News Detail
Chicago’s Holy Family Church Celebrates 160 Years of Resilience

August 9, 2017 — Chicago’s first Jesuit parish and second oldest church is celebrating 160 years. Founded by Jesuit Father Arnold Damen in 1857, the church has survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a planned demolition in 1990 and many changes in its west side neighborhood.


An anniversary Mass was held last month, with Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, provincial of the Midwest Jesuits, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner among the hundreds in attendance.


Jesuit Father Brian Paulson, provincial of the Midwest Jesuits, at the 160th anniversary Mass.

During the Chicago Fire, the church appeared to be in the path of the blaze that destroyed roughly three-square miles of the city and left 100,000 homeless. Fr. Damen, on a mission trip in Brooklyn, asked Our Lady of Perpetual Help to save the building, promising to light seven candles before her statue if the church was spared. The wind shifted, the church was spared and the candles were lit. Seven electric lights continue to burn around the clock at the shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the east transept of Holy Family Church.

An interesting historical footnote: The O’Leary Family, owners of the cow blamed for starting the fire (whose cause never was determined) were parishioners.

In 1987, the Jesuits decided to demolish the church and build a smaller one, but Jesuit Father George Lane, pastor at the time, received permission from his provincial to work with parishioners to save the church.

 
Jesuit Father George Lane, celebrating a Mass in Holy Family Church, was instrumental in creating the Holy Family Preservation Society, which raised millions of dollars for repairs and restoration.

Fr. Lane started the Holy Family Preservation Society with the goal of raising $1 million by the end of 1990 to keep the church open. On Dec. 30, 1990, the feast of the Holy Family, the church held an open house attended by more than 2,000 people. Local and national media picked up the story of the candlelight vigil held on the church’s steps over the next two nights, and news spread of Holy Family’s need. By the deadline, the church had collected $1.011 million, and although it still needed more than $5 million for renovations — which it eventually raised — the church was saved.

Known for its Victorian Gothic architecture and craftsmanship, hundreds of incandescent lightbulbs around the altar light a magnificent vaulted ceiling, and stained-glass windows bearing scenes of the Nativity and the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, cover the walls.

While the church is no longer run by the Jesuits, there is still a close connection, as it continues to serve the spiritual needs of Jesuit-run Saint Ignatius College Prep next door, including Mass and retreats.

Lifelong parishioner John King spoke of the profound sense of community at Holy Family Church: “You won’t find anything like this. I’ve been a parishioner since I was a boy, and I’ll keep fighting for this church.” [Sources: Chicago Tribune, WGN, Gazette Chicago]





Recent News

November 15, 2017 — Members of Ecojesuit, the Jesuits’ worldwide ecological network, report from Bonn.

November 14, 2017 — In honor of November’s Jesuit Vocations Month, we asked Jesuits across the U.S. and Canada to reflect on what they love about their Jesuit vocations.

November 14, 2017 — On Nov. 3, Jesuit Father Roch Lapalme pronounced his final vows in the Society of Jesus in Montreal.

Nov. 10, 2017 — Six Jesuit high schools are competing to help fill local food banks with provisions for families in need.

November 9, 2017 — St. Louis University High School announced the appointment of new president Alan R. Carruthers, effective July 1, 2018.

November 5, 2017 — Today is the feast of All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus, when we remember the Jesuits who have lived Ignatian values in inspirational ways.

November 3, 2017 — Fr. Michael Sheeran, SJ, asked Jesuit-educated members of Congress to support the Dream Act.

view all news

Search news

Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 11/13/17

America 10/30/17

America 10/29/17



Manresa Jesuit Retreat House
Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, located north of Detroit in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., offers retreatants a respite from the city on its 37–acre campus with almost 50,000 trees.