Neighborhood groups fight to keep Pilsen's St. Adalbert Church

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In July the archdiocese closed Pilsen's St. Adalbert Church for good, bringing an end to more than a century of history.

"I've been going to this church my whole life. More than 40 years. I went to school here," said Blanca Torres.

When the church first opened, the neighborhood was home to a thriving Polish population.

"The inside is stunning. It features a Polish flag to help the new Polish immigrants, our ancestors who. missed home so much," said Julie Sawicki, who is working to save the Church for the community. "I am actually losing sleep. The archdiocese is making it difficult when it doesn't have to be."

The church is located on a prime piece of land in the heart of Pilsen, near an L stop. The church, rectory and convent along with a school take up about 25 city lots. Developers are reportedly interested in the property.

"That's why we decided to rezone, so we have a chance to look at the alternatives and find the best fit for the community," said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez. "The Archdiocese has a responsibility as one of the largest landlords in Pilsen to make sure they think about the best interests of the residents."

One group of parishioners has already offered $2 million.

"Give it back to us. We will restore it. We will honor its original purpose," said Sawicki.

Some activists are concerned the Archdiocese seems to be moving without input from parishioners.

"We want to make certain this community of St. Adalbert and Pilsen is heard in this whole process," said Torres.

While they no longer have access to the inside of the church, parishioners have been gathering outside for vigils, hoping prayer will help save it. Groups working to save St. Adalbert are gearing up for a long fight.

"We've been fighting for this church and no one is giving up at this point," said Sawicki.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Archdiocese released a statement saying, "City Pads is under contract to purchase the former St. Adalbert parish property. We fully anticipate that the buyer will engage with local residents, elected officials and community leaders to solicit input and feedback regarding the potential reuse of the property at the appropriate time. St. Adalbert Church has been an anchor for the community for nearly 100 years. And while the buildings no longer support the mission of the combined St. Paul/St. Adalbert Parish, their potential redevelopment will benefit the community while also providing necessary funding to support the mission and ministry of the parish.

"The former St. Adalbert parish property had been marketed for sale for over a year. We have had dozens of meetings with parishioners, advocacy groups, city officials, interested parties and community members. All plans were considered. No viable proposals were received to preserve the property as sacred space throughout the marketing process or in the years prior.

"The Archdiocese of Chicago fully understands the importance of its buildings to the communities we serve. We have a long history of open communication with City of Chicago officials and community members whenever church properties no longer serve their original purpose. We expect any potential buyers of these important parish properties to be similarly respectful of the surrounding communities and to solicit feedback from local officials and community members."
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