By Nathan Worcester
Holy Family Parish held its final Masses at the Holy Family Church site on Sunday, June 21, at 9 and 11 a.m.
The new Roman Catholic faith community of Our Lady of the Holy Family is holding its Masses at Notre Dame de Chicago Church at 1334 W. Flournoy St.
“The property where Holy Family Church is located has always belonged to the Jesuit community,” said the Rev. Peter McQuinn, pastor at Our Lady of the Holy Family Parish. “The church building on Roosevelt remains the property of the Jesuit community, who will continue to use it however they see fit; most likely to continue to advance the mission and charism of the Jesuit community in Chicago.
“As part of the Renew My Church initiative of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the former parishes of Holy Family on Roosevelt and Notre Dame de Chicago on Flournoy were both suppressed—a church canonical term for closed—and the two territories were united and a new parish entity created,” said Fr. McQuinn. “When announced in Cardinal [Blasé] Cupich’s official decree of July 2019, the newly created parish was given the fiscal year of 2019-20 to implement the changes, unite the parish offices, transfer sacramental records, create a new Mass and sacramental schedule, and discern a new name for the newly created parish. The discernment process for the parish’s new name formally began during the Christmas season of 2019-20 until the end of the Easter Season in May 2020. Through God’s grace, we completed all the terms and expectations of the Cardinal’s Decree.”
“It was exciting to receive guidelines from the Archdiocese to be able to resume Masses and gather at Holy Family before all operations of the new parish moved to Notre Dame,” said Jim Bruton, who served as coordinator of religious education and pastoral ministry at Holy Family from 2011 to 2019 and then at the merged parish for the past year.
Bruton is leaving the position to pursue a graduate degree. He noted, “[in] some ways it felt very strange—everyone was required to wear a mask and sit spaced apart within the church—and in some ways it felt very familiar—the warmth and tender care that the community has for each other and the exquisite grandeur of the building. It meant so much to all of us who love that worship space to be able to gather for those Masses, especially in light of the pandemic and social unrest we continue to live through.
“Although the Holy Family Church building will no longer be part of the new parish called Our Lady of the Holy Family, that church building that has stood on Roosevelt Road for generations isn’t going away,” Bruton continued. “Although regular Sunday Masses are not currently being held, weddings, baptisms, and funerals will continue to be celebrated there.
I don’t know at this time what the next era of the Holy Family Church building will be, but I know in my heart that there will be a next era. That building is a powerful symbol of perseverance and survival to so many people and is beloved in a way that very few places ever could be.”
Many former Holy Family parishioners expressed frustration that the Archdiocese closed their spiritual home.
“I’m sad about it and disappointed about it,” said Bob Johnson, who served on the Renew My Church committee that helped establish the new parish. “I don’t think anything we would have said mattered—I think the decisions were made already before we opened our mouths.”
Now living in the northwest suburbs, Johnson began attending Holy Family when he lived near 15th and Halsted Streets. He will not join the new parish.
“I’d never run into a church with the energy, the hospitality, the diversity that Holy Family offered,” said Johnson. “That’s gone now. The people at Notre Dame are wonderful. But it becomes a kind of personal thing.”
“I don’t think it went over too well with the parishioners at Notre Dame either,” said Nora Jackson, a member of Holy Family’s longstanding African American community. She noted that, when the pandemic “clears up, I have to make a decision where to go. We have tried so hard to have our faith community really hold out and try to work this out. It angers me, and I don’t need to get angry. You’d have to be a faith builder to come in and bring people together. Because there’s a lot of hurt there.”
“I don’t like to see it as the final Mass,” said Kathy Walton, another longtime Holy Family parishioner who taught in Chicago’s Catholic school system for more than four decades. “When I went to Holy Family 45 years ago, the Jesuits were there. I came from Iowa and grew up in a church that was silent. We were told not to read the Bible, and there were no ministries at all. When I came to Holy Family and the Jesuits were there, they really listened and believed in us and recognized our voices and our gifts and talents. So as a result, we had many ministries, and we had a very diverse community, both racially and economically.
