Sunday Town Hall Meeting – April 21
Say Prayers to Spare St James!
Friends of Historic St James Church needs you!
Join us as we discuss what we know of the fight Save St James and let the parish have a voice about our own future.
- Sunday, April 21st@ 10:30-11:30 (following the 9:30 AM Mass)
- All are welcome!
Eileen Quigley 312.213.7712
Dave Samber 773.419.7656
Our mission this Lenten Season – 40 Days to Save St. James!
As we approach Holy Week, our beautiful sanctuary, the “Mother Church of the South Side”, is at risk to be demolished at the request of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
If the building, with its towering steeple is destroyed, its congregation and the city will lose:
- The soul of South Wabash for the past 132 years and it’s towering steeple, a symbol of Faith and Evangelization
- The home church for a food pantry that serves over 1,600 families a month
- The first integrated Catholic Church in Chicago, a diversity that continues today, and is the strength of our congregation.
- The ideal acoustics for the custom built Roosevelt Tracker, a rare 19th century pipe organ, and a 20-bell carillon
- The church that served Civil War prisoners and the Irish Brigade at nearby Camp Douglas.
- One of the few remaining Chicago churches designed by the noted church architect Patrick Keely
Why the Friends of Historic St. James are humbly requesting the Cardinal to rescind the demolition request:
- Neither the Parishioners nor the Pastor were included in the decision to tear down the St. James blessed sanctuary;
- The Archdiocese was quoted $12M to renovate the church but the Parishioners were never provided any documentation to substantiate such claim;
- St. James church has not been condemned by the City of Chicago as it has been rumored;
- The Archdiocese informed the Parishioners that someday they will build a new, modern church one block away for $6M-$8M, which the congregation is responsible for funding;
- Friends of Historic St. James have taken steps to secure an independent engineering assessment and are CONFIDENT the results will provide us with a substantially lower figure to return us to a safe and secure church.
- We need your help and prayers to persuade Cardinal George not to demolish St. James.
We are asking for a Choice and a Voice as we only have – 40 Days to Save St. James!
Dear Archbishop Vigano and Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume,
I am deeply honored that you reviewed and forwarded my request to halt the demolition of St. James to the Holy See. I received the response yesterday with the Dicastery’s concern for safety that they “cannot ignore evidence provided by both the Archdiocese and civil authorities…” and therefore our request to halt the demolition is denied. Contrary to the information provided by the Archdiocese, the civil authorities do not have concerns regarding the building as indicated by the attached letter dated April 22, 2013. In his letter, Alderman Fioretti, an elected official, clearly states the City of Chicago has not condemned the building and is hopeful that the Archdiocese will “pursue with an open heart a way to preserve this historic building for the community it serves”.
We, the parishioners of St. James, have spent countless hours in prayer and research to clear the miscommunication provided to Cardinal George. We have made over 40 requests for meetings with him to discuss the options for St. James on Wabash, all which have been met with silence. We have provided responsible solutions to he and his team, none of which have not been addressed. Over $2,000,000.00 has been spent on St. James to make her safe. It is costing an additional $600,000.00 to tear her down. In today’s economy and the financial difficulty we are facing in the Chicago Archdiocese as well as the Roman Catholic Church, I do not believe we can afford to waste $2,600,000.00. We truly believe it is fiscally responsible to build off the foundation we have instead of erasing the history of St. James on Wabash.
The demolition has begun, but if it is halted immediately, we can fix the physical damage done to the building. However, the emotional damage invoked on the parishioners will take much longer if the church building comes down. Parishioners have started to leave and the numbers are growing. They are not going to other Catholic churches as they are disheartened by the treatment we have received by the Archdiocese of Chicago and the lack of respect we’ve been given by our leader Cardinal George. We are a diverse flock he should be proud of but instead, we are ignored.
I humbly ask that you review our case one final time. Although it may appear I am tenacious in this mission, it is simply because in my heart and the hearts of the parishioners of St. James, we know this is the right thing to do. I also have the patience of Job but the building cannot sustain much more damage before it becomes irreparable so I respectfully ask that you contact Cardinal George and ask him to halt the demolition and meet with his flock.
