HISTORY: OLA MISSION - OVERVIEW
To see the website that extensively documented the renovation projects and the first years of outreach at Mission OLA, please go HERE.
Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005 at the request of Francis Cardinal George. Cardinal George wisely envisioned Fr. Bob directing a mission to serve the poor and maintain a Catholic presence in the huge area on the West Side that was no longer served by any Catholic parishes.
The Cardinal specifically chose Our Lady of the Angels for the site of this mission for several reasons:
- To serve the tremendous needs in the neighborhood, one of the neediest in the city
- To maintain a Catholic presence at the approximate geographic center of the West side area no longer served by any Catholic parishes
- To maintain a prayerful presence at the site of the fire
As a historical side note, 800 years ago St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order in Assisi at Our Lady of the Angels. Both the establishment of the Franciscan Mission and the subsequent establishment of the new community of Franciscans at Our Lady of the Angels (in 2010 under the direction of Cardinal George) is a unique blessing and reminder of our Franciscan roots.
Upon Fr. Bob’s arrival, the buildings were a disaster, filled with garbage, water, and general decay. Fr. Bob, thus, began by doing construction.
This was the beginning of about 6 years and about $11 million worth of miraculous construction projects. God’s providence (paired with Fr. Bob’s publicity and coordination skills) provided thousands of volunteers, many donations of material goods, and thousands of dollars worth of direct donations. We are indebted to all of those who gave of their time, talent, and treasure to complete these projects. We continue to pray for all of those who helped with the construction.
Please see the below pages that provide a sampling of “BEFORE” and “AFTER” pictures and descriptions for each project:
Please contact us HERE (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to thank those who worked so hard on our buildings by hiring them for your own construction project.
Simultaneous to the construction, Fr. Bob began establishing outreach in the neighborhood. He assessed the needs of the neighborhood simply by walking around and talking with the neighbors. Healthy food, safe havens for kids, and senior citizen programming were identified as the greatest needs.
Much of the outreach takes place through Kelly Hall. Providentially, on the flight to Chicago, Fr. Bob was seated next to a fellow Notre Dame graduate. Though they did not know each other, they struck up a conversation. That conversation was the beginning of a partnership between the Archdiocese, the YMCA of Metro Chicago and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. This partnership is responsible for the renovation and continued smooth operation of Kelly Hall. We are very grateful for this partnership and for all of the programs under its direction which are a tremendous help to our needy neighbors.
As discussed more on the Kelly Hall page, our afterschool programming, food pantries, and senior citizens program all function out of Kelly Hall.
The convent held its first service group in spring 2010, who mainly helped with the continued construction on that building. A steady stream of service groups and retreat groups has followed, as seen on the convent page. They have helped with construction/ maintenance, the afterschool program, the seniors program, and special events.
Fr. Bob received some in-house help with all of this work in August 2009 when the discernment community, which would soon become the Franciscans of the Eucharist, moved into the rectory building. Please see the Franciscans of the Eucharist history page for more information about the development of the community.
Lastly, outreach from the church building began in summer 2012 with our first summer Bible camps for the neighborhood children. Community dinners began out of the church basement in May 2013. Please see the church page for more information.
851 N. Avers, our new building for additional housing for volunteers will be done sometime in 2016. As soon as it’s part of the miraculous building renovation history here at Mission OLA it too will become part of this page!
As our outreach continues to improve and expand, we continue to thank God for the tremendous blessings that he has provided to make our work possible.