“When I went there, I was totally broken—emotionally, spiritually, psychologically—and it really was Holy Family that healed me,” Walton added. “And the faith community has continued to heal so many.”
Walton was present at Holy Family on June 21. “Because of COVID, a number of people did not come, but there were a number that did, and it was so good to see,” she said.
“I believe that we will have a Mass again at Holy Family in the church,” added Walton, who said she also has a spiritual home at St. Giles Church in Oak Park. “When you think of everything that has gone on and the number of times they had the wrecking ball out…we will survive again. We are networked.”
Others from the combined Notre Dame-Holy Family community felt more positive.
“I understand the reason why it was done,” said Fernando Pedroza, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Holy Family. “In a perfect world, both parishes would have stayed open—but I know that’s not going to happen.”
“There have been a number of new staff members who’ve arrived in the past year who have brought a great deal of energy, dedication, and creativity to their roles, especially during this uncertain time,” said Bruton. “I have confidence in their ability to lead the newly formed parish of Our Lady of the Holy Family toward a promising future.”
In “the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets in the Old Testament, God’s people are often referred to as a remnant people,” wrote Fr. McQuinn. “In many ways, the Catholic Church in Western civilization is just that, a remnant of what she once was. Past generations remember churches with standing room only crowds on Sundays. The Archdiocese of Chicago had over 500 parishes 60 years ago. Five years ago, there were about 365 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. We need only 200.
“The Renew My Church initiative is helping us to live and give witness to our faith honestly, humbly, and realistically. We don’t need 365 parishes. Roughly 20% of all people who self-identify as Roman Catholic practice the faith—that is, go to Sunday Mass—with any regularity. For years, the Archdiocese claimed a Catholic population of over two million yet, in 2018, only 379,168 or 18% came to Mass.
“Our Lady of the Holy Family embraces the invitation of the new evangelization,” Fr. McQuinn continued. “We will focus on giving a vibrant and vital witness to Jesus Christ and his body, the Church through radical hospitality, joyful celebration of Sunday Mass, and the implementation of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The parish food pantry, which used to operate out of the Holy Family Church location, is being moved to the parish property on Flournoy and Ada. The pantry will unite with our Hot Meals to the Homeless ministry, offering a more complete outreach and service to our sisters and brothers in need. The parish property was first developed by French missionaries in the mid-1800s. We have a beautiful, enclosed backyard large enough to celebrate Sunday Mass in the evenings. We hope to develop that area soon and begin outdoor celebrations by the fall.”
“For the longest time, we couldn’t go to the actual churches,” said Pedroza, citing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “It’s a big challenge, but I pray and I hope that, in the end, everything works out.”
While rumors surfaced about holding regular Masses at Holy Family Church, Quentin Maguire, director of communications for Midwest Jesuits, wrote, “To our knowledge, there is not a plan for a regularly scheduled Sunday 9 a.m. (or any other) parish Mass at Holy Family Church. If there were to be a regularly scheduled public Mass at Holy Family Church, it would be authorized by Our Lady of the Holy Family Parish, and coordinated by St. Ignatius College Prep.”
Our Lady of the Holy Family parish currently holds Masses six days weekly: Sunday Masses at 9 and 11 a.m., inside Notre Dame de Chicago Church; Monday Mass at 6 p.m., followed by the Rosary at 6:30 p.m., inside Notre Dame de Chicago Church; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Masses at 8 a.m. in the Harrison Street Chapel, 1335 W. Harrison Street; and Friday Mass at 6 p.m. followed by reconciliation and adoration from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. inside Notre Dame de Chicago Church.
To register to attend Sunday Mass, call or email the parish or register on the parish’s website before 3 p.m. on the Friday prior to Mass. Phone (312) 488-9883 or email OLHFParish@archchicago.org.