PILSEN — A Pilsen alderman is asking key Catholic leaders to meet with the parishioners of an iconic neighborhood church the Archdiocese of Chicago plans to close.
At a rally to save the church this week, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) asked the Archdiocese to meet with St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church parishioners soon. To date, the Archdiocese has not met directly with church parishioners, said Richard Olszewski, a parishioner who is leading efforts to save the church.
"I'm calling on them to have a dialogue (with parishioners), to be straightforward with each other," Solis said.
Solis is asking the Archdiocese to give parishioners an additional six months to fundraise money to save the church. No matter what happens, the church building itself should be preserved and not torn down, the Alderman said.
An Archdiocese spokeswoman did not respond to questions this week.
In February, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that St. Adalbert would close due to the more than $3 million in repairs needed to fix the church's 185-foot towers, which have been surrounded by scaffolding for more than a year.
Despite a huge donation in March, Catholic officials said in April the church would still close. The donation wasn't enough to offset future maintenance costs and doesn't address the declining number of Catholic parishioners in Pilsen, Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas wrote in a letter to Rev. Mike Enright.
While a March donation to the church from a parishioner that died was believed to have been worth $3 million, the actual value of the donation, made in stocks, ended up being worth about $1.7 million, Olszewski said. Archdiocese officials said the donation would cover "less than half" of the repairs needed.
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.
Pilsen parishioners have promised to fight the closing of St. Adalbert's to the end, and staged a protest at El Zocalo Plaza on 18th Street Monday and a protest at the church in April.
Parishioners sing at a rally to save St. Adalbert's Church on Monday in Pilsen. [dnainfo/Stephanie Lulay]
Olszewski, whose Polish family has attended St. Adalbert's for four generations, said the parishioners are capable of raising more money, they only need time.
"I believe we can raise the money to fix the church and set aside money for the future of St. Adalbert's," he said.
Future of the site
If the church is sold, preservation activists are working to ensure that the Renaissance Revival building will not be torn down.
Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said that he has approached church leaders with a plan to repurpose the church building into a world-class music school that would provide music lessons to children and adults.
Olszewski said a developer is also eyeing the property, with plans to build condos at the site.
The move to close St. Adalbert's is part of the Archdiocese's larger plan to reconfigure six Catholic churches in Pilsen into three, closing multiple churches in the process.
Founded by Polish immigrants, St. Adalbert Catholic Church at 1650 W. 17th St., was built in 1912. The parish was founded in 1874, and now hosts weekly services in English and Spanish and a monthly mass in Polish.
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