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Added May 14 2018

Anyone have any update abouts what's going on with Bridgeport Churches and Schools merging?

  • emj1900 bp

    Haven't heard a peep.....

  • Sad, I heard there might be some catholic schools closing. This can impact schools in Bridgeport, Canaryville and Chinatown.

  • The initiative is called "Renew My Church." This is a result of several factors, including the declining number of available pastors, declining enrollment and revenue, and increasing expenses (especially in building costs). As a result, it is necessary to consolidate where it is possible.

    All of the churches in the cluster in Bridgeport, Canaryville, and Chinatown have been deliberating over the past year. They have looked at Archdiocese proposed scenarios, and have presented counter proposals to the Archdiocese. Nothing is set in stone, and ultimately, it is the Cardinal's decision. Final proposals are to be presented to the Executive Committee by the current parishes in the first week of June. The Cardinal deliberates over the summer and makes an announcement in late September/early October. Actual reorganization is slated for July 2019.

    Several mandates have been handed down by the Archdiocese to determine the new canonical parishes which will consist of multiple worship sites and affiliated schools. Those mandates mention minimal number of registered parishioners, number of weekly Mass attendees, and revenue for operational expenses. No school can exist without a parish. Yes, because of the minimal standards, some current schools and parishes are expected to close and merge with other churches and schools to form these new canonical parishes.

    The process has several team members from each current parish and school, and it has indeed become very emotional and challenging. Out of respect for those parishes and schools, I will not mention which ones are in consideration of closing, at least not until the summer. Those schools and parishes have been well aware of their declining numbers and increasing challenges for several years, and understand the current reality.

    All Catholics are asked to pray over the process.

  • Sorry guys, but there's a reason there's a "declining number of available pastors, declining enrollment and revenue." Religion is a business, and yeah, for a while business was good. But, people have slowly awoken to the fact that it really is little more than that. And that's a good thing. There are plenty of ways to cultivate thriving communities without also first and foremost being indoctrinated into beliefs and superstitions that were invented before men understood what weather was.

  • Mel Bar neighbor

    There are about 8 parishes / schools in the Bridgeport, Canaryville and Chinatown area that are being considered for possible merges and / or closures by the Archdioceses of Chicago (St. Lucy, St. Jerome, St. Therese, St. Mary of Perpetual Help, St. Barbara, All Saints St. Anthony and 2 others). Each parish has hosted a series of meetings to share with the parishioners and other community members the "scenarios". I have attended 2 of 3 meetings.

    St. Therese is probably not affected because of it's Blue Ribbon rating and long wait list to enroll and St. Jerome recently received big donation for their school (http://www.gazettechicago.com/index/2018/04/st-jeromes-benefits-from-a-significant-education-gift-construction-also-planned/).

    I can't remember what all the scenarios are. But, if you want to participate in the meetings look for "Renew My Church" in any of the church bulletins.

    Another place you might want to check is Archdioceses of Chicago's website.

  • Douglas_Peep writes:

    Sorry guys, but there's a reason there's a "declining number of available pastors, declining enrollment and revenue." Religion is a business, and yeah, for a while business was good. But, people have slowly awoken to the fact that it really is little more than that. And that's a good thing. There are plenty of ways to cultivate thriving communities without also first and foremost being indoctrinated into beliefs and superstitions that were invented before men understood what weather was.


    Douglas, oftentimes religion has been the inspiration for someone to lead a better life. You may look at it as a business however many others do not. Each individual has their own path in life - and that's a good thing...live and let live.

  • @Reality - I never said a single thing different, you’re quite welcome to your religion. I never tried to convert you, or tell you what (or how) to believe in anything. Religious freedom is a precious cornerstone of this country.

    I was merely pointing out the fact of religious decline in western civilization. There are only two regions on the planet where religion is steadily growing (Africa and the Middle East). These two regions also just happen to be some of least educated (per capita) and most violent places on Earth.

    So again, you’re quite welcome to your religion/faith. Just don’t be surprised by its rapid decline here and abroad.

  • You have to look at history to have a deeper understanding of what is going on. Like many churches throughout Chicago, these churches and their affiliated schools in Bridgeport/Chinatown/Canaryville were built by immigrant communities in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The immigrant communities needed worship sites in their native language, and oftentimes, they were not welcome elsewhere due to segregation and prejudice. The churches and schools were the immigrants only source for help back then.

    For instance, St. Therese Church, though now primarily Chinese, was originally built as Santa Maria Incoronata by immigrant Italians. Chinatown was originally an Italian immigrant community! St. Mary of Perpetual Help and St. Barbara were built by Polish immigrants. Santa Lucia was obviously built by Italians, St. Jerome by Croatians. St. Anthony / All Saints was built by German immigrants (And that is a past merging of three parishes due to displacement by the Stevenson Expressway). St. Gabriel and Nativity of Our Lord were built by Irish immigrants. There were actually several other churches in the area that were displaced by the construction of the Dan Ryan and Stevenson Expressways.

