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January 4, 2009

Looking Back: 2008

By Michelle Martin


Throughout the year, Chicago-area parishes and other Catholic institutions have worked to respond to a souring economy, affected first by record fuel prices in the first half of the year and then corporate layoffs and reduced compensation as the economy slowed in the fall. Agencies such as Catholic Charities that provide emergency food and other assistance fought the double whammy of decreasing donations and increasing demand. The deepening recession provided a backdrop for all the news of 2008.

  • January:

    19-23 – 250 high school and college students from the archdiocese make the bus trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

  • February:

    12 – A 10-pound chunk of wood falls from the decorative ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral, leading to a massive repair effort after inspections show the structural integrity of the ceiling has been compromised. Thousands of pieces of wood are removed, cleaned and reinstalled – this time withscrews instead of nails – as engineers work to come up with a way to brace the ceiling structure. Masses were moved to the parish center for months, with the cathedral opening for weekend Masses Aug. 30 and for daily Masses in November.

    15 – Springfield Dominican Sister Mary Paul McCaughey is named superintendent of Catholic schools, effective July 1. McCaughey was serving as president of her alma mater, Marian Catholic High School, when the appointment was announced.

  • March:

    8 – Chicago History Museum opens exhibit on “Catholic Chicago,” looking at how the faith and the people who profess it have shaped the city. The exhibit closed Jan. 4.

  • April:

    16-20 – Pope Benedict XVI visits Washington, D.C. and New York. Hundreds of Catholics travel to see him, most going to the youth event and Mass in New York. Cardinal George, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, serves as one of the main hosts for the pontiff.

  • May

    17-11 – new priests are ordained for the archdiocese. Two additional priests are ordained for the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius May 29.

    25 – Father Michael Pfleger offers a guest sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ. After a video clip from the sermon, in which the St. Sabina Parish pastor impersonates Sen. Hillary Clinton crying because Sen. Barack Obama has taken political support to which she believes she is entitled, is posted on the Internet, Pfleger becomes the center of a controversy that eventually leads Cardinal George to ask him to take a two-week leave from his parish and to refrain from commenting on any political candidates. Catholic priests generally are required to refrain from endorsing any candidate from the pulpit.

    29 – Catholics and members of other faiths march from the John Paul II Newman Center, 700 S. Morgan St., to Holy Family Church, Roosevelt Road and May Street, in support of immigration reform.

    31 – Our Lady of the Sign, a massive iconic monstrance, is unveiled at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1351 W. Evergreen Ave. The monstrance, which is in the form of a statue of Mary with a place for the Eucharist in her center, sheltered by angel wings, is to be the centerpiece of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy planned at the parish.

  • June:

    25 – The beginning of the Year of St. Paul, with various Pauline events planned and indulgences offered to those who make a pilgrimage to a church or shrine dedicated to the saint and fulfill various other requirements.

    26 – Ground is broken for the new Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School at Jackson and Laramie. The new building is expected to be finished in fall 2009; in the meantime, the school opened for its first year at 116 N. LeClaire, the St. Martin de Porres Parish campus. The Cristo Reymodel school offers a strong academic education combined with corporate internships for its students. The internships help pay the cost of students’education.

    27-29 – Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and long-time friend and personal assistant to Pope John Paul II, visits Polish Catholics in Chicago.

  • July

    15-20 –Young people from the Archdiocese of Chicago travel to Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI.

    19 – The Archdiocese of Chicago hosts its first local World Youth Day, with more than 800 young people attending festivities conducted in English, Spanish and Polish at St. Hyacinth Parish. The Mass in the evening was timed to coincide with the July 20 World Youth Day Mass in Australia.

  • August

    1-9 – About 190 Chicago-area Catholics participated in a weeklong pilgrimage to Lourdes led by Cardinal George in honor of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous. Others participated in “at home pilgrimage activities in the archdiocese.

    12 –The archdiocese announced settlements totaling $12.7 million with 16 people who had filed lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by priests. The archdiocese also released the transcript of Cardinal George’s Jan. 30 deposition, which ran to 307 pages.

    28-29 – Three archdiocesan schools – St. Andrew, 1710 W. Addison St.; St. Monica Academy, 5115 N. Mont Clare Ave.; and Pope John XXIII School, Evanston – are named “Red Ribbon Schools” for their efforts at preventing substance abuse and violence.

  • September:

    3 – Archdiocesan school leaders pledge to work for peace after a violent year in which 39 Chicago Public School’s students were killed. Two Catholic school students were killed – a brother and sister from St. Procopius – by their father in a murdersuicide later in the fall.

    12-13 – Heavy rains cause flooding throughout the region, with several parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions affected. Flood damage increases demand for help from Catholic Charities and other agencies.

  • October:

    20-21 – Educators from six schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago travel to Washington D.C. to receive their No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools Awards. The schools honored were: St. Viator High School, Arlington Heights; Cardinal Joseph Bernardin School, Orland Hills; St. James School, Arlington Heights; St. Mary School, Buffalo Grove; Pope John XXIII School, Evanston; and Queen of All Saints School, 6320 N. Lemont Ave. The Archdiocese of Chicago had the largest number of schools honored of any educational organization for the second year in a row.

  • November:

    4 – Barack Obama of Chicago is elected the 44th president of the United States. Prior to the election, the U.S. and Illinois bishops offered Catholic guidance on the issues through their “faithful Citizenship” statements. Cardinal George, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed the election in his address opening the fall bishops’ meeting, saying he “rejoiced” to see the country overcome centuries of racial prejudice to elect a man of African heritage, but saying that the church will continue to advocate strongly for the respect for life, from conception to natural death.

    19 – Dedication of new Archbishop Quigley Center at Rush and Pearson streets. The former home of the Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary now houses about 250 archdiocesan staff members and Cardinal George’s office. Employees moved in from the former Pastoral Center, 155 E. Superior St., and other sites on Dec. 5. Another 150 staff members moved into the new Archbishop Meyer Center at 35th Street and Lake Park Avenue two weeks later.

  • December:

    1 – 50th anniversary of the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire, which eventually killed 92 students and three Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the wake of the fire, school fire codes around the country were changed.

    The anniversary was observed with services hosted by the BVM sisters at Mount Carmel Cemetery, where the three sisters are buried, and Queen of Heaven Cemetery, where many of the children are buried, and with a standing-room-only Mass hosted by the Friends of Our Lady of Angels at Holy Family Parish on Roosevelt Road. Catholic schools observed a moment of silence at 2:30 p.m. that day, and the Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley declared a day to observe the anniversary.