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HISTORY: OLA MISSION - OVERVIEWFr. Bob / Cardinal George

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: 

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.
Construction
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 a the continuous stream of miraculous construction projects. God’s providence (paired with Fr. Bob’s publicity and coordination skills) continues to provide thousands of volunteers, many donations of material goods, and thousands of dollars of direct donations. We are indebted to all who have given and continue to give their time, talent, and treasure to complete these projects. We pray daily for all of those who have been involved in any of the construction. 
Please see the below pages that provide a sampling of “BEFORE” and “AFTER” pictures and descriptions for each of the completed projects:

Please contact us HERE (olamission@gmail.com) if you would like to thank those who worked so hard on our buildings by hiring them for your own construction project.

Simultaneous to beginning the construction 2005, 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.

Fr. Bob InspectsOutreach began to the neighborhood 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.

VolunteersThe convent was initially renovated to house retreatants and volunteers. The building housed 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.They have helped with construction/ maintenance, the afterschool program, our pantries, the seniors program, and special events. Housing of volunteers and retreants is shifting to new places (851 N. Avers/ the school) as the sisters now live in the convent.

Outreach began in the church in summer 2012 with our Bible camps. The first community dinner was held in the church in May 2013. The use of the building has dramatically increased overtime. We are using the building weekly during the school year for either a retreat or community dinner.

851 N. Avers was obtained in summer 2014, was miraculously completely renovated in a series of months, and held its first group of volunteers in early 2016. After the school is complete, the building will be used for long term (2+ weeks) volunteers and small groups of retreatants.

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.
Bible Camp

The school building became officially part of the Mission in summer 2017. We have been using the building since that point to store donations and run our Tuesday food pantry. We officially started renovating the building in May 2018. The main brunt of renovations is expected to start in fall/ winter 2018/ 2019. See updates on this project HERE.

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.