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Our Lady of Mercy Celebrates Multicultural History With Centennial Book

 The book, "Everywhere to Our Lady of Mercy Parish: 100 Years of Faith," includes personal essays and historic narratives that reflect the neighborhood's diversity.
Our Lady of Mercy publishes history book to celebrate their centennial
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ALBANY PARK — One of the neighborhood's most active churches has put together a history book to celebrate its centennial.

Our Lady of Mercy Catholic church on 4432 N. Troy St. in Albany Park has published "From Everywhere to Our Lady of Mercy Parish: 100 Years of Faith," a book of essays by members, some of whom had been with the parish for 50 years.

"It's very well done," new church pastor, the Rev. Nicholas Desmond, said about the book. Desmond's service started earlier this month.

"It's an entirely different way of doing church, a nice way of dealing with different points of view and everybody giving their reflections of how they contribute to the church," Desmond said.

In addition to personal narratives, the book includes historical essays that cite city census records, Archdiocese of Chicago records, obituaries published in newspapers and parish records.

The 172-page paperbound book costs $15, with proceeds going toward maintaining the church's sound system.

The book has Spanish and English versions, with a mission statement in Spanish, English and Filipino, personal essays by parishioners and a history of the parish.

It includes 20 picture plates of pioneer parishioners, uniformed students of the former Our Lady of Mercy School, the original 1911 structure and its stained glass windows, and the current building's restorations to the golden dome.

All essays are written by volunteer parish members first published in the church bulletin starting June 2010, as part of centennial celebrations.

The book shows how the church grew with its neighborhood, beginning with Russian immigrants in the early 1900s to one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country.

Dr. Michael P. Cahill's essay, "Albany Park: A Parish's Neighborhood" outlines how OLM's membership always reflects the neighborhood's immigrant beginnings in 1911 to the present.

Cahill uses data from The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago and the Archdiocese of Chicago, ending with how OLM's former pastor the Rev. Joseph Tito was invited by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to speak about leading multicultural parishes in 2010.

The essay, "Esther Traynor was the First Baptized at OLM" by Charles Jordan traces church records showing Traynor had been baptized in June 1911, but the first church structure had not been built until that December — reminding readers that a church can sometimes exist as a group of people without a physical edifice.

There are essays from students of Our Lady of Mercy School, which closed in 2003; memories from former pastors in civilian clothing about meeting members for the first time; essays about parishioners who fought in Germany during World War I in 1918; and lists of members who had become religious clergy as a result of growing up at OLM.

The Rev. Donald Headley's essay, "So, Where Do We Go From Here?" reminds readers that while OLM has made it to 100 years and is impressively represented by 60 nations and 46 languages, it is still a church in motion.

"We recognize the fact that our spirituality must be measured by our solidarity with all of humanity, not by our separation. ... As a Church, we are never there; we are only on the way," Headley wrote.

OLM's centennial celebrations continue with activities started in 2011, such as an oral history project, also put together by volunteer parishioners.

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