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In 1958, a fire raced though the Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago, killing 92 students and three Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This traumatic and terrible event forever changed fire safety codes and the lives of all Chicagoans.
The parish closed in 1991 but in 2005, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George invited Father Bob Lombardo, CFR, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, to come to Chicago to re-establish a Catholic presence in the neighborhood where the population is now the non-Catholic poor. Seven years later, on Saturday, April 14th, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, officially rededicated Our Lady of the Angels Church.
“I didn’t know the history of this place until I got here. To be honest, it was depressing,” says the Rev. Bob Lombardo, an IRL Board Member. But what a difference a few years and many prayers make. The decaying structures are beautifully renovated. The presence of Fr. Bob, the volunteers and now a fledgling community called the Franciscans of the Eucharist, are really having an impact on the neighborhood, one of the poorest in Chicago. Programs offered include after school tutoring, classes for the elderly and a food pantry.
“It is not for us to be captured by death, tragedy and sorrow, but for us who have faith to walk through those moments with courage,” said Cardinal Francis George.