Home World Officials make farewell plans for St. Bernadette Church

Officials make farewell plans for St. Bernadette Church

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St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Evergreen Park will hold its last Mass June 30, and close its doors for good.

Founded in 1947, the small church fell victim two years ago to Renew my Church, a Catholic consolidation process meant to pare down churches with declining membership rolls.

When the church announced the merger in 2022, many of St. Bernadette’s parishioners were disappointed. Some had grown up going to that church, but despite entreaties to remain open and a petition to save the neighborhood church, the move marched forward.

Now, after the final Mass at 10:30 a.m. June 30, 9343 S. Francisco Ave, those parishioners will say goodbye to their familiar altar and the church’s cross and its leadership will migrate to the Queen of Martyrs Church building in the newly formed St. Gianna Parish.

Father Benedykt Pazden said the last two years have been hard for some members, but tempers have cooled even among those who didn’t get what they wanted.

“The two-year transition time I asked the cardinal for were very helpful, in that it allowed people time to accept this very difficult decision for the cardinal to close St. Bernadette’s and merge with Queen of Martyrs,” Pazden said. “Actually, it helped tremendously unite the parish community in a physical way.”

Pazden said Queen of the Martyrs community has been hospitable and, as it’s only about five minutes away, he’s seen parishioners testing the waters, getting used to a new spiritual home. But, of course, any move can be bittersweet, so on June 30, the community will also get a chance to say goodbye to the old place.

“We’re getting ready for it and we’re going to give people some way of saying goodbye to the church,” he said. “Maybe they can kiss the altar or say goodbye to the worship space.”

The Rev. Benedykt Pazdan, pastor of St. Bernadette Catholic Church, offers a blessing March 30, 2022, after volunteers loaded roughly 600 boxes filled with supplies into a truck to aid Ukrainian refugees in Poland. (Bill Jones/for Daily Southtown)

Bill Jones/for Daily Southtown

The Rev. Benedykt Pazdan, pastor of St. Bernadette Catholic Church, offers a blessing March 30, 2022, after volunteers loaded roughly 600 boxes filled with supplies into a truck to aid Ukrainian refugees in Poland. (Bill Jones/for Daily Southtown)

The church’s leadership also will perform a ceremony to transfers the space from a holy, sacred site into regular piece of real estate.

“We’re inviting parishioners and formers parishioners and the deacons and the priests who have ministered to us, we will have a relegation to transfer it to civil use,” Pazden said.

It’s not clear what is to become of the church and its parking lot, but OSF HealthCare, the Catholic group that operates Little Company of Mary Medical Center next door, will likely buy the property. If that happens, Pazden seemed optimistic the land would be put to good use.

“They’re interested in acquiring the property and keeping it for a different purpose than for a church, but there’s not talk of taking it down, but nothing is confirmed, so I don’t know how much I can say,” Padzen said.

He’s heard the space could be used as a community center or for some other need, but he’s hopeful parishioners who are longtime members will be able to see the old, familiar space and visit it. He said the sale of the property to a Catholic hospital is, in its way, poetic. That’s where the land came from decades ago.

“You know, when Father Morgan O’Brien, he was a founding pastor, he asked the cardinal at the time to start a new parish, he lived in a room at the hospital,” Pazden said.

A parking lot for OSF Health Care Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park. (Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown)

Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown

A parking lot for OSF Health Care Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park. (Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown)

O’Brien bought the land from the hospital, so for it to return to its original owners would be poetic, and he said it’s a needed space as the hospital looks to expand services.

In any event, the parking lot won’t change too much. Last month, the Evergreen Park Village Board voted to ban multistory parking garages, so neighbors need not worry about much increased traffic.

Pazden said he’s hopeful looking forward. Now that two years have passed since the initial announcement, all that’s left is the big move, which will be something of a production with local firefighters and police vehicles overseeing the cross’ move to Queen of Martyr. Pazden said he hopes the people will follow, and he is optimistic here, too.

“We’re hoping and praying everything goes well and we want to build community and bring more people into our church and a relationship with Jesus, and don’t lose sight of what’s important,” Pazden said.

Jesse Wright is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.



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