CARDINAL BLASE CUPICH greets parishioners on Sept. 19 as part of Saturday Mass on Sept. 19 in honor of the 90th anniversary of the Saint Robert Bellarmine parish.
by BRIAN NADIG
Archdiocese of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich helped celebrate Saturday Mass on Sept. 19 at Saint Robert Bellarmine Church, 4646 N. Austin Ave., in honor of the 90th anniversary of the parish.
"Today we also celebrate ‘Catechetical Sunday.’ There is no greater mission in the church than to share our faith and pass it on to the next generation. Saint Robert Bellarmine is both our parish patron and the Patron Saint of Catechists, so it is very fitting that these two celebrations come together at the same time every year," parish pastor Father Neil Fackler wrote in the Sept. 20 church bulletin.
"In the development of religious education, Saint Robert (canonized in 1930) was the first church leader to recognize that children are different from adults. He said that, if we are going to teach our children, we have to teach them as children, not simply as little adults. He believed in ‘age appropriate’ learning, a model we take for granted bit was revolutionary in his time," the bulletin states.
The parish was founded on June 15, 1930, when Father Francis Gillespie gathered a small group of area Catholics to celebrate the first Mass of Saint Robert’s. It was held out of a house on Slocum Street (now Eastwood Avenue) that Gillespie had purchased.
The parish later met at Prussing School. 4650 N. Menard Ave., before raising enough funds to build its own church despite the economic challenges caused at the time by the Great Depression, according to a parish history written in 2005 by parishioner Robert Morris.
Parish volunteers worked alongside workers to complete the church and school structure, which is now the senior building and school gym, and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were hired as staff. The school opened in September of 1931 with an enrollment of 230 students.
A new church was constructed in 1969 but was destroyed in a fire on Mother’s Day in 1988. The church was rebuilt and dedicated on the Feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine on Sept. 17, 1990.
After Gillespie, the parish leadership included Father John Dowling, Father Thad Jakubowski, Father Leroy Wickowski, Father Mike Goergen and the current pastor, Father Neil Fackler.
"We are a Christ-centered community that believes in Jesus’ love for all people. We have a vibrant parish that offers something for everyone," Father Fackler writes on the parish Web site.
(Photo provided by St. Robert Bellarmine Church)