Photo by Joe Boyle
St. Louis de Montfort Church in Oak Lawn will close its doors on July 1 as part of a restructuring by the Chicago Archdiocese under “Renew My Church.”
By Joe Boyle
Major changes are planned for Catholic churches and schools in the southwest suburbs.
The Chicago Archdiocese is implementing its “Renew My Church” plan which has been in the discussion phase for the past several months. St. Louis de Montfort Church, 8840 S. Ridgeland Ave., Oak Lawn, will close July 1, according to the archdiocese.
This is part of the restructure entitled the Oak Lawn, Burbank, Bridgeview Grouping. The parishes and schools included in this grouping besides St. Louis de Montfort are St. Albert the Great Parish and School in Burbank, St. Fabian Parish in Bridgeview, and St. Gerald Parish and School in Oak Lawn.
The other major change planned by the archdiocese includes the Chicago Ridge, Hickory Hills, Oak Lawn and Palos Hills Grouping. In this category, Our Lady of the Ridge and St. Linus will unite as a new parish with a new name, continuing to use both churches for Mass. The move will also become effective on July 1.
Besides Our Lady of the Ridge and St. Linus, the grouping includes St. Patricia Parish and School in Hickory Hills and Sacred Heart Parish in Palos Hills.
The closing of St. Louis de Montfort Church comes after the archdiocese decided to shutter the school four years ago. Declining enrollment was the reason given for the closure, which officially took place on June 30, 2017.
The patrimony (financial assets and physical property) of St. Louis de Montfort will be shared equally among St. Albert the Great, St. Fabian and St. Gerald.
According to the archdiocese, St. Gerald will manage the campus and lead the process for deciding the future of this plan. Other than these changes, St. Albert the Great, St. Fabian and St. Gerald parishes will remain in their current structures, including pastors.
Over the past several months, the groupings’ Feedback and Discernment Teams, made up of representatives from each of the parishes and schools, met to decide the future parish, school and church structures for their respective areas.
Based on their meetings and discussions with the larger parish communities, they submitted feedback reports to the Archdiocesan Standards and Recommendations Commission, which includes representatives from across the archdiocese.
The Commission reviewed the feedback reports and other materials and information, including demographic data, financial summaries, and parish and grouping trends.
According to the archdiocese, the Commission recommends St. Louis de Montfort wind down its ministry by June 30, including a final regularly scheduled Mass.
Operations at the current parish schools (St. Albert the Great and St. Gerald) will remain the same. The new structure on July 1 will include the closure of St. Louis de Montfort. The parishioners of de Montfort are invited to join any of the neighboring parishes.
While Our Lady of the Ridge and St. Linus will unite as a new parish, St. Patricia and Sacred Heart will each remain in their current structures. As one parish, Our Lady of the Ridge and St. Linus will have one pastor and one pastoral team, according to the Commission. The local community will consider possibilities for the new name, within guidelines provided by the archdiocese.
Our Lady of the Ridge parishioners, much like those from Louis de Montfort, also dealt with the closure of their school. Our Lady of the Ridge School, which had been in existence for 64 years, closed its doors for the last time in June of 2018 due to low enrollment.
Until Cardinal Blase J. Cupich decides on a permanent name for the new parish, the interim name, Our Lady of the Ridge and St. Linus Parish, will be used. St. Linus will be the united parish’s school. St. Linus will retain its school name.
The Mass schedule at each worship site will be reviewed by the pastor in consultation with parish leadership between now and July 1. The Mass schedule after July 1 may differ from the current schedule, according to the archdiocese.
Additional information about the assignment of pastors will be provided in the next few weeks, according to archdiocese representatives.
When Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury raised the issue of the parish closures during the Jan. 26 Village Board, she and the trustees criticized the financial decisions of the Archdiocese of Chicago that made the parish closures necessary.
“It is very frustrating. It is not about money–it is about doing the right thing for the people of Oak Lawn,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), an active member of St. Gerald Parish, noting that the Archdiocese turned down an $8 million offer from the village to purchase the westernmost section of St. Casimir Cemetery, just outside the village limits at 111th and Cicero Avenue. The village wanted to turn it into a park with a retention pond to address chronic flooding problems in the village.
“People forget that it wouldn’t just help the south side of the village. Ultimately, it would alleviate the water draining into Stony Creek, and help even the northern side where I am and and western side where District 1 is.”
Phelan said he and former mayor Dave Heilmann first approached the Archdiocese about the possibility of purchasing that section of the cemetery 15 years ago, and pointed out that the boggy area is not usable for graves because it is in a floodplain.
“The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the Army Corps of Engineers were ready to commit $10 million to the project,” said Phelan.
“All of you Catholics, and I am one of them, should see that this is not taking care of the flock, it is punitive,” said Phelan, asserting that the Archdiocese put an end to negotiations after former village manager Larry Deetjen “dressed them down.”
“It is maddening when you consider that some Sunday morning a resident might find water in their basement, and have to rush to Mass, and the collection plate is put in front of them by (the Archdiocese) which could have done something about the flooding problems,” said Trustee Tim Desmond (1st), who is also a local parishioner.
–Dermot Connolly contributed to this report.