St. Maurice Church at 3615 S. Hoyne Ave., Chicago, including connected real estate and buildings, is slated for deconsecration by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Parishioners Appeal St. Maurice Church Deconsecration and Sale

Published September 24, 2020

Parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Parish have filed an appeal to halt the deconsecration and likely sale of St. Maurice Church in the McKinley Park neighborhood, thanks to assistance from Saving Our Catholic Churches, a nascent Chicago-based group providing free assistance with Catholic canonical law.

 
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The historic church, sited at 3615 S. Hoyne Ave., has been slated for removal from the parish and sale of its building and real estate following a September 11, 2020, deconsecration decree from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The appeal halts St. Maurice deconsecration until formally considered within the Roman Catholic Church's internal legal process, which can take up to two years, said Saving Our Catholic Churches co-founder Brody Hale.

 
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"Catholics have the right to do this," Hale said. "The church cannot now be sold until conclusion of the appellate process."

Downsizing the Parish 

In his deconsecration decree, Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich detailed several reasons why St. Maurice needed to be deconsecrated and sold, including relief for a "huge" debt burden currently being carried by Blessed Sacrament Parish.

Cupich noted the 2008 consolidation of Blessed Sacrament Parish, with continued worship at St. Maurice, SS. Peter and Paul and Our Lady of Good Counsel churches. "The continued use of all three churches is no longer feasible," Cupich wrote. "Preservation of all the churches would impose an intolerable burden."

Additional barriers to keeping St. Maurice include dwindling attendance of parish churchgoers and fewer contributions from working- and middle-class parishioners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cupich wrote.

 
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"Charity and assistance to the poor should not be neglected in order to preserve a sacred building," Cupich stated. "There are no parochial, archdiocesan, or other known sources of funds available to keep and maintain St. Maurice Church."

Preserving Chicago Churches 

Julie Sawicki, president of the Society of St Adalbert (SOSA), which seeks to preserve St. Adalbert Church in the nearby Pilsen neighborhood, said deconsecration of St. Maurice would lead directly to a sale.

"The only way that a church can be sold to a non-Catholic entity is if it is first stripped of its sacred space status, and all religious relics have been stripped from the church," she said. "In layman's terms, they gut the church, even removing the stained-glass windows."

Both Sawicki and Hale said that other options may be available to keep St. Maurice intact and provide funding, such as working with Catholic lay groups for other uses of the property, and seeking additional fund-raising sources. 

"This is being done in many other places," Hale said, pointing to the successful preservation efforts of St. Rose of Lima in Joliet, Illinois.

 
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"Many convents and rectories in Rome have been converted to Catholic B&Bs and retreat houses," Sawicki said. "It is not a new concept."

Knowledge of Canonical Law

Hale faulted the Archdiocese of Chicago for not informing parishioners of their rights under Catholic canonical law when churches are slated for closure. "We saw that folks in the neighborhood of McKinley Park had not been given all the facts," Hale said.

 
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Following outreach, three Blessed Sacrament Parish parishioners collaborated to file the appeal for St. Maurice, Hale said, which was submitted just before the September 21 deadline.

"I am appalled at the lack of information that folks are being given as to their rights," Hale said. "The Archdiocese of Chicago Is not willing seemingly to work with Catholics to find alternative uses for the churches."

Hale, who is a practicing attorney in Massachusetts and works as an unpaid volunteer for Saving Our Catholic Churches, said the effort is associated with nine current Chicago church closure appeals moving through the Vatican-mediated process, eight of which have been filed since the start of 2020. "There is no diocese that has more appeals than Chicago," he said.

"We’re not doing this to be difficult," Hale said. "We’re doing this to insist that the law be followed. We love the church, but we’re not happy about what’s happening."

Architecture and History

Sawicki noted the benefit of preserving the significant history and architecture associated with Chicago churches. "Most of these Catholic churches were built by immigrants, and they are part of an immigrant group's history in this city," she said.

"Closing churches erases our immigrant history and strips neighborhoods of their architectural pearls," she said.

Hale said the Archdiocese of Chicago seems to have ramped up their issuance of deconsecration orders and church property sales citywide. "The pace is picking up," he said.

 
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"This is a move [by the Archdiocese] to try to liquidate as much property as possible, notwithstanding canonical law," he said. "They are closing and selling, and this has to stop." 

Anyone interested in connecting with the Saving Our Catholic Churches group should send email to savingourcatholicchurches@gmail.com, Hale said.

Last Masses

As published in the events calendars of the McKinley Park News, the church is presenting a Final Mass at St. Maurice in English and a Final Mass in Spanish at St. Maurice on Saturday, September 26. As indicated in signup forms, all spaces have been reserved for these events.


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