Friday, August 11


Domus Dei

A visit to St. Mary of Perpetual Help, Chicago

Drive into Chicago on any of the expressways feeding into it, particularly the Dan Ryan/Kennedy combination (I-90/94) or the Stevenson Expressay (I-55), and you'll undoubtedly see a lot of churches, of various designs - Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, etc. Sometimes the view contains false hope - the promising Saint Martin's, which greets Chicago Skyway traffic to the city with beautiful statuary of Saint Martin and the Beggar, is now a Pentecostal church, stripped of its interior woodwork. But sometimes that view pays off, and it leads the traveler to interior and exterior beauty. This is certainly the case with St. Mary of Perpetual Help.
St. Mary's looms over the skyline of the Bridgeport neighborhood on the near South Side with its three domes, most notably the largest one that sits over the nave. These domes are all quite visible, at something of a distance, from the Dan Ryan and Stevenson Expressways. Bridgeport, a busy residential and industrial neighborhood which sits between the old Chicago Stockyards area (now an industrial park) on the south and the ever-expanding residential developments to the north toward Little Italy, is very much a neighborhood of churches, having had at various times Irish, Lithuanian, German, and in this case Polish, churches, among others. Around the corner from St. Mary's, one can find the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross, which builds caskets and hosts retreats and bed and breakfast guests, and with which this parish shares a daily Mass schedule.
The interior of St. Mary's is a combination of Baroque, Romanesque and Byzantine elements, all of which work together well to form a unity within diversity. The altar area, pictured below, showcases this combination, with Byzantine iconography in Romanesque arches around a Baroque altar.

I attended a vigil Mass at St. Mary's, and was impressed by what seemed to be a close-knit parish, and one that also seems to possess an excellent program. The music was comparable to what one would find at the Vigil Mass at Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, including excellent organ playing with improvisations on the tune St. Denio ("Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise," which was the opening hymn) and a good a cappella rendition of Proulx's Corpus Christi Mass (not my favorite of his Mass settings, but certainly respectable).

Below are some more pictures from the parish:
Our Lady's Altar, with Saint Veronica in the foreground:

O.L. of Perpetual Help Altar:

St. Joseph's Altar:

St. Barbara:

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