Sunday, November 25
This past week I had the privilege of presiding at the memorial mass of one Mary Jean Kelly, who died at the end of October at the young, tender age of 91. I never met Mary Jean before but like all those funerals and memorial masses I’ve celebrated throughout the years of people I never knew, I sure wish I had! But I know I will meet them eventually! And I hope they’ll be happy by the way we celebrated their funerals masses and spoke of them!
Mary Jean and her late husband Jack Kelly had eight children who they raised in Bettendorf, Iowa and Elgin, Illinois. Today, the adult children and grandchildren live in various parts of the United States, so Mary Jean’s memorial mass was a beautiful gathering of this wonderful family. The unique piece of Mary Jean’s life that brought them to Old St. Patrick’s, was the fact that Mary Jean was the great niece of Thomas Augustus “Gus” O’Shaughnessy, the original artist who created the magnificent stain glass and Celtic stenciling that you see today in our sanctuary. Being 91, it is clear to me that Mary Jean and her parents would have seen the church in its original form (as you see it today, minus the marble and the new lights) back in the 1920’s and 30’s. Meaning, Thomas O’Shaughnessy finished the windows and the stenciling in 1922, after spending 10 years of his life in the church doing his artistic masterpiece.
Whether you know it or not, all of O’Shaughnessy’s artwork on the ceiling and the walls of the church were all painted over, beginning in the 1950’s when Old St. Pat’s began to fall on hard times due to the construction of the expressway in our own backyard! Not only did the Kennedy expressway displace a neighborhood, it sent St. Patrick’s High School for Boys out to Belmont and Austin, it closed the grammar school due to dwindling enrollment, and St. Patrick’s High School for girls lasted until 1970. When the church was struggling, the only thing they could do to maintain the inside was just to call in some painters who painted over all of O’Shaughnessy’s treasured Celtic art. It wasn’t until the 1990’s with some sophisticated artists, archival knowledge, and a highly successful capital campaign that Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s artwork was restored to its original beauty. They literally peeled back multiple layers of paint and discovered the great treasure of his work.
I bring that up because I love the imagery. Peeling back old layers and discovering a great treasure of beauty underneath it all! On this Thanksgiving Weekend, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to be the pastor of this incredible church and the many, countless ways you keep unveiling the richness and beauty of the mystery of God in our journey together as a community of faith. There is no better day each month than when I have the absolute pleasure of dining with our newest members, in an unbelievably elegant dinner hosted other members of Old St. Pat’s. Listening to the witness and testimony of people who found their way here to Adams and Desplaines is a true gift. People have come to touch the mission of Old St. Pat’s in many varied ways but what I hear every month from multiple people is their gratitude for the energy of hospitality and the kindness of people who make up this church. When people come from over 200 zip codes around the city and suburbs to “make” church happen, that is quite a testimony to the beauty of life being unveiled by all who gather as one.
On this special weekend, THANK YOU for being you! Thank you for your goodness and for continuing to unveil the masterpiece of the Gospel message of hope and hospitality here at Old St. Pat’s. Thank you for your trust in me and the team who work hard every day to keep our mission strong. Thank you for your outrageous generosity and sacrifices that keeps us going every day. Thank you for bringing hope and promise to the Church today, especially when it can be difficult amidst the many challenges we face as a universal institution. I find so much life and energy here because of YOU!
Let’s keep in prayer Officer Samuel Jimenez, Dr. O’Neal, and Ms. Dayna Less, and the perpetrator of violence from the Mercy Hospital tragedy. As I’ve said and prayed many times: Let there be Peace on Earth, but Lord with your help: let it begin with me.
For a Hopeful and more Peaceful world,
Father Tom Hurley