    The demographics of the neighborhood has changed dramatically. When these churches were built, the stockyards was the biggest employer of immigrants. Now the stockyards and factories are gone. The construction of expressways, railroads, and bridges actually helped dismantle the immigrant communities, forcing them to disperse elsewhere. Though they are still present here, many Italians have moved out to the suburbs. The Polish community have mostly moved further southwest, northwest Chicago, or the suburbs. There are fewer immigrants coming in, and the need for ethnic conclaves have mostly diminished.

  • Newer and bigger churches and schools were built in the suburbs to accommodate new residents and bigger suburban sprawl. The majority of those churches and schools are doing very, very well. It's the city parishes in tighter proximity of each other that are having the challenge of how best to serve their communities.

    Younger people with more income have moved in, and they easily move in and out of their own neighborhood with their cars and public transportation to go places freely. They can better afford to send their kids to any school (whether public or private, in or outside their neighborhood).

    The Catholic schools used to be run by clergy and nuns, who built the schools to help educate the poor and immigrants. Times have changed. Now they are run by lay people who, unlike the priests and nuns, need real salaries. Thus, the Catholic schools have tuition fees. These Catholic schools are now competing against improving selective-enrollment Chicago public schools.

    There are 344 parishes in the Archdiocese, and it is projected that there will not be enough capable pastors to run them all. Many of the churches and school buildings throughout Chicago are now over a hundred years old, and they are becoming more expensive to maintain and/or upgrade. They are grandfathered in Chicago building codes, and most are still not ADA-compliant. There is really no need for two or more parishes to exist within a mile radius, especially when immigrant communities have waned and transportation is not really an issue. Look at St. Adalbert in Pilsen. Beautiful Polish-built church, but the community cannot sustain it. It's too big, and St. Pius is just a few blocks away. Look at Santa Lucia and St. Jerome. They are only 1.5 blocks apart! This is a stark difference from the Catholic parishes in the suburbs, where they can be miles apart and maintain more modern facilities.

    There are so many factors that have brought on this challenge. But religion is here to stay.

  • Agree with Joe Delfin. Growing up in the 50's and 60's, Nativity was standing room only, now days the turnout for masses at Nativity is dismal. I have a snowbird residence in Florida and I was shocked the first time I went to mass there. The church was full, and there was a wide assortment of ages, the majority being mid 20's to late 30's. (College and military town). I went to masses held at various times and found the church just as crowded at every mass. I was very pleasantly surprised. However, while there are Baptist churches about every 100 yards there, the are only three Catholic churches there. Fewer churches who cater to the community makeup and needs make a stronger church community.

  • emj1900 bp

    St. Therese is doing very well enrollment and wants to actually expand. St. Jerome what I understand is adding on a gym I believe. They also are doing well and has just received a veryyyyyy generous gift. Just sad that whatever they choose to do, that parish will then have to eat the debt of the one being merged from what I understand.. So many unknowns still to be worked out. And in the end, some unhappy and shocked parishioners.

  • @Joe - What you're saying simply doesn't track with the data. There are actually quite a few reputable sources (like PEW) that spend a great deal of time and effort tracking this stuff -- because it's incredibly valuable demographical data for our nation. And they all essentially say the same thing .... "Nones" (non-religious affiliates) are the fastest growing demo in our nation. And, if you just look at millennials, that data gets even bleaker for your churches as they're one of the most non-religious generations the world has ever seen. That *doesn't* mean everyone is becoming an "atheist" as rates of spirituality actually still track fairly well. Their spirituality simply isn't attached to any one Bible/Quran, etc.

    I've been an atheist my whole life, but even I can't believe how rapid the religious decline has been in this nation. If you told me 20 years ago that we'd see this type of downward projection, I never would have believed you. But, the internet and the rapid spread of information and education regarding comparative religions, cultures, etc has simply made much of the traditional religious dogma obsolete. Add the rise of public intellectuals like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris who spent countless hours on media circuits debating religious leaders from around the world over their perceived "revelations", and it just became too much for many of the bureaucracies of faith.

    But as I said, this isn't an "attack", no one is 'coming' for your churches and you're quite well and free to believe whatever you'd like. This decline is simply a natural progression of the world becoming more scientifically literate and educated and less 'unwilling' to put their faith in superstition. Science, the natural world and human experience has provided me with feelings of awe and transcendence much more powerful then any piece of scripture I've ever read in any book. And I assume it's like that for many others.

  • emj1900 bp

    Doulgas.... Just sad to see churches decline....Even religion for that fact.....we all need somthing these days. ...just sad..... Like the Beatles song.....last verse ...

    And in the end
    The love you take
    Is equal to the love you make

  • Respectfully, Douglas, nationwide numbers do not necessarily translate to local statistics. Chicago is one of the most diverse metropolises of faith, and 1 out of 3 residents still identify themselves as Catholic. Though I do agree with you, however, that this generation is the least religious in the past 100 years. Weekly attendance has decreased in general, and the Church is producing less priests and nuns than in the past. The Internet has become a source for universal information, but there are just some things that it cannot provide, like a caring community that travels with you in faith.

