PILSEN—After more than a century in Pilsen, St. Ann Catholic Church will officially end Mass services this month.
The ending of St. Ann’s services comes more than two years after the Archdiocese of Chicago first announced plans to merge six Pilsen churches into three.
Anne Maselli, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, confirmed in an email that Mass services at St. Ann’s, 1840 S. Leavitt St., will conclude at the end of this month. A new use for the church building has not been identified.
“The Archdiocese will be exploring how the church space may be best utilized for the benefit of the Pilsen community,” Maselli said.
While the future of the St. Ann Church is still being determined, St. Ann School will “continue on as it always has. No changes to the school are being made,” she added.
Mona Sanchez, 58, who grew up down the street from St. Ann, has been attending the church with her family since she can remember.
“It’s sad that they are closing the church,” Sanchez said. “We’ve been coming here all our lives. We wish they would keep it open but I get their point about attendance being low.”
“Over the years, there has been fewer people coming to church,” Sanchez added. “It’s mostly older people now, not as many young kids.”
Martha Fonseca, 50, who was baptized, received her First Communion and was confirmed at the church, said the church’s closing will burden elderly parishioners of the parish.
“What about the elderly?” Fonseca said. “How are they going to get to St. Paul? They can’t walk.”
St. Ann’s Catholic Church opened in the Pilsen neighborhood in 1903. In June 2016, The Archdiocese announced the church would be merged with St. Paul, 2127 W. 22nd Place, as part of a reconfiguration.
The Archdiocese of Chicago cited changing demographics, low Mass attendance and a decline in the number of priests as reasons for the merger.
Two other Pilsen churches were targeted for closure as part of the merger. St. Procopius, 1640 S. Allport St., ended Mass services last summer and was merged with Providences of God, 717 W. 18th St. St. Adalbert Catholic Church was set to close due to the high costs of repairing its 185-foot towers in 2016, but Masses continue today at the site.
The Archdiocese of Chicago began collecting a head count of Mass attendance during the month of October in 1986. In that year, the head count for St. Ann Church was 935—”the highest its been since then,” Maselli said.
“There may have been higher counts prior to 1986, but we do not have that information,” she added.
The number of Masses at the church decreased after the merge, and the most recent count from October 2017 was 228.
In April, Pilsen resident Alex Acedevo and other parishioners set up a “Save Saint Ann” Facebook page in an effort to mobilize the St. Ann community and prevent the Archdiocese from selling the property.
Acevedo said there still may be an opportunity to save the church but it would require people to fill pews at the parish.
“If you want to help save St. Ann, you have to go to church,” he said. “You can scream and shout, and try to create a social media revolution but nothing can save it unless you’re physically present.”