At the turn of the century, the influx and growth of the Italian Community of the near west side area of Chicago, was a challenge to all agencies involved in their care, help and development. The church too, with one Italian parish in the area – Guardian Angel Church – saw the need of expansion and of another parochial facility to serve and administer to the growing migrant and immigrant community. It was in 1910 that Father Pacifico Chenuil, then Pastor of Guardian Angel Church, with the guidance and support of His Excellency James Quigley, arrived at the decision to proceed with the establishment of a new parish farther west at Lexington (McAllister Place) and Lytle.
Under the leadership of its first Pastor, Father Peter Barabino, who had been an Associate to Father Chenuil, the Italians of the Near West Side planted the seeds of Our Lady of Pompeii. Energetically and enthusiastically the building of a combination Church and School was begun. By the spring of 1911 the Church was ready for use. One year later in 1912, the school on the upper level was ready to be opened. Classes began with the services of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. In a short time the sacrifices, generosity, and dedication of so many had established a new parish structure that was to develop into a glorious future.
In 1918, Father Carlo Fani assumed the Pastorate of Our Lady of Pompeii and served the parish until 1932. It was during his administration that most of the present physical plant structures as they are today were developed. A new Church was erected in 1923-1924, which became the pride and joy not only of the local Italian community but also of Italians in the Chicagoland area. The school was renovated in its entirety and the present rectory was built. Throughout the years that followed each Pastor added or renovated updating the physical plant of Church, School, and Rectory.
There were two other significant events in the historical development of Our Lady of Pompeii in recent times. The first was the erection of a new convent in 1956 with Fr. Joseph Bolzan as Pastor. As a very huge and modern facility, it was meant to accommodate a community of twenty Sisters. Presently the Christian Brothers of DeLaSalle make it their residence. The final accomplishment of late was the burning of the mortgage in October of 1985, which began the celebration of this 75th Anniversary Year. What seemed to be an insurmountable debt accumulated throughout the years – the sum of close to one-half million dollars was wiped out. This was accomplished with the acumen of Fr. Peter Sordi, the generosity of parishioners, friends and the aid of the Archdiocese.
The Scalabrini Fathers and Brothers who were sent primarily as Italian Missionaries for their migrant brothers and sisters have staffed Our Lady of Pompeii since it’s founding. They have been proud to be associated for all these years with the Near West Side Community and be part of the rich heritage and tradition of Our Lady of Pompeii. They continue presently with Fr. Angelo Carbone as pastor to be of service to the community.
This 75th Anniversary Year is a milestone in the history of the parish. It looks back with pride to the dedication and generosity of many priests, religious and laity, and is an inspiration for us to follow their example. With gratitude we remember our ancestors, men and women of faith who lived and worshipped at Our Lady of Pompeii and made possible this beautiful church and plant. This event is a challenge to us of the present to reaffirm our continued commitment to the goals of Christian fidelity, mutual support, love and respect of family, education of youth, participation in liturgy, etc. We pray that God through Our Lady of Pompeii may continue to bless the efforts and dedication of the present as he did in the past so that we may go from strength to strength and be worth of our heritage.
Other Pastors who followed and contributed to the growth of Our Lady of Pompeii were:
- Fr. Remigio Pigato (1932-1947)
- Fr. Louis Riello (1948-1949)
- Fr. Salvatore DeVita (1949-1952)
- Fr. Joseph Bolzan (1952-1961)
- Fr. John Bonelli (1961-1965)
- Fr. Gino Dalpiaz (1965-1974)
- Fr. Angelo Calandra (1974-1982)
- Fr. Peter Sordi (1983-1985)