St. Mary of the Angels
St. Mary of the Angels
1850 N. Hermitage
Open to the public
St. Mary of the Angels parish was formed on the northwest side of Chicago in 1898 by the Resurrectionists in order to serve the area’s growing Polish population. The church was situated between the boundaries of two other Polish churches, St. Hedwig and St. Stanislaus, and was completed in 1899. As the Polish population in the area grew, in 1912 plans were made for the building of a new church.
On August 2, 1914, ceremonies for the blessing of the cornerstone for the new church were held, at which some 25,000 people were present. However, the church took more than six years to build due to World War I shortages. The church was designed by Worthmann and Steinbach and was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church cost more than $400,000, with a seating capacity of 2,000. In attendance at the dedication on May 30, 1920, were George W. Mundelein, the Archbishop of Chicago, Ambassador Gibson, the United States ambassador to Poland, as well as Prince Casimir Lubomirski, the Polish Envoy to the United States.
In 1948, John Mallin was hired to decorate the church for the Golden Jubilee of the parish. In addition, a W.W. Kimball pipe organ was installed at a cost of $23,750. The Parish Golden Jubilee book states, “the church was adjudged by all, artists and people, as one of the most beautiful in the city.” As described in the book, Heavenly City, “above the high altar the Latin inscription ‘Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus’ (Revelation 4:8) the cry of the angels echoed in the text of the Mass as ‘Holy Holy Holy,’ defines the upper limit of the earthly realm. Above, a great mural of heavens reveals the Virgin Mary looking up to the Trinity. The Virgin is attended by dozens of angelic figures, some playing music, some offering incense, some bringing white lilies, while other spill roses down to the earth below as symbols of the graces given to humanity by her intercession.”
The parish at one time had more than 1,600 families. However, in 1960 the Kennedy expressway was built nearby which required many homes in the neighborhood to be razed. This resulted in a significant decline in the number of parishioners and school children. By 1988, the church was closed due to unsafe conditions and was to be demolished.
Groups were formed to save the church, and in 1991, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, turned over the administration of the church to the Opus Dei. The parish grew and restoration campaigns were started. Money was raised for repairs and restoration of the church. In 1999, the 100th anniversary of the church, the restoration was completed. In 2011, the church dome was also restored.
Like many other predominantly Polish parishes, over time, the Polish families moved out of the neighborhood to be replaced by an influx of Hispanic immigrants. St Mary of the Angels is located only a mile away from another Mallin church, St Hedwig, which also served a predominantly Polish population. At St Mary of the Angels today, masses are held in English, Polish and Spanish.
References: St Mary of the Angels Church Golden Jubilee book, 1899-1949; Heavenly City, The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago, by Denis R. McNamara, Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, 2005.