St. Adalbert’s sale to Chicago Academy of Music closer, not yet final
March 4, 2017

St. Adalbert’s supporters spread out in front of Holy Name Cathedral to make their case to the Archdiocese to keep their church open. (Photo by Troy Heinzeroth)

By Patrick Butler

Despite media reports that St. Adalbert’s church buildings have been sold to the Chicago Academy of Music, the Roman Catholic archdiocese said it could be several months before any deal is sealed.

Which is good news to Bianca Torres, spokeswoman for the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, who argued that no sale can be finalized so long as the case is still being appealed in Rome. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy ruled several months ago in favor of the Chicago Archdiocese’s plans to “suppress” St. Adalbert’s as a full parish. The decree allows that St. Adalbert’s still could hold services as a “sacred site” where some Masses could be said.

“We’re still appealing the suppression of the parish decree, so while that’s going on, there should be no final sale until this is resolved,” Torres added. “That might take months, three or four, maybe a little bit longer. During that time not much can happen.”

Torres said her group is taking its case to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura (the Vatican’s equivalent of a Supreme Court), even though the preservation group’s Rome-based lawyer is not optimistic.

While the Preservation Society has not been able to talk to Archdiocesan officials about saving St. Adalbert’s, the group did get a letter on Jan. 4 from Douglas Wambach of the Burke, Warren, MacKay and Serritella law firm informing the group only that the Archdiocese has “entered into a binding agreement to sell the property to the Chicago Academy of Music.”

As part of that agreement, those involved would not disclose details of the sale until after the deal is done, Wambach said.

In his letter to Torres, Wambach said, “the Archdiocese notes your interest in the future use of St. Adalbert Church and, when appropriate, additional details will be made public.”

A large crowd of parishioners and friends of St. Adalbert’s garnered media attention when they marched at Holy Name Cathedral. (Photo by Troy Heinzeroth)

Could still hold Masses

Torres said that even if the church is sold, some Masses could be held at St. Adalbert, “but we don’t know how many, when or where,” she said.

While she can understand the need for confidentially during sale negotiations, “we as Catholics have a right to know when and where services will be held,” she said. Despite the sale not being final, under the agreement between the Chicago Academy of Music and the Archdiocese, on Feb. 28 the Chicago Academy of Music scheduled its first concert in the church.

Earlier, on Feb. 5, more than 200 parishioners, former parishioners, and friends protested outside Holy Name Cathedral demanding that the Archdiocese stop the sale to the Chicago Academy of Music.

“It would no longer be a church,” said Margo Dumelle, whose family’s roots at St. Adalbert stretch back to 1914. “Basically it would be an auditorium. We want something that speaks to what the community of the faithful want. The music school might be well-intentioned, but it’s not part of the community. It’s an outside entity.”

She noted the new owners likely would “take out the 22-ton marble altar, the Stations of the Cross, everything.”

Earlier, the Archdiocese said it was closing the church because it is badly in need of repairs estimated to cost about $3.4 million to fix the twin towers and another $1 million to renovate the rectory and convent buildings.

Money available?

Dumelle countered that the church could be saved because “the money’s there. The Preservation Society has $1 million in its bank account and access to about $20 million in credit lines. This is definitely doable.” She believes that the money lent could eventually be paid off with fundraising initiatives and other appeals. She said the Preservation Society has even found a retired priest who speaks Spanish and Polish as well as English who would be willing to serve as pastor if the Archdiocese approved saving the church.

Former parishioner Christopher Waz noted that, while many in the Polish community have moved out of Pilsen in recent years, Hispanics have come in to take their place in a new Pilsen that is fast becoming “a very desirable neighborhood. The church is located one block from an el stop and it’s very close to downtown. Who knows? In 20 years this neighborhood could be a very expensive area with a lot of well-to-do Catholics who would have a wonderful church to pray in.”

Some attending the church are not neighborhood residents, said Waz, who now lives in the suburbs but said he comes back because he is “interested in the church and its history.”

Like many former parishioners, Dumelle and Waz are afraid the church buildings eventually will be razed to make way for luxury condos.

“If they tore it down, they could make a lot of money,” Dumelle said. “But you’re going to turn everything into Schaumburg. Any civically minded person who likes architecture wants those buildings to remain standing.”

“All we need is goodwill from the Archdiocese, and we’ll be fine,” said Joe Strzelecki, who has been a parishioner for 37 years. “Let’s not give a preferential option to the developers and speculators.”

Chicago Academy of Music officials did not respond to requests for comment. Archdiocesan officials referred inquiries to the law firm.