Sunday, February 28, 2016

News from Chicago: Institute of Christ King Sovereign Priest Receives Deed to Church Property - Shrine Church Headed for Stabilization

This feels like an unexpected third part to the post series on the Shrine church, and it very much is! I got the news over Instagram this morning.

No bones about it, absolutely excited to hear this church will stay standing and that the Shrine community will stay in Woodlawn! Looking forward to visiting again!

Press Release (Institute of Christ King, Sovereign Priest, February 28, 2016):

Historic Chicago church gets new owner, restoration plan (Chicago Tribune, February 28, 2016):

Shrine of Christ King Sovereign Priest

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Standing with the Shrine of Christ King Sovereign Priest, Chicago, Illinois


On Sunday, November 15, 2015, the community at the Institute of Christ King Sovereign Priest held its first Mass in “The Upper Room” at First Presbyterian Church. Located on the same South Side Chicago block as the Shrine church, First Presbyterian is one of many stand-out contributors who are helping keep the Institute and Shrine alive in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Over 200 parishioners and visitors attended the Inaugural Ceremony and Solemn High Mass that Sunday, led by Canon Matthew Talarico. Being fortunate enough to visit for the proceedings myself, I got to capture a glimpse of the groups that both contribute to and receive support from the Shrine. These communities of folks are key to keeping the Institute embedded as part of Woodlawn and the South Side.

The Institute is currently raising funds to bring the Shrine church to its rightful glory. You can help restore this Chicago landmark and help the Shrine community be contributing to the GoFundMe campaign.

Playing a prominent role in both saving the church through the fire and the ceremony was Chicago’s Fire Department. Dozens of Chicago’s bravest took on the fire the morning of October 7th to keep the structure from being a total loss. Some items, like the statue of the Infant King and the high altar paneling only survived the flames because of their fine efforts. Several pews in The Upper Room were set aside to host many of those firefighters. As Canon Talarico and the Shrine community recognized the squad, each of them were given a rosary as a further token of thanks.

“Today is an Easter moment.”

The parishioners were in full force at the Shrine from well before Mass time through to the end of the reception several hours later. Starting with literally two attendees at their first Mass a little over a decade ago, the community at the Shrine now numbers in the hundreds. Furthermore, the Institute has expanded to fill eleven other churches in the United States, primarily in the Midwest. The Institute of Christ King Sovereign Priest is best known as a purveyor of the traditional Latin Mass. While most Catholic masses are given in the local vernacular language today, the Latin Mass has been sung (yes, sung is the proper term) for centuries and is still a viable form of worship in the Catholic liturgy.

As part of the Latin Mass, it is traditional for parishioners to kneel at the communion rails to receive Communion.

While the support of outside neighbors and organizations was important in bringing the Institute to The Upper Room, the parishioners provide the lifeblood that make the Institute thrive despite its setbacks. Their efforts were essential in making a worship space out of an indoor tennis court in The Upper Room. The youth of the Shrine often participate in the Mass as altar servers and choir signers. Their willingness to give their sweat, money, and time allows the Shrine and its work in the Woodlawn neighborhood to remain alive.

“We will not be defined by this tragedy.”

The campaign to save the Shrine church has had waves of “Good Fridays” and “Easter Sundays” since the Inaugural Mass at The Upper Room. Early in the new year, the Archdiocese of Chicago applied for a demolition permit after concluding it was cost-prohibitive to save the building[1]. Shortly after, a bevy of donations totaling over $500,000 gave the Institute just enough money to bring Archdiocese back to the negotiation table and explore the possibility of slowly restoring this locally unique example of Renaissance revival architecture[2]. As of press time, these talks are still ongoing. Hope to save the Shrine church is alive.

“But, today, just inches from those ashes, our Shrine community is rising up to honor our Infant King, under the gaze of the church steeple which is our home.”

What started as an empty indoor tennis court transformed into a remarkable worship space within a couple weeks after the fire at the Shrine church. Sitting on the same block as the Shrine church, visitors and parishioners alike are exposed to the gravity of the fire at the Shrine while simultaneously shown the strength that remains in the Shrine community and its supporters in Woodlawn. While the Institute has been recovering what religious articles it can from the church and its other properties, many of the “church parts” that are in these photographs were built or shared from carpenters and closed churches.

These pews came to The Upper Room from Ohio.

Volunteer labor from the Institute’s church in Wausau, Wisconsin helped build a new altar, while the high altar paneling was saved from the Shrine church after the fire.

