We have begun the discernment and feedback phase of Renew My Church here at St. Mary of the Angels. We have also met with the other grouping teams from St. Aloysius, St. Hedwig, and St. John Berchmans and we are getting to know each other and the process we are about to embark on.

Please accompany us with your prayers as we journey on this path. Help us reflect and discern what God is asking of our parish as we focus on the great task of passing on the Faith to the next generation here in Bucktown, Wicker Park, and East Logan Square. We encourage you to reflect and discern how God is asking each of you to renew your relationship with him and how you can participate in this great task.

Let us be open to this great adventure of grace, being led by the hand of Christ who sends us out: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Your Feedback Needed

We are asked to give feedback to the Archdiocesan Renew My Church team, both on the needs of our parishioners, the Bucktown-Wicker Park residents, and the opportunities we have to share the faith to others. In this we ask you to give us your observations and concerns. Please take time and fill out the initial survey (sma-church.org/RMC). We will also have several Zoom “town hall” meetings to let you know about the facts of the various parishes in our grouping—St. Aloysius, St. Hedwig, St. John Berchmans, and us—and about the various scenarios being proposed.

In a scenario, a parish may 1) stay as it is; 2) combine with another parish and keep all parish buildings to serve the parish mission; or 3) combine with another parish and close some buildings to better achieve its mission. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but go through the process of gathering information and studying the possibilities of our area.

Consider the 122 year history of St. Mary of the Angels Parish and the changes and challenges this community faced. When founded in 1899, our church was on the top floor of the current school and could hold 926 persons. In the early 1900s, that church became too small, so the current church was built to hold 2000+. Since then, the number of practicing Catholics decreased substantially: we lost one third of the parish to the Kennedy Expressway when it was built in 1960; as the Polish, Irish, Lithuanians, Germans, etc. were replaced by Latinos (Puertorriqueños, Mexicanos, etc.), who were then replaced by gentrification of the area. Formerly 90% of the households were practicing Catholics with 8 to 10 people in each house or apartment; now less than 5% are practicing Catholics, with 1 to 2 people in each house. So it is no surprise that Mass attendance went from over 10,000 to less than 1,000 each Sunday; our school used to enroll 1000 students, now 240.
Just over 30 years ago, St. Mary of the Angels church was closed due to disrepair and considered for demolition. With much effort and generosity of our parishioners and benefactors, St. Mary of the Angels has been revitalized and refocused on its mission.

Now it is our turn to do more, to launch out into the deep waters and lower our nets for a catch as fishers of men (cf. Luke 5:5,10). As each one of us gets closer to our Lord Jesus Christ, let’s also look at the men and women God has placed at our side: perhaps they too can join us for Mass, Confession, and for this great adventure of Love at St. Mary of the Angels.

Fr. John Waiss