ST. CHARLES BORROMEO CHURCH

1637 N. 37TH AVENUE
MELROSE PARK IL 60160
(708) 343-1746

A Scalabrinian Parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago

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Parish History

   When the land on which St. Charles stands became part of Melrose Park in 1915 only-50 to 75 families lived there. There were people of mixed religious and national backgrounds: Catholics, Hebrews, Lutherans and Methodists: They were Dutch, English, German, Irish, Italian, a large community of Lithuanian, Polish and Russian. It was primitive area; mud streets, no sidewalks, no piped water or sewers. Electricity and telephones were rare. Grant Public Grade School was rudimentary. Catholics walked a mile across fields and railroad tracks to attendy Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel or Sacred Heart Church. Catholic children traveled the distance daily to Mt.. Carmel Parochial School.            .

   In 1928 the boundary roads of Lake Street, Mannheim Road and North Avenue were paved. Water pipes, sewers and gas pipes were installed. The economic depression years which followed did not dampen Catholic zeal.

   By 1937, recovery brought jobs and stability again. More homes were built and more Catholic families moved in. In that year, the Missionaries of St. Charles built their first seminary in the United States, Sacred Heart Seminary, where it stands now, in the heart of the parish area. Many of the Catholics prayed Mass in the Seminary Chapel.

   In 1942, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago, gave his permission to build a new parish. He authorized the Rev. Florian Girometta to conduct a survey to see just what possibilities existed here. The survey showed 132 Catholic families lived here and that about 40 families attended Mass and other Sacraments with some regularity.

   The war effort restricted availability of building materials and there was little money. Father Girometta secured a $3,000 loan from the Chancery Office to buy four lots at 37th Avenue and Soffel in Melrose Park as a site for our Church.

   Father Girometta became the first Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church. In May of 1943 he purchased a small frame prefabricated office building at auction for $1,000 on the South side of Chicago. It was moved in sections to the purchased lots, erected on a solid foundation and weatherproofed with veneer of brick. This became the first St. Charles Borromeo Church.

   The Church was blessed and dedicated by the Most Rev. William O'Brien on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, November 4th, 1943.

   The need for a Parochial school became pressing and with a construction loan of $65,000, St. Charles Borromeo School opened in September of 1945. There were 125 children enrolled in six grades. In 1948, there were 15 graduates. The school was then staffed by the Mantellate Sisters, Servants Of Mary. Today the school enjoys an enrollment of 230 and is staffed by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

   In 1955 St. Charles began their Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Program (CCD). It is one of the most successful CCD programs in the area with an enrollment of about 225.

    Fire threatened complete destruction of the school on February 14th, 1957 and
caused smoke damage of $15,000 throughout. Volunteer parishioners cleaned and decorated the entire building in less than two months.

   The little chapel built in 1943 for 150 families could no longer fill the needs of 784 families registered in 1959. In 1959 with fund-raising activities stepped up, permission was granted to build the new Church. Ground was broken on July 24, 1960 and the First Mass was said on Saturday, November 25, 1961 at 10:30 AM. by Father Emil Donanzan with Albert Cardinal Meyer, Archbishop of Chicago, presiding.

   Fr. Angelo Moscato was named pastor effective in July 1975. A former religion teacher and student chaplain at Holy Cross High School in River Grove, IL, Fr. Moscato had served as associate pastor of St. Charles Parish since Sept. 1974.  Under the leadership of Fr. Angelo, two new activities of the parish were centered in the old church building. Group Assurance Program #560 was initiated Nov. 1, 1973 in conjunction with the Michael Reese Hospital Blood Center.  The Colonels Drum and Bugle Corps were organized in 1962 in nearby Franklin Park, and it developed into a group of top competitive performers. St. Charles became a sponsor of the corps in the summer of 1975.

   Fr. Nicolas Marro became the pastor in Sept. 1980. Fr. Marro’s first assignment had been at St. Callistus Parish in Chicago – thereafter he spent several years in Canada in Vancouver and Sarnia as Associate and Pastor. During his pastorate at St. Charles he was responsible for the renovation of the old church building which is now referred to as the Annex building.

   The Parish was constantly active not only in devotional functions but in social functions also. Throughout the year the parish was busy planning St. Joseph Table; Cabaret Night; the school had a very active Parent School Association and School Board; a Bingo operates solely for the success of the school; an Altar & Rosary Society which kept their Altar fully equipped for worship services; Annual Holy Thursday Supper; Salad Luncheon; Parish Bowling League; Baptismal Program; a very vibrant CCD Program; a fine Holy Name Society and a strong Parish Council to assist the Pastor in all his needs. The youth have everything from Scouts to Cheerleading to Basketball and the Sunday Masses are well provided with Lectors, Commentators, Organists, Altar Boys, Auxiliary Ministers and two Ordained Deacons.

   In the 1970's and onward the ethnic makeup of the parish changed; after the Cuban Revolution, many Cubans moved into the area and were soon acculturated and established themselves in many areas of Illinois. Mexican, and Central American immigration followed. St. Charles School began dropping in enrollment, and as the ethnic makeup of the area changed. .

   In November 1990, Fr. Daniel Lapolla, CS was installed as Pastor by Bishop Jakubowski, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. Fr. Dan had worked as a missionary for 11 years in Northern and Western Canada, and four and half years in Kansas City, Missouri.

   It became apparent that two things had to be done in the Parish. The first was to establish a Spanish language mass. The first Spanish language mass was celebrated in November 1990, and was attended by 700 people. The school enrollment had been progressively decreasing and by 1991 had dropped to 102. It became apparent that increasing debt due to the school decrease in enrollment and the expenses of the lay teachers' salaries could no longer make the school feasible.

   In 1992, a second Spanish language mass was established. At that time parishioners numbered 1343 families; 150 children were in the religious education program which is held in the school building on weekends.

   St. Charles has enjoyed truly dedicated priests as Pastors and Associates: Father Florian Girometta, Father Emilio Donanzan, Father Thomas Carlesimo, Father Paschal Pavini, Father Peter Rigo, Father Angelo Moscato, Father Nicholas Marro, Father John Bonelli, Father Daniel Lapolla, Father Clair Orso, Father Jorge Bravo, Father Claudio Holzer, Father Leandro Fossá.