CHICAGO - It's been a painful weekend for many Chicagoans as some have learned their churches are closing.
The 5:00 p.m. mass at St. Thecla had a better than usual turnout Saturday night. Before and after, you heard groups of people expressing sadness and anger over the archdiocese decision.
Days at St. Thecla are numbered, now that the Chicago Archdiocese announced they intend to consolidate 19 parishes into five.
“It seems to me that our religion's going down,” said Roman Penar, St. Thecla parishioner.
Roman Penar, a faithful parishioner of St. Thecla for 54 years, suspects more closings will follow.
“This is just the beginning and I tell everybody, don’t believe what they say,” said Penar.
In July 2020, St. Thecla on the far North Side will join two others – St. Cornelius and St. Tarcissus. It’s part of the “Renew My Church” effort that will affect parishes in Lincoln Square, Milwaukee Avenue North, East Little Village, Hegewisch and Burnham, and suburban Lemont.
“Pain is temporary. Memories last forever. St. Thecla will go on forever,” said Sean Collins, parishioner and a 1999 graduate of St. Thecla School.
Most of these parishes also have schools where students will have to find someplace else to go next fall.
“It’s not just like individual families coming together and go back home again. There's a lot of unity and social events and fundraising. The school families are really a true family on their own, so to speak. So this is very devastating,” said Father Gregory Rom, St. Thecla parish.
Teachers and coaches are also affected, believing many will lose their jobs.
“My sister was married here. I was married here. My love for this place goes beyond anything expected,” said Mark Olszewski, football coach and 1992 graduate of St. Thecla School.
Most of the parishes caught up in this must consolidate by July 2020, but in this late addition to the weekend bulletin, it says they’ll have until November 2020 for mass to transition to their new location.
A complete list of the new My Church groupings can be found here.