Archbishop and Monsignor, I thank you for your time and consideration for halting the demolition of St. James on Wabash.
Eileen M. Quigley
Our requests for a meeting with Cardinal George remain unanswered so parishioners of St James brought the message to Save St James to Holy Name Cathedral this Sunday.
Send your emails to Cardinal George before it is too late!
We as parishioners and supporters of St James on WABASH implore you to stop the demolition!
Demolition begins at St. James Church on South Side – Sun Times 6/26/2013
Demolition begins at St. James Church on South Side
BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter June 26, 2013 11:38AM
Workers begin the demolition of St James Catholic Church, 2942 S. Wabash Ave., by cutting a large hole in it’s roof, on Wednesday June 26, 2013.
Little by little, the demolition started to tear down St. James Catholic Church Wednesday morning.
Demolition crews began taking a hammer to one of the roofs of the South Side church at 11 a.m.
A handful of St. James parishioners watching outside the church started saying “Shame on you” when the demolition started.
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) had said he was trying to get an extension on the demolition permit. He could not immediately be reached.
A letter written by Cardinal Francis George and send to Rev. Linton late Saturday noted that “the future of St. James Parish has been under much discussion since the City of Chicago decided four years ago that the church building that you used for worship is unsafe.
“The question was whether to try to put some millions of dollars into trying to rehabilitate an unsafe structure or spend that money for a new structure, with access to the parish campus from Michigan Avenue,” George wrote. “The canonical requirements have been met to take [St. James] down. “
The church’s congregation, which has about 250 parishioners according to Eileen Quigley, a longtime parishioner and co-chair of the Friends of Historic St. James Church., has been holding services in the community hall for several years after the archdiocese deemed the church unsafe. Many of the parishioners have also been fighting for most of this year to stop the wrecking ball from destroying their beloved St. James.
Demolition begins on St. James Catholic Church – Chicago Tribune 6/26/2013 – Ron Grossman
By Ron Grossman
12:59 p.m. CDT, June 26, 2013
To the dismay and anger of congregants of the historic, 133-year-old St. James Catholic Church in Bronzeville, a crane hoisted a flexible arm to the top of the front of church Wednesday morning, as it prepared to poke a symbolic hole putting an end to a fierce fight from congregants to keep the church intact.
About a dozen congregants of the St. James parish tried to block the entrance of the church, questioning the expiration date of a demolition permit.
But police showed them a current permit and demolition preparations were underway by 9:45 a.m. Crews were not expected to do major demolition work today, but started work to ensure the permit remained valid.
At midday having cut a hole perhaps 4 by 6 feet in the roof and thus fulfilling the Cardinal’s promise the demolition would begin Wednesday, workmen lowered their elevated platform and finished up for the day. An archdiocese official at the scene declined to say when demolition would continue.
Demolition was expected to start at the front of the church, because CTA tracks run behind the church.
During their protest this morning, parishioners gathered outside the church and sang “We Shall Overcome.”
One woman, Monique Germain, has been attending the church for more than 40 years.
“We feel that the process has not been right,” Germain said. “Everything has been done without clarification.”
The demolition comes after months of prayers, petitions and even an appeal to the Vatican for a reprieve. In a letter to the Rev. Edward Linton, the church’s pastor, and congregants, Cardinal Francis George said this week that “the canonical requirements have been met to take (the building) down.”
The archdiocese intends to build a smaller church nearby, saying the cost of restoring the old building is prohibitive. The original St. James building at 2942 S. Wabash Ave. is in such bad repair that the congregation has had to conduct services in a nearby community hall for several years.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
There will be a prayer vigil on South Wabash in front of the church at 8:30am. Say Prayers to Spare St James!
Parish group appeals to higher power to save Bronzeville
Preservation group files suit with Vatican; Archdiocese hints at possibility of
By Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune reporter
April 30, 2013
With the dispute over the proposed demolition of St. James Church on dockets in
both Cook County and Vatican City, Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese hinted at the
possibility of a settlement with preservationists fighting to save the 133-year-old
Asked if a compromise might be in the offing, Thomas Kennedy, the archdiocese’s
real estate manager, replied by email: “There are many ongoing conversations
about the preservation of the St. James Church building.”
