Three local churches celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2017
July 8, 2017

By Marie Balice-Ward

The Rev. George Lane, SJ, shown here celebrating a Mass with the relics of Holy Family Church, was instrumental in creating the Holy Family Preservation Society, which raised millions of dollars for repairs and restoration.

Three churches in this community’s readership area are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year.

Holy Family Church 160th anniversary

Holy Family Church, Chicago’s second oldest church, is located at 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd. and is celebrating its 160th anniversary. Anniversary events at the Roman Catholic parish include a special Mass on Sunday, July 16, at 9:30 a.m. followed by a light breakfast hosted by Saint Ignatius College Prep.

The Rev. Mike Gabriel, pastor, said the congregation now numbers about 300 and is proud of its diversity. The congregation began as primarily Irish, then Italian, and now is African-American, Latino, Asian, and Indian.

“The strength in our church is that it is so diverse,” Fr. Gabriel said. The Rev. Brian Paulson, provincial for the Midwest Province of the Jesuits, will attend the anniversary celebration. “Our doors are always open,” he said of Holy Family. “We welcome everyone.”

In 1857, the Rev. Arnold Damen founded Holy Family as Chicago’s first Jesuit parish. During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Fr. Damen prayed it would not burn down, and the church did survive the blaze. The O’Leary family, owners of the cow blamed for starting the fire (whose cause never was determined) were parishioners.

The church closed in 1984 due to a leaking roof, with worship held in a chapel to the north. By 1987, the Jesuits planned to demolish the church and build a smaller one to accommodate its diminished membership.

In June 1988 the provincial superior, the Rev. Robert Wild, told Pastor George Lane he could work with the parishioners to save the church, and the Holy Family Preservation Society began operation that fall.

In summer 1990, Fr. Wild said the church had to have $1 million by the end of the year to stay open. Parishioners and friends held a prayer vigil for donations, and on Dec. 30, 1990, the feast of the Holy Family, the church held an open house attended by more than 2,000 people. Local and national media including CNN picked up the story of the candlelight vigil held on the church’s steps over the next two nights, and news spread throughout the world of Holy Family’s need. By the deadline the church had collected $1.011 million, and although it still needed more than $5 million for renovations (which it eventually raised), the church was saved.

Holy Family Church is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture. It accommodates 1,000 and features 65-foot ceilings throughout the sanctuary.

Among its interesting features are its round, clerestory stained glass windows and its Rice Frobenius pipe organ, which is approximately 60 years old and came to the church from St. Maria Church in Helsingor, Denmark.

The statuary and art within the church commemorate the different ethnic groups who have worshipped at Holy Family. The parish also has a healing garden and parish center that features conference rooms, a bride’s room, and offices.

Other 160th anniversary events scheduled are a Mass of Remembrance on Saturday, Nov. 11; the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday, Dec. 31; a presentation on the history of Holy Family on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018; an open house on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018; a wedding feast on Sunday, April 15, 2018; and an anniversary closing Mass on Sunday, July 15. Call (312) 492-8442 or log on to

Morning Star Baptist centennial

Morning Star Baptist Church of Chicago, 3993 S. King Dr., will commemorate its centennial with evening services on Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14, and all day on Sunday, July 16. Pastor Henry A. Barlow said, “Our 100th year anniversary serves as a testament of God’s will and divine providence, that a strong foundation was laid. It is my prayer that we will embrace the future with enthusiasm and excitement as we continue to do kingdom building.”

Rev. Barlow began as interim pastor in March 2015 and became pastor in October 2015. Ed Talbot, a member of the church’s board of directors, noted he “joined Morning Star eight years ago, and I have seen the changes over those years. I am very proud of our church history and the struggles its members have gone through to bring Christ’s message to our neighborhood, and I pray that this church will be here another hundred years.”

A congregation of 21 founded Morning Star at 3800 S. Vincennes Ave. on July 15, 1917. The church organized its missionary society in 1918 and received its charter from the State of Illinois in 1919. It organized a gospel choir in 1931-32, a junior matrons auxiliary from 1926 to 31, and launched the first church newspaper during this period.

The church sold the property at 3800 S. Vincennes Ave. for housing and bought the current property at 40th Street and South Parkway (now King Drive). During the Rev. C. Slaughter’s tenure from 1993 to 2003, the church initiated prayer breakfasts, workshops, and a “Kitchen Chat,” and the congregation made esthetic improvements to the building. Call (773) 285-8111 or log on to

Second Presbyterian 175th anniversary

Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago, home to one of the city’s oldest congregations and located in a landmark building known for its stained glass windows and Arts and Crafts interior, celebrated its 175th anniversary on June 1. The church is located at 1936 S. Michigan Ave. Celebrations included a June 4 rededication service, with Pastor David Neff preaching and the Second Church Quartet performing, and a party during the South Loop Farmers Market on June 15.

“The celebration featured the congregation, Alderman Pat Dowell, Representative Danny Davis, friends from other churches such as Old St. Mary’s, and a bagpiper,” Rev. Neff said. In September 1842, Second Presbyterian Church dedicated its first building at the southeast corner of Randolph and Clark Streets. By 1847, Chicago’s business district had grown, and the church bought a new lot at Washington Boulevard and Wabash Avenue.

It commissioned James Renwick Jr. of New York to design a new structure in the Gothic Revival style. Completed in 1851, it was nicknames “The Spotted Church” because the building materials created a spotted effect. The church established its professional quartet in this structure. In September 1871, Second Presbyterian joined Olivet Presbyterian, maintaining Second’s name. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed the church a month later, and parishioners once again commissioned Renwick; he designed the current Gothic style church built on the corner of Michigan and Cullerton Aves., in a community that housed many well-to-do families.

Parishioners at the time included Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln; the family of railroad magnate George Pullman; and grain trader George Armour. An Armour family donation enabled the church to build a tower and equip it in 1884 with a twoton bell that still is rung weekly. When President Grover Cleveland opened the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, he attended services at Second Presbyterian Church. The church installed the Angel in the Lilies window in 1894. In March 1900, fire destroyed the church interior; architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, a long-time member and trustee, designed an Arts and Craft style sanctuary. It remains unchanged except for the addition of memorial windows.

The interior is considered one of the largest and most intact Arts and Crafts interiors in the country. Workers recently removed its stained glass Peace Window, designed by Tiffany Studios, for restoration. It contains more than 1,000 pieces of glass and measures 15 feet high. Call (312) 225-4951 or log on to

Editor’s note: Ellen Skerrett, Chicago historian, and William Tyre, executive director of Glessner House and Second Presbyterian Church historian, helped provide historical information for this article.