CHICAGO — On the day in which the Church celebrates what is known as Divine Mercy Sunday, Cardinal Blase Cupich celebrated mass at a church that is home to the Divine Mercy Chapel — one reason it is the only parish in the area open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, now in its 150th year.
The Jubilee Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church was filled with faithful families that came to worship with multiple relations in tow, like the Morgan family, who gathered Sunday afternoon from five states to honor five generations of faith at a parish that towers over the Kennedy Expressway. It has been a beacon of hope for so many and for so long.
“When my grandmother came here and my great-grandmother, this was their place of safety, their place of worship, and it tied them to the community,” Steve Morgan said.
The parish, located in the 1300 block of North Noble, was the first Polish church in the city when it opened in 1867. St Stan’s school opened in the same year.
“Even though some students aren’t that nice, they may be mean to me sometimes, but I have to go through it and be nice to them even though they may be mean to me…because Jesus took up his cross,” said St. Stan’s 7th grader Justin Norman.
“There is history not only in stone, but in people. I think that’s important to keep in mind here as we thank God for all the many blessings that are here,” Cardinal Cupich said.
It once attracted what was hailed as the largest church membership in the world: 40,000. It moved the path of the Kennedy Expressway, because this church, members say,belonged to the Lord. It would not close or relocate.
“In 1950, when they built the Kennedy Expressway, they demolished over a thousand Polish homes in this area just to make way for the expressway. When that happened, a lot of Polish people began to move out to the suburbs. During that same time, a lot of the Hispanics from Mexico were coming to Chicago as well, and they found a place here at St. Stanislaus Kostka as well,” said parishioner Lorenzo Smith.
For decades, membership has been more diverse, as families like Erica Orona’s have called it home for years. Her grandmother cleaned the church for the majority of her working life.
“I was baptized here, and all of our kids are baptized here. It’s a big part of our family,” Orona said.
Members say they pray it will remain vibrant for another century and a half.
“By changing and adjusting and accepting new people into the community — not only the Polish people. You see many cultures and nationalities, and they feel as part of this community as the Polish immigrants did at that time,” parishioner Mark Dobrzycki said.
Cardinal Cupich also participated in the unveiling of a new statue honoring the Venerable Mother Maria Theresa Dudzik. She founded the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago and is one of 16 Americans now on the path to sainthood.