Beloved statue removed from St. Adalbert in Pilsen: ‘It’s our Pieta’

The move has faced fierce opposition from former parishioners along with other concerned Catholics and preservationists — five of whom were arrested Tuesday.

SHARE Beloved statue removed from St. Adalbert in Pilsen: ‘It’s our Pieta’

After months of delays and protests, St. Paul’s Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Chicago on Tuesday finally carried out a plan to remove a beloved statue from a shuttered church in Pilsen.

The statue — a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother, Mary, after the crucifixion — was taken from St. Adalbert Catholic Church, 1650 W. 17th St., to St. Paul’s, 2127 W. 22nd Place, which absorbed St. Adalbert’s congregation after it closed.

La Voz Sidebar

Lea este artículo en español en La Voz Chicago, la sección bilingüe del Sun-Times.
la-voz-cover-photo-2.png

About 7 a.m., police cordoned off the alley leading to the east transept of the church where the statue is held, and by about 10 a.m., workers had removed the statue and loaded it onto a flatbed truck to move it.

The parish has been trying to move the statue since late August; however, the plan to do so has been stalled due to issues with permits. And it has faced fierce opposition from former parishioners along with other concerned Catholics and preservationists — several of whom were arrested Tuesday during the statue’s removal.

Judy Vazquez and other protesters attempt to stop crews from removing a statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen on Tuesday.

Judy Vazquez and other protesters attempt to stop crews from removing a statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“It’s really sad that it’s come to this,” said Judy Vazquez, the leader of a group of former parishioners protesting the move.

Vazquez and the group have been fighting for the statue to be moved to a church serving the Polish-speaking community. Although known as a Latino neighborhood today, Pilsen was a haven for Polish immigrants around the turn of the 20th century who built and opened the church in 1914 before transferring ownership to the archdiocese.

“It’s really sad that our voices weren’t heard, and I feel a lot of emotion for the Polish women standing next to me,” Vazquez said.

Former parishioners stood in the street to prevent a truck loaded with a statue from St. Adalbert church from driving away.

Former parishioners stood in the street to prevent a truck loaded with a statue from St. Adalbert church from driving away.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Tears rolled down Bronislawa Stekala’s face as she watched the statue taken down.

“It’s not fair,” said the Polish immigrant. “Money’s not everything,” she said, a reflection of a common fear that the church will be sold to the highest bidder now that the statue has been removed.

Raul Cerrato, a member of the parish finance committee, said that whoever buys the building would be tasked with preserving it. The former Adalbert parishioner said the building had become too expensive to maintain and the parish decided to move the statue to St. Paul’s as it had become a fixture of the Pilsen community.

“I understand there’s a lot of nostalgia attached to the building, but the heart of the parish is the people,” he said.

As the statue was taken out through the alley, Vazquez tried to step into the alley to block it but was barred by police.

“The cardinal thinks we’re going to forget about this. We’re going to show him we’re serious,” she yelled.

The group ran to 17th Street where the statue was loaded onto the truck.

They stood in front of it, linked arms and began to pray the rosary in Polish and Spanish. A few had written the phone number for a lawyer on their arms in case of arrest.

“This is some crime,” said Stanley Roidzewski, 68, a Polish immigrant who said he was married at the church decades ago and had his only daughter baptized there.

Preserving the statue and the church, he said, was about preserving the legacy of Polish immigrants in the U.S.

“It’s our Pieta,” said Stacy Kaczynski, 73, who came down from the North Side to protest the move. She and the others were hoping to meet with Cardinal Blase Cupich to discuss alternative solutions before the statue was moved.

“Three-and-a-half years we’ve been begging and they don’t want to listen.”

“It hurts me so much to watch them take away the statue,” said Marcelina Serano, 68, an immigrant from Mexico who said that she first became familiar with the statue when she moved to Pilsen 40 years ago.

“We’ve had it for so many years, right here.”

After police issued dispersal orders to the group, a few walked away, but five remained and were eventually detained, including Vazquez. A Chicago Police Department spokesperson confirmed the five were arrested and cited for obstruction of traffic.

Susan Delgado, a longtime resident of 17th Street, watched the scene unfold from her front stoop.

“This wasn’t my church, but I’ve known many of the parishioners and I’ve seen them here pretty much every day,” she said, gesturing to the protesters.

“It’s so sad to watch.”

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Bronislawa Stekala gets emotional Tuesday after crews removed a beloved statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen.

Bronislawa Stekala gets emotional Tuesday after crews removed a beloved statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Protesters form a human chain Tuesday on West 17th Street after crews removed a statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen and attempt to transport it to St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

Protesters form a human chain Tuesday on West 17th Street after crews removed a statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen and attempt to transport it to St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago police officers detain five protesters who tried to stop crews from transporting a beloved statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen to St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Tuesday.

Chicago police officers detain five protesters who tried to stop crews from transporting a beloved statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen to St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Tuesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Judy Vazquez is among five protesters detained Tuesday morning for trying to stop crews from removing a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta from St. Adalbert Catholic Church.

Judy Vazquez is among five protesters detained Tuesday morning for trying to stop crews from removing a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta from St. Adalbert Catholic Church.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A beloved statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, was removed from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen on Tuesday and was transported it to St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

A beloved statue, a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, was removed from St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Pilsen on Tuesday and was transported it to St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Latest
Knowing how you want to cook it or use it in your favorite recipe will help you choose the right kind.
My dad, Leroy Bowman, whom I credit with much of my love of the outdoors, led a full life filled with anomalies: deer hunting, ordained Mennonite deacon, quarryman, trout fishing, raising six kids. He died at 95 over the solar-eclipse weekend and the memories bubble up.
The soon-to-be 22-year-old forward struggled throughout most of the year, although he did at least improve his ability to move on from mistakes.
The man keeps trying to make plans to hang out, but his friends want nothing to do with him.
In fur and makeup, Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough spend most of the movie scratching, sneezing and worse.