LOGAN SQUARE — Margo Dumelle recalls hot summer days lounging on chairs across from St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church in Pilsen.
She has fond memories of her youth at the church and on the block where her family has lived for more than 109 years. While she no longer lives nearby, Dumelle said 17th Street remains home, and the church remains a vital part of her family’s history.
Her grandfather laid the “final brick on one of the towers,” and her parents were instrumental in fighting to keep the church opened after the Archdiocese of Chicago threatened to close the church in the 1970s.
For the past two years, Dumelle has been working alongside parishioners and community members in the Mexican and Polish community to save the church as it faces an uncertain future.
Now, Dumelle and other board members of the Society of St. Adalbert said, they are racing against the clock to save the church from being sold.
The Polish-led organization, consisting of former board members of the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, held an emergency meeting Thursday at St. Hyacinth Basilica Parish Hall, 3635 W. George St. in Logan Square, to raise awareness and pledges to purchase the church.
During the community meeting, Dumelle rallied a room of roughly 100 Polish community members to support a plan to convert the convent at 1650 W. 17th St. into a bed and breakfast.
“This is a plan that financially will provide for the future. It has really good cash flow, bring many jobs to the community,” Dumelle said.
The group presented the idea to repurpose the convent into a B&B hotel to the Archdiocese of Chicago last summer and has been working to raise pledges to make an offer for the church. If their plan works, the group aims to repair the church and maintain the sanctuary as a religious shrine.
Board Member Julie Sawicki said the bed and breakfast would generate enough money to cover the maintenance, community programming and provide jobs for neighbors.
“We can keep [the entire property] together, all we have to do is repurpose the convent and position it as our primary revenue generator,” said Sawicki, who is a real estate broker. “This will give us the income we need and rely on every single month.”
The group knows the $1 million likely isn’t enough to buy and repair the property, but it’s a start.
“We need way more than $1 million in pledges, but it shows the archdiocese that we have some funds available to start this project and we have the support with the community,” Sawicki said.
Church back up for sale soon
The archdiocese confirmed to Block Club Chicago that it hired SVN Chicago Commercial to find a buyer for the property.
The archdiocese will be seeking a range of potential buyers for the church, archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli said.
Maselli did not say whether the million dollar pledge being sought by the organization would be enough to secure the property.
“The parish is intent on an open process that provides an opportunity for any group to participate and put forth a proposal for the re-purposing of the St. Adalbert property.”
“Any decision regarding the future of the church and property will reflect the goals and needs of the parish and parishioners, the property’s architecture and history, its impact on the local community, and the viability of any new owner’s plans to address the significant costs necessary to repair and maintain the church and property,” Maselli said.
The archdiocese is not currently seeking proposals for St. Ann or Providence of God churches in Pilsen, both of which have ended regular Mass services, Maselli added.
This is not the first time the archdiocese has tried to sell the St. Adalbert church building. In November 2016, the archdiocese confirmed that the Chicago Academy of Music was under contract to buy the church property. That deal later fell through, Maselli confirmed last month.
St. Adalbert was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants, and the current church building was built in 1912 at 1650 W. 17th St. The church was known for hosting a weekly Mass in English and Spanish and a monthly Mass in Polish.
During Thursday’s community meeting, Anina Jakubowski expressed concerns about the viability of the plan but emphasized the need to save the church.
Jakubowski, whose mother, Mathilda, fought to keep the church open in the 1970s, was frustrated with the situation, highlighting the sweat and money that the Polish immigrant community put into building the church.
“We shouldn’t have to buy our church back, we built it,” Jakubowski said.
If sold, the church would be a huge loss to the Polish, Mexican and the greater Catholic community, she said.
Dumelle echoed Jakubowski’s thoughts and the loss the church would have on the community.
“When you have a church, it is the heart of a community,” Dumelle said. “To remove [the church] it puts a great wound in the community.”