In 2013, Buffalo, New York started the Mass Mob. The idea was to get as many people as possible to go to one church for Sunday mass. In 2014, Detroit, faced with some of its parishes closing, copied the concept.
Mass Mob is based on flash mobs. Using social media, groups post where and when the Mass Mob will occur. In many cases churches were filled to overflowing.
Chicago faces the very real prospect of several Catholic parishes closing. Older churches and parishes are part of the architectural fabric, culture, history, and heritage of the city. Some face the wrecking ball.
St. Adalbet parish is facing closing and the church might be razed. The church is an architectural masterpiece.
Built between 1912 and 1914, the church was designed by Henry J. Schlacks in the Renaissance Revival style. The spires are 185 feet tall. They are the highest point in Pilsen.
St. Adalbert was the second Polish parish approved for Chicago. The parish was founded in 1874. The original church was replaced by the current structure.
"Fronting the street, the two buff-colored brick towers are ornamented with finely detailed terra cotta, pierced by arcades and capped by copper cupolas. Visitors enter through a portico defined by a series of polished granite Corinthian columns. Once inside, the interior is a soaring rectangular space based upon the form of Roman basilica." (Preservation Chicago)
Hispanics replaced the Polish community long ago, yet many Poles still worship at St. Adalbert. Since the area is slowly gentrifying, the parish is getting more diverse.
Parishes were more than places of worship and education. Like settlement houses, parishes were community centers that tied neighborhoods together. Some went beyond, preserving the history and cultural traditions of the ethnic groups they served. They were a second home to neighborhood populations.
On the South Side, when people ask where you are from, the correct and only answer, is a parish not a neighborhood or street. People took pride in their relationship with the parish. Real Estate listings used to tout a home's location by the parish.
"When you get off the 'L' stop, and you see the towers, you know you are home," said Joseph Schutz, 32, a lifelong St. Adalbert parishioner. "It's a family here. When they tear it down, what is this going to be in four years, condos?" (Chicago Tribune)
Unfortunately, Mr. Schultz, it will probably be condos. Condos for millennials to worship at the altars of coffee shops, vegan restaurants, nail salons, tattoo parlors, and hipster bars.
More is at stake than community and religion. These churches represent some of the last vestiges of Chicago's architectural, construction, art, stained glass, interior design,and statuary history.
It would be nice if some of Chicago's millionaires and billionaires could contribute to saving these gems. But they have more important things to do. Art masterpieces must be purchased. Politicians need to be bought.
Others with less money are too busy trying to acquire more to keep up with their betters. The rest, the middle and working classes, are already stretched to the limit. They are looking for ways out of the neighborhoods and city.
Expect churches to be razed and replaced by condo buildings or shoddy town homes. Expect schools to be transformed into condos or work spaces. Watch as new architectural history is made with bleak ugly Soviet style buildings, as it has in many buildings erected over the past 20 or more years.
Maybe the Mass Mob concept can work if organized as well as the ever annoying #SomethingOrOtherLivesMatter flash mob protests. Maybe numbers of people in this city will say enough is enough.
You do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of the art and architecture of old churches. Appreciation for art and architecture is as secular as religious. The churches serve as small museums keeping religious art alive.
Here is the information of the St. Adalbert Mass Mob. It would be nice if there were lines down the block. The action may not save the building but it would make a powerful statement.
"Mass Mob- Mass Mob on March 6, 2016 at 10am at the second polish parish in Chicago St Adalbert Church 1650 west 17th Street Chicago, IL 60608 . Saint Adalbert was the second Polish parish authorized by the Archdiocese of Chicago. It's roots go back to 1873 / You will not want to miss this one. This whole concept requires very little effort. You simply show up for a Mass (as announced) at a beautiful old historic church. Mass and there will be plenty of parking. Be sure to invite your family and friends, ask them to come to Let's fill the church with pride and supporters. Like and Share help us fill the church to capacity. 312-226-2300" (Facebook)
"The 1914 W.W. Kimball organ at St. Adalbert is one of the largest extent and unaltered organs from the builder in the greater Chicago area. Constructed of the finest materials available, Kimball organs are arguably some of the finest and most beautiful American built organs." (St. Adalbert website)
W.W. Kimball and Company was established in Chicago in 1857 to sell pianos. In 1877 Kimball began manufacturing reed organs. They became the world's largest organ maker. In 1890, they manufactured portable and permanent pipe organs. They ceased organ production in 1942. Kimball is another iconic part of Chicago history.
Here is video of the St. Adalbert organ being played.
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