Sept. 29 is the universal feast day of archangels Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. This year it also marks the second anniversary of the cornerstone blessing of St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago.
St. Raphael the Archangel Church will look like magnificent traditional churches of old because two beautiful but now-closed Chicago churches are providing much of the exterior and interior elements.
This new edifice is rising on 150 acres in the village of Old Mill Creek in Lake County, Ill. The church sits on the major thoroughfare of Route 45 near the Wisconsin border.
Among his several patronages, as the Book of Tobit confirms, St. Raphael is the patron of travelers and of happy meetings. In this case, it can apply to the happy meeting of this edifice with features from St. John of God and St. Peter Canisius parishes, which are traveling 60 miles north to create this new church with old elements.
This trio’s happy meeting began five years ago, when St. Raphael — the first new parish formed in the Chicago Archdiocese since 1999 — had its first Mass in a barn-turned-temporary chapel.
"I thought St. Raphael would be a very fine patron," founding pastor Father John Jamnicky says.
Father Jamnicky is no stranger to ministering to people on the move. In his priesthood, he has served as chaplain of Chicago O’Hare International Airport and as national director of the Apostleship of the Sea at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cardinal George appointed him not only as founding pastor of this new parish but also as chaplain for nearby Waukegan Regional Airport and the maritime ministries of Lake County.
1 Parish From 2
Once the twin steeples of this magnificent church are completely re-assembled to their 140-foot height, they are anticipated to be the tallest structures in Lake County. The steeples came from St. John of God Church in Chicago.
Father Jamnicky salvaged furnishings and artifacts from churches that were closing in the archdiocese for inclusion in St. Raphael’s temporary chapel.
"We got the idea — maybe we could do this for the permanent church," Father Jamnicky adds. "So many things were neglected and being destroyed that are part of the patrimony of the Church."
St. John of God was one of the closed edifices in the archdiocese. Built in 1918 on Chicago’s South Side as a Polish parish, it was closed for nearly 20 years.
With the cardinal’s permission, Father Jamnicky had engineers inspect the building and its distinctive Renaissance beauty. The side walls were not great, and the roof was caving. But the magnificent limestone stone facade, twin steeples, four rotundas, narthex, rose window, porticos, doors, hardware and more were in good condition. Disassembly and reassembly in Old Mill Creek seemed possible — all for only $2 million.
This is a chance at a new life for St. John of God — which was named one of the most beautiful churches in Chicago; it was designed by architect Henry Schlacks, founder of the architecture department at the University of Notre Dame.
Also having a chance for a new life is St. Peter Canisius Church on Chicago’s North Avenue. Opened in 1935, the parish closed in 2007.
"Again, it was providential," Father Jamnicky says. "The interior was shaped just like St. John of God. Everything was in perfect condition."
Now, St. Raphael’s is receiving St. Peter’s beautiful Italian marble main and side altars, reredos and arches, as well as all the marble statuary, lovely oak pews with graceful Romanesque arched tops, and the superlative Tyrolean stained-glass windows from Innsbruck, Austria.
The hand of Providence is evident everywhere in this endeavor. Three bells graced only one of the original limestone steeples, but Father Jamnicky wanted bells in both steeples. Then he learned of another Chicago church whose unstable steeple had to be razed. It had three bells, so he bought them.
Then the business manager overseeing construction told the priest: "You can’t just put three bells together with three others because they have to be tuned together; otherwise, their sounds will clash."
Bell experts weighed in. Father Jamnicky shared their report: "If you were buying six new bells, you could not have purchased a more perfect combination. These six bells together will ring like Westminster chimes."
Again, God’s providence was at work in other areas, including the new cornerstone.
"It is the main great stone holding up the church," the pastor says. "It has theological meaning and symbolism to it." He looked at St. John of God’s immense cornerstone, which wasn’t supposed to fit. Carved in Latin, the stone proclaims: "Built for the Greater Honor and Glory of God, 1918."
Then a solution appeared. Didn’t St. Raphael provide a solution to both Sarah’s and Tobit’s overwhelming problems? Now that cornerstone makes up a double one — half of St. John’s is the foundation, and on top of it sits a second cornerstone carved with the name St. Raphael the Archangel and the date of blessing, Sept. 29, 2010.
"We’re building upon the faith of the St. John of God Church community as we’re building the new church of St. Raphael the Archangel," says Father Jamnicky.
Divine providence at work in this project also reflects Raphael’s words in Tobit 12:6: "Bless God and give him thanks before all the living for the good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Proclaim before all with due honor the deeds of God, and do not be slack in thanking him."
Many former parishioners from St. John of God and St. Peter Canisius were at the cornerstone blessing to see their former churches being renewed this way.
New and Old
The exterior side walls of flat stone are new, but built with foresight for future expansion of the present 900-seat capacity church. Already, the parish has nearly 600 families.
Father Jamnicky envisions that the walls can be expanded with wings — "the wings of St. Raphael."
Besides the main shrine altars to our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, there will be side shrines to St. Raphael and St. John the Baptist.
Plans call for an enormous statue of St. Raphael the Archangel on the piazza, along with statues of the other six archangels (see Tobit 12:15) on colonnades.
"This project from the beginning, including purchase of land, should end up at $14 million," says Father Jamnicky. "Now we have to raise money to complete the job."
Because of the national prominence, the pastor hopes for donations from people around the country who want to help preserve magnificent churches for future generations. He hopes this effort will be a model for other dioceses. Approximately $4 million is needed to complete the major phase in time for the dedication and consecration by Cardinal George scheduled for Sept. 29, 2013.
"We’re going to see the parish grow because people want to come here," says Jean Mulroney, a founding parishioner. "They appreciate what we’re doing. It’s a very traditional feeling — what I remember growing up. It’s going to be a masterpiece."
As St. Raphael put it in Tobit 12:11, "One must declare the works of God with due honor." This church surely will.
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.
St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church
40000 N. U.S. Hwy. 45
Old Mill Creek, IL 60046
Phone: (847) 395-3474 StRaphaelCatholic.org