After 120 years, artists and the Wicker Park community are about to be banned from St. Paul's Church building by Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission

Date: 
04/07/2012
6membersLHTBM

Members of the LHTBM: Brian Fehey, Jancek Jankowski, Jan, Mark, Mrs. Vogt and Dick Vogt

There was hope among some when six members from Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission (LHTBM) were present in the public meeting hosted by the Near NorthWest Arts Council and 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno regarding the new ownership of St. Paul's Church, 2215 W. North Ave.

The public meeting was called because many attempts to talk with LHTBM members had been attempted by many. They either did not respond, would say they had nothing to say or sent a lawyer. Included in those who were

WeatheredMoreno

Laura Weathered, Exec. Dir. Near NorthWest Arts Council and Alderman Moreno listen to comments from the audience

trying to connect with them were Alderman Moreno, Near NorthWest Arts Council (NNWAC)and NNWAC's lawyer and Our Urban Times. No one was successful. 

The reasons for trying to have dialogue with the group included:

  • Preservation of the space that has been a public asset for more than 120 years
  • Loss of this type of public space, which is diminishing rapidly
  • Access to the space which brought arts groups, who had been priced out of the neighborhood, back to their home base
  • Concern for operations of LHTBM based on their activities in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin
  • Concern for LHTBM operations based on actions and statements made by the Catholic Church of which they claim to be part
  • Warnings from the former alderman of a Ward where LHTBM owns property
ZaccardiAhern

Denise Zaccardi, Exec. Dir., Community TV Network, talks as Mary Ann Ahern and her cameraman roll NBC footage

The meeting attendees represented many organizations, several of which have been working with NNWAC and use the space, business owners, residents and the press. The LHTBM members introduced themselves as Brian Fehey, Jancek Jankowski, Jan, Mark, Mrs. Vogt and Mr. Vogt. While they spoke about being happy to be in and part of the neighborhood, they steadfastly avoided answering any questions about their mission, interaction with the community and plans for the church.

Many in the audience expressed their frustration with the space being lost to the arts community as well as other groups and asked questions about  LHTBM's mission, for what they are going to use the building and whether community groups will be able to use the property. Attendees indicated that they were not questioning their right to worship in whatever way they wish nor looking to restrict any freedom of religion. But, they did want to understand about their mission.

MorenoMakesPoints

Moreno ticks off his points

Alderman Moreno was very clear about his position. "As Alderman I do not have the power to say what is to be sold or not sold or to whom. When I spoke with the (St. Paul's) Church Council, they agreed that there would be a sustainable arts component to whatever entity bought this property. Several people came to me about this property and they all knew about that. But you say you were not told."

"Are you part of the Catholic Church, if not why not, what do you profess in your beliefs and teachings. I'm not questioning your freedom of religion but with those freedoms come responsibilities. Once you have a congregation of a certain size, you have to have a special use permit.

"As alderman (in considering such requests), I have to take into consideration past actions, if there are past actions, of those coming into the area. In terms of rights, you have the right to own the building. You have the right to do what you want in here. But, lets be fair, the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Rockford, Wisconsin and the Arch Bishop of Chicago said to stay away from you. I also called Alderman Banks asking him why he didn't give you a special use permit. He said, 'Stay as far away from this group as you can.'

RobertoLopez

Roberto Lopez, from Mexico and a Catholic, pointed out to Jankowski that he appeared to be very angry and asked why

"You have the right to practice and believe whatever you want to believe...What I have the right to do is not give you a special use permit for this area because of what you practice. I told you before you bought the building, from what your mission is…you haven't given it to me but I know about it…you are not going to be successful in this community.

"This community is open to all kinds of people…and I don't think that your mission will be successful here because I don't believe that meets your mission. As alderman I have the right to look at the request and say, 'Does this work in this neighborhood as part of a broader view?'…As for a Special Use Permit, you are not getting one from me."

Mary Ann Ahern, NBC 5 News Chicago, has followed LHTBM for several years, as reported in our previous story. Her report on the current status may be seen online.

After the meeting broke up, I once again tried to speak with Jankowski, LHTBM's treasurer. Prior to writing our previous story, he answered the phone for LHTBM but would not admit who he was. He told me to call back and leave a message. I did, requesting a call back and why. He never returned the call.

Face-to-face, I requested a conversation. He angrily accused me of only telling "their side." I told him that prior to writing the story, I reached out to him but he would not respond. His response was something guttural as he shoved me aside.

Fehey, on the other hand was willing to converse:
EC:  "People want and have tried to reach out to LHTBM. Everyone asked you tonight about your mission and whether you are going to honor the historic use of this building. All that came back from you all is 'you're squatting on our property.'"
BF: "I think the difficulty is that we want to use this facility for our ministry. So we could meet with these other groups, but I don't know how we can help them."
EC: "Are you open to including other members of the community in this space as has been done for 120 years?"
At this point Jan came over and answered, "The purpose of our building is for our members only."

Part of CIMM Fest's 4th Annual film festival Apr. 12 thru 15 will be held in the space. And, the final curtain will fall on artists in St. Paul's on Apr. 18 when NNWAC is scheduled to vacate the space.

If you have any interest in seeing the inside of this historic building, I encourage you to stop by before the 18th. Based on the words, attitude and passed actions of the LHTBM members, it is unlikely that neighborhood people will be invited in anytime soon.

 

 

Related:

Comments

I'm new to the story here-

I'm new to the story here- EC, can you elaborate on the secret mission this group is promoting? Editor's note: Please use the links at the bottom of the story for our previous story which has background with links and Mary Ann Ahern's current story link. As members of the organization will not talk about what their mission is, people are deriving information based on their actions. Hope that is helpful!

Permit Provided?

Was a special use permit provided by Alderman Moreno? Editor's note: No, as he stated, he will not give them a permit..."As for a Special Use Permit, you are not getting one from me."

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