LOGAN SQUARE — If all goes according to plan, a historic Logan Square church will soon get its voice back after nearly 90 years of silence.
Neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation has teamed up with the parish at St. John Berchmans, 2511 W. Logan Blvd., to restore the original church bell, which hasn't sounded for many decades.
On Tuesday, the community leaders launched an online fundraising campaign with a goal of $15,000.
The bell was installed in the belfry on the corner of Logan Boulevard and Maplewood Avenue in 1905 when the church was established.
The church was the center of Logan Square's Belgian immigrant community during the early 1900s. [Logan Square Preservation]
Around the 1930s, the mechanism that operated the bell cracked and the bell stopped working. Though the church replaced the mechanism with an electronic system, the bell ended up falling out of use.
The parish's contractors had reported the entire bell "broken," but this past spring Logan Square Preservation discovered that the bell itself was fully intact. It was the mechanism that needed fixing.
With the fundraising money, the group and church leaders will be able to send the bell to a refurbishing company in Ohio, which will install a new mechanism, electrifying the bell and allowing for a remote control.
The project is meant to "encourage neighbors to see the church in a different way," said Andrew Schneider, president of Logan Square Preservation.
"The two can be partners — not just neighbors. [It] helps foster strong bonds within the community."
The neighborhood group also took on the project in memory of founding member of Logan Square Preservation, Gerald Slawin, and his wife, Diane Ragains. Slawin, who grew up in the neighborhood, supported St. John Berchmans all his life.
In its early years, St. John Berchmans was considered the center of Logan Square's vibrant Belgian immigrant community.
Though neighborhood demographics have changed, the church, which is now part of the Archdiocese of Chicago, has managed to remain relevant through festivals and other events. Over the years, the church expanded its campus to include a school and a food pantry.
"Our community is very special," said the Rev. Wayne Watts, pastor at St. John Berchmans.
"The members of this church responded to my call to them. I invited them and challenged them to be committed disciples. They go out and invite others and bring the love of God into the community."
The congregation has grown tremendously since Watts became pastor 11½ years ago. According to Watts, fewer than 75 people attended Christmas Mass the year he arrived. Last year, about 600 people attended, he said.
Watts said restoring the bell to its original glory will send a strong message to the community — especially during a time when other local churches are struggling to survive and their buildings are being redeveloped into other uses.
The sounding of the bell will say: "We are here, we're not going anywhere and we want you to join us," Watts said.
"The bell — calling people to worship — will help let people know that we're here. Our doors are open to you. Follow the sound of the bell and come in."
Donate by visiting the campaign's website.