St. Jerome Church

From HistoryWiki

St. Jerome Catholic Church Soundex Code C620

1709 W. Lunt Avenue

This church was featured in the 1994 Annual Fall House Tour.

Located on Lunt Avenue, just east of Clark Street, St. Jerome Church is an architectural gem whose history reflects the spirit, perseverance, and unity of Rogers Park's earliest settlers, as well as succeeding generations.

In the early days of Rogers Park, the few Catholics had two alternatives for Sunday Mass: St. Henry Church at Ridge Avenue and Devon Avenue and St. Mary’s in Evanston.

In 1872, Mrs. Catherine Touhy was responsible for the building of a tiny frame church located on Kenilworth Avenue (now Touhy Avenue) near Central Avenue (renamed Hilldale Avenue and now Wolcott Avenue). Characteristic of the mission churches so prevalent of the frontier areas of the United States in those years. The tiny structure only lasted nine months. Sadly, spontaneous combustion of a lacquer used on the church's pews turned the church into a roaring inferno. Unfortunately, the Rogers Park Water Company and Rogers Park Fire Department were still years in the future. So it was that the hearty settlers were forced to endure the long trek to St. Henry Church. Their discomfort soon caused a new approach to the establishment of a new church for this growing community.

In 1893 when a committee approached the pastor of St. Mary’s to ask if he might send a priest to say Mass in Rogers Park on Sundays. Peter Philip offered his store at East Ravenswood Avenue and Lunt Avenue as a site. (This was the future site for the Rogers Park Village Hall.) Then Archbishop Feehan allowed this church-store to be a mission of St. Mary's. From his planing mill on Greenleaf Street, Peter Philip furnished an altar, the kneeling benches, and other church fittings. Mrs. Philip was one of the first sacristans supplying the altar with immaculately clean linens and beautiful flowers. The first mass was held on November 1, 1893.

In the spring of 1894, the strong Catholic spirit of the little community led to the formation of a new parish. Plans were drawn, property acquired, and a little wooden church dedicated to St. Jerome, which was quickly constructed at Morse Avenue and Paulina Street.

The First Mass at St. Jerome was celebrated by Father Hugh P. Smythe, pastor of St. Mary’s, on September 11, 1894. The appointment of the first pastor was not until May of 1895, Father Arthur Lonergan. Tied in with the population growth, new parishes were established by St. Jerome and St. Henry. St. Ignatius Church was established in 1907, St. Gertrude’s in 1912, St. Margaret Mary in 1921, and St. Timothy in 1925.

The History of St. Jerome Parish quickly became a story of growth, as the needs of the booming population were served with a school, and several expansions. Nonetheless, St. Jerome Parish continued to grow as the population of Catholics increased. In the late 1960s, there were more than 9,000 parishioners and more than 3,000 registered families.

The current era of St. Jerome really began in the early 1960s. Massive changes were done, and it included the use of native languages, rather than Latin for mass; the turning of the altar so that the priest faced the people, and a greatly increased role for the laity.

St. Jerome's was among the first to have a parish school board, a pastoral council, and lay Lectors. Later, lay Eucharistic ministers were added. These ministries were opened to women. In the early of 1960s, efforts to serve the growing Hispanic population of Chicago, many priests began to study Spanish, and St. Jerome was eventually served by bilingual priests. The parish is composed of many different ethnic communities who are gradually working together to integrate their cultures and activities.

The English speaking community, a rainbow of races and ethnic backgrounds, and a mixture of long time residents who attend English language Masses on the weekdays and on Saturday morning and afternoon and on Sunday mornings. They have a long history of active involvement and strong faith.

The growing Hispanic communities who attend three Spanish language masses each Sunday are a young and very active group. More than 50 teenagers participate in youth programs and more than 60 children attend The Holy Childhood Association.


RPWRHS photo C043-32258 shows a 1940s era banquet at St. Jerome Church.

RPWRHS photo L009-0423 shows Cortez Aureliano carrying a cross at St. Jerome Church. No date given.

RPWRHS photo R044-0230 shows St. Jerome Church. No date given.