ROGERS PARK — A Catholic Church founded by the Jesuit order that formed Loyola University will soon close and merge with nearby parishes.
St. Ignatius at 6559 N. Glenwood Ave. will close next year, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Friday. Its services and congregants will split between two nearby parishes: St. Gertrude, 1420 W. Granville Ave., and St. Jerome, 1709 W. Lunt Ave.
The merger will be completed by July 1, marking the end of a 113-year-old Rogers Park parish that predates Loyola’s presence in the neighborhood.
The closure of St. Ignatius calls into question the future of the church campus, which includes a church, adjoining rectory and school building.
The church is just blocks west from Loyola University’s campus, and it is even closer to the Loyola Station development the school has built on Sheridan Road.
While the real estate may be prime for development, neighbors and church leaders are hoping to keep the campus as a faith-based service center affiliated with Loyola.
The archdiocese has granted a local committee a year to assess the feasibility of starting a Jesuit ministry at the campus, potentially ensuring it remains a benefit to Rogers Park, said Deacon Chris Murphy, the pastoral coordinator at St. Ignatius and Loyola’s director of staff mission and formation.
“There are needs in the Rogers Park community,” said Murphy, who is also Loyola’s faculty chaplain. “The hope is we can found a real mission center based in our faith.”
The merger is part of the Catholic Church’s Renew My Church effort, which seeks to address declining church attendance and thinning financial resources by consolidating parishes.
St. Ignatius was formed by the local Jesuit order, which bought the lakeshore land bounded by Devon Avenue, Sheridan Road and Pratt Boulevard in 1906.
That same year, Jesuits began work on the first St. Ignatius Church, which opened in 1907 at 6435 N. Sheridan Road, according to the Rogers Park West Ridge Historical Society.
In 1922, the Jesuits moved Loyola University from the current home of St. Ignatius College Prep in University Village to its lakeshore campus in Rogers Park.
To make way for the university, St. Ignatius Church moved to Glenwood Avenue in 1917, inhabiting a classical Roman church that has protections under the city’s historical survey.
In 1993, St. Ignatius grammar school closed and merged with Northside Catholic Academy.
St. Ignatius has been home to many of Rogers Park’s Catholic immigrants. But in recent years, demographic trends in Rogers Park and Edgewater, especially a loss in the Latino population, have hurt church attendance, according to the local committee tasked with forming a merger plan.
Merging the three parishes into two will fortify the church against future demographic changes, plus help it better address the neighborhood’s changing needs, according to the committee members.
“As a united community, we could better respond to these changes,” the committee wrote in a report on the state of the local parishes.
Ignatius, St. Jerome and St. Gertrude were grouped together in the Renew My Church program because of their proximity. The archdiocese opted to close Ignatius, located between Jerome and Gertrude, and split the local congregations along a north-sound boundary.
Loyola previously was considering buying Ignatius’ school building for reuse as dorms, but the pandemic’s financial impact on the university put a halt to those plans, according to Renew My Church documents.
The university and the Jesuit community are interested in establishing an outreach center that could provide religious and social services at St. Ignatius, Murphy said. A Loyola spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
St. Ignatius had a food pantry and adult bilingual religious services that could be run out of the ministry, Murphy said. Loyola, whose nursing program has done outreach programs at St. Ignatius, could also run programs out of the church campus. The local Jesuit community could use it for ministry work.
The group that is exploring the ministry idea will expand its search to see if other community groups would partner on the venture, Murphy said.
Any sale of St. Ignatius real estate or assets would benefit St. Jerome and St. Gertrude, according to the archdiocese. But many neighbors and parishioners are hoping it doesn’t come to that, Murphy said.
“There’s a lot we could do,” he said. “The hope is … can we build something that is more than condos or townhomes?”