2021 year in review: Catholics pray for peace, healing

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2021 year in review: Catholics pray for peace, healing

A look back at the highlights of life in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2021.
Cars participating in the March For Life procession make their way down Du Sable Lake Shore Drive. The March for Life Chicago kicked off Jan. 23, 2021, with a car procession that moved through downtown Chicago as a live digital rally takes place from the Chicago Loop. The procession began at St. John Cantius Church and traversed south through the city, ending in Evergreen Park, where participants dropped off collected diapers at Southside Women’s Services. The procession was this year’s safe, socially distanced alternative to the annual March for Life Chicago that regularly draws thousands of people from across the Midwest into downtown Chicago to rally for life and decry abortion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
In response to the Waukegan area’s financial challenges due to the pandemic, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep and the Northern Illinois Food Bank hosted a community drive-thru food distribution event Jan. 30, 2021 in the school's parking lot. Students, staff, families and friends of the school distributed enough groceries to serve over 1,500 families.(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Priests at Queen of All Saints Basilica sprinkle ashes on the heads of parishioners in cars during a drive-thru Ash Wednesday distribution on Feb. 17, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Tom Derose serves up pierogi for carry-out orders on the first Friday of Lent on Feb. 19, 2021 at St. Symphorosa Parish, 6135 S Austin Ave, Chicago, (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
David Zavala rests after receiving the vaccine. Latino residents hard hit by the pandemic receive the first shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at St. Gall Church, 5511 S. Sawyer Ave., on March 13. The vaccination event was hosted by Chicago Department of Public Health, the Southwest Organizing Project, Friend Health, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and St. Gall. The effort was part of the city’s Protect Chicago Plus work to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Roni Facen, principal at St. Francis de Sales High School, 10155 S Ewing Ave, Chicago, receives her first vaccination of the Pfizer vaccine by Registered Nurse Kristen Tucker, at the Mulcahy Center, Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood on March 7, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park and St. Catherine of Alexander Parish in Oak Lawn hosted outdoor neighborhood stations of the cross on Good Friday, April 2, 2021. Parishioners displayed crosses in their yards that symbolized all 14 stations and people walked or drove to the stations where they prayed mediations offered by the parish. This was the second year Most Holy Redeemer hosted the safe, socially distanced Way of the Cross and the first for St. Catherine of Alexandria. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Parishioners lined up for blocks for a drive-thru Easter basket blessing at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church in Lemont on Holy Saturday, April 3, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Most Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan held a drive-in "cinema style" production of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday evening April 2, 2021. Parishioners recorded the Via Crucis after practicing for weeks and broadcast it that evening so participants could take part watching it on a movie screen in the parking lot at the Holy Family campus, 450 Keller Ave. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Newly ordained priests offer their first blessing to Cardinal Cupich following ordination on May 15, 2021 at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Soon to be ordained Jake Vercimak walks with his wife, Christina, and son in the opening procession as 22 permanent and transitional Catholic deacons were ordained on May 8, 2021 at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Chicago’s Buena Park neighborhood joined an interfaith rally against Asian Americans Pacific Islanders (APPI) racism on May 2, 2021. The “Uptown Rally Against AAPI Racism” is organized by the Uptown Clergy Group, an informal gathering of religious leaders from different religious traditions in the neighborhood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dozens of volunteers planted a garden May 22, 2021 at the Quinn Center of St. Eulalia Church in Maywood. They dug out weeds, planted flowers, herbs and vegetables and took time for Zumba and yoga as part of the “Cultivate Quinn” event. At the end, Father Francis Ortega and Deacon Mike Barnish of Sacred Heart and St. Eulalia Parish led a blessing and dedication, marking the plot as a recognized Laudato Si’ garden. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ian and Michelle Jordon share a father/daughter moment during Mass. Parishioners at Holy Angels Parish, 615 E Oakwood Blvd, celebrated Mass with a full choir and water ritual to bless the new Holy water on June 13, 2021. The archdiocese announced the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions before the weekend which parishes were following since March 2020 due to the pandemic. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon John Vidmar and Deacon Joe Winblad from the Archdiocese of Chicago "Hope’s on the Way" dropped off buckets filled with cleaning supplies on June 23, 2021 at Christ the Servant Parish in Woodridge in the Diocese of Joliet that will be given to tornado victims in Woodridge and Naperville, Ill. After touching down in Naperville, an EF-3 tornado ripped through Woodridge and Darien, IL late on June 20. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A boy walks past the damage left by a EF-3 tornado that touched down near the parish rectory and demolished the garage at St. Scholastica Parish in Woodridge, Ill., late on June 20, 2021. Deacons from "Hope’s on the Way" dropped off buckets filled with cleaning supplies on June 23, 2021 at Christ the Servant Parish in Woodridge in the Diocese of Joliet that will be given to tornado victims in Woodridge and Naperville Il. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The Archdiocese of Chicago, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other officials held a committal service to bury indigent, unidentified and unborn persons on June 9, 2021 at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W. 111th St. in Chicago. The committal service included burial of two unidentified person, 48 unborn persons and 274 cremated indigent remains. Thirty-one of the decedents being interred died of COVID-19 complications. Mathew Praznowski, a college student at Worsham College of Mortuary Science, places a rose on the remains after they were blessed. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Pam Bosley co-founder of Purpose Over Pain, comforts Melissa Taylor who's 14-year-old son Tyrese Taylor was shot at killed in the North Lawndale neighborhood, on June 10, 2021. Father Michael Pfleger and the Faith Community of Saint Sabina began their Friday Night Peace Walks through the summer in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on June 25, 2021. The weekly walks purpose is seeking to invade the community with love and information about services and resources and calling for a citywide commitment to protect our children. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Children are all smiles during a ride on the "Dragon Wagon." Opening night was packed was for families attending the Most Holy Redeemer Parish Carnival in Evergreen Park, on July 29, 2021. People enjoyed bands, rides, food and music for the first time since the pandemic shuttered all festivals in the archdiocese. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of Our Lady of Africa Parish gather for their inaugural Mass on July 4, 2021 at the Holy Angels worship site, 615 E. Oakwood Blvd. Our Lady the Africa is the result of merging together St. Ambrose, St. Anselm of Canterbury, Corpus Christi, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Holy Angels parishes through the Renew My Church process. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the Pones family sit in front of their house with the candle house of St Joseph that represents their family as the Madonna passes by. Parishioners from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish-Shrine in Melrose Park celebrate the 128th annual Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 18, 2021. The event started on July 9th with a nine day novena and events of devotion leading up to the feast day with special Masses in English and Spanish. It concluded with a mobile procession with the statue of Our Lady making her way through the surrounding neighborhood where families greeted her at their homes. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacons from the Archdiocese of Chicago clap during a spirited song as worshippers gathered at Oakwood Beach, 41st Street and Lakeshore Drive, to pray for peace, the healing of families, schools, communities and the safety of children as the Black Catholic Deacons of Chicago, in partnership with priests, deacons and clergy of the Archdiocese of Chicago, hosted the 11th Annual Sunrise Mass for Nonviolence and Peace on Aug. 7, 2021. Cardinal Cupich gave the final blessing and thanked the deacons for their work to promote non-violence. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students and staff from Leo High School stand outside their school on Aug. 19, 2021 to pay their respects to Chicago Police Officer Ella French as her funeral procession made its way down 79th Street. Cardinal Cupich was the main celebrant for French's funeral at the St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel, 7740 S. Western Ave., early that day. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Dan Brandt, chaplain for the Chicago Police Department, leads a prayer service on Aug. 11, 2021 outside of the 16th District Headquarters. Hundreds of police, fire and other first responders and their families turned out for the service to remember Officer Ella French, who was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 7, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the Chicago Police Department joined neighbors in a prayer for peace. In the wake of Wednesday evening’s double shootings in North Lawndale, St. Agatha Parish co-hosted a community walk for peace on July 23, 2021. The walk started at West 13th Street and South Christiana Avenue to West Douglas Boulevard and South Ridgeway Avenue, the sites of the July 21 shootings. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mother of the Americas Parish in Little Village holds its second street Mass Aug. 13, 2021, at Francisco Avenue and 25th Street. The traditional street Masses are being held as a way to unite the newly formed parish as a result of Renew My Church and to pray for peace in the community. Associate pastor Father Martin Marulanda was the main celebrant of the Mass and was assisted by the pastor Father Thomas Boharic. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Nearly 300 volunteers from seven south suburban Archdiocese of Chicago parishes built the framing walls for a duplex home in partnership with Crossroads Mission and Habitat for Humanity (Will County) on Aug. 6, 2021. The construction took place in the parking lot of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orland Park. The seven parishes have worked collaboratively to raise more than $15,000 for the housing project through donations. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
