On January 14, 2020, I was informed that the Archdiocese of Chicago was closing the Catholic School that I had attended for eight years, first grade, through eighth grade. It was going to be closing at the end of this school year. I, along with many other souls, were devastated at the news. This was home to me. The actual home I had grown up in, after my parents death, was located just three blocks from here and sold a month after their deaths. We had both my parents funerals here. They were Parishioners since the Church was opened. . Although all the comforts of my childhood seemed to be gone, I had always held St. Maria Goretti as a place that would be there for me, to remember. A spiritual anchor, so to speak, to remind me where I came from. Today, that is no longer the case. I learned today, they closed the Rectory and are moving all the religious documents to another Catholic Parish.
St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church, has held a very special place in my heart for as long as I could remember. It was my family’s parish. I was baptized in this Church on January 1, 1967.
I attended Sunday Mass here with my family, my sisters were Married here. It belonged to my family. My first memories are in this Church. I remember the Communion rail, and how everyone would just get up and go receive our Lord. I remember everyone kneeling to receive Him. I remember it being Lent and being terrified by the purple ghosts. Which were actually all the statues covered in the purple cloth. I remember asking my mom to please ask the Priest to let me see inside the Tabernacle, because I had to see how Jesus was living in there. Did He have a table? Chairs? A bed? Was Mary and Joseph in there too? I remember this Church being packed with souls, worshiping our Lord. I remember this place being the most important place in my life. I remember this photo below, being taken of my youngest brother and myself.
St. Maria Goretti was where Sr. Shirley Marie Patzelt OSF, (now deceased) taught me how to play piano when I was five years old. It was where I took my neighbor friend, when we were six years old, to go pray to our Lord, and ask Him to help her find her dog which ran away and could not be found. It was the place we would drive by and know we were home. It was the place I could walk to without being afraid, and go play baseball in the field behind the Church. It was the place that had the BEST Church Carnival at the end of the school year, marking the beginning of Summer Vacation. Everyone from miles away would attend it. It was the highlight of childhood. It was the place I always KNEW in my heart, commanded respect, reverence and was safe. It was the place our Lord was. It was the place that held the body of our Pastor, when he passed away unexpectedly. I remember my mom and I walking into the Sacristy, walking up to the front of the Church, to pray for him as he lay in state. It was quiet and somber. I remember crying.
This is the School, my parents scraped and suffered for, to ensure I could have a good Catholic education. With that education, came some of the most memorable souls I have ever known. This is the Church they supported with all they could financially, during the hard times in the Parish history, and during the hard times we faced as a family. This is the Church I had made my reconciliation and Confirmation at, and remember speaking with Bishop Abramowicz, who told me my Confirmation name, Mary, was his mothers name. He asked me why I had chosen the name, and I said I needed very strong help. This is the Church, I, along with my eighth grade class, sang The Magnificat in Latin, during our Christmas pageant to surprise the parents. As they had not heard it for some time, being sung. This was the place I called home, for my formative years.
This was the Church that my first daughter was Baptized in, February 14, 1988, and was able to attend Catholic Kindergarten, that did not exist at the time I was in Kindergarten. This is the Church I chose to leave, as I chased a dream I thought I could attain on my own. This Parish was not without scandal and through it all, my parents stayed, and worshiped our Lord.
This is a place where I began to learn how to worship our Lord. This is a place I had thought, would be there at the end.
This is the Church that my Father’s funeral was held. This is the Parish that would send extraordinary ministers of holy communion to visit my mom, suffering with lung cancer at home, after my Father’s death, as she was unable to attend Holy Mass any longer. This is the Church, my mother begged me to never forget. When I moved back in with her, she asked me to return to this Church with her, to receive Anointing of the Sick. We did together. This is the Church I returned home to, after failing miserably. This was the Church, which also held the funeral Mass, for my mom, just before I left this place again, for the last time, and moved across country.
This is the Church I called from across country, 9 years after the death of my mom, to obtain all my Religious documents, so I could Marry my husband in the Church and enter the Third Order of Carmel. I was amazed to find that the Rectory secretary, was the same woman who had been there for over 40 years. We talked about the Church, my parents and reminisced a while, before I had requested the documents. She remembered everyone and everything. It was like talking to a family member, I had not seen in many years. She remembered my Great Uncle, the Msgr from Slovakia, and even had the copy of my First Holy Communion record, which was celebrated in my Grandparents Church, which had also closed in 1987.
You see, this was also the place that all my childhood friends received their Sacraments. When I say all, I mean, all. Everyone I knew, all the kids in the neighborhood, were Catholic. Over the years, Mass attendance dwindled. Although my parents and others attended, children grew up and moved away. Older members were dying, funerals were being held, and new Parishioners began to dwindle. Mass times changed to accommodate, and as I hear now, Masses are split between another Parish across town and this Parish, shares the Priest with the other Parish. There isn’t a Priest anymore, who is solely assigned to St. Maria Goretti, but one who splits his time between this Church, and another. The School will be closing at the end of this school year, the Rectory closed this week and they are moving all the records to another Parish.
This is an original copy of a Church Bulletin, from January, 1967 which my mom saved for me, as it announces my Baptism.
I can not tell you how sad and painful it is, to watch a Parish die. Although I have many precious memories, I have just as many more thoughts of what could I have done more to help save it? I often hear Parishioners speak of the Priest shortage, but I must say, I don’t believe there is one. What I do see, is a Parishioner shortage. When souls live the faith, Parish life flourishes. When souls do not live the faith, parishes die.
There are just as many houses and family’s in the neighborhood as there were when I lived there. What there isn’t, is enough souls to fill the school and the Church pews. Just as there were not enough to fill the Church of my Grandparents parish back in 1987.
I will, if our Lord wills it, be visiting this place at the end of May, and will have an update at that time. For now, please pray for the souls of St. Maria Goretti Parish, especially the children who need to find a new school to attend and do not get to build the memories here, that our Lord allowed me to build.
I truly am pondering detachment of even the Parishes we have, although community in Christ is so very important. I ask myself now, is the attachment I had and have to this Parish a prideful one? As if to say this is mine! You can’t do this! Or is it more of an attachment due to it being a place where so many memories had been made, and I hold dear due to my parents being gone, knowing it belonged to them. Should my attachment to this place strictly be, the attachment I have to our Lord, knowing He is with me here where I am in my new place? I guess its something for me to seriously pray about. I do know there is nothing I can do to change it. But rather, just accept it as it is. All things are passing away. Our Lord is my Anchor. It is He who I am to cling to and not the things nor souls that bring me to Him.
Its like all those life experiences you place in a box, put away, and hear that the place you stored them, was destroyed. I know we all get over things as this, but its to be grieved like the death of a loved one. You know you get through it, you know our Lord is with you, but its still extremely painful. Its a realization that if this can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Its a deep call of conversion home to the Catholic faith. Return to your “first love”, live the faith again, not in the shadows of society, but out in the open, boldly.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us all.