That came as news to “Friends of Historic St. James,” a group of parishioners and
architectural preservationists trying to save the building. Eileen Quigley, a member
of the congregation and a lead litigant in a Vatican lawsuit fighting the proposed
demolition, said the group hasn’t heard anything from the archdiocese.
Relations between the group and the archdiocese have been especially icy since
the archdiocese announced this month it has set May 1 as the date a wrecking ball
would swing on the structure. On Monday, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese
said a demolition date has yet to be finalized.
Last Wednesday, emotions between the two sides boiled over into a shouting
match outside the courtroom of Cook County Circuit Judge Lauretta Higgins
Wolfson. Angry parishioners asked Kennedy why he wouldn’t meet with them.
He loudly accused one of the group’s members of kicking him. A sheriff’s deputy
cut the altercation short by herding church officials into one elevator and ordering
protesters to wait for another one.
Wolfson is overseeing litigation brought by the city over building code violations
at St. James — a suit cited by the archdiocese in its argument for the need
to replace the aged building with a more modest structure. According to the
archdiocese, its options have been limited by the city’s determination that the
building must go, and the considerable fines it has been accruing for the code
St James’ champions came to court armed with a letter from Ald. Robert Fioretti,
2nd, who wrote that “the City is not seeking to demolish the Church nor does
it intend to seek fines in this matter.” They were accompanied by members of
Preservation Chicago, an activist group that wants St. James to get landmark status
from the city.
The St. James building is in disrepair and has been deemed unfit for services for
several years. To a first-time visitor, it might seem odd that a church resembling
an old-world cathedral would have been constructed right up against the South
In fact, St. James got there first. Construction of the limestone structure began in
1875, long before the “L” was built. Tim Samuelson, the city’s cultural historian,
calls St James’ soaring bell tower a unique reminder of the neighborhood’s origins
as an upscale community of brownstones and mansions.
That history is cited in a parallel suit filed at the Vatican on behalf of Quigley and
other parishioners. It describes St James as having been built “exclusively through
contributions of the faithful, one of the oldest places of worship in the city of
Chicago,” and argues that the church can’t be demolished without the approval of
the Pontificia Commissio de patrimonio artis et historiae conservando, the Vatican
counterpart to Chicago’s landmark commission.
The suit also alleges that the decree that authorized St James’ demolition —
technically providing for its “reduction to profane use” — was invalid because it
is not signed by Cardinal Francis George. When it was issued, he was in Rome for
the papal conclave.
Peter Borre, the parishioners’ Boston-based canon-law adviser, said colleagues in
Rome have filed papers with the Vatican asking that George be issued the canon-
law equivalent of an injunction forbidding St James’ demolition until the plaintiffs’
case can be heard.
To the Friends of Historic Saint James:
I want all of you to know that it is my understanding that no demolition will begin May 1st on the historic structure of Saint James. Work of salvage does continue under the supervision of the Archdiocese of Chicago and with input from the Saint James Liturgy Committee, our Director of Liturgy, Dan Murphy and me. Prep work for demolition has ceased. I want you to know that I have no information regarding the most recent extension for demolition granted to the Archdiocese of Chicago. My personal queries have yielded no answers. There does seem to be some plan in the works; however, I have no idea what this might be. Speculation about what these plans might be would be just that: speculation. I will not speculate. But it is especially important to me that the Saint James parishioners among your number know that I continue my pledge to be as transparent as possible that I made when all of this began over four years ago. Nothing has been communicated to me and my questions have not been answered. The only thing I can say is that the Cardinal remains committed to his plan to build a new church on property located east of our current site. The Cardinal has also been very clear to me that the old structure at Saint James will never again be used for public worship.
Fr. Edward Linton, O.S.B. St. James Pastor.
The Chicago Tribune published an editorial earlier this week based on incorrect information. Eileen wrote a response which was published today.