At Farwell Pier, parishioners hold signs promoting peace during a prayer rally. St. Jerome Parish, in Chicago‚ Rogers Park neighborhood, were joined by Chicago Police Department‚ District 24 for a prayer rally and walk for peace on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Parishioners walked over a mile around the neighborhood carrying signs promoting peace from the church to Farwell Pier, where the walk concluded with the prayer rally. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Forty-five religious sisters from seven countries gather for a prayer service with Catholic Extension Sept. 3, 2021 at 6300 S. Bell Ave., the site where slain Chicago Police Department Officer Ella French was fatally shot and killed and her partner, Officer Carlos Yanez, Jr., was critically wounded at a traffic stop in early August. The service was the culmination of Catholic Extension's U.S.-Latin American Sisters Exchange Program, in conjunction with Loyola University, where the sisters gathered in Chicago for a week of classes centered on restorative justice. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Hundreds of parishioners and guests joined Bishop Jeffrey Grob, episcopal vicar for northwest Cook County and Lake County, for the dedication of the new Holy Face of Jesus Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at St. Theresa Parish in Palatine on Sept. 8, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Benedictine Sister Benita Coffey holds up a sign supporting immigrants. As part of National Migration Week, the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants hosted a vigil at the intersection of Ashland/Milwaukee Avenues and Division Street to protest the continuance of Title 42, which denies entry into the U.S. without a hearing or any proof of contagion on Sept. 25, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Marilyn and Mark McMurrough of St. Joseph Parish in Libertyville renew their vows. Approximately 300 couples were in attendance as Cardinal Cupich presided over a special Mass for couples celebrating 50 years of marriage on Sept. 19, 2021 at St. John Brebeuf Church in Niles. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Paul Whittington, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, gives a blessing to Father Maurice Nutt of New Orleans before he preaches. St. Moses the Black Parish, 331 E. 71st St., holds the final evening of a three-day tent revival outside the church on Aug. 31, 2021. The parish is a result of the unification under Renew My Church of Sts. Dorothy, Columbanus and Clotilde churches. The revival, with the theme "I'll respond!" was an effort to renew the parish going forward in Renew My Church. Redemptorist Father Maurice Nutt of New Orleans preached the revival. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Bill Frere, who ministers part-time at the St. Kateri Center, and Jody Roy, director of the Kateri Center, offer up a prayer during a service for reconciliation and healing for those harmed in Native residential schools and their families on Aug. 29, 2021 at St. Benedict Church. The service began inside the church with prayers, Scripture, native music and drumming and then moved outside for a fire, tobacco burning and prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington and class of '73 at Mundelein Seminary gives the homily as the seminary celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Mass Oct. 17, 2021 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, D.C., was the main celebrant. The Mass kicks off a year of events to celebrate the seminary's anniversary. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the O’Neill family from St. Peter Parish in Volo join the Northwest Families for Life’s March for Life held at St. Theresa Parish in Palatine on Oct. 16, 2021. Participating parishes included St. Peter in Volo, St. Bede, St. Francis de Sales, St. Edna, St. James (Arlington Heights), Our Lady of the Wayside, St. Thomas Villanova, Holy Family (Inverness), and St. Mary (Buffalo Grove). (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the Legion of Mary from around the Archdiocese of Chicago celebrated the 100th anniversary of the international lay apostolate during a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, State and Superior, on Sept. 26, 2021. Father Gerald O'Reilly, chaplain for the local Legion of Mary, was the main celebrant. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich was joined by auxiliary bishops, priests and deacons from the Archdiocese of Chicago for a Mass to open the local effort for the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 24, 2021 at Holy Name Cathedral. Pope Francis called for dioceses around the world to contribute to a larger effort that will convene in Rome in 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The Archdiocese of Chicago marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin with a delegation of Catholics, Christian and interreligious partners on Nov. 1, 2021 during a remembrance at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St., Chicago. The beloved pastor died on Nov. 14, 1996. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students hold a sign saying “We Are Better Together” while listening to their principal before a march at the Academy of St. Benedict the African, in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, for the school’s 6th Prayer Walk for Peace on Oct. 21, 2021. Alumni from the school who are current students at Leo High School accompanied the elementary school students during the walk along with Chicago Police Department patrol cars from District 7. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Robert Casey blesses the holy doors at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago as the shrine celebrates the kickoff of a jubilee year on Nov. 13, 2021. The jubilee year is in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the canonization of Mother Cabrini, who ministered and died in Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines dedicated its new entrance Dec. 4, 2021. The shrine raised $800,000 for the new entrance designed in a colonial style with archways for pilgrims to walk through. The style symbolizes the mixing of cultures that came together under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Auxiliary Bishops John Manz and Jeffrey Grob took part in the blessing. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it continued to dominate the news both locally and around the world in 2021.

