Holy Name parishioners shocked, saddened

Mass to be held at auditorium
February 4, 2009 3:31:25 PM PST
Holy Name parishioners who had only recently returned to the main sanctuary are once again sad to see the doors closed for Mass. Daily Mass will resume on Thursday in a temporary location.

On Wednesday, some parishioners showed up for the noon service, unaware of the fire.

Some came just to get a first hand look. Others walked right in expecting a Mass only to be told it wasn't going to happen.

"It's a great parish. People have faith, they will overcome," said Amie Lewis, parishioner.

"It's sad that there's a fire and damage and stuff like that. I'm grateful no one was hurt. I hope they can get it fixed up as soon as possible," said Tom Glennon, Holy Name visitor.

But it certainly won't be fixed up in time for John Lyons and Stephanie Cohen's wedding. The couple planned to get married at Holy Name on Valentine's Day. The invitations were mailed weeks ago.

"We were really excited to get married at Holy Name. Obviously we were upset when we first found out. We're trying to stay positive," said Stephanie Cohen, parishioner.

"We've been engaged over a year. We booked Holy Name right before the renovations," said John Lyons, parishioner.

Wednesday's fire comes a year after Holy Name was forced to close its doors after a piece of decorative woodwork fell from the ceiling. Costly renovations took months.

In November, daily worshipers finally were able to return to the cathedral.

One was Elizabeth Weldon who teaches at the parish school Francis Xavier Warde.

"Just knowing that the doors will be closed again for another period of time hard to take in," said Elizabeth Weldon, teacher.

Especially since Holy Name is a destination for people in Chicago and for tourists. Cathedral officials says about 5,000 people visit Holy Name every week.

"It's a place where everyone is welcome - all creeds, races. l've always felt that," said Moses Spencer.

Holy Name's pastor, Fr. Dan Mayall, has received calls and e-mails of support from all over the country.

"We've been here since 1875. No reason to think we are going away now," said Fr. Mayall, pastor, Holy Name.

After the fire Wednesday morning, parishioners will once again worship outside the sanctuary - at the parish center and auditorium.

"I'm just grateful to God that the damage isn't worse than it was. I'm grateful to the firefighters, the police who are here helping. And Chicago has always bounced back from fires," said Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.

Many people who heard about the fire at Holy Name came to watch.

"It hits your heart when you see these people out here in the extreme cold doing their job. They are doing a fine job everyone," said Jack Hernandez, parishioner.

Holy Name has often been called "Chicago's Church."

"This is an important building whether you're Catholic or not. This is a destination for tourists from all over the world. It will be the city's job to go in and do a structural evaluation. This is a historical landmark building. We will want to make every effort we can to save it. We will need the experts, the building department and the engineers to evaluate the structure first," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, (D) 42nd Ward.

"Another tragic, tragic day for Chicago. A beautiful church with a great history. A real loss. But we can rebuild these things," said Ward Miller, parishioner.

The fact the sanctuary had just reopened a few months ago makes the loss even harder for two teachers at Saint Xavier.

"The excitement to be back in the cathedral was so great. With weddings and everything going on in the church again. You know, today is a hard day. I'm obviously not going to work today, but it's hard to be just by myself, so I came out to see if I could get into the school," said Lauren Roberts, Parish School.