Archiver > IRISH-IN-CHICAGO > 2007-12 > 1198898488

From: "Kathleen M. Klimek" <>
Subject: Re: [IRISH-IN-CHICAGO] Holy Family,O'Learys honor church's 150th year
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2007 21:21:28 -0600 (GMT-06:00)

I read this article with interest. My descendants, the Murrays, resided in the house next to the O'Leary's in that same neighborhood. I am understanding that their barn was the 2nd to burn down.

Can't make it to HF this weekend, but I would like to tour holy family at some point. Thanks for sharing the article.


-----Original Message-----
>From: Nan Brennan <>
>Sent: Dec 28, 2007 3:45 PM
>Subject: [IRISH-IN-CHICAGO] Holy Family, O'Learys honor church's 150th year
> From today's Tribune
>Holy Family, O'Learys honor church's 150th year
>Church survived 1871 Chicago Fire, disrepair and a 2003 blaze -- and
>Mrs. O'Leary's relatives help celebrate its storied history and
>growing importance to city
>By James Janega Tribune staff reporter 11:08 AM CST, December 28, 2007
>The family wasn't comfortable there in the public gaze, not after all
>the kicking around they'd gotten for being related to Mrs. O'Leary,
>she of the infamous cow.
>But they came to Holy Family Catholic Church on Thursday, smiling
>awkwardly at attention avoided for generations, out of devotion to
>the parish of their ancestors.
>On Sunday, Holy Family will celebrate its 150th anniversary, having
>survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and other assorted
>calamities. Church leaders have spent the year renewing connections
>to the past it shares with Chicago.
>Among those links is the O'Leary family, the Irish immigrants and
>onetime parishioners whose cow, the story goes, started the Chicago
>Fire by kicking over a lantern a few blocks from Holy Family.
>"It's come a long way," said John Lester Neeson, 82, looking at the
>A great-grandson of Catherine O'Leary, the retired South Side
>carpenter was invited to Holy Family on Thursday with his family as a
>way of linking the church's long and turbulent past with its hopeful
>Chicagoans love their history, and parish leaders have sought for
>years to tie Holy Family's survival to the city's primal identity of
>disaster and rebirth, of immigration, of showmanship and clout.
>Holy Family survived the 1871 fire thanks to prayer and a strong west
>wind, fought neglect in 1990 with six-figure donations from the
>city's biggest institutions and $20 bills from poor families, and
>bounced back from a basement blaze in 2003.
>Its parishioners have represented the changing face of Chicago,
>encompassing waves of Irish, Italians and African-Americans. It has
>ridden the crest of Roman Catholic participation in city life and
>weathered declines that have shuttered other urban parishes.
>The church survived on a mixture of "determination, faith and prayer
>-- and connections," said Rev. Jeremiah J. Boland, administrator of
>the church.
>O'Learys in the spotlight
>More than once, it has fallen back on publicity stunts.
>When asked about the importance of showmanship -- such as producing
>long-silent descendants of the O'Learys -- Rev. George Lane, one of
>the church's most successful fundraisers, smiled.
>"It does help focus attention," Lane said.
>Neeson and his sister Rosemary Kopfman, 80, are the great-
>grandchildren of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary, Irish immigrants from
>County Kerry.
>The Holy Family registry shows that Neeson's grandfather, James, was
>baptized at the church in 1863 and attended the parish school. A
>great-uncle Cornelius was baptized there in 1860, one of the first in
>the parish, which was founded in 1857.
>Neeson and his wife, Doris, brought a family album brimming with old
>newspaper headlines blaming relatives for burning down the city -- a
>story the family has lived with for more than a century.
>"Legends never die. They have a spurious immortality," begins a page
>snipped from Stephen Longstreet's history "Chicago."
>Though the cow has been exonerated, the family name has been
>tarnished anyway.
>"Unfairly and unjustly," Boland said.
>Holy Family was founded by Rev. Arnold Damen, a Dutch Jesuit priest
>who built the structure where one of America's fastest-growing cities
>met the muddy edge of a prairie.
>His plan to save his young church from the Chicago Fire involved
>fervent prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and a promise to light
>candles in her honor if she interceded. The candles still burn in the
>east transept.
>By 1990, the church was threatened again, having become decrepit
>enough that the parish needed to raise $1 million by midnight New
>Year's Eve to save it from the wrecking ball. Lane organized an
>around-the-clock prayer vigil with the slogan "Say Prayers and Send
>Money." When the clock struck midnight, supporters had raised
>Four years ago a fire broke out in the church basement. Though
>firefighters from the station across the street put out the flames in
>minutes, an insurance company spent millions of dollars and several
>months to fix damage from smoke that filled the building.
>When the workers were done, things were better than before -- better
>than renovators planned.
>"That was the most successful fire anyone ever had," Lane said.
>No one knew how the fire started, though a few suspected arson.
>"It's a mystery," Lane insists.
>Having survived lean years, Holy Family is now positioned to ride new
>growth in the neighborhood. The church's steeple, still the tallest
>thing for blocks, now rises above shuttered public housing, expensive
>town houses and the fresh red bricks of construction at the
>University of Illinois at Chicago.
>More baptisms this year
>There were 375 families registered at the church at the beginning of
>2007, a small number as Chicago parishes go. Still, there were more
>baptisms at Holy Family in the last year than in the previous four,
>Boland said, and parishioners are driving across the city for services.
>After all these years, the city somehow feels invested in Holy
>Family's survival, he guessed.
>"It became an effort that all of Chicago got involved in," Boland
>said. "This became part of our collective history."
>- - -
>Cardinal to say mass in Holy Family Sunday
>Cardinal Francis George will say mass in honor of Holy Family
>Catholic Church's 150th anniversary at 9:45 a.m. Sunday in the
>church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd.
>An open house will follow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at which a restored
>historic processional banner dating to 1861 will be displayed, along
>with a collection of hand-carved gilded wooden angel statues dating
>to the 1870s and a collection of chalices, gold monstrances,
>candlesticks and church vestments brought from Paris in 1863.
>Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
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