Around the Church First Installment

New feature!

Our parish is the result of dedicated priests and parish members throughout the years. None of us were members when the parish was established in 1911.  Many were not members when the current church building was dedicated in 1940.   Changes have been made to the church since that dedication – statues, floors and communion rails were removed; a new altar and statues were added.

This is the first of a series of articles about St. Bernardine church.  The articles are intended to provide some background on the journey to the parish family we have today.  The sources of information for these articles were the Jubilee books, the Church Dedication book, and past issues of the Chimes.

The Church Building

In 1911, the first mass for our parish was celebrated in Vogel’s Lodge Hall at the corner of Harrison and Harlem.  Soon after, the church purchased several lots at the corner of Harrison and Marengo.  A temporary portable building, dubbed the ‘Ark’ was obtained from Resurrection Parish on the northwest side of Chicago and moved to the new property by Henry Mohr’s coal wagons.  In 1915, a school-church building was built.  The church occupied the ground floor of the building.  The church stayed there until the current church was opened in 1940.


Vogel’s Lodge Hall                                                                    The “Ark”


Panoramic view of the church in the ground floor of the school, contributed by Dorothy Lambke

Planning for the ‘new’ church and rectory started in 1936.  The church and rectory are a Spanish Mission architecture designed by the firm of McCarthy, Smith & Eppig.  This firm, which designed many churches, were also the architects of St. Giles Church in Oak Park.  The general contractor was the firm of A. Twardowski Construction Co. of Chicago.  The church opened on May 19, 1940.  The most Rev. Samuel A. Stritch, D.D, Archbishop of Chicago, led the dedication on November 10, 1940.  Parishioners bought ‘1 brick for the new church’ to help defray costs.

High above the entrance is a cross and niche that holds a statue.  The cross represents redemption.  The niche holds a statue of St. Bernardine of Sienna, the patron saint of the Parish.  St. Bernardine (1380-1444) was an Italian priest and Franciscan missionary.  He became a saint in 1450, six years after he died.  His feast day is May 20.  The original statue was the gift of Zimmerman & Son of Forest Park; it was restored due to the generosity of the Schawel family in the last 20 years.

Just below the niche is a window flanked by two coats of arms.   These are symbols of the ecclesiastical authorities when the church was built.  The stone-carved coat of arms of Pope Pius XII, the Holy Father when the church was dedicated, which includes the Cross and the Crown, representing Salvation and Victory.  The other is the coat of arms of the late Cardinal Archbishop Stritch of Chicago.


1) Monsignor Wagener breaking ground on the new church, Easter 1939   2) Above the entrance to the church

The Rectory

The first rectory was a partially erected two-story building.  It was purchased in 1916 by our second pastor, Rev. Louis J. Maiworm.  It was located at 7232 Harrison St. and previously owned by A. Roos and Sons.  Parishioners, and friends of the parish, helped complete the house.  This building served as the rectory until 1936.

With plans to build a new church and rectory, the decision was made to build the rectory first since the old one was located at the site of the current church.  Ground was broken for the rectory in the spring of 1936 and it was completed in November of that year.  The old rectory was eventually torn down, after attempts to sell it failed, so the current church could be built.

The current rectory matches the Spanish Mission architecture planned for the church.  It was designed by Monroe R. Sandel.  It includes a large basement with a meeting room, laundry room, and a boiler room.  The first floor has a parlor, offices, a dining room, kitchen, pantry and two bedroom suites (originally for housekeepers).  The second floor has a suite of rooms for the pastor and four additional rooms for assistants or visiting priests.  Members of the St. Vincent DePaul Society often played cards with Father Wagener in the basement after meeting. Father Stan updated the rectory after he became the pastor.

A recent change was made to the outdoor patio.  The old landscaping was replaced with grass, plants, flowers and a pergola.


Old Rectory                                                          New Rectory

The Bell Tower

The bell tower is located on the north side of the church,  The function of a church tower is to lift high into the heavens the emblem of salvation, the cross, and to house the bells and chimes whose melodious ringing call the faithful to worship.  The chimes have recently been repaired due to a contribution from the Lambke family.

The tower, which contains three long windows of glass brick, is also a vestibule for the side exit.  When the church was first built, it held a unique religious shrine depicting the Little Flower at the feet of the Madonna and Holy Child with the Holy Face on the Cross.  The recess was draped in blue to offset the statuary group.  This shrine has been removed.

The tips of the trees and the railing in the foreground of the picture on the left adds a note of charm to this scene.


The Bell Tower                                          Original Shrine

The Grounds

The cornerstone of the church is located at the northeast corner.  It states ‘This church erected to the Glory of God and the Honor of St. Bernardine, A.D. 1939.’  The cornerstone dedication ceremony, led by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Michael Klasen, took place on June 25, 1939.  The stone was donated by the Berliner brothers of the S. Berliner Monument Co.  Copies of the Chimes and local newspapers from that time were placed behind the cornerstone.

The memorial monument, located by the cornerstone, is dedicated to the memories of the 17 men of our parish who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II.  The memorial was built due to the efforts of Frank Kiefer, president of the Holy Name Society, and the generosity of our parishioners.  The concrete foundation and walk was donated by Bert Carey & Company of Forest Park.

In recent years, parishioner Carol Good is maintaining the flowers and shrubberies around the church and rectory.  The shrubs, flowers and rose bushes were donated by parishioners and parish groups including the Women’s Club and CCD students.


Church Cornerstone                                                                                                                   War Memorial Monument

          Parishioner Carol Good

Our Lady of Fatima Shrine

On the north side of the church is the grotto, dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.  The St. Vincent de Paul Society, after visiting the National Shrine to our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, initiated the planning and building of the shrine in 1947.  Parishioners raised $4,000 for the construction.  Our shrine was dedicated on July 9, 1950.

The shrine depicts the scene when Our Lady appeared at Fatima, Portugal, in May, 1917, to three young shepherd children – Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. She requested fasting, penance and prayer, but most of all, to pray the rosary for peace.  Our lady appeared a total of six times to the children.  She promised a miracle in October, 1917.  At that time, the crowd of perhaps 70,000 people witnessed a “miraculous solar phenomenon,” in which the Sun appeared to fall toward Earth.  Today the shrine in Fatima is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year.

Our Lady of Fatima Grotto