Shrine History

Since 2004 The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago is officially affiliated with the Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary in Pompei, Italy. To unite this spiritual relationship, the Shrine in Italy presented us with a relic of Blessed Bartolo Longo, who had a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary and worked for the poor and orphans of Pompei.

Originally established in Chicago as an official Italian national parish in 1911, the church was built in 1923 and dedicated to Mary, Queen of the Rosary, in 1924, under the care and guidance of the Scalabrini Fathers.

For over 80 years the church stood as a symbol of pride and faith. However, over time the neighborhood began to significantly change.  When it seemed as if the heritage of this sacred space would be lost, neighborhood leaders, former parishioners and alumni launched a remarkable grassroots effort – Pompeii on the Move.  With strong united voices they kept Our Lady of Pompeii’s heritage alive, in a new form.

On October 10, 1994, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin proclaimed Our Lady of Pompeii church a Shrine, dedicated to honor Mary, the Mother of God, Queen of the Holy Rosary.

On October 11, 2004, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. dedicated The Shrine’s Bronze Doors.  Please click here to see a brochure regarding the Bronze Doors of the Holy Rosary for Our Salvation.

On October 10, 2004, Bishop Carlo Liberati, Pontifical Delegate to Shrine of The Blessed Virgin of The Holy Rosary in Pompeii, Italy established ‘a most fervent and fraternal link of communion’ between The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, Chicago and The Shrine of The Blessed Virgin of The Holy Rosary, Pompeii, Italy.  Please click here to read the letter from Bishop Carlo Liberati, to Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.  A framed copy of the letter is proudly displayed on the right side of the center doors as you exit The Shrine.

HISTORY OF THE FORMER PARISH

At the turn of the century, the influx and growth of the Italian Community of Chicago’s Near West Side was a challenge to all agencies involved in their care, help and development. The Church, with one Italian parish in the area – Guardian Angel Church – saw the need of expansion to serve and administer to the growing migrant and immigrant community. In 1910 Father Pacifico Chenuil,  Pastor of Guardian Angel Church, with the guidance and support of Archbishop James Quigley, decided to establish  a new parish farther west at Lexington (McAllister Place) and Lytle streets.

Under the leadership of its first Pastor, Father Peter Barabino (former Associate to Father Chenuil), the Italians of the Near West Side planted the seeds of Our Lady of Pompeii parish. With energy and enthusiasm building of a church and school began. By the spring of 1911 the Church was ready for use. One year later in 1912, the school 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 established a new parish and school that were to flourish well into the future.

During the Pastorate of Fr. Carlo Fani (1918-1932) most of the present buildings were developed as seen today. The present Church was erected in 1923-1924, becoming the pride and joy of the local Italian community and of Italians in the Chicagoland area. The school was renovated in its entirety and the rectory was built.  In subsequent years each Pastor added or renovated the structures.

Two significant events in the development of Our Lady of Pompeii include the erection of a new convent in 1956, with Fr. Joseph Bolzan as Pastor. A large and modern facility at the time, it was meant to accommodate a community of twenty Sisters. It later became the residence of the Christian Brothers of DeLaSalle.  In 1985, the 75th Anniversary celebration of the parish began with the burning of the mortgage, the accumulated debt of close to one-half million dollars finally 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, sent to Chicago primarily as Italian Missionaries for their migrant brothers and sisters, staffed Our Lady of Pompeii since its founding. They were proud of their long association with the Near West Side community and to be part of the rich heritage and tradition of Our Lady of Pompeii. They continued to serve the parish with Pastor Fr. Angelo Carbone.

The 75th Anniversary Year was a milestone in the history of the parish. The dedication and generosity of many priests, religious and laity was an inspiration. 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 facilities.  The 75th Anniversary challenged everyone to reaffirm their continued commitment to the goals of Christian fidelity, mutual support, love and respect of family, education of youth and participation in liturgy. May God, through Our Lady of Pompeii, continue to bless the efforts and dedication of the present, as in the past, so that we may go from strength to strength and be worthy of our heritage.

Other Pastors who followed and contributed to the growth of Our Lady of Pompeii were:

  • Remigio Pigato (1932-1947)
  • Louis Riello (1948-1949)
  • Salvatore DeVita (1949-1952)
  • Joseph Bolzan (1952-1961)
  • John Bonelli (1961-1965)
  • Gino Dalpiaz (1965-1974)
  • Angelo Calandra (1974-1982)
  • Peter Sordi (1983-1985)