St. Ben’s parishioners wrap up centennial celebration; get ready for annual BenFest

By Patrick Butler

Come July 20-22, St. Benedict Parish and Preparatory School, 2215 W. Irving Park Road, will have more to celebrate than its annual summer event, BenFest

The congregation just completed the centennial celebration of its current church and school complex. The festivities had started last March with a red-carpet party at the church cornerstone and ended last month with a Saturday evening party held in the church’s bell tower. The tower celebration included a champagne toast. It was followed the next day by a eucharistic procession through the neighborhood.

Commemorative books of the centennial celebration are still available at the church’s rectory in both soft and hard-cover versions. Books may also be purchased on-line.

The parish began in in 1902 after the neighborhood’s mostly German Catholic families had successfully lobbied the Chicago archdiocese for their own school. At that time, the closest parochial school was at St. Matthias Parish, at 2310 W. Ainslie Street.

The parish and school grew rapidly. By 1916, the parish’s resident nuns had outgrown their convent and parish enrollment was at 800 families.  Parishioners recognized the need to replace their small wooden church and school. In 1917, construction began on the parish’s new church and school buildings and the project was completed the following year. The parishioners apparently spared no expense.  Stained-glass windows were imported from Munich, Germany. Hand-carved Stations of the Cross panels were imported from Oberammergau, Germany, site of the world-famous Passion Plays held every 10 years.

In the 1920s, a two-year commercial high school opened. In 1950, the commercial school was replaced by a full four-year high school. While the last chapter of the parish high school will end when its last high-school class graduates in spring 2019, the parish school remains a bustling community. The school includes a large pre-school. All students benefit from the school’s modern facilities, including two science labs, a music center, a lunchroom and modern kitchen, a nurse’s station, and a small chapel.

Today, in an era when so many churches are closing, St. Benedict’s is a thriving community of nearly 1,600 families reflecting the neighborhood’s current diversity.

The parish began in in 1902 after the neighborhood’s mostly German Catholic families had successfully lobbied the Chicago archdiocese for their own school. At that time, the closest parochial school was at St. Matthias Parish, at 2310 W. Ainslie Street.

The parish and school grew rapidly. By 1916, the parish’s resident nuns had outgrown their convent and parish enrollment was at 800 families.  Parishioners recognized the need to replace their small wooden church and school. In 1917, construction began on the parish’s new church and school buildings and the project was completed the following year. The parishioners apparently spared no expense.  Stained-glass windows were imported from Munich, Germany. Hand-carved Stations of the Cross panels were imported from Oberammergau, Germany, site of the world-famous Passion Plays held every 10 years.

In the 1920s, a two-year commercial high school opened. In 1950, the commercial school was replaced by a full four-year high school. While the last chapter of the parish high school will end when its last high-school class graduates in spring 2019, the parish school remains a bustling community. The school includes a large pre-school. All students benefit from the school’s modern facilities, including two science labs, a music center, a lunchroom and modern kitchen, a nurse’s station, and a small chapel.

Today, in an era when so many churches are closing, St. Benedict’s is a thriving community of nearly 1,600 families reflecting the neighborhood’s current diversity.

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