Living Hope Newsletter – Summer 2023

Shrine OLG2

Our Lady of Guadalupe in
Chicago celebrates 100 years

Hundred-year milestones are about celebration, reflection, and vision for the future. The Claretian Missionaries are blessed to know 100-year anniversaries in their various missions, including this year’s special focus on Our Lady of Guadalupe parish (OLG) on Chicago’s south side.

For 100 years, “Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a welcoming place for Chicago’s Spanish-speaking migrant community,” says Claretian Fr. Hector Navalo, CMF, pastor of OLG. “At the same time, it has been able to respond to the needs and accompaniment of the community.”

Fr. Hector refers to both the welcome and service at OLG, because so much of both have been needed in this center of Mexican immigrant life in the city.

B 12 OLG Community 1928

OLG is Born

In the early 1900’s, jobs in the steel mills attracted Mexican immigrants north from Texas to this deep South Side of the city. Their community faced many challenges adjusting to their new home in Chicago, including the discrimination and economic adversity that often accompanies immigration.

The local community was one of faithful Catholics who wanted to establish a church that could be at the center of their lives. Cardinal George Mundelein agreed, and in July 1923 an old army barracks building was brought to the neighborhood to serve as Chicago’s first Mexican American church.

At this time the Claretians began their official ministry among the Spanish speaking people of Chicago—a natural fit for the priests and brothers founded in Spain by St. Anthony Claret. When the Claretians were dedicated to this particular parish the following year in October 1924, Claretian Fr. James Tort immediately organized the construction of the current distinguished church at the corner of East 91st Street and Brandon Avenue.

The people of the community built the church, brick by brick, invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe by naming the parish for their Mexican patron saint. “We still have families among us of the founders of the parish,” Fr. Hector says.

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The Shrine Emerges at OLG

Fr. Tort had a strong devotion to St. Jude, who at that time was still relatively unknown to the general Catholic population. Because of the challenges the community faced at that time, from spiritual needs to economic survival, Fr. Tort dedicated himself in prayer to St. Jude for intercession. By 1929, the parish of OLG also embraced devotion to St. Jude, and the National Shrine of St. Jude was built within their parish. The Shrine and the Claretians have grown devotion to St. Jude throughout the country and brought countless faithful to the altar for prayer.

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Ministries Thrive

The ministries of Our Lady of Guadalupe remain a cornerstone of life in the community. The parish school thrives as it welcomes families for Catholic education, placing an emphasis on faith, excellence, and pride. OLG School educates children from pre-school through 8th grade. The team celebrates daily prayer and weekly Mass while weaving faith into the curriculum. Students’ welfare is enhanced with a community of staff and families dedicated to Catholic faith and values.

Educational excellence at OLG is a top priority, utilizing up-to-date technology and accessing the many high-level resources of the City of Chicago, such as the city’s world-class museums. The rich Hispanic history of the parish and school offers a warm welcome to children and families, fostering pride in the heritage for all.

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Heroes Among Them

Young people are a special emphasis in Claretian ministries, helping to form joyful growth experiences. One dark yet inspiring piece of OLG history includes the loss of 12 youths during the Vietnam war—a loss in numbers greater than any other parish in the country. In a church where families have celebrated so many sacraments of baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and other major milestones, the parish found itself mourning on a large-scale.

Stories of the young Latino men who gave their lives in the war abound, bringing to life their vitality, courage, and youth. Long before other memorials were established, a stone memorial was erected at OLG for the heroes in 1970. To further honor them and their families, the parish created a dedicated site across the street from the church, the South Chicago Vietnam Memorial, which is a massive colorful mural together with the stone monument naming the lost sons.

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Parish Life

OLG parish life is a well-oiled engine, focused on learning and building always on its rich 100 years of experiences. There are many needs that remain in the community, where the Claretians always live among those they serve.

Fr. Mark Brummel, longtime director of the Shrine and former pastor of OLG, reflected recently on the gifts this community shares. “The parishioners continue to be a sign of hope in the neighborhood reaching out to those in need,” he says. “These efforts include providing for needed health care, affordable housing, good schooling and safe environment.

“If we still trust in the faith that has brought us to this point,” he says, “we believe that the Church and its members and friends will continue to be a source of light and hope.”