Volunteers Help Renovate Our Lady Of Angels Church

CHICAGO (CBS) — After two decades of silence, Our Lady of the Angels Church is alive again with activity.

The helping hands are from a sister parish, local trade councils and construction firms that are donating time and materials.

“As soon as they hear about it, they just want to be a part of it,” says Adrienne Timm, a volunteer from St. Paul Of The Cross in Park Ridge.

It’s all so the church, which now stands in a very troubled corner of Humboldt Park, can once again open its doors after years of neglect and water damage.

Franciscan Father Bob Lombardo of Our Lady of the Angels is amazed that so many have stepped forward. He calls it “a miracle.”

“Considering the economy we are in right now I am astounded by it,” he tells CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.

The parish’s darkest hour is imprinted on Chicago’s history: a tragic fire in 1958 in the church’s neighboring elementary school that killed 92 children and three nuns.

It’s a history not lost on the Franciscan priests and sisters who now operate a small mission there.

“It’s incredibly humbling to be here in a place that’s so historic,” Franciscan Sister Alicia Torres of Our Lady of the Angels says.

The tradesmen who work by codes enacted because of the fatal blaze take note as well.

“It’s pretty powerful, at least to myself it is,” Frank Borkowski of Plumbers Local 130 says. “You kind of feel the spirits around you, at least I do.”

In a church closed for so long, you can also feel a sense of hope.

“I am blessed,” Lombardo says. “I get to see the beauty of human nature and this is a manifestation of it here.”

The church still belongs to the Chicago Diocese, but the small Franciscan mission living on the grounds has acted as its caretakers. They say the refurbished church will help them better minister to the neighborhood.

They hope to be open by Christmas.

“This church will be a living testament to the lives that were lost but also a reminder that God is here with us, and we’re going to continue that work of the Lord,” Torres says.

  • jj

    My aunt was a registered nurse on duty the day of the fire,she came to our house after working all day and night,I still remeber the smell on her uniform. What a tragedy bless the church and the Volunteers

  • L. Weaver

    If you want to learn more about the Mission, here is its website: http://www.missionola.com

  • Tori

    My cousin passed in the fire, she was only 10 years old. It’s great that the church is being renovated. God bless the church and volunteers.

  • Lyndia

    I remember the fire well because I was a youngster myself. I was to young to actually know what neighborhood the church was in. All I knew was a lot of children were burned up and many of them was my age. I also remember feeling very, very sad and crying for the children that night. When I became an adult, I took my children by the church and explained what happened that tragic day.

  • olamission

    Mission of Our Lady of the Angels still needs $50,000 to finish the church! We really need Chicago’s help. Please call 773-486-8431 if anyone would like to make a monetary or material donation to the church. Every penny and brick are very important at this point- we are very close.

    If anyone from OLA alums would be interested in spreading the word about what we’re doing at the Mission to other OLA alums, please call 773-486-8431. Thank you!

  • Jon

    May the Lord Jesus richly bless Our Lady of the Angels Church. Please pray for Fr. Lombardo and the community he is guiding. Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us. Holy Innocents of OLA School, pray for us.

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