Cupich Draws Fierce Opposition from Polish and Hispanic Catholics to Aggressive Church Closures

Over 40 people, many of them former parishioners, gathered Sunday afternoon outside the closed St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen to honor their patron saint on his feast day.

The celebration began with a Litany to St. Adalbert, the church’s and Poland’s shared patron saint. The group offered petitions first in Polish, then Spanish, then English. “St. Adalbert, faithful to God, pray for us,” the prayer went. “St. Adalbert, glory of the Holy Cross, pray for us.”

Following the prayers, a band from Holy Trinity Polish Catholic Church and Mariachi La Barca Jalisco played in the street in front of the scaffolded church building as people danced along. Those gathered at the corner of West 17th and South Paulina streets ate paczkis and sernik, Polish doughnuts and cheesecake, as well as tacos and tamales.

St. Adalbert closed its doors in 2019. Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago attributed the decision to declining parish populations and the “significant investment” needed to make church building renovations. The church held its last Mass in July 2019.

Since parishioners first heard in 2017 that the church would be closing, a group of them has been steadily fighting to keep St. Adalbert open. In November, after months of protests by former congregants, the archdiocese had the replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta statue, which depicts Mary cradling Jesus’ body on her lap after the crucifixion, moved from the historic church to St. Paul Catholic Church, about a mile southwest.

Protesters of the move told the Tribune that the statue’s removal would bring the church closer to a point of no return. An archdiocese statement said the “valued community treasure can be better safeguarded and preserved in an active parish church.” And the archdiocese’s multiple unsuccessful attempts to sell the building have been met with opposition from the former parishioners — and prayer.

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