Fighting the church with sticks, sawhorses and crumbled brick
A group of mostly middle-aged women trying to keep St. Adalbert Church’s Pieta from being removed erected a barricade outside the church Friday and vowed to protest 24 hours a day.
A handful of mostly middle-aged women threw up a barricade made of sticks, branches, broken bricks and a couple of sawhorses Friday morning.
Then they sat down and prayed.
“We have God. We have the rosary. We have the bigger barricade,” said Judy Vazquez, 65.
Whether that will be enough to deter the Archdiocese of Chicago remains to be seen. Vazquez and her fellow demonstrators quickly assembled outside the majestic but crumbling St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St., Friday morning when they got word workers were on their way to try once again to remove the church’s marble Pieta, a replica of Michelangelo’s.
Vazquez said she and her group managed to turn the workers away Friday morning, even as the men grumbled the women had no right to block their way.
“This whole thing is so agonizing, it’s so heartbreaking. We shouldn’t have to be out here,” Vazquez said.
Work began late last month to remove the statue from St. Adalbert’s, which was built by Polish immigrants in the early 1900s and opened its doors in 1914. In 2016, it was announced the church — in need of major repairs — would close. It held its last Mass in 2019, and its parishioners were merged with the nearby St. Paul’s Catholic Church — where the archdiocese plans to move the marble statue.
But it won’t be without a fight.
Supporters of saving St. Adalbert’s said Friday that they plan to remain in front of the iron gates 24 hours a day until they can sit down with archdiocese officials. They don’t want the Pieta moved.
Vazquez, who grew up in the Pilsen neighborhood, said she postponed a knee replacement surgery in Seattle to fight the archdiocese.
“We want the archdiocese to come to the table and realistically talk to us as parishioners [about] what to do with this property so it’s not sold to developers. We have just as much right to this property as they do,” she said.
She and others said they would be willing to be arrested, if necessary.
On Friday, Susan Thomas, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese said, “The statue will follow the parishioners to St. Paul Church in Pilsen, where it can be properly displayed and safeguarded in an active parish church.”