Group fights to designate Our Lady of Lourdes Church as historic landmark in Uptown

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Group fights to designate North Side church as historic landmark
As the Chicago Our Lady of Lourdes Church is set to soon have its final mass in Uptown, a group is fighting to designate it as a historic landmark.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A community effort hopes to preserve a 108-year-old church in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Ashland Avenue is scheduled to close for good later this month.

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A group is fighting to get the church designated as a historic landmark.

The church and its parishioners have been through a lot over the years, and they are praying this will not be the end of the line. They have started a preservation society to try to keep the building from being torn down.

Maria Preciosisima has been a member of the church for more than 50 years.

"If you sell this church, you are selling the body of Jesus Christ. That's how I feel," Preciosisima said.

The church's pastor wrote in a newsletter, "This is a very difficult moment in the life our our Parish. We understand the decision will cause hurt, sadness, anger and confusion."

Built in 1916, Our Lady of Lourdes Church has been a fixture on the North Side for more than a century.

In 1929, in order to widen Ashland Avenue, they actually moved the 10,000 ton church across the street to the West Side and rotated it. Then, they cut it in half and added a new section in the middle.

Preservationists say its history is one of many reasons the building should be saved.

"The community is interested in seeing this and the shrine continue, and it seems like a no-brainer," said Ward Miller with Preservation Chicago.

Parishioners say the church draws visitors from all over the country to see the Grotto, a replica of the original in Lourdes France. The preservation group counts their alderman, Matt Martin as a supporter.

Martin's office issued a statement saying in part, "Our priority is to ensure that the building is put to productive use to guarantee that the structure is cared for and maintained in the long term."

"So if the Archdiocese no longer wishes to manage the church, there is a group of lay Catholics willing to take over," church preservationist Julie Sawicki said.

At this point, the final mass scheduled to be said Sunday, May 19. Parishioners hope that does not signal the end of the historic building.