Shrine of Christ King Sovereign Priest

Additional Sources:

*Quotes within the article come from Canon Matthew Talarico’s homily at the Inaugural Ceremony and High Mass in The Upper Room on November 15, 2015.

**Special thanks goes to the canons, staff, and volunteers at the Shrine, who invited me to visit and offered much of the information and access at the Shrine that allowed this post to come to life.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fighting the Fight to #SaveTheShrine at the Shrine of Christ King Sovereign Priest, Chicago, Illinois

The plight of this religious community on Chicago’s South Side has taken a wide swing of turns since the blaze that nearly destroyed its church building on October 7, 2015. In the last week or so, news has emerged that the Institute of Christ King Sovereign Priest is now revisiting the possibility of saving the church building with the Archdiocese of Chicago [1]. Hearing this, I felt obliged to share my experience from visiting the Institute shortly after the fire last year.

You can help support the Shrine's commitment to bringing their community back to their historic church in Chicago by contributing through their GoFundMe campaign.

“Succisa virescit.”
"What was cut down, grows back stronger and flourishes.”
- St. Benedict

The Institute of Christ King Sovereign Priest has made a habit of helping bring old churches and neighborhoods from the brink. Oftentimes this involves moving into otherwise-closed churches and breathing life into these neighborhoods. St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis and St. Stanislaus Oratory in Milwaukee are examples of this. The Institute in Chicago is a staple in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side. Less than two miles from the Chicago home address of President Barrack Obama, the Woodlawn neighborhood has long been in various states of economic and social transition. The church building itself has changed designations as St. Clara, the National Shrine to St. Thérèse Liseux, and St. Gelasius before the Archdiocese first considered demolishing it in the early 2000s. Despite the weak Catholic presence surrounding a beautiful worship space, the Institute appealed to take over use of the church in 2003. Restoration began shortly after and continued at a blistering pace as the Institute blossomed in the neighborhood for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. 

At the same time a restoration of Woodlawn began to move with more steam, in both religious and secular terms. The canons, as the priests are officially referred to at the Institute, have made available the Shrine and themselves for the betterment of the community. Before the fire, the church served as the monthly meeting location for the Woodlawn Residents Association. On a regular basis, the church also hosted a series of free concerts and other cultural events open to the general public. In recent winters, the canons have appeared on local ice skating rinks where they mix casual evangelistic outreach with hockey. Canon Michael Stein, known by some from the skating rinks as “Father of the Hood,” has played a major role with his fellow canons in the conversion of some local residents to the Catholic faith as well. In the meantime, with the influence of the nearby University of Chicago and the growing influx of Catholics visiting the Shrine from other parts of Chicagoland, the economic and social climates in Woodland have gradually improved.

“…our Good Friday began with fire.”

In the hours before sunrise on October 7, varnish rags used in the Shrine church’s restoration combusted into flames. The damage sustained in the ensuing blaze destroyed much of the interior, windows, and the roof. However, key to limiting damage at the Shrine was the help of roughly 150 firefighters from Chicago’s Fire Department. Their gallant efforts contained the fire and led to saving some of the Shrine’s most priceless possessions, including the tabernacle containing the Body of Christ and an 18th Century statue of the Christ Child. Through the conflagration, much of the Shrine’s efforts to restore its home were brought back to the drawing board. 

The pulpit, still standing, can be seen near the lower right-hand corner amid the rubble.

As damaging as the fire has been physically and emotionally for the parish and community, this is also a time where the Woodlawn community has emerged in solidarity with the parishioners at the Shrine. Within hours of the fire, folks from all over Woodlawn and Chicagoland came to the Shrine in solidarity for the Institute in the form of a prayer rally. Local hockey players, business owners, and ordinary neighborhood residents, all touched by the work of the Institute, took part in support of their Catholic neighbors.

Barely a month after the fire, the Shrine moved into an interim home thanks to the generosity of the neighboring First Presbyterian Church. My photos come from visiting the Institute at the formal opening Mass at “The Upper Room,” as the current worship space is known among the local faithful. Check back soon for more photos from the opening Mass highlighting the help the Shrine received from all across the Midwest!

Shrine of Christ King Sovereign Priest

Additional Source:

*Quotes within the article come from Canon Matthew Talarico’s homily at the Inaugural Ceremony and High Mass in The Upper Room on November 15, 2015.

**Special thanks goes to the canons, staff, and volunteers at the Shrine, who invited me to visit and offered much of the information and access at the Shrine that allowed this post to come to life.