St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church
71st and Honore Street
Church status: Closed
Paint Project date: 1940-1941
St. Justin Martyr church was founded on the south side of Chicago in 1916 to serve Irish Catholics in the area. The Rev. J K Fielding was appointed to organize the church. In 1917, he broke ground for a church and school building between Honore and Wood St. The church was designed by the noted church architect Joe W. McCarthy, which included an altar made from Connemara marble, and a holy water font imported from Ireland.
In 1936, the Rev James G Halleran became pastor of the church. In 1940, he hired John Mallin to decorate the church, probably in anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the church. A somewhat damaged photo from August 1940 shows what the church looked like before the Mallin decorations. A $3,000 deposit from the church in September of 1941 was noted in Mallin’s bank book.
In 1966 the Golden Jubilee of the church was celebrated, at which time the parish had 1,500 parishioners of Irish, Italian, and Polish descent. By the early 1970s, the area had undergone rapid racial change. In 1976, there were only 200 families in the church, of whom 95% were black. In 1989, due to the decline in parishioners, eight parishes formed the new parish of St. Benedict, with two different worship sites. St. Justin Martyr, St. Raphael and Sacred Heart came together at the St Justin Martyr church site. Four other parishes came together at the site of St. Bernard, which was razed in 1968. In 1995, the single parish of St Benedict split into two separate parishes, St Benedict the West, and St Benedict the East. However, in 2016, the two parishes formed a new parish called St. Benedict the African. Services are now held at the east site at 340 W. 66th St. The St. Justin Martyr church and school are closed, but are still used actively for storage by St. Benedict. The sanctuary was repainted in the late 1980s, and it is not likely that any Mallin decorations remain.
A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago Volume 1. Msgr. Harry C. Koenig, S.T.D., editor. The Archdiocese of Chicago, Chicago, 1980.
St. Benedict the African parish. History. http://benedicttheafrican.org/history/
Personal communication, Fr. David Jones, Sept 29, 2018.