October 2017

The Chronological History
of Corpus Christi

In the Beginning…

  • In 1901, Corpus Christi Parish was founded. At the time the area was predominantly
    Irish-Americans.

  • 1915 on Christmas Day, Corpus Christi celebrated its first mass in the new church building
    (our current church).

  • In 1916 on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Cardinal Mundelein of the Chicago Archdiocese dedicated the official opening of the church building.

  • During the Great Black Migration this once Irish-American community transformed 
    to predominately African-American and became know as “Bronzeville.”

 

The 1920’s: The Franciscans  

  • In 1924, Cardinal Mundelein directed African-Americans to St. Elizabeth for worship.     

  • By 1928 fewer than 100 people attended mass at Corpus Christi and the parish closed to preserve it for the community who built it.

  • In 1929 during the Great Depression (1929 to 1941), the Franciscans Friars of the Scared Heart took on Corpus Christi, but were originally instructed to convert the school to a retreat center. The retreat center was a miserable failure.

 

The 1930’s: Growth and the Great Depression

  •  In 1930, Rev. Nicholas Christoffel became the first official pastor and the church opened its doors to the African-American community. The church saw an immediate growth in parishioners, all African-Americans.

  • In 1933, Corpus Christi Grade School opened. The Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, Iowa took on the role of educators.

  • In 1935 Sister Clement Marie Smith of Corpus Christi entered Oblate Sisterhood of Baltimore.

  • In 1937, Fr. David Fochtmann directed the first “The Living Stations of the Cross,”
    a dramatization of the Passion of Jesus Christ.

  • In 1938 during the Great Depression, Corpus Christi established a Credit Union making loans up to $1,000 with a one percent finance rate.

 

The 1940’s: Continued Growth and the Great War

  •  In 1942 during World War II (1939 to 1945), the first Corpus Christi Advisory Board or “parish council” was established well before Vatican II (1960’s). 

  • In 1944 Corpus Christi purchase Sinai Temple.  

  • 1946, Sinai Temple was opened as Corpus Christi High School (co-ed) on 46th and South Parkway Avenue (now know as King Drive).

The 1950’s: Recognition during
the Civil Rights Movement

  •  In 1950’s Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka of Uganda celebrated mass at Corpus Christi.

  • In 1953, Sr. Lucy Williams, former Corpus Christi pupil, entered the Sisters of St. Francis.

  • A dramatization of  “The Living Stations of the Cross” was performed at the Chicago Coliseum and televised on WGN TV.

  • In 1954, inspired by the “The Living Stations of the Cross,” renowned TV and radio evangelist, Bishop Fulton Sheen of New York came to Corpus Christi to see the drama and later celebrated the Tre Ore ceremony at the church.

  •  Also in that same year Br. Loyola Freightman, former Corpus Christi student, was one of the first African-Americans to enter the Franciscan order.

  • 1957, Fr. George Clements, former pupil and community activist, celebrated his first solemn mass in the observance of the first 25 years of the Franciscans at Corpus Christi.

  • Also, that same year Corpus Christi High School converted to an All-Male High School.

 

The 1960’s: Decade of Change

  • In 1960 Sr. Loyisa Wilson, former student at Corpus Christi professed her vows to the Order of the Poor Clares. Also another former student, Fr. John Rodney, S.V.D. was ordained. 

  • 1962 Fr. Bennet Spivey, O.F.M., former student at Corpus Christi and the first African-American to be ordained a Franciscan in the U.S., celebrated his first mass at the church. 

  •  In June of 1963 the high school was close. All the students were relocated to a new facility on 49th and Cottage Grove named Hales Franciscan High School. An independent offshoot of Corpus Christi. The high school was dedicated on September 8th of that year.

  • In 1964, Fr. Bennet Spivey, O.F.M. died (June 22).

  • In 1966 the United Community Golden Agers, a group to service the needs of seniors was established by a joint efforts between Corpus Christi and our neighbor, Liberty Baptist Church.

  • In 1968 the interior of the church was remodeled in light of the liturgical changes of Vatican II.

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    1970’s:

  • During the early 70’s new ministries emerged. Out of this movement the food and clothing ministry was established to feed and clothe the poor families in the Bronzeville area. Also, the Youth Gospel Choir was formed, primarily performing black contemporary gospel music.

  • In 1974 lower walls of the interior was repainted including the black liberation colors of red, green and black to reflect our African-American culture and pride.

  • In 1975 the church was closed by the Archdiocese because of an unsafe ceiling.

  • In the spring of 1976, architect Paul Straka engaged in restoring and decorating the church. On November of that year, Cardinal Cody gave permission for restoration of the church.

  • 1977 the restored church was reopened and the ceiling was painted to compliment the lower walls. June of that year the parish (not the building) celebrated its 75th anniversary.

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    1980”s:

  • In 1981 Fr. Adrian Fischer, O.F.M., assumed pastoral duties and became a foster father following program start by Fr. George Clements’ “One Church, One Child.”

  • In 1988, Fr. Christian Reuter, O.F.M., became pastor. He was the longest serving pastor for 14 years and the last Franciscan at the church. Prior to that, He spent 18 years at Hales Franciscan High School as teacher and principal. He established a monthly newsletter called “Corpus Christi Connection,” computerized monthly “Willingness to Try” pledge statement. 

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