese did not hesitate to swing the ball of the wrecker on unused churches.
The picturesque St. James Catholic Church, 2942 S. Wabash Ave, was demolished in 2013 after 133 years of service.
The Church of St. John of God, 1234 W. 52nd St., was demolished in 2011, although its limestone facade was stripped and rebuilt in a new church near Antioch, Illinois.
Preservation Chicago Group is so scared for the future of the city’s historic Catholic Church buildings that it included them as a theme for the organization’s 2019 List of the 7 most endangered buildings in Chicago.
“This is nothing less than a tragedy, affecting entire communities and towns across the country,” said Preservation Chicago – which helped the monks of Bridgeport research and compile the historical information used in their successful historic offer.
“After all, these buildings and parishes are more than religious centers, but also community centers hosting neighborhood meetings, pantries, day care centers, family and addiction counseling, educational institutions and centers. warming in bad weather, âthe group said.
Archdiocese must work to reuse buildings
The archdiocese, however, was unwilling to work with curators and community groups to find new uses for these buildings.
Landmarks Illinois in 2016 contacted the Archdiocese to help preserve St. Adelbert at Twin Towers, 1650 W. 17th. The church is still standing, but the preservation group said its openness to the archdiocese “has never been answered.”
Considering the architectural significance and beauty of the buildings and their contribution to the history of the city, the Archdiocese should follow the example of the Monastery of the Holy Cross and become the protector of these structures – and advocate for their preservation and reuse.
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