Parish History

Community initiative has always played a major role in the continuing development of St. Christopher Parish. On February 26, 1922, Roy Swillum, Raphael Griffin and Frank Kosowski visited the Franciscan Fathers at the St. Roch Friary in Oak Forest to discuss the feasibility of starting a new parish. They represented Catholic families living in the Midlothian district who found it difficult to attend Mass in Blue Island or Oak Forest and desired a religious education for their children. The group felt positive that they could build and support a church.

Subsequently, Archbishop George W. Mundelein created the parish of St. Christopher and placed it in the hands of the Franciscan Fathers on March 24, 1922. The Very Rev. Martin Strub, OFM, Provincial of the Sacred Heart Province designated Rev. Frances S. Eckholt, OFM as the first pastor. Fr. Francis celebrated the first Mass on April 23, 1922. Approximately 30 families, totaling 73 adults and 58 children, comprised the first parishioners. The solemn dedication of the new church occurred on June 17, 1923. Twenty decorated cars paraded down 147th Street to meet Archbishop George Mundelein at Western Avenue and escort him to the ceremony.

Fr. Francis began religious education classes for 18 children of various ages, the majority of them preparing for their First Holy Communion.

The next spring work began on a two-story structure. It consisted of a four room school downstairs and a convent upstairs. The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family of Dubuque, IA agreed to teach the initial enrollment of 60 students.

On the morning of September 17, 1935, a short circuit in the electrical wiring near the vestibule caused a fire, greatly damaging the church. Consequently, volunteers rebuilt and enlarged the church increasing the seating capacity to 400.

In November 1947, the parish collected special funds to purchase a new altar. Fr. Aidan suggested an annual fund raiser celebrating the Feast Day of St. Christopher, July 25. Unfortunately, for the first two years, the carnival rides could not be scheduled in July, so the Fall Carnival ran for ten days in September. Eventually, known as the Fiesta, the carnival would be held in July.

The idea for a driveway shrine dedicated to St. Christopher is attributed to Fr. Aidan. Eugene Romeo, a well-known Chicago area artist, sculpted the figure’s mold. Before a crowd of 3000 people, Bishop William E. Cousins dedicated the concrete statue in July 1949.

The continuous growth of the parish made it necessary to begin construction on a new school and rectory. Rev. Bruno Savage, OFM, inherited overcrowded conditions when he was named pastor in 1957. The parish received approval for the construction of a new convent and a brick church. Parishioners attended Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in their new church. Albert Cardinal Meyer formally dedicated the church on August 19, 1962.

John Cardinal Cody relieved the Franciscan Order of its duties at St. Christopher Church in August 1972, and appointed Fr. George Brown, a diocesan priest, as pastor. This change coincided with the Golden Jubilee of the parish.

A year-long celebration marked the Diamond Anniversary of the parish. On April, 1997, Bishop John Gorman celebrated Mass in honor of the occasion.

On July 23, 2017, the new statue of St. Christopher was dedicated and blessed by Fr. Krzysztof Paluch.