THREATENED: Archdiocese Reveals Plans to Close The Shrine of Christ the King

Shrine of Christ the King / St. Clara / St. Gelasius, Henry J. Schlacks, 1927, 6415 S. Woodlawn Ave. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
After 2016 Fire. Shrine of Christ the King / St. Clara / St. Gelasius, Henry J. Schlacks, 1927, 6415 S. Woodlawn Ave. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Detail of the the large Healy and Millet stained glass window at Epworth Church. Epworth United Methodist Church, 1891, Frederick Townsend, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. Photo credit: Ward Miller / Preservation Chicago

“Woodlawn community organizers say public masses have been suspended at the Shrine of Christ the King Catholic Church, and they worry the Archdiocese of Chicago is planning to shutter the landmark.

“Mass and other sacraments at Shrine of Christ the King, 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave., were suspended on Monday, according to Jennifer Blackman, a member of the Coalition to Save the Shrine, a nonprofit organization aiming to restore the church.

“Blackman said the ban came from the archdiocese under a directive issued early this year to bring parishes and shrines in line with a papal decree aimed at limiting Mass being celebrated in Latin. Christ the King Church only celebrates Mass in Latin.

“The Coalition to Save the Shrine was formed in January of 2016 after fire destroyed the roof of the church. The organization said more than $3 million was raised to repair the damage and save the church from demolition, according to Blackman.

“Gabriel Piemonte, co-founder of Save the Shrine, said the recent developments ‘are a cause for concern.’

“‘We and other community stakeholders are requesting that the archdiocese be transparent in the decision-making process to ensure the future of the building reflects its highest and best use,’ Piemonte said.

“The building was constructed in 1927 as St. Clara Church. It was granted landmark status in 2003 as St. Gelasius.

“Blackman said representatives from Coalition to Save the Shrine plan to speak at Thursday’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks meeting. (Heather, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/2/22)

Preservation Chicago has worked closely with preservation partners for many years to defend and protect this significant building. The highly ornate 1923 church building at 6401 S. Woodlawn Avenue was devastated by a fire in October 2015. The historic church’s interior and roof were completely lost, but the massive limestone walls survived. The estimated cost of rebuilding was $9 million dollars so the Archdiocese was left with little choice but to demolish the remains of the Designated Chicago Landmark Building.

Then something of a miracle occurred. Due to an extraordinary preservation advocacy effort, within a few months of the fire, nearly $650,000 in pledges had been received to rebuild. Ultimately, the congregation, Woodlawn residents, the preservation community, and Preservation Chicago were successful in their efforts to preserve the building resulting in a transfer of ownership from the Archdiocese to a separate Catholic order, known as The Institute of Christ the King, at no cost, but with a commitment to rebuild the building and a Catholic presence in Woodlawn.

Initial funding was used to stabilize the building with the optimism that future monies would be raised for the installation of a new roof. Over $3 million dollars were raised. The rebuilding efforts for fire-damaged Shrine of Christ the King/St. Gelasius/St. Clara Church in Woodlawn reached an important milestone in March 2018 when the first new roof trusses were installed.

Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times

Preservation group says Mass has been suspended at Shrine of Christ the King Church, raising concern for future of landmark; Jennifer Blackman, a member of the Coalition to Save the Shrine, said many questions have gone unanswered by he Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, Kade Heather, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/2/22

Latin Mass Will No Longer be Held At Only Catholic Church in Woodlawn; Residents Worry About Church’s Future Without Mass, NBC 5 Chicago, 8/2/22


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