 Hope for a return to normalcy grew throughout the spring with expanding access to and availability of vaccines to prevent the spread of the disease, but then took a hit in the summer as the delta variant surged.

A new variant, omicron, entered the lexicon in December, as infection rates started to climb once again.

But with vaccines available and masks in place in indoor or crowded settings, parishes and schools began functioning more normally, at least, as did the wider church and institutions around the world.

The year marked the opening of a “synod on synodality,” with dioceses around the world seeking input about how the church can better walk with its people in advance of the 2023 Synod of Bishops.

Pope Francis also marked the fifth anniversary of his encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” with the launch of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, and climate activists in the Archdiocese of Chicago, in the United States and around the world increased their efforts to stem the tide of rising temperatures.

In the United States, Catholic bishops focused on the Eucharist as a point of unity with the release of the document “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” after their November general meeting.

They also planned to launch a three-year eucharistic revival starting on the feast of  Corpus Christi 2022 and leading up to a eucharistic congress in Indianapolis in July 2024.

The moves followed a contentious debate during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ virtual spring meeting, during which several bishops raised the issue of whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, including President Joe Biden, should be allowed to receive Communion — a topic on which the document the bishops voted in November is silent.

The Vatican had advised bishops around the world against politicizing the sacrament.

Pope Francis continued to speak out on behalf of migrants, as migration crises continued to develop both on the U.S. border with Mexico and in Europe, as people fleeing violence, natural disasters and economic catastrophes sought safety in other countries.

These are some of the stories that made news in 2021:




  • A year after many traditional Lenten observances and gatherings were canceled by COVID-19, fish frys and other events returned, but with modifications aimed at helping participants stay safe, including take-out-only dinners and outdoor Masses, often held in parking lots and broadcast to car radios in the winter months.
  • As the weather warmed and gardeners prepared for a new growing season, the archdiocese launched an initiative to recognize “Laudato Si’ gardens” at parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions. Signs installed in such gardens include encouragement for visitors to pray and reflect on the way they are connected to their neighbors and to all of creation.
  • Pope Francis visited Iraq, believed to be the site of the original home of Abraham. There he offered comfort to the dwindling Christian population and friendship to Muslim leaders. “Often you must take a risk” to promote harmony, he told reporters March 8 as he flew back to Rome from Baghdad.




  • Catholics joined others around the country in remembering the 2020 death of George Floyd, which sparked protests for racial justice. Archdiocesan staff also marked the year with staff retreats focuses on racial diversity and equity.
  • Capacity restrictions on Mass attendance were formally ended on June 11, and those who were vaccinated were told they were no longer required to wear masks at Mass. The mask mandate returned later in the summer as the number of COVID-19 cases rose again. Parishes also were told parishioners no longer had to register to attend Mass, and holy water fonts and baptismal pools were refilled.






  • The Archdiocese of Chicago observed the 25th anniversary of the Nov. 14, 1996, death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Events included “Now More Than Ever: The Enduring Prophetic Voice and Legacy of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin 25 Years after His Death,” an evening of speakers at Holy Name Cathedral Nov. 1, and the All Souls’ Day Mass at the cathedral the next day, as well as the opening of the Bishops Mausoleum for visitors to pay their respects at Cardinal Bernardin’s crypt on Nov. 14.
  • A jubilee year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the canonization of Mother Cabrini kicked off with a Mass on Nov. 13 and the opening of the holy doors at the National Shrine to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, 2520 N. Lakeview Ave.
  • The Vatican launched the Laudato Si’ Action Platform Nov. 14. The platform is a global effort for dioceses, parishes, schools and universities, hospitals, other institutions and individuals and families to commit to the goals of “Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home,” hearing both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. The Archdiocese of Chicago was one of nine dioceses around the world that helped set up the framework for dioceses, and Loyola University Chicago was part of the university working group. Participants can get resources, support and connect with others who are participating around the world.



  • year in review

Related Articles