By Larry Cope
This is a day many Black Catholics on the South Side feared. This summer, the legacy parishes of Corpus Christi, St. Ambrose, St. Anselm, St Elizabeth and Holy Angels will be phased out after decades of existence. These parishes will be unified on Thursday, July 1, 2021 to form a new parish under a new name. The new worship site will be at 615 E. Oakwood Blvd (formally known as Holy Angels) and Fr. Robert Kelly, SDV (Divine Word Missionary) will be pastor of this new parish.
This is something we should not fear but embrace. All of us will be a part of developing and cultivating a new spirituality where the strengths of all the former parishes will equal a larger and stronger Black Catholic tradition. This is bigger than saving individual parishes. It’s about the survival of Black Catholicism in Bronzeville. We have to remember that people, not the buildings, make “the church”. Jesus never owned a building, but he still managed to gather his followers to worship.
So, what brought us to this point of unification?
The fact is that the churches in the Bronzeville area all faced similar problems. Low attendance, decreasing donations, aging buildings, maintenance cost, and growing debt is what brought us to this point. Corpus Christi, for example, once boasted a congregation of 3,000 members but is now less than two hundred today.
Many Black parishes have also struggled with community outreach and evangelization. But as Christians we are called to do just that. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave an order to the disciples to: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”