Friday, May 29, 2015

As I walked down...

...Augusta Boulevard on Saturday I kept seeing banners for St. Helen Parish, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last fall. Is this something I should see? I wondered.

St. Helen's is at the corner of Augusta and Oakley, just down a few blocks and across the street from the Moorish Science Temple.

(Temple No. 9, by the way, is at Augusta and Hoyne but doesn't show up on Googlemaps -- is it closed? -- so you'll have to take my word for it. Or go see it yourself.)

Where had I heard of St. Helen's before? Oh, yeah, it was mentioned by Robert Powers in his excellent blog, A Chicago Sojourn. Since the church faces northeast, "the sun never shines on the front of this building." And that's why I had to "borrow" these three pictures from Google images -- it was too shady.

From the Polish Genealogical Society of America:

St. Helen Church ... was founded in 1913 to serve Catholics of Polish birth and descent. 

Hence the statue of Pope John Paul II.

The structure is a beautiful example of Mid-century Modernism. (Or as Powers calls it, "A strange fusion of Deco, Modernism and tradition.") I snapped the picture above over my shoulder while asking a guy outside when the new church was built. He didn't know, but volunteered the information that Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was raised in the parish. That's kinda cool. (I knew Coach K went to Archbishop Weber High School; do I get props for that?) He then went on to give me a twenty- or thirty-minute lecture on Michigan football. The bottom line? While Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke were all wrong for the program, Jim Harbaugh will be terrific.

Ground at the southwest corner of Augusta and Oakley Blvd. was broken for the new church and ... Msgr. Piwowar laid the cornerstone of the church on Aug. 16, 1964. Designed in the form of a fish, a symbol of Christ, the new church was constructed of Wisconsin Lannon Stone and it combines mass and vigor with harmony of design. The oval shape of the interior provides seating for 1,100 persons in eight rows of solid walnut pews. The Stations of the Cross, designed by Armando Santini in nickel and silver, rank among the finest examples of sacred art -- they are original in design, meticulous in detail, and vibrant in appearance. The four stained glass bay windows of 16 panels each were designed and executed by Erhard Stoetner of Milwaukee, WI.

It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday so I didn't go inside. But I'll definitely have to check it out sometime.

Dec. 20, 1965 was a red-letter day for parishioners: Archbishop John Cody dedicated St. Helen Church and presided at the parish's 50th jubilee celebration, which had been delayed until the new church was completed.

The cost of building the church and rectory was $1,250,000.

It was time to move on now; my destination lay just up ahead at the corner of Augusta and Western.

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