The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Sunday morning that it will not demolish the Shrine of Christ the King, a church in Woodlawn that has been threatened since it was damaged in a fire last October. Instead, it will deed the land to the Catholic priests that currently run the shrine so they can make the necessary repairs and renovations to make the church usable once more.
The transfer of the property to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was possible largely due to community organizations rallying for the protection of the Woodlawn church. The Coalition to Save the Shrine, a group of community members who gathered soon after the Archdiocese announced its intent to demolish the building, reached out to a number of local and national organizations in hopes of raising awareness and funds.
The coalition involved Preservation Chicago, an organization devoted to protecting historic Chicago landmarks that raised $650,000 in donations for the stabilization of the church. Additionally, a community GoFundMe page has raised almost $70,000 since October. With this money, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has enough funds to stabilize the building, according to the Archdiocese press release.
“We express our deep gratitude to all the individuals and organizations whose most generous and timely donations helped bring us to this moment,” Reverend Canon Matthew Talarico of Shrine of Christ the King said.
The institute plans to begin the stabilization process immediately, according to the Archdiocese. The 92-year-old building was declared unsafe by the City of Chicago after a fire severely damaged essential structural elements.
According to a press report from the coalition, the cost to fully restore the building would be anywhere between $3 million and $6 million. Although they have yet to release any formal plans for renovation, a press release confirms that the institute does intend to do a complete restoration of the church.
“This is great news, but it means that the coalition’s work has only just started,” coalition member Gabriel Piemonte said in a press release. “We have said all along that the Institute is a part of the Woodlawn family. If they are staying and taking on this challenge, we will all take it on with them.”
The Shrine of Christ the King will be holding a celebratory mass on March 19 at 10 a.m. to recognize the occasion in its temporary place of worship, the gymnasium of the First Presbyterian church on Kimbark Avenue.
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest had its U.S. headquarters at the shrine before the fire. The group of priests, which emphasizes the performance of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, has a history of restoring and occupying historic churches in American cities.