Chicago Tribune – Save St James
Save St. James Catholic Church
April 18, 2013
As the editorial, (“A church in Bronzeville,” Editorial, April 17) reports, the Archdiocese ofChicago appears determined to demolish historic St. James, a sacred place that has served generations of Chicagoans. Known as the mother church of South Side parishes, St. James’ original parishioners were Irish railroad workers, later African-Americans who traveled in the Great Migration and today include people from six continents.
Such a fate would be tragic for the people of Bronzeville, the South Side and the city.
During an August 26, 2012 town hall meeing at St. James, Cardinal Francis George declared three times that the church was “condemned by the City of Chicago.”
The Cardinal is misinformed. City officials confirm that St. James is not condemned and never has been. Any current building code violations can be remedied during a restoration project.
George and the archdiocese staff consistently cite $12 million to restore St. James. This is a gross exaggeration of the archdiocese’s own cost estimate.
The cost to make St. James safe, sound and ready for occupancy is approximately $5 million, not $12 million as the archdiocese continues to advance.
Despite the archdiocese’s assertion that it “has received no specific proposal about construction costs from any outside developer,” Joseph Cacciatore met with George on March 26 for two hours to discuss his firm’s proposal to renovate the church. The project would cost $4.5 million after a $500,000 personal contribution and absorption of any construction overruns, permit fees or fines.
Cacciatore, like St. James’ parishioners, understands the importance of returning a 133 –year- old church to serve the people of Bronzeville and others who find comfort in its walls. He awaits a response from the archdiocese as its staff continues on its mission to topple this historic building. It’s also asking parishioners to contribute to the demolition and spend $9 million to acquire land and build a modest, one-story structure just a block east.
It’s clear that Cacciatore and parishioners of St. James understand Chicago’s spirit and have a collaborative relationship. It’s a tragedy for all that the church’s owners do not and continue to make false assertions about its fiscally irresponsible plan.
See the original editorial
As we promised ourselves last month, we would stand in front of St. James every Sunday until a decision was made regarding the status of the building. Although a final decision has not been made as of yet, I can tell you NO work has been done this week! The organ remains on the floor of the church and salvage has not begun. So, let’s take that as prayers answered and continue our mission.
I look forward to seeing you in front of the church on Sunday at 10:45.
Say Prayers to Spare St. James!
Photos from Easter Sunday Vigil as we appeal to Pope Francis I
Tweet him to bring our appeal to Rome. @pontifex
@pontifex hear our #Easter petition: Spare St James so we may continue 133-year tradition of serving the people of #Chicago #FOSJ
Follow @friendofstjames on twitter
Wanted to share this letter from our friend Jerry to the Cardinal. Maybe it can give you inspiration for your own letter to the Cardinal.
From: Jerry Smiley [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, March 29, 2013 08:34 PM Central Standard Time
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Historic St. James on Wabash
Dear Cardinal George,
This is my second attempt to reach you about a very important matter.
Your decision to demolish the St. James church is a tremendous mistake. This structure is an important historic and spiritual building that merits its renovation and reuse.
The St. James parish is a multi-ethnic vibrant faith community. I believe that parishioners and the pastor wish to renovate the church and return to prayerful devotion there. It is unreasonable to rob them of their wishes. And now, you lock them out of their own church. Is this a good example of Christian-like behavior – especially during this Lenten Season?
Why are you being so inflexible? As a life-long Catholic, I am exasperated that when presented a difficult decision, the church fails to see the big picture. Once this church is gone, a piece of our Catholic Chicago history will be gone forever. Please don’t give me yet another reason to be ashamed to be a Catholic.
You are well aware that two other historic Catholic churches faced demolition of two significant structures in the past: Holy Family and St. Mary of the Angels. In these cases, the Archdiocese and the Society of Jesus both relented and these important churches were saved. I am proud to say that I worked on both campaigns.
When Holy Family was in jeopardy of demolition, I spoke to the Chief Provincial of the Jesuits and asked, “What kind of idiot would tear down such an important structure?� He replied that he must be “that kind of idiot�, but the church still stands. I must ask, “What kind of idiot would tear historic St. James Church?�
So, Cardinal George, what is your answer?
