​Chicago shrine seeks help to rebuild after devastating fire

October 09, 2015 | posted by Catholic News Agency

Topics: In the Press

Chicago shrine seeks help to rebuild after devastating fire   

The Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago launched an online restoration fund following Wednesday's fire at the church, which collapsed much of its roof.

Firefighters responded to the conflagration shortly before 6 a.m. Oct. 7.

The following day the shrine, a certified charity, launched a GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising $500,000 for its restoration. In the last nine hours, it has already raised more than $11,000.

“We have been tested by fire, but this outpouring of support especially from our neighbors helps sustain and renew our faith in our work at the Shrine, in the local community and beyond,” Canon Matthew Talarico, the substitute for the U.S. provincial of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (the community to whom the shrine is entrusted), said in an Oct. 8 statement.

The community writes that “This church has an aura of hope. The Canons and staff at the Shrine are fully committed to carry on the work of restoration, in spite of the devastating fire.”

While the choir loft and part of the roof collapsed, and the windows and much of the interior furnishings were destroyed, the building's walls and bell tower were secure following the fire. Adjoining the shrine are a rectory and a women's shelter (formerly a school), both of which were unharmed.

No one was injured, and among the valuables rescued from the blaze were the tabernacle and an 18th century statue of the Infant of Prague.

“Unfortunately, most of the roof collapsed into the structure,” said Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas, according to the local CBS affiliate. “So as beautiful as the structure is, it sustained an awful lot of damage.”

The church is a historic landmark – it was built in 1923 as St. Gelasius parish, and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was already in the midst of renovating the building.

The shrine is located in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. It forms the United States headquarters of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society of apostolic life whose aim is to spread the reign of Christ in all spheres of life, and which celebrates the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.

The shrine had offered concerts and social events to edify the neighborhood since having been entrusted to the Institute in 2004.

Mike Medina, president of the Woodlawn Residents Association, said that “From organizing block clean-up days and hosting meetings with city and civic leaders, to promoting local businesses and teaching hockey to neighborhood youth, the Shrine of Christ the King has been a tireless advocate for Woodlawn and serves our neighborhood with a giving and gracious heart. We stand together with the Shrine!”

Canon Talarico stated: "Hundreds of prayer requests come in weekly from the local area and across the country and it has been a great source of joy in watching this devotion grow."

Fire officials have said the fire may have been started from rags which were improperly stored after varnishing a portion of the shrine's floor.