Santa Lucia school and parish in Chicago’s Bridgeport/Armour Square neighborhood just closed their doors for good. The school, which was opened in 1961, was built to support the burgeoning number of second, third and fourth generation Italian Americans who belonged to the parish and lived in the local community. The school and church were founded by the Scalabrini Brothers but the Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school. The parish was started in 1943 as an extension to the Santa Maria Incoronata Parish which still exists in the neighborhood considered Chinatown.
In 1953, the Archdiocese approved the separate administration of Santa Maria Incoronata and Santa Lucia became its own parish. Father Primo Beltrama became the first pastor of Santa Lucia.
Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy in English, is the patron saint of eyesight and clear vision in any situation to see the good and positive in people despite disparity.
This past weekend parishioners celebrated the solemn closing of their church the best they could with mass and a celebration of food and comradery afterwards. As the neighborhood demographics change, and Italian residents pass on or move into the suburbs, the remaining parishioner base of the former Italian National parish can’t provide enough support to justify maintaining this fading piece of Italian American history.
Italian National parishes were built all throughout the United States starting in the late 1800’s so that masses could be held in the native tongue of the settlers that would attend mass the church’s masses. Therefore, Italian National parishes would require Italian priests who could hold masses in Italian.
Thanks to Lou Phillips in Chicago for sharing this news and for the photos.
By: Raymond Guarini, Founder of The Italian Enclaves Historical Society