    At St. Therese (my parish), we are operating in the black, there is a two-year waiting list for our Blue Ribbon school which also wishes to expand to another campus, and we are blessed to bring forth one of our own as a newly-ordained priest this Saturday at Holy Name Cathedral. We are also expanding our mission as a Chinese Apostolate to serve the needs of Chinese not only in Chinatown, but throughout the entire Archdiocese. However, we are challenged with space-- both buildings and parking.

    Naturally, I actually try to rationalize much of my own faith. I question and challenge all of the time. I do not believe that the Bible should be taken so literally without context, and I struggle with certain aspects of religion in general. That is healthy and normal. We all correctly use scientific methods to question and prove. Science does not mean anti-religion. But while science shows us the "how", I believe that religion shows us the "why". It is a leap of faith to adopt religion, yet it gives my life a greater sense of purpose beyond the demands of regular daily life.

  • I do not see the Church (at least in my community) as "a business" that indoctrinates, meaning teaching without questioning or criticizing. Our students question and challenge teachers, priests, nuns, and many of us all of the time. And that is great! We let them know why we believe what we do, but we do not condemn them or force them to accept our beliefs. It allows us to explore and deeply challenge or embrace our own beliefs. At St. Therese, the majority of our students are not Catholic. In fact, the majority of them and their families are not even religious, but even agnostic or atheist. We spread the seeds of faith-- some will grow, some will not. It's not about quantity.

    I enjoy the conversation, and for the most part, I do not refute part of what you said, Douglas. It will remain a challenge for religious institutions and communities to convince others that there is more than just being spiritual or accepting "superstition."

  • The Catholic church need to update their policies to relate better with the younger generation. I believe a great way to start is having better schools. The Archdicese of Chicago need to invest more into their schools. Chicago have a demand for better education. If you build it, they will come.

  • I'm an atheist and it saddens me to think that these lovely Catholic church buildings will one day be gone. They are architecturally pleasing and function as community centers, which we need more of instead of storefronts and condos. I went to MSA and always found the bell towers of StAnthony's inspiring. I'm not sure how I can help, as I'm neither a worshiper nor have deep pockets.

  • JC1

    The school closings will be based on enrollment rather than the amount of debt they carry. A lot of these churches are, as someone mentioned, built by the immigrants of those areas (Santa Lucia) but all of those folks have moved out. The Arch can justify using an underused school building (St. Barbara's, for example) rather than support a new building. Enrollment means everything and there is a number they're looking at. Anything under 175 is considered untenable.

  • The Archdiocese need to invest more into their school system. Such as better salary for teachers to attract quality teachers and retain them, stronger curriculum, and new technology. I believe if they attract more students, the Archdiceses will also attract new parishioners.

  • JC1

    Many of the kids that attend Caltholic schools don't attend mass on Sunday because their parents don't attend. As for investing money in the schools, the Arch does not. They expect the schools to take care of technology and stronger academic programs. As for teacher salaries, they are all paid on an established scale that the Archdiocese sets. The schools don't have any control over what they pay teachers. It all comes down from the Archdiocese and they have the final say.

  • Comes down to change. Reach out to the community better. Change the pay scale for teachers. I know a teacher who have taught at a Catholic school for 20 years. A first year CPS teacher makes more then her. I also know many great teachers who have left the Catholic school system in Chicago because they cannot live on the wages the Catholic schools provide.

  • SoxFan, I don't disagree that some of those changes are necessary, however they come at the cost of increased tuition. Between the taxes we pay at all levels of government, the high cost of living in Chicago and the current levels of tuition in the Chicago Archdiocese, there isn't much money left to pay for what is needed.

    A review of where the current tuition funds is going should be the first step. A lowering of tuition rates could very well bring in many more students which could help increase the availability of funds. If you keep raising cost, fewer can afford it. As it is, high school tuition is almost unaffordable and grade school cost are climbing rapidly. People are going as far as relocating to the suburbs and neighboring states to allow for their children to get a good education at an affordable cost.

    Many of these families want to stay in Chicago, want to send their children to Catholic Schools but they simply can no longer afford it.

  • emj1900 bp

    Catholic school system has nobody else to blame but themselves for their dwindling church and school attendance. PERIOD! They are going merge whether you agree or disagree. And it's sad that the merging schools had to suck up their money in the red... The almighty Vatican needs to suck it up.... Maybe they can open that vast vault they have their and sell off a few gold chalices... of which they have plenty...

  • Lifetime, I agree private education are expensive and many people can't afford it. But there is also a dilema where without more revenues, the schools cannot be properly funded. I know the Archdiocese expect each parish to be self sustaining but its time they make an investment and open up their pocketbooks.
    In addition, St. Therese was able to increase their school enrollment with a long waiting list due to the high educational standards set. Many other Catholic schools are within a 1 or 2 mile radius from St, Therese. These other schools need to do more to reach out to the community and raise their educational standards. Their are people in the neighborhood willing to pay for a better education for their kids.

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