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Huge Donation To St. Adalbert Not Enough To Keep It Open, Officials Warn

By Stephanie Lulay | April 4, 2016 11:10am
 Despite a recent $3 million donation, Catholic leaders say St. Adalbert Church at 1650 W. 17th St. in Pilsen will likely still close.
Despite a recent $3 million donation, Catholic leaders say St. Adalbert Church at 1650 W. 17th St. in Pilsen will likely still close.
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St. Adalbert Church

PILSEN — Despite a huge donation last month and efforts to save a 102-year-old Pilsen church, the building will likely still close because of costly repairs and declining membership, Catholic officials said in a letter to the church's pastor. 

In the letter, sent Wednesday to the Rev. Mike Enright, Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas wrote that the donation to St. Adalbert Catholic Church isn't enough to offset future maintenance costs and doesn't address the declining number of Catholic parishioners in Pilsen. 

"As discussed throughout the planning process, the factors at play include more than just repairing the towers," Rojas wrote. "With St. Adalbert's weekly [mass] attendance consistently below 600 the past three years and the lower overall population in Pilsen now compared to 10-15 years ago, it is unlikely that, whatever the investment, there would be sufficient parishioners and ongoing financial support around which to build that ministry." 

Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago on other possible uses for St. Adalbert Church.

In the letter, Rojas also wrote that the donation would cover "less than half" of the repairs needed to fix the towers at the church at 1650 W. 17th St.

Rojas also wrote that, after consulting with Archbishop Blase Cupich, it was determined the church cannot bear the cost of the tower scaffolding much longer, "and while we are grateful for the generosity of the parishioner who wished to contribute to the parish, I understand that the value of the assets offered turned out to be less than half the cost of the tower restoration alone." 

Moving forward, Rojas asked that the archdiocese and the parishioners work together to quickly evaluate options for the property. 

"If the property is sold, the proceeds will be used to pay St. Adalbert's debts and the remainder will follow the people to the receiving parish, which is proposed to be St. Paul," he writes. 

Church officials shared the letter at Sunday mass this weekend, and it is now posted on the church's website. 

In March, St Adalbert's received a reported $3 million donation from a parishioner who died, church officials said on the website. 

The donation was made by a parishioner who died and left the large sum to a nephew, with instructions to donate it to St. Adalbert when he died, Richard Olszewski, community hours coordinator at the church, told CBS Chicago.

When it was announced last month, parishioners hoped the donation would convince the Archdiocese of Chicago to keep the church open. 

Despite the new letter, some church parishioners still plan to fight the closing by continuing to fundraise and holding mass mobs in attempt to pack the Pilsen church. 

"Though the archdiocese has expressed interest in shutting down our beautiful parish, we are not closed," a post of the church's website reads. "Every dollar that is collected for our Save the Towers campaign is another sign to the archdiocese that St. Adalbert will fight to stay open to see the two majestic tower's restored to their full glory."

In February, the archdiocese announced that St. Adalbert would close "due to extensive repairs needed and associated high costs," according to a statement. The church, built in 1914, has been raising money to repair its towers, windows and pipe organ. 

As part of the move, the archdiocese sought to reconfigure six Catholic churches in Pilsen into three, closing churches in the process, according to a statement. 

Earlier this year, a GoFundMe page created to raise $3 million to restore its 185-foot-tall towers, which some considered unsafe, raised less than $2,000 in nine months.

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