Monsignor Thiele Parish Center

St. Aloysius Catholic Church

Growing and Sharing in Jesus Christ

 

 

Monsignor Aloysius J. Thiele

 

In 1877, Chicago was quickly re-building itself after the Great Fire of 1871.  The majority of the city had been left in ruins with more 100,000 homeless, but the energy of the city was unstoppable. Beginning to grow larger than its former self, new homes were being built in an area at the edge of the city called Wicker Park.  By 1884, so many people had moved into this area and the nearby Humboldt Park district that Archbishop Feehan directed the formation of two new parishes: St. Sylvester to serve the English-speaking community and St. Aloysius to serve the many German immigrants living in the same area. On May 30, 1884, Rev. A.J. Thiele received a letter from Archbishop Feehan directing him to take over the project for the German immigrants.  After meeting with some of the German-speaking people living in the area, construction of a temporary church began on June 14, 1884. One week later, the simple structure was completed.  Father Thiele celebrated the first Mass on June 22, 1884.  The first church went up so fast that few people even knew it had been built. It cost the parish a total of $450 to build the structure.  Father Thiele preached on the Good Shepherd Gospel and promised to strive to be a Good Shepherd to his flock, always guiding them into the Lord’s pasture.  The first Baptism took place on July 6 and the first wedding on August 11.

 

The next few years brought great growth to the city of Chicago and to St. Aloysius Parish. A new church with a small school had been built six months later at a cost of nearly $5,000.  Father Thiele contacted the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ who were looking to build a hospital in Chicago.  He convinced them that building near the parish would do the most good for others.  In 1886, St. Elizabeth Hospital opened.  He also contacted the Sisters of Christian Charity to teach in the parish school for boys.  He encouraged them to do something nearly unthinkable at that time:  to build a finishing school for young women.  Josephinum Academy opened in 1890 and is still educating young women today.  By 1893, Chicago politicians had parlayed the city’s re-birth into a tale that won for it the honor of hosting the Columbian Exposition, America’s tribute to the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World.  That same year, St. Aloysius Parish built its third church, a large, three-story combination church and school building.  The church was actually meant to be temporary—it was meant to be a large hall for the school once a permanent church would be built.  For us, “temporary” meant 72 years!  Even though there was much dissension among the parishioners, Father Thiele’s wisdom in marshaling our resources for the future won the day. They trusted the man who had guided them and helped them grow.  Those who remember “the old church”, as we call it today, remark on the great number of steps leading from the street up to the church doors. “Like climbing into heaven” was the way one parishioner described it. 

 

In 1893, financial panic came over the city.  The parish carried a debt of more than $56,000 because of the new building.  Poverty, hunger, and joblessness were everywhere.  Even though the parish was suffering its own financial worries, Father Thiele pushed the parishioners to think about those who were less fortunate. On December 10, 1893, the parish founded its St. Vincent DePaul Society to reach out to the poor. By the time we celebrated Father Thiele’s “silver jubilee” of priestly ministry in 1895, St. Aloysius Parish was firmly established as a leader in spirituality and in the community at large.  Father Thiele’s concern for building up the community, addressing spiritual concerns and helping the needy was evident in all that had been achieved.  He next began the process of looking at the needs of the greater community, contributing time to the German Orphans Welfare Board, purchasing land for the headquarters of the Divine Word Missionaries, securing the site of St. Joseph Cemetery, Angel Guardian Orphanage, and establishing two “mission” parishes for German-speaking Catholics who had moved further west and north.  In addition, he continued efforts to pay down the parish debt and add classrooms to the parish school as its enrollment increased. By the time of the parish’s silver anniversary, the debt was wiped out.  The parish had grown from 46 families to over 600 families.  

 

Over the years, Father Thiele’s hard work led to many honors and appointments. He was named one of the Vicars General of the Archdiocese in 1909 and given the title Monsignor in 1915.  In 1917, the parish priests went to each of the households comforting the families whose sons had gone to war, and in 1918, the parish boys cleared the city streets during the great blizzard.  In all the momentous occasions of that time, from the first electric lights in homes to the great Eucharistic Congress of 1926, Monsignor Thiele led the way for his parishioners.  At the same time, the City of Chicago grew to over 3 million residents, built skyscrapers and boulevards. As the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood changed, so did St. Aloysius Parish, welcoming wave upon wave of new families, educating their children, providing for the needs of the poor, and shepherding Christ’s flock on its pilgrim way.  Monsignor Thiele served as our Pastor for 47 years, retiring in 1932.  Chicago became the city of big shoulders and, under Monsignor Thiele, Saint Aloysius became the arms to embrace its people.

 

In our 75th anniversary book, Monsignor Thiele’s biography concludes: No priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago was more esteemed by the clergy and laity alike than Monsignor Thiele because of his rare qualities of heart and mind.  Few men achieve the dignity and prestige that he did because few men sacrifice so much in the service of others.  Welcome to the Monsignor Thiele Center.

 

Information

Map to Parish

Contact Us

Donate

Home

Office

St. Aloysius Catholic Church

2300 W. LeMoyne

Chicago, IL 60622

Center

Monsignor Thiele Center

1510 N. Claremont

Chicago, IL 60622

Connect