Parishioners file appeal in hope of saving Our Lady of Victory Parish in Jefferson Park; OLV Church could close by this fall
by BRIAN NADIG
Members of the Our Lady of Victory Parish on Feb. 8 filed a formal appeal with the Archdiocese of Chicago, objecting to Cardinal Blase Cupich’s decision to merge OLV with Saint Pascal and Saint Bartholomew parishes.
“The appeal was in response to (an archdiocese) decree issued on Jan. 28, which announced the dissolution of Our Lady of Victory and the effective closure of the church and religious complex. Not only is the parish to be extinguished, but members will be separated into either the consolidated parishes of STS Bartholomew and Pascal or the consolidated parishes of STS Constance and Robert Bellarmine,” said a statement issued by the recently formed “Save Our Lady of Victory” organization.
About 150 signatures of OLV parishioners were attached to the appeal, according to the group, which organizers said is being incorporated. “(Our) ultimate goal is to prevent the church from being deconsecrated (the transfer from sacred to secular),” the group said.
Under its “Renew My Church” imitative the archdiocese has been merging and closing parishes throughout the Chicago area due to declining attendance at Sunday Mass, budgetary problems and dwindling enrollments at parochial schools.
The appeal takes issue with multiple points that the archdiocese outlined in the decree, including the financial solvency of OLV. The decree stated that OLV had an operating deficit of about $81,000 in 2019, but some parishioners said that the archdiocese’s deficit figure does not take into account all parish income and that over the past two years the parish has had a net operating profit of about $10,000.
“Specifically, the appeal calls out Our Lady of Victory’s positive net income, lack of debt and underutilized real estate resources. Additionally, the document addresses the overall growth in population of the Northwest Side, including the potential arrival of as many as 2,000 new residents in (Jefferson Park) development projects,” the statement said.
It is anticipated that the archdiocese will seek to sell the OLV campus.
“Our Lady of Victory is the oldest church on the Far Northwest Side. Built in stages by three prestigious architectural firms, the entire complex has historical and artistic significance. The upper church is built in the rare Spanish mission style, and it was one of the first Catholic parishes in Chicago established without one dominant ethic group,” the statement said.
If the archdiocese denies the appeal, the group can then make an appeal to the Vatican.
Members of the Saint Thecla Parish, which was merged last year with Saint Tarcissus and Saint Cornelius parishes, reportedly have filed appeals to save the Saint Thecla Church, 6725 W. Devon Ave. Those three parishes now operate as Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish.
Editor’s note: Below is a Feb. 3 article on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s official decree on the merging of Our Lady of Victory, Saint Bartholomew and Saint Pascal parishes.
by BRIAN NADIG
The Archdiocese of Chicago on Jan. 28 issued its official decree announcing the merger of the Our Lady of Victory, Saint Pascal and Saint Bartholomew parishes effective July 1, with plans to hold the final Mass at the OLV Church at 5212 W. Agatite Ave. by Nov. 28 at the latest.
The archdiocese is expected to market and sell the OLV campus, with proceeds going to the newly merged parish, which will be named later this year.
The merger will help address the growing “Spanish-speaking faithful” in the Jefferson Park and Portage Park, where there has been a decline in the number of Polish-speaking parishioners, the decree said. Nearly 60 percent of the parishioners at Saint Bartholomew Church, 3601 N. Lavergne Ave., attend Spanish Mass, and plans call for Saint Pascal Church, 6199 W. Irving Park Road, halt its Polish Mass
In recent years all three parishes have had declines in Mass attendance and experienced operating deficits, with a debt of $2.315 million reported at Saint Bartholomew. Each parish also has “significant capital investment needs,” according to the decree.
“From 2009 to 2019, there was a 21 percent decline in Sunday attendance at Saint Bartholomew Parish. During the same period the decline was 35 percent at Our Lady of Victory Parish and 40 percent at Saint Pascal Parish. In 2019 Saint Bartholomew Parish had income of $497,810 and expenses of $679,589, leaving an operating deficit of $181,779.
“At Our Lady of Victory Parish, the 2019 figures were income of $482,864, expenses of $564,583, and operating deficit of $81,791. At Saint Pascal Parish the same year’s figures were income of $700,524, expenses of $816,792 and operating deficit of $116,268,” the decree stated.
Plans call for the sacramental records and other important documents for each of the three parishes to be kept on the Saint Pascal grounds after the merger is completed. The merger is part of the archdiocese’s “Renew My Church” initiative to address dwindling church membership and reduced school enrollments as the Catholic Church struggles to attract younger generations.
A group of OLV parishioners reportedly is looking at filing formal objections to the merger and closing of the OLV Church to the archdiocese and, if necessary, to the Vatican.
There also is a push to have the OLV Church designated a city landmark to protect it from possible demolition, but the city historically has been reluctant to landmark archdiocese properties without archdiocese support if the building is still being used as a church.