Archdiocese merges two Little Italy parishes

CHICAGO (WLS) -- This Catholic church on Roosevelt Road with history going back 162 years begins a new chapter without Sunday morning mass.

"You are going to lose people. They are going to go to other churches. I'm sad about that," said parishioner Josephine Aguilar.

Parishioners and the pastor of Holy Family Parish were told last night they would merge with a parish less than a mile away -- Notre Dame de Chicago Parish.

"They went through all these things. The only thing you couldn't do here was be a parishioner," said Kellee Athens, another Holy Family parishioner.

Ray Walsh described the Holy Family Parish as multi-ethnic and said that contributed to the parish's unique feeling.

"There's spirit in this parish I've never felt anywhere else, so it was a sad day for us last night," Walsh said.
Tom Justic described how busy the parish is.

"We have 91 weddings here a year and that is a great outreach program," he said. "A lot of these young couples come back to the church for the first time in years."

"It's very painful, very painful. Just heart wrenching," said Father Mike Gabriel, the pastor at Holy Family. "All of a sudden to disperse this, this grouping, this family, it makes big difference."

The Archdiocese of Chicago will unite the two parishes effective July 1 because it is "not sustainable" to continue operating both parishes.

"Over the next few months, the archdiocese will work with the faith communities of Holy Family and Notre Dame de Chicago to ensure an orderly and smooth transition to the new structure," a spokesperson for the Archdiocese said in a statement.

The food pantry at Holy Family, which serves 200 families each month, was open Thursday.

The new unified parish will have a new pastor by mid-March. It will be up to the new pastor to decide if the food pantry will continue to operate.
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