It was an emotional Sunday at one of Chicago’s oldest parishes, as Holy Family parish was informed this week that it will be merged with another church as part of a restructuring plan undertaken by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
At Sunday’s mass, parishioners, as well as the church’s pastor, asked the Archdiocese for a second chance, and signed a large petition to ask for just that.
“They’re causing more suspicion among one another, (and) downright hostility, and this change is not going to help people trust one another, but rather to distrust,” Father Michael Gabriel said during the mass.
The church, which survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and has had close calls before, will merge with Notre Dame de Chicago under the new plan. Masses will no longer be held at the church after July 1, according to the plan.
On Sunday, parishioners signed a petition that covered the entire altar, asking Cardinal Blasé Cupich to keep Holy Family open on Sunday mornings.
The petition also included the following letter:
We, the people of Holy Family parish, wish you to know that we embrace the opportunity to renew our church as Holy Family and Notre Dame de Chicago unite to form a new parish on the near west side of Chicago.
On Wednesday, January. 23, 2019, Holy Family parishioners were dismayed and quite frustrated to learn that the Sunday morning liturgy at Holy Family would be discontinued as part of the merger.
We the undersigned prayerfully request that you please reconsider this decision and allow Holy Family to continue its Sunday morning Mass.
We write to you as Catholics of the Church of Chicago—people of every age, race, national and ethnic origin, and life circumstance.
Our commonality is in our shared faith in Christ and the loving and nurturing community we have experienced at Holy Family Church.
We write seeking to engage in respectful dialogue with you as Shepherd of the Church of Chicago, to express to you what this place of worship means to us and to the many generations of faithful who have found their spiritual home within these walls since founding pastor Rev. Arnold Damen, S.J. opened it in 1860.
We realize that you’ve been at Holy Family on numerous public occasions, but please consider coming to our 9:45 a.m. Sunday morning liturgy and experience it yourself.
During this week’s presentation both Father Jason Malave and Bishop Robert Casey admitted that though they were making major decisions for Holy Family parish, neither had experienced the vitality found at Mass here, nor had they ever seen the diversity, the warmth, the welcoming, found in this beautiful, historical church which has been fully restored to service through contributions by parishioners and people across the U.S. and around the world.
As Jesus himself said--Come and See.
All we ask is to keep one Sunday Mass at Holy Family. It is not Sunday morning unless “Our Doors Are Open Wide.”
After the service, churchgoers spoke candidly about their hopes for a modern-day miracle, as they try to save the church that they love.
“We want to serve the community that comes here, the most diverse community in the whole city, and we just want that to continue,” Tom Justic said.
Archdiocese Spokesman Anne Maselli later said “Holy Family Church is not closing. Holy Family Parish and Notre Dame Parish are uniting... but all Sunday morning Masses will be at Notre Dame Church.”
As for the petition signed by parishioners Sunday, “the Archdiocese is committed to working with Holy Family parishioner to address their concerns and spiritual needs."