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Lecture To Explore Chinatown’s Spiritual History

By Casey Cora | December 13, 2012 6:30pm

CHINATOWN — Chinese immigrants' search for faith and fellowship in Chicago is the focus of an upcoming community lecture.

“They came in search of meaning and purpose, and church was a part of that fulfillment,” said Francis Li, a priest at St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission which is co-hosting Saturday’s “Chinatown’s Spiritual Side” talk with Jay Lee of the Chinese Christian Union Church.

The free event takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, 238 W. 23rd St. Organizers say space is limited.

For Li, a priest at St. Therese for the past three years, Saturday’s lecture will be a chance to revisit the history of his parish, which was founded in 1899 as Santa Maria Incoronata in what was then a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood.

About the same time, a steady flow of Chinese immigrants began arriving in Chicago, to an area near Harrison and Clark streets. After World War II, an influx of Chinese immigrants replaced Italians, Li said, eventually leading to the church's name change to the St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission.

Lee, a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher, is expected to lecture on the beginnings of the Chinese Christian Union Church, a multi-denominational church at 2301 S. Wentworth Ave.

He’s a graduate of the church’s nursery school and has been active there for nearly 60 years, having served as a Sunday School teacher, counselor and deacon.