CHICAGO (CBS) — It once seemed destined for demolition, but now a historic, fire-damaged Woodlawn church is set for restoration.
The Chicago Archdiocese is donating the Shrine of Christ the King to an Italian order of priests which plans to rebuild it.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports the Chicago Archdiocese wasn’t sure the fledgling parish could raise the money to salvage the historic building, but it’s decided to give them a chance.
Easter is still a month away, but for parishioners at the Shrine of Christ the King, this was resurrection day.
“I’m just so happy, I don’t have any words,” said parishioner Marie Anderson. “Thanks be to God.”
“We just didn’t want to see it demolished and people are committed because they’re devout,” said parishioner Stephanie Breaux.
Last October, a spectacular fire tore through the 92-year-old landmark church, burning through the roof and causing extensive interior damage. Safety concerns led the Chicago Archdiocese to seek demolition.
“First and foremost, we were concerned about the danger of the building and the danger to human life,” said Chicago Archdiocese CFO Betsy Bohlen.
But parishioners at Christ the King, which offers the traditional Latin Mass, desperately wanted to save the building, so the archdiocese agreed to donate the property to the order of Italian priests which has been operating there.
“Thanks tomany preservationists and thanks to our own benefactors, we’ve been able to come up with a million dollars, one million dollars now for us to being the stabilization process which we will begin immediately,” said Rev. Matthew Talarico of the Shrine of Christ the King.
That will replace the fire-damaged steel roof trusses and shore up masonry. Full restoration will take millions more, but, it’s a start.
“We have our church back,” Anderson said. “We’re going home.”
Both preservationists and the members of the Woodlawn neighborhood have come to the aid of parishioners at Christ the King.
In fact, these highly traditional Catholics are now holding their masses In the gymnasium at First Presbyterian Church right around the corner.