Better Know A Parish: St. Thomas the Apostle, Chicago, Illinois

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Article Parish Life

Parish Name: St. Thomas the Apostle

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Founded: 1869

Diocese: Chicago

Pastor: Fr. Elias O'Brien, O.Carm.

Number of Parishioners: 500 or so

Parish websitewww.stapostleparish.org

What makes your parish different from other parishes?

Established in 1869, our parish motto is, "God's people in extraordinary variety." We are a welcoming community of ethnically, racially and economically diverse people located in Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Our diversity, in large part, is due to our proximity to the University of Chicago. Our parish is administrated by the Carmelites of the Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary and is the site of their pre-novitiate program. In addition, we have a growing and thriving parish school.

What’s the most distinguishing characteristic of your church building?

Our church building, the third church on this site, is widely considered to be the first modern Catholic church. Commissioned in 1921, architect Francis Barry Byrne, in collaboration with Alfonso Iannelli, designed and built a Prairie School church which anticipated the reforms of the Second Vatican Council by 40 years. The church contains more than 30 pieces of original devotional art by important American artists listed with the National Art Inventories of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Who is your most interesting parishioner, and what makes them so interesting?

We have too many interesting parishioners to list. The spectrum is from Nobel Laureates to grandmothers selflessly raising their grandchildren.

What’s the most popular event, ministry, or holiday tradition at your parish?

The most popular holiday tradition at our parish is our annual Simbáng Gabi Mass and celebration. For more than 20 years, we have hosted this Filipino Advent celebration. We also have a summertime parishioner appreciation picnic, and a Shakespeare drama production put on by our school students.

If we asked parishioners what they love most about the parish, what would they say?

If asked, our parishioners would say they love the warm and welcoming atmosphere which exists for the worship of God and for the care of his creation.

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