February 03, 2017 09:48 PM
A century-old Morgan Park Catholic church is set to be demolished next week. The congregation celebrated its last Mass in mid-October, and now the building will be razed.
"We just couldn't afford to keep it open given our number of people and the number of priests and just 6 miles from St. James and St. Elizabeth's," the Rev. James Bissonette said.
St. James Parish encompasses St. Margaret Mary's church, St. James church and St. Elizabeth's church. They made the tough decision to close St. Margaret Mary's because it would have been the most expensive to keep up.
"Nobody really wanted to see this building used for a lesser purpose than it was originally meant to be, which was a place to say Mass, to baptize people, to marry people, to bury people," Bissonette said.
After the last Mass, it was changed from a church to just a building so that it could be torn down. Then, they began to take apart the inside.
Steve Schoenbauer, a church member who did maintenance on the building for the past 20 years, said the former U.S. Steel plant built St. Margaret Mary's.
"The building is extremely well-constructed, so just even pulling woodwork off the walls is very difficult because it was put on very well. It's not shoddy construction in the least," Schoenbauer said.
The tabernacle from St. Margaret Mary's was placed at St. Elizabeth's, so parishioners who started going there had something familiar. Many of the other items inside are being reborn, in a sense. They will go to the All Saints parish in Baxter, Minnesota, which doesn't have a church yet but plans to build one in the next few years.
"They took the stained glass windows, the pews, the cross on the high altar, the baptismal font, the statues, everything that we weren't using," Bissonette said.
That's the hope in what is a sad situation for people who've attended church at St. Margaret Mary's for years.
"I'm happy and we're happy that we're preserving what was actually here for its original purpose," Bissonette said. "For us, that would be the worship and honor of God."
Schoenbauer echoed that.
"Since I spent so many years taking care of the building, it just felt good to be a part of taking apart and making sure that everything that was reusable could be reused and was given to somebody that could use it," Schoenbauer said.
The church would have turned 100 this November.
"Old buildings, to me, are very warm and inviting, and this was a very warm and inviting building," Schoenbauer said.
Even though the corner of Idaho Street and 88th Avenue West will look a little different, Schoenbauer said the warm and inviting atmosphere hasn't gone away.
"Our parish has not disappeared, our congregation has not, but yeah, it'll be sad to see the building come down," he said.
The day for actual demolition has yet to be set, but equipment sits outside, ready.
"We'll come together as one parish and two churches and keeping doing what we're supposed to be doing here, which is the work of God and proclaiming the Gospel as best we can," Bissonette said.
Some St. Margaret Mary members are holding a prayer service at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Updated: February 03, 2017 09:48 PM
Created: February 03, 2017 01:30 PM
Copyright 2017 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved