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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.

The Franciscans at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels are honored to live and serve at such a historic and hallowed site. The Franciscans pray daily for the repose of the souls of those who died and for those who are still affected by aftermath of the tragedy. Fr. Bob spearheaded the effort to erect the first on-site outside memorial for the victims of the tragedy, which was blessed by Cardinal George in 2007. The memorial is on the front lawn of the rectory, where the bodies of those who died were first laid when taken from the building.

The Cardinal selected Our Lady of the Angels as the site of this new mission for several reasons: 

As a historical side note, almost 800 years ago, St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan Order in a little chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. We consider it a unique blessing and strong reminder of our Franciscan heritage that this new Mission as well as the subsequently founded religious community of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago (hyperlink) (established in 2010 under Cardinal George) both came to life at another site under the patronage of Our Lady of the Angels. The first soon-to-be Franciscans of the Eucharist moved into the rectory building in 2009, and since that time, Fr. Bob has had an in-house team of Franciscans to assist with all of the renovation work.
Construction
Upon Fr. Bob’s arrival in Chicago, the buildings were a disaster, filled with garbage, water, and general decay, and so Fr. Bob’s first step was to undertake a massive renovation project to get the buildings in working order.


This was the first in an impressive series of miraculous construction and renovation projects at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Working through Fr. Bob’s many personal and administrative gifts as well the generosity of so many, God, in His providence, has continued to provide thousands of volunteers, significant donations of material goods, and thousands of dollars in direct donations to support our work of rehabilitating these buildings to be used for the mission of the Church. We are indebted to all who have given and continue to give their time, talents, and treasure to these projects. The Franciscans of the Eucharist pray daily for all those who have been involved in any way with all of our construction projects. To learn more about our completed and ongoing construction projects, please visit the pages below, which provide a sampling of “BEFORE” and “AFTER” pictures along with descriptions of each project:

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.

At the same time that construction began in 2005, Fr. Bob simultaneously 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 areas of need.

Outreach to the neighborhood first began through Kelly Hall, the former parish social hall. Providentially, on his 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, and 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, now operational as an official YMCA. We are very grateful for this partnership and for all of the programs under its direction, all of which are a tremendous help to our neighbors in need. As discussed more on the Kelly Hall page, our afterschool programming, family programing, monthly mobile food pantry, and senior citizens’ program all function out of Kelly Hall.

VolunteersThe next building ready for use was the convent building, initially renovated to house retreatants and volunteers. The building housed its first over-night service group in spring 2010. Since that time, a steady stream of service groups and retreat groups has followed. Over the years these groups have helped us with construction projects, caring for and maintaining the Mission’s buildings, Kelly Hall’s afterschool program and summer camp, our food and clothing pantries, our senior citizens’ program, summer Bible camp, and special events. In 2017, the Franciscans of the Eucharist had grown to the point that they were able to move back into the convent, restoring the original intended-use of the building. Because of this, volunteer and retreatant housing has shifted to 851 N. Avers until such time that the new retreat center in the former school building is ready for use (see here to stay updated on the project).

Outreach in the church building began in the summer of 2012 with a summer Bible camp for neighborhood children. These Bible camps have been a great success and continue to grow each year. Since May 2013, the church has also been used to host our community dinner program for neighborhood families. Our use of the church building has steadily increased overtime. During the school year, we typically use either the main church or the church basement at least one a week for a retreat group or to host a community dinner for the neighborhood.

851 N. Avers, a property adjacent to the convent building that had gone into foreclosure, was obtained for the Mission in summer 2014. The building was miraculously completely renovated over the course of only several months to be used for volunteer and retreatant housing. 851 N. Avers hosted its first group of volunteers in early 2016. After the school renovation is complete, the bulk of our overnight volunteers and retreatants will stay in that building, while 851 N. Avers will be used for long-term (2+ weeks) volunteers and small groups of retreatants.

Bible CampThe former OLA school building officially became part of the Mission in summer 2017. Since that time, we have been using the building for donation storage and our weekly Tuesday food pantry. Official renovations of the building began in May 2018. We are excited to once again be using the OLA school building for the mission of the Church. Plans include using the 1st floor for expanded neighborhood outreach and (eventual) Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, using the 2nd floor classrooms for neighborhood programming and teaching the faith, and converting the 3rd floor into a retreat center with room for 60+ volunteers/ retreatants.  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.