Historic North Side Catholic church holds farewell mass amid preservation battle

A church that's been a fixture on the North Side for more than a century offered parishioners a farewell mass on Sunday. 

The question for the community – can the historical structure be saved? 

The pews at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church were filled to capacity for the final Sunday mass in the illustrious history of Uptown's ornate Catholic Church.

After more than a century, the archdiocese is closing the parish as part of a property sale that will see a new apartment building in the neighborhood. 

The Lady of Lourdes Preservation Society is now fighting to protect the building itself. 

"The first step is to preserve it as a historical landmark. I actually met with the Commission of Chicago Landmarks last Thursday to present our case," said Katarina Garcia, president of Our Lady of Lourdes Preservation Society. 

The first mass was held at Lourdes in October 1892 as part of the church's consolidation. 

It was merged with Buena Park's Saint Mary of the Lake in 2021. The archdiocese has closed nearly two dozen churches over the last two years. 

"People have strong faith and they need a place to worship and practice their faith and for them to take it away – for the people who are the leader of the church to take it away from their parish makes no sense to us," said Garcia. 

The church's days of servicing the faithful at Lourdes are over. However, the preservation society hopes to save the structure as a shrine for future generations. 

The concern is that if a deal can't be reached, the parish will be demolished to make way for future development. 

"Instead of the archdiocese tearing down over a hundred churches, they should be saving as many as they can," said Garcia.  

The church is rated "orange" in Chicago's Historic Resources Survey, meaning if the building can't be saved, it could end up costing residents more to live in the neighborhood. 

"Not only would it be terrible for Chicago history, but for people who live in this neighborhood. They should be against it because property taxes are going to go up as well," Garcia said.  

Our Lady of the Lourdes not only served a large Hispanic community – it was among the most diverse churches in Chicago with over 20-plus nationalities represented.