CHICAGO (WLS) --St. Sabina is celebrating 100 years of faith and service to the Auburn-Gresham community.
Father Michael Pfleger, the pastor at St. Sabina, has been the outspoken mouth piece of the church for more than 40 years.
ABC 7 took a walk down memory lane with Father Pfleger and looked back to the church's humble storefront beginnings to the powerful role the church plays in the community.
"I'm very prejudice but I think this is one of the most beautiful churches in the city. The stained glass was all hand carved in Paris. All this wood work here was all hand carved in Paris," Pfleger said.
St. Sabina is almost synonymous with its well-known pastor, but the historic institution in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood started out as an Irish Catholic storefront.
"It's really a miracle because when I got here in 1975 this church was on a block to be closed," he said.
St. Sabina stood tall and grew strong becoming a beacon in the neighborhood and playing a pivotal part in the often violent Civil Rights Movement.
"I think it's important to me because of my mentor. My mentor was Dr. King. He gave me what I felt was the best living model of what church ought to be," Fr. Pfleger said.
Nowadays, St. Sabina is a thriving faith community, actively involved in all aspects of the neighborhood from trying to end gang violence, to providing housing and educational opportunities. But just as often this large, mostly black church has been in the middle of some extremely controversial issues. For Fr. Pfleger it has come with a heavy personal price.
"I've been suspended twice by Cardinal George, at least three time tried to be removed and I used to think am I crazy that I'm fighting to stay at 78th and Racine. Am I nuts?" he said.
But he stayed and now St. Sabina is seen by many as a haven in the community. A place of refuge and a catalyst for change in the City of Chicago.
"I tell my members all the time every place you go should be different because you came out of this church," he said.
St. Sabina is celebrating 100 years of service to the community with an anniversary gala.
Windy City LIVE's Val Warner is emceeing the gala Saturday at the Hyatt Regency.