PILSEN — Altars that have stood at the entrance of the former St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church for more than a year were vandalized this week in Pilsen.
Instead of neatly manicured altars with flowers and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and St. Adalbert at the former church at 1650 W. 17th St., neighbors and former parishioners found the alters in disarray Tuesday morning.
Images of the religious figures were ripped from the walls, flowers and plants were strewn along the sidewalk and the Polish and Mexican flags were ripped from their post and left on the ground, Judy Vázquez said.
Vázquez, a Pilsen resident and former parishioner, was in “shock” to see the space in such “disarray,” especially since people have prayed in front of the church at least twice a week since it was deconsecrated last year.
The vandals also damaged three cars parked in front of the church, Vázquez said.
Vázquez called police, who told the group a formal report could not be made since the vandalism happened in a public place. The officer urged them to reach out to Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), she said.
Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Sigcho-Lopez said his office was looking into the vandalism.
A spokesperson from the Archdiocese of Chicago said they had not been made aware of the incident.
Former parishioners have prayed at the steps of the church multiple times per week since it was closed in July 2019. The group, along with Sigcho-Lopez, has worked to preserve the church from becoming converted into condos like St. Ann, another church in Pilsen.
After the discovery, Vázquez and neighbors spent four hours cleaning up the debris and trying to fix one of the altars to prepare the space for an evening gathering.
Vázquez said the former church is still an important and symbolic place for many residents.
“What we have here is so beautiful. We are bringing community together,” she said.
That’s why the destruction of the altars felt so personal to so many residents, she said, adding, “Where’s the compassion, love and humanity?”
Julie Sawicki, president of the Society of St. Adalbert, said the vandalism is “devastating.”
“Whoever did this clearly doesn’t understand what this church means to a lot of people,” Sawicki said. “Even though we can’t worship inside the church, we have prayer vigils outside the church.
“For us, this is all sacred. This is hurtful and painful to see.”
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