CHICAGO — Sitting at the corner of 82nd Street and South Shore Drive for more than a century, thousands of footsteps into St. Michael the Archangel Parish are fading into history as a final mass was celebrated Sunday before the venerable building is closed.
“It’s amazing structure, really the cathedral of South Chicago,” Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago said. “It’s so unfortunate that this is being closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago when this is still a viable parish.”
Miller came to the church Saturday to lobby for landmark status of the building and to celebrate his family’s history. St. Michael’s is where his great-grandparents were married in 1895.
“These are landmarks and gateways to communities. The faithful built these churches with pennies, nickels and dimes and they were given to the Archdiocese to steward and maintain, and when that can’t happen anymore we need to think of other solutions,” Miller said.
US Steel, a large employer at the time on the Southeast Side made large donations as well to help contruct the Gothic revival structure as a place for many of its Polish immigrant workers to worship.
“A whole sense of community is lost here. It’s more than just a faith-based place of worship and house of worship, it’s a gateway to these communities, it’s a cornerstone to these communities,” Miller said.
He suggests the Archdiocese allow another religious organization to take over the space, allowing the doors, in some form, to remain open.
“These are true landmarks in our community and when they’re closed, not only do we lose a religious site but we lose all the services, the human services, the counselors, the food and the food pantries,” Miller said.
Services that Miller said need to remain for the community, as much as the building should remain for future generations to appreciate.