From: Jerry Smiley [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:22 PM
Subject: Historic St. James on Wabash
Dear Cardinal George,
I am well aware that you are away at the Conclave in Rome, but hope that you or a member of your staff will read my email and react appropriately.
I write you this morning with deep concern about the status of St. James Church on Wabash. I understand that the diocese wishes to begin demolition of this beautiful and historic church as soon as Monday. While this is not as important as selecting our next pope, it is very important, nonetheless.
The decision to demolish St. James would be a tremendous mistake.
St. James is a truly historic structure that merits renovation by the archdiocese or reuse by another religious order. While the church has not been in use for a few years, it has not been condemned by the City of Chicago and is clearly not be beyond restoration.
The St. James parish is a vibrant community and I believe that parishioners and the pastor wish to renovate the church and return to prayerful devotion there. It is unfair to rob them of their wishes.
While I believe that the Diocese has plans to build a new sanctuary for these parishioners in the future, there are currently no plans in place and demolition would require parishioners to travel great distances to a new parish.
I ask that the diocese not rush the decision for demolition before preservation groups have the opportunity to present alternatives. Please allow the preservationists the opportunity to explore alternatives such as finding another religious order to operate the parish, as was done at St. Gelasius, Immaculate Conception, St. John Cantius among others.
The Archdiocese and City of Chicago have faced demolition of two significant structures in the past: Holy Family and St. Mary of the Angels. In both cases, the Archdiocese and the Society of Jesus both relented and these important churches were saved. I am proud to say that I worked on both campaigns.
I ask “what’s the hurry?� We are a Church with a 2,000+ year history. A few more months is but a drop in the bucket of our legacy. As a life-long Catholic, I implore you to reconsider your decision. Once this church is gone, a piece of our Catholic Chicago history will be gone forever.
The Archdiocesan response to our pleas to
- Save St James from Demolition
- To listen to a solution that allows for the church to be used and cost only $5 million instead of the inflated $12 million
- To support a humble parish that feeds 1600 families a month
is to lock us out of our house. Email the Cardinal to voice your opposition. Add to the email as your heart moves you.
Email Cardinal George
After today’s vigil, there will be no question in anyone’s mind why we want to Save St. James! WBBM News Radio, Tribune, Sun Times, Channel 2, 5 and 7 news trucks all lined up to hear our story…and this time it was from inside the church! As the dismantling of the organ ensued, news cameras and columnists took over the church capturing our vigil and conducting interviews with the Friends of Historic St. James. Now, more people will be exposed to the beauty of St. James.
Join us Tuesday hopefully in the church again at 10:30 for a vigil to be be aired on Chicago Tonight on Thursday.
Tomorrow, the dismantling of the 1891 Roosevelt organ begins. We will have a vigil at noon tomorrow in front of the church. Please join us if you can.
As we begin Holy Week, we humbly ask for prayers and positive thoughts be sent to St. James, the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal George that we may save this beautiful church.
The Patrcik Keely Society (famous architect of St. James Church as well as the Basilical of Notre Dame, Holy Name Cathedral, etc) had their annual symposium in NYC on Friday and produced this video on the behalf of the church, if you haven’t seen this church this will give you a great, quick history and importance of this church. http://vimeo.com/62367372
Preservation Chicago announced it’s 7 most endangered buildings in Chicago. First on the list is St James Catholic Church.
Although the demolition of St. James Church appears to some to be the political will of the Archdiocese of Chicago, a coalition of St. James parishioners, preservationists and the faithful of many area Roman Catholic churches have formed “Friends of Historic St. James” and this new coalition is determined to save it from the wrecker’s ball. With services moved into the adjoining church hall for the past few years because of deferred maintenance and the ongoing repairs to address code violations, coalition members have been reaching out to city officials to save the building, envisioning that preservation presents a new opportunity to reoccupy the church and grow the parish.
Continue for related news
Below is the demolition schedule being followed by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Now is the time to say that
We Want to Save St James
We Want St James Restored and Revived
|1. Asbestos Abatement
|2. Organ removal & salvage
|3. Bells removal & salvage
|4. Building Demolition
|5. End Date 6/17