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Parishioners gather outside the church last Sunday. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Parishioners gather outside the church last Sunday. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

St. Hugh Farewell: ‘We had it all in this parish’

By Steve Metsch

Ending 96 years on Joliet Avenue in Lyons, the last Mass was said Sunday at St. Hugh Roman Catholic Church.

Current and former parishioners gathered in the red brick church with six elegant stained-glass windows. Others watched a closed-circuit broadcast in the school auditorium.

Standing outside the church after Mass, Renee Zakosek, 63, said, “It’s kind of hard.”

2021 06 27 11.03.08 1

Renee Zakosek said the last Mass made her sad.

“Grew up here. Went to school here,” she said. “I moved to Berwyn, and then came back here. My (late) mom (Rita) was older. We took her to Mass all the time.”

“This is it,” Zakosek said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do with the building. We were looking around (at) the beautiful stained-glass windows, the statues and all that.”

On Sunday, the pews were about 80 percent filled for the “The Celebration for Unification” that began at 10:30 a.m

The Rev. Robert Marchwiany, pastor of St. Hugh since 2018, co-officiated with Bishop John Manz of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In January, the Archdiocese announced that St. Hugh Parish would be closed.

It is merging with St. Mary Parish in Riverside and Mater Christi Parish in North Riverside. The new parish named St. Paul VI will be based in Riverside starting July 1.

Marchwiany and Manz – whose appearance marked his final official duty before his retirement after 50 years – each discussed the history of St. Hugh Parish and the changes facing parishioners.

“I fought hard for this place, sometimes too much,” Marchwiany said. “I apologize to those who I may have offended and for the strong comments.”

“We had it all in this parish,” Marchwiany added. “Some of you have been here for many generations. Baptized here. Many sacraments.”

The legacy of St. Hugh remains clear, he said.

“Practice. Believe. Show it. Share it. This legacy of our faith, the Catholic faith is vivid today,” Marchwiany said.

“Wherever you go — and I hope that many of you stay with the new parish — remember the gifts you received in this parish are going to stay with you,” Marchwiany added.

Manz, a parish priest for 25 years before he became a bishop, said the first two parishes he worked were closed down like St. Hugh.

But, he noted, a church is more than a building: “A church is primarily the people.”

We gather today, obviously, with sadness, but tremendous thankfulness for the beautiful things that have taken place here,” Manz said.

Sue Kahler, president of the church’s Society of Catholic Women, is taking that approach.

Kahler wrote words of encouragement in the church bulletin, thanked Marchwiany for his efforts and wished him well.

“(I am) trying to be joyful,” Kahler said. “We have to move on with the gifts we have in terms of the friendships here and the sacraments of 96 years. It’s carried on to our new parishes, wherever we go.”

After the Mass, a woman who requested anonymity said “none that you can print” when asked if she had any comments about the closure.

“It’s human. You can’t help but feel bad,” Kahler said. “But as a Christian, you want to move forward, meet new people, and carry the Gospel on.”

Graciela and Alfonso Barrera, among the first Latino families to join St. Hugh, attended with some family members.

“it’s a sad moment, but I know we live in faith,” Graciela said.

2021 06 27 09.53.27 1

 

 

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