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.