Statement delivered at the Chicago Archdiocese’s Renew My Church forum at St. Catherine/St. Lucy Parish on Oct. 3:

I am a longtime parishioner of St. Catherine-St. Lucy Parish. I’m here to strongly request that, whichever plan is adopted for Renew My Church for Oak Park’s four parishes, it should not include the closing of St. Catherine-St. Lucy Church. If it means only celebrating just one weekend Mass, this church still should not and must not close.

My personal history with this parish dates back to 1960, when our oldest child was baptized at St. Lucy Church in Austin — well before the merger with St. Catherine of Siena in the 1970s. Even though our family moved throughout Oak Park in the decades that followed, my husband Monroe and I made a deliberate choice to remain loyal to this parish. Our main reason was to have our family worship within a racially mixed community and to support the eastern border of Oak Park and the Austin neighborhood of Chicago (which I might remind all is within the SLSC parish boundary). At the time, many of the white residents had fled that area. 

We have had both children married and grandchildren baptized, as well as my late husband’s funeral here over the years, but the most enduring and important part has been joining this mixed parish of worshipers, and the friendships and community that have flourished. This church is a true symbol of “welcoming all,” and if it is to close, it would be like slamming a door on the most integrated parish of the four. Symbols are important and, as true Christians, I believe we have a social obligation to maintain this parish as the Catholic gateway to Oak Park — and to keep it as such. 

To close this church would also be a travesty for our larger Oak Park community, which has worked so diligently to keep the east end of the village integrated and vital. This is not just a “Catholic” choice. I believe it is a social justice decision as well.

Of the options for renewal that have been prepared for this discussion, I think strong consideration should be given to the option of St. Catherine-St. Lucy combining with Ascension (as the two most eastern and most similar in membership). 

Change is always difficult, but it is necessary, and my prayer is that we can become stronger by uniting in good faith. 

But please don’t close the doors to the St. Catherine-St. Lucy community.

Frances Sullivan, Oak Park

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