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July 19, 2009

Three churches in Lake County merge into one new parish Holy Family, Immaculate Conception and Queen of Peace join to become Most Blessed Trinity

By Alicja Pozywio


Three parishes in Lake County, located in an almost perfect triangle geographically, recently merged creating the new Most Blessed Trinity Parish.

The decree merging Holy Family and Immaculate Conception in Waukegan and Queen of Peace in North Chicago into one parish was signed in early July by Cardinal George, but the actual merger didn’t happen overnight. It has been coming since 2006.

“All of this started about three years ago, when Immaculate Conception unexpectedly lost its pastor on Christmas Eve. Six months later the pastor at Queen of Peace was reassigned,” said Deacon Dennis Mudd, director of finance operations. After the loss of two pastors and demographic changes in the Waukegan area, Cardinal George appointed Father Gary Graf to be the pastor of all three parishes, which are located only about two miles apart.

There are 357 parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago with a Catholic population of 2.3 million, which is 39 percent of the total population of Cook and Lake Counties.

Because they had been operating as individual parishes, each church had its own parish and finance councils with an addition of one overall council made up of members from each parish.

“Over time as we ministered together it became apparent that it would be to the advantage of everyone to bring the parishes into one faith community,” Mudd said.

The process began with a dialogue. Among many topics discussed by the community, primary consideration was given to the pastoral and spiritual needs of the parishioners. After consultation with Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas who is the episcopal vicar for the area, the cardinal accepted the recommendation to merge the three parishes, with Masses and services still held at all three churches.

While initially both Waukegan and North Chicago were destinations for immigrants from Europe, over the latter half of the 20th century, the area became the center for Hispanic immigration in Lake County.

To serve the Catholic faithful of the Waukegan and North Chicago area, various parishes were established over the years. To meet the needs of changing demographics, some of these parishes were merged.

Most Blessed Trinity Parish now has a new pastor in Jesuit Father Daniel Hartnett but he doesn’t officially start until Sept. 1. Until then, Mudd will oversee and stay in contact with Bishop Rassas in case advice or direction is needed.

Mudd, who was ordained a deacon in 1994, joined Holy Family Parish about six years ago to help Graf.

Busy office

Most Blessed Trinity is an active place with a very diverse, immigrant population. The door to the office, located at the old Holy Family Parish, doesn’t close and the phone is almost constantly ringing during business hours. Rosa Solis has served as office manager for the past 14 years and says that the the staff is ready for busy days ahead.

There are 3,000 registered parishioners, and about 2,000 more attending Sunday Masses who aren’t registered. Most of the parishioners are Latinos. “We have 11 Masses all together on each Sunday — seven in Spanish and four in English. Once a month, we also do one Polish Mass,” Mudd said.

The deacon, the secretaries and some parishioners who meet in the office believe that the regular Sunday crowd won’t recognize any differences as a result of the merger. Besides some improvements, Mudd said, “the name will probably be the biggest difference.”