Parishioners petition cardinal to save Sunday services at historic church

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CHICAGO — An archdiocese plan to restructure several parishes would eliminate Sunday morning mass at Holy Family Church on the Near West Side, but many parishioners in the city's second-oldest church are praying for a second chance.

Parishioners at Holy Family Parish were told this week that their church would be merged with nearby Notre Dame as part of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s restructuring plan. The plan would also eliminate Sunday morning mass at Holy Family, a tradition for many.

“That mass gets going, and then people go around and shake hands with each other, I mean it’s just amazing,” parishioner Joseph Lane said.

Holy Family Church survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and escaped the wrecking ball in the 1990s. Now the faithful are hoping for one more miracle.

As parishioners came to their feet, mass felt more like a rally Sunday, complete with a petition sprawled across the alter. Hundreds signed, making an appeal to Cardinal Blase Cupich, asking him not to eliminate the mass after the merger.

“The problem seems to be similar to what’s happening in Washington where nobody wants to compromise. This is a very simple compromise. All they have to do is save the 9:45 mass,” parishioner Tom Justic said.

Some say the moves of the archdiocese administration are sparking resentment at a time when the Catholic Church needs renewal. Life-long parishioner Tony Palos says the elimination of Sunday mass would be a sad chapter for one of the city’s most resilient places.

“They want to renew the church? Well, this 9:45 mass has more vitality than all the other masses and this is the one they’re getting rid of?” Palos said.

Preservation Chicago Executive director Ward Miller is also a parishioner. He says the building has been preserved, but the spirit inside must also be saved.

“It’s a remarkable building as we all know – the second oldest in the city,” Miller said. “These buildings belong, they were built by the faithful and given to the archdiocese to maintain, staff and shepherd.”

The merger with Notre Dame is set for July 1, 2019, after which the Sunday morning mass would be eliminated. Parishioners like Mary Beth and Dick Klarich say they’re losing not only a liturgy, but also a little part of their lives.

WGN asked the archdiocese for a comment, but did not receive a response as of Sunday night.

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