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August 26, 2012

St. Aloysius blesses new center

Following a bilingual Mass, Cardinal George blessed the new St. Aloysius Parish Center on Aug. 12. The 36,000 square foot facility located on Chicago's northwest side will house religious education functions as well as a food pantry, day care space, gymnasium and thrift store. The building meets the requirements for the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver Certification. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

The building as seen on the day of the dedication.Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Cardinal George accepts flowers from parishioners during the deication. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Maria Arroyo takes a photo of their family name plate at a sculpture at the entrance to the new buillding as her cousin Noel Soto looks on. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

By Bob Bajek


For years, the parishioners of St. Aloysius, 2300 W. LeMoyne St., have followed the motto “Growing and sharing in Jesus Christ.”

That motto prompted Father Nicholas Desmond to seek out funds for a new community center serving not only St. Aloysius’ needs, but also the surrounding Bucktown, Wicker Park and Humboldt Park neighborhoods.

Desmond and his flock’s dream came to fruition as Cardinal George and Bishop Alberto Rojas dedicated and blessed the Monsignor Thiele Center on Aug. 12. The 36,000-square-foot center, named after the parish’s founding pastor, answered countless prayers, including those of Aida Velez, who passed away last year.

“Aida prayed for something to come up in the neighborhood since she arrived here with her family in 1960 as the neighborhood was going downhill for many years,” said Desmond. “She’s been praying for a long time for a change in the neighborhood. This whole project was built on prayer.”

The center, designed by architect Charles Riesterer and built by Skender Construction, was an $8 million project. More than $700,000 came from parishioner pledges while the rest came from the property sales of recently closed churches St. Fidelis, 1405 N. Washtenaw Ave., and Our Lady of Aglona, 2541 W. Wabansia.

"When we closed those parishes, we amalgamated them with St. Aloysius," said Cardinal George during the dedication. "So the people, for the most part, came from those parishes to St. Aloysius. The goods of the parish follow the people. Because the people were coming here when the other two parishes were sold, then the profits from these sales could come to St. Aloysius."

During a bilingual Mass, more than 800 parishioners packed the church to standing room only.

Parishioner and Logan Square resident Elizabeth Rosario said she got “goose pimples” at Mass and sang with the entire church community as afterward they all flocked to see Cardinal George bless the center.

“I’m coming out of Mass right now and feeling the Spirit in my heart,” Rosario said. “I hope and I pray it really will be in God’s will that the center helps out in every way from the food pantry, the school, the neighborhood, and bringing the neighborhood together in love.”

Sister of Christian Charity Juliana Miska, the parish’s director of pastoral development, led a group of volunteers who gave tours of the Monsignor Thiele Center.

“It’s meeting all the needs of the people around us and our goal has always been growing and sharing in Jesus Christ,” Miska said. “We want to share the blessings that we’ve received. It’s an opportunity to reach out to the very young, the youth, the elderly, and anyone who has a need can come here. We now have the space.”

The center has three stories above ground and a basement. The third floor has a youth room, conference rooms and a prayer room named after St. Fidelis. The second floor has an outdoor garden on a balcony. The other rooms will be used for afterschool programs and religious education. The first floor houses a food pantry and a gymnasium. The basement hall can fit 100 people.

Catholic Charities will provide daycare for preschool- aged children of working parents. St. Joseph Services will head the after-school, adult computer literacy and ESL programs through the Daughters of Charity. When school is out, the sisters will provide programs for kids.

Desmond said the church would use the center for CCD programs, parish meetings, a young-adult sports program, and a domestic-violence program.