Response to Our Lady of Victory closing: ‘target on its back from the beginning,’ but archdiocese says ‘we no longer have the parishioners we had to fill our churches’
by BRIAN NADIG
The Archdiocese of Chicago’s recent decision to close Our Lady of Victory Church, 5212 W. Agatite Ave., did not come to as a surprise to many of its supporters.
“Even though my family has moved out of Chicago , we have continued to contribute to OLV as we felt it needed our support. When $1 million was raised (five years ago) to keep the school open, but it never did, it raised the question that the decision at that time was already made to eventually close the parish. A sad decision.”
That was one of the comments written online during the archdiocese’s Dec. 18 virtual meeting in which it announced that OLV would be merging with the parishes of Saint Pascal, 6199 W. Irving Park Road, and Saint Bartholomew, 3601 N. Lavergne Ave. While Mass at OLV will end by November of 2021, the Saint Pascal and Saint Bartholomew churches are not closing.
During the meeting, one of the participants wrote in the comment section that t would have made more sense to merge OLV with the nearby Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish, 4646 N. Austin Ave. Plans call for Saint Robert Bellarmine to merge with Saint Constance Parish, 5843 W. Strong St., under the archdiocese’s “Renew My Church” consolidation process.
Another commented, “This has been a wasted opportunity to truly consolidate through shared sacrifice. OLV had a target on its back from the beginning, which this decision confirms. All of the remaining parishes and schools will be right back here in a few years, being asked to consolidate again. For all the effort that went into this decision, it falls far short.”
The archdiocese plans to market and sell the OLV campus, with the proceed benefiting the newly merged parish, whose name will be announced in a couple of months. The OLV site is zoned RS-3, which would allow for single-family homes and two-flats if the buyer were to demolish the church and its former school, which closed in 2016.
A meeting participant suggested that the archdiocese hold off on selling the school: “Why can’t OLV school building house Catholic organizations like Catholic Charities, a homeless shelter or any of the many Corporal works of mercy?”
According to the archdiocese, the average attendance for weekend Mass at OLV, based on October of 2019 figures, was lower than at nearby parishes. OLV had 487 attendees compared to 960 at Saint Pascal, 854 at Saint Robert Bellarmine and 2,164 at Saint Constance. The archdiocese often uses a baseline threshold of 800 when deciding whether to close churches.
“Imagine if the archdiocese had gotten out of the education business when enrollment started to decline. They could have spent the last 20 years supporting well-funded public education for all, while offering religious education programs as they have for many years.
“They could have (then) concentrated on building and supporting their congregations, the communities surrounding them and the greater metro area. If they had done that, the church would have now, I believe, be much stronger in numbers of parishioners, finances ad commitment,” someone posted during the meeting.
Father Jason Malave, who serves as Cardinal Blasé Cupich’s liaison for Renew My Church, said that one of the goals of consolidating parishes is to allow for a stronger focus on spreading the gospel. “We no longer have the parishioners we had to fill our churches,” Malave said. “There are more Catholics outside the Church than in the Church, and we can’t be content with that.”
There reportedly is a group of OLV parishioners who plan to petition the archdiocese in an effort to stop the church from closing.