By Anna Lothson
It won't be long before the long-standing illuminated cross atop Rush Oak Park Hospital comes down.
That's because Rush University Medical Center completed its full acquisition of the hospital last Friday, which effectively ends the century-plus sponsorship of the hospital by the Wheaton Franciscan religious order.
Although negotiations to shift ownership fully to Rush University were reported last spring, there was a delay in the process. According to John Pontarelli, assistant vice president of public relations for Rush University Medical Center, the delay came because the Vatican had to approve the transaction. The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Planning and Review Board also had to approve the sale.
Rush has operated the Catholic hospital on a day-to-day basis for some 15 years while the Wheaton Franciscan sisters role has diminished. With the Rush acquisition, the institution will no longer be a Catholic hospital. Like Rush University, the hospital will now be non-denominational.
"[The cross] will probably be removed eventually because it will no longer be a Catholic hospital," Pontarelli said. He also said Rush Oak Park is working with Wheaton Franciscan and the Archdiocese of Chicago to work through the transition. This is so the change "is being handled with appropriate attention, sensitivity and care," according to a press release issued Friday.
Regardless of the religious change, Rush University Medical Center acknowledged the hospital's Catholic heritage and to emphasize "its present regard for the religions and faith traditions of all patients."
— Publisher Dan Haley contributed to this report