Archiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2007-04 > 1176495171

From: Beth Walsh <>
Subject: Re: [IRISH-IN-CHICAGO] Chicago Flophouse
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 13:12:51 -0700 (PDT)
In-Reply-To: <>

Wow Nan, that's a really moving experience and very well put.

I think I've told you about the work my dad did with Father Mac?
Anyway for everyone else, my dad worked very closely with Fr. Mac, a very dedicated Irish-American priest (or monsigneur) who never wanted an actual parish, as he felt the streets were his 'parish'. He never questioned whether the person was Catholic or athiest or whatever, or what his problems were. He would roam the streets of Skid Row and help the many many men (and sometimes women also) who were down on their luck. Most, if not all those who work at his Haymarket House in Chicago were the recipient of his care and help and their rehabilitation back as a useful member of society.
Fr. Mac (Ignatius D. McDermott) grew up in and was a graduate of Visitation parish, as was my father. He was ordained a priest at St. Mary of the Lake in 1936 (I believe) and worked his whole life in bettering the fates of others. Haymarket House was established to help those less fortunate, whether their addiction was alcohol, drugs or something else. My dad was very instrumental in helping Fr. Mac find the right spot and setting up the programs, etc. In fact, a few weeks before he died, my dad attended the grand opening. Interestingly enough, Haymarket is located across from Oprah's Harpo Studio complex.
Fr. Mac was the number one White Sox fan also, in fact his license plate number was Sox 1. He never forgot anyone - and Roeser's Bakery on the north side could attest to that! Every birthday, a cake was delivered to the door by his driver. And I have found out that this was given to many many people throughout the city and area.
When I attended his wake a few years ago at Haymarket House (he specifically wanted to lie in state there as opposed to Holy Name Cathedral), there was a constant stream of people pouring in thru the doors - the high society of Chicago and the ordinary street people off the street. And though this sounds cliched you could actually 'feel' the love. And some of the stories that many were quite willing to share were quite moving. My dad told me he didn't think Fr, Mac ever slept! He was always out at the late hours, literally picking guys up off the street and bringing them in and offering them a refuge. Not to mention the constant dinners, masses, whatever else he had to attend during the day - I don't think he could ever say no.
He made a special trip to the nursing home to baptize my aunt before she died. He did all the special prayers at my dad's wake, and was one of the 5 priests on the altar at his funeral. And said a special memorial mass at the Center every year on his anniversary after that. When my mother died, he actually left his sick bed and came to the church and then went to the cemetery to say the prayers in the chapel for us.
At his funeral in Holy Name Cathedral, it was the ordinary man on the street that was the honored guests. Granted, Mayor Daley and the Governor and a few other dignitaries sat up front, but the majority sat amongst the people that he served. And, the Chicago Bears fight song was actually played at the recessional!
Okay, so probably more information than you may have wanted to hear. But he was from Visitation, his parents were Irish immigrants and he loved all things Irish, all things Chicago, and all people in general, but especially those who were down and out.
For anyone who would like to read a book about Fr. Mac and a feel for what those on the street experienced look for:

Father Mac: The Life and Times of Ignatius D. McDermott, co-founder of Chicago's famed Haymarket Center.
by Thomas F. Roeser
published by: McDermott Foundation in 2002


Nan Brennan <> wrote:

And as the article from Chicago Encyclopedia pointed out this street was part of "the main stem" before it deteriorated into SkidRow.

But as I watched my dad speak to this man with respect and kindness and saw that they were instantly connected
in a very cordial and warm and normal way, I saw the human being in the back seat and my fear and disgust disappeared into a strange mix of joy and sadness.

I remember how grateful they were for the kindness and the warmth and the food ----and the acknowledgment of their humanity---on Xmas.the car.

. And I'm sure my dad knew he was helping someone
else's Uncle Martin. It was the tragic memory of Martin that brought him there every Xmas for many years.

I am grateful to my dad for this experience.


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