PILSEN — After parishioners fought for three years to save a beloved church in Pilsen, the Archdiocese of Chicago will hold its final mass at St. Adalbert Catholic Church next month.
The archdiocese announced Sunday that the church, located at 1650 W. 17th St., would hold its final service on Sunday, July 14. The following day, the church will cease to be a “sacred space and may not be used for worship,” Archdiocese of Chicago officials said in a statement.
St. Adalbert was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants, and the current church building was built in 1912.
In 2016, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced it would consolidate six Pilsen churches into three. As part of the merger, St. Adalbert would close immediately, while Providence of God, 717 W. 18th St., and St. Ann’s, 1840 S. Leavitt St., would become worship sites for other parishes in the neighborhood before ultimately ending regular church services.
They cited changing demographics, low Mass attendance and a decline in the number of priests as reasons for the reconfiguration.
St. Adalbert would close because it needed more than $3 million in repairs to fix the church’s 185-foot towers, the archdiocese said at the time. They have been surrounded by scaffolding for years.
For the past three years, parishioner have fought to keep the church open.
The church holds particular significance for the Polish community, whose ancestors built the church more than a century ago, and for the Mexican parishioners who have long called the church home, Society of St. Adalbert board member Julie Sawicki said.
“Our ancestors built it, not just for the Polish community but for the entire Catholic community, including the Mexican community who now live in Pilsen,” Sawicki said. “We built it and the Mexican community helped sustain it.”
“I think a lot of people think it’s just masses,” Blanca Torres, a parishioner and Pilsen native told Block Club in June 2018. “It’s a lot more than that. You make a community with your church. It’s your network of people, it’s your support system.”
“When you lose those anchors, you lose those community ties, you lose that sense of togetherness,” she said.
In September, the archdiocese put the property up for sale for a second time, hiring SVN Chicago Commercial to find a buyer. In the posting listed by SVN Chicago Commercial, the church’s iconic towers were listed as “perfect penthouse units.”
Earlier this month, SVN Vice President Angelo Labriola declined to comment on whether the church property had sold. An archdiocese official did not answer questions about the property’s sale Monday morning.
Archdiocese officials previously said they were considering several proposals for the property and aimed to be “sensitive to the desires of the community and other constituent groups,” according to the statement.
3-year battle to save St. Adalbert
The consolidation announcement was met with protests and eventually an appeal by the St. Adalbert Preservation Society to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, the Catholic Church’s highest court.
In 2015, parishioners launched a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $3 million to restore its 185 feet-tall towers.
In March 2016, St. Adalbert received a huge donation from a parishioner who died, but church officials said it wasn’t enough to offset future maintenance costs and a declining number of Catholic parishioners.
In the appeal, parishioners argued the archdiocese’s planned sale of the church to Chicago Academy of Music at the time violated canon law. They also argued the parish maintained a strong community with no financial problems.
At some point, the deal to sell the church building to the Chicago Academy of Music fell through. “The contract with Chicago Academy of Music was terminated in 2017,” an archdiocese previously told Block Club.
St. Adalbert has appeared on Preservation Chicago’s most endangered buildings several times since 2015.
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