Archbishop Blase J. Cupich is eschewing opulence.
He has decided to live at Holy Name Cathedral rectory, more modest than the North State Parkway mansion where previous Chicago archbishops have resided, the Archdiocese of Chicago revealed Wednesday.
Newly appointed Archbishop Blase Cupich has decided not to live in the traditional mansion. | File Photo
The multi-million dollar Gold Coast mansion, which includes a coach house, 19 chimneys and landscaped grounds overlooking Lake Michigan, has been the home to every archbishop in Chicago since it was built in 1885.
The rectory living quarters are “very modest…not extravagant in any way,” said Monsignor Dan Mayall, pastor of Holy Name Cathedral. “The story here is he’s living more modestly than anybody anticipated. I think he sees living here because it’s close to work, two blocks away from the pastoral center, and it’s a parish church. It think he wanted to live in a parish. He didn’t want to live in an official place.”
Cupich’s quarters will be the same as Mayall’s and include a bedroom, living room and bathroom, Mayall said. He will eat in the common dining area.
The living quarters were previously occupied by the late Bishop Timothy Lyne, who died last year.
Cupich plans to use the mansion in the coming year for official Archdiocesan functions and to host guests, the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement. He also will establish an Archbishop’s Residence Committee to study “the best use of the facility for the benefit of the mission of the Archdiocese,” the archdiocese said.
Cupich now lives in simple quarters at Bishop White Seminary in Spokane. He made the decision on his new home in consultation with Cardinal Francis George, Mayall and several Chicago priests, the archdiocese said.
George, who took a vow of poverty as an order priest, had never liked the symbolism the Chicago mansion represents and once considered selling the property at 1555 N. State Parkway to raise money for the Catholic school system.
Representatives from the archdiocese declined to provide details on George’s private living quarters at the three-story, red-brick mansion that occupies roughly the equivalent of eight Chicago city lots. CNN reported in August the property is worth $14.3 million.
The archdiocese web site notes George’s private quarters are on the second floor.
The mansion houses sitting rooms, a small chapel, rooms for resident priests and guests, a kitchen and dining room, according to the website. It describes the mansion as “perhaps the largest and best-preserved building of its type in the Chicago area. It is one of the oldest structures in the Astor Street District, according to the Landmarks Preservation Council.”
The mansion has hosted St. John Paul II and two of his predecessors before they were elected Pope, Cardinals Pacelli (Pius XII) and Montini (Paul VI). President Franklin D. Roosevelt was also an overnight guest.
The residence was built at the direction of Archbishop Patrick Feehan, the first archbishop of Chicago.
“This is the best way for any bishop to say that he wants to do as Pope Francis is doing … what a good Christian should do in terms of giving an example of living a normal life and not being a prince,” said Massimo Faggioli, assistant professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, of Cupich’s decision.
“It’s interesting because for a church historian like me, it’s very easy to remember that until the early 20th century and in some countries the middle 20th century, all bishops or most bishops were coming from the aristocracy. So for them it is completely natural to live in palaces, in lavish residences. Bishops are now seen as examples or models or witnesses of a certain kind of lifestyle, and Pope Francis has set an example.”
Francis opted not to live in the papal palace, but instead to reside at Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican guest residence.
Cupich’s decision “signals that he’s paying attention to the style of Pope Francis, and he understands symboically what these kind of things mean,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter. “I think it’s an attempt to move the church more towards this image that the Pope has of a poor church for the poor.”
Cupich intends to say daily Mass at Holy Name Cathedral when his schedule allows, the archdiocese said.