The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Shrine of Christ The King Restoration Starts In Race To Beat Winter

By Sam Cholke | April 26, 2016 1:43pm
 On Monday, crews started removing all the burnt debris from Shrine of Christ the King as efforts to rebuild start.
Shrine of Christ the King Demolition
View Full Caption

WOODLAWN — Clergy at the Shrine of Christ the King opened up the building Tuesday while crews started removing the charred debris to show how much work was ahead for the congregation rebuilding after an October fire.

A demolition crew of nine workers were on their second day of removing a 2-foot thick blanket of charred roofing and pews during the initial $2.5 million step of the project to turn the burned shell at 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave. back into a building with a new roof and windows.

The winterlong negotiation with the Archdiocese of Chicago to hand the building over to the Institute of Christ the King for free allowed the elements to further erode the interior.

“It’s like, finally, our hands are untied to do what we want to do,” said the Rev. Michael Stein, a canon at the shrine.

Now, the congregation needs to raise another $1 million on top of the $1.5 million donated by preservation groups and others and pray for good weather to get a new roof on before the snow comes back.
“That’s going to be tough,” said Jim Raffin, project manager for Raffin Construction, which is handling the initial rebuilding efforts. “This isn’t like doing a roof on a warehouse building.”


He said the new roof and the steel supports needed to hold it up should be ready by October and will take three weeks to install, assuming the weather is cooperative.

“We’re leaving the weather department up to them,” Raffin said, gesturing to the canons.

The canons said God works on his own schedule, but they were praying and hoping for late snow.

“We’ve never yet canceled a church event because of the weather,” Stein said.

The Rev. Matthew Talarico said it likely will be years before the congregation moves back into the building, and for the near-term will continue worship services at neighboring First Presbyterian Church, 6400 S. Kimbark Ave.

He said the canons do not want to put the congregation through another round of services in an unheated sanctuary where electricity had to be run in from the neighboring building.

The Institute of Christ the King moved into the building in 2004 and spent more than 10 years repairing damage from a 1976 fire.

Talarico said the plan right now is to restore the building to what it was before the October fire, which will cost as much as $9 million.

“We own the property now, so we have to take care of it,” Talarico said. “It takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s a chance to bring people in.”

He said right now the shrine needs people to remain active in the congregation, which has swelled in the last year to 300 people on Sundays from 200 last year, and to donate to the fundraising campaign on GoFundMe, which has raised $73,280 since the fire.

Talarico said there will be opportunities later for people to get their hands dirty with the work of rebuilding the shrine, but right now special contractors need to do the work to maintain the buidling’s landmark status.

Before the debris could be removed, crews had to carefully remove, number and catalog all the bricks on the exterior wall they were knocking down to get a skid-loader in on Monday because all of the individual pieces must go back in exactly the same order to preserve the building’s landmark status.

Talarico said he hoped someday to add some of the more elaborate touches that once graced the church when it was built as St. Clara Church in 1923, or even some things the church has never had.

“Maybe someday we’ll get real bells up there,” Talarico said looking up at the church’s bell tower through the burned-out hole in the roof.

Crews are hoping to get a new roof installed before winter, which will require some very good weather to get done on time.

Despite the entire shrine being covered in nearly 2 feet of rubble, crews are saying they will be able to clear it all out in a little more than a week.

The church's organ is now a pile of broken pieces of electronics and wood.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: