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South Side’s St. James Catholic Church faces wrecking ball on Wednesday

Pre-demolitiwork St. James Church 2942 S. Wabash. Monday March 25 2013  | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Pre-demolition work at St. James Church, 2942 S. Wabash. Monday, March 25, 2013 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 27, 2013 6:34AM

Parishioners of St. James Catholic Church have been told that demolition of their South Side sanctuary will begin Wednesday.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Edward Linton, received a call on Friday from an official with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago informing him of the news, said Eileen Quigley, a longtime parishioner and co-chair of the Friends of Historic St. James Church.

A letter written by Cardinal Francis George and send to Rev. Linton late Saturday noted that “the future of St. James Parish has been under much discussion since the City of Chicago decided four years ago that the church building that you used for worship is unsafe.

“The question was whether to try to put some millions of dollars into trying to rehabilitate an unsafe structure or spend that money for a new structure, with access to the parish campus from Michigan Avenue,” George wrote. “The canonical requirements have been met to take [St. James] down. “

An archdiocesan spokeswoman said there was no additional comment.

St. James, at 2942 S. Wabash, was built in 1855 and has a mixed congregation – from black and white to affluent and poor, said Friends of Historic St. James Church.

The church’s congregation, which has about 250 parishioners according to Quigley, has been holding services in the community hall for several years after the archdiocese deemed the church unsafe. Many of the parishioners have also been fighting for most of this year to stop the wrecking ball from destroying their beloved St. James.

The archdiocese in the letter said it intends to build a new church along Michigan Avenue. But for now, the parishioners will continue worshipping where they are now.

Parishioners disagreed that the cost of restoring the old one would be prohibitive, as the letter argues.

Quigley also said that if they moved a block away as the cardinal indicates they will, that would mean not having a parish hall, a rectory or a food pantry because the new site doesn’t have enough land for everything in one location.

“So we would have a split campus,” Quigley said. “We are as important as any other catholic in this city and any Catholic in this world and to just to be ignored is very disappointing.”

Late on Tuesday, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) said he was trying to get an extension on the demolition permit to delay it.

“What I propose I’m not sure if we can do it under the codes,” Fioretti. “I would just like to see that everybody sit in the same room [the archdiocese, the parishioners, the buildings] before they do anything that creates crises in their faith-holders.”

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