CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s second oldest church was celebrating a milestone Tuesday, while busily preparing for Christmas services
Twenty-five years ago, it was called “The Miracle On Roosevelt Road” when Holy Family Church was threatened with demolition.
“This was built four years before the Civil War. The Miracle on Roosevelt Road took place where they were able to raise enough money to save the church,” said Rev. Mike Gabriel, the pastor at Holy Family.
In December 1990, parishioners and friends of Holy Family held a five-night vigil on the church steps. In less than three weeks, they successfully secured $1 million cash through a global appeal that saved the church.
“It was in bad shape. I’ve seen pictures of it. There is actually one corner of the balcony that was never renovated to remind us of how far we’ve come,” Gabriel said. “We continue to work on the church. As we all know, a building of 1857 continues to have 1857 problems, as well as joy.”
Holy Family Church was built in 1857 and narrowly escaped the Great Chicago Fire. It also survived a dangerous fire in 2003. It’s the city’s only example of pre-Civil War Victorian architecture. Gabriel said the church embodies the cultural heritage and ethnic diversity of the city.
Volunteers are busy this time of year, decorating the massive church. Workers are setting out the nativity scene, having wreaths, cleaning and preparing the church for Christmas services and the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday.
Gabriel also makes his annual trip to the church safe to bring out the Relics of Holy Family, containing a thread from the cloak of St. Joseph, a fragment from the veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a fragment of the manger where Christ was born in Bethlehem.
“The relics are so important because they remind of us of the goodness of people when they were alive and even today, the continue to inspire us. The cradle is so important because the church is the cradle for people and we continue to have new birth for this parish. We bring them out every year for people to see them and celebrate with us,” Gabriel said.
Treasures from the back safe are also on display; including chalices, vestments, and other relics that go back to the 1800s.
Christmas Eve services will be held at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Christmas Day mass will be held at 9:45 a.m.
The Feast of the Holy Family will be held Sunday at 9:45 a.m., followed by an open house to mark the 25th anniversary of the church’s restoration.