Resurrection from Ashes

Our Campaign to Restore a Landmark, the Shrine of Christ the King

The Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which is located in a 1925 Chicago Landmark church building of great architectural and historical significance, is a center of Catholic Faith and culture for the local Woodlawn neighborhood, the entire Chicago area, and beyond. Since its inception in 2004 under the leadership of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Shrine community has multiplied its members from all ages and backgrounds, developed many traditional Catholic devotions, and hosted cultural and civic events such as concerts and neighborhood meetings.

In October 2015, a fire devastated the church, destroyed its entire roof structure, and threatened demolition of the building. In February 2016, the Archdiocese of Chicago conferred ownership of the Shrine to the Institute so that the rebuilding could begin. The Institute stands committed to the rebuilding of this significant church for our faithful, neighbors, supporters, and the continuation of the Shrine’s presence and mission in Chicago and throughout the United States.

ShrineInterioer2018 (Upper left) exterior of the Shrine of Christ the King, (above) interior of the Shrine of Christ the King

Our Building

The former St. Clara/St. Gelasius church on the south side of Chicago was designed and built by Henry Schlacks in 1925 and is considered one of his masterpieces. Staffed by the Carmelites, it served as the National Shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux until the 1950s. With the closure of the parish school in the 1970s and a damaging fire that necessitated the removal of the church’s ceiling, the building experienced a difficult period. The church was reopened in 1980 and renamed St. Gelasius Church in 1990 as a result of a merger, but the parish eventually closed in 2002 due to declining membership and support. Though slated for demolition, this church was saved when the city of Chicago named it a historic landmark in 2003, necessitating its preservation.

Rechristened as the Shrine of Christ the King soon after the arrival of the Institute in 2004, the church’s status as an Archdiocesan Shrine made it a spiritual destination not only for the greater Chicago area and northwest Indiana, but also for visitors from across the country. Between 2004 and 2015, nearly $2.5 million were invested in the building for exterior repairs, including tuckpointing, a new roof, and interior improvements that made this once empty shell useable again for the community.

As restoration efforts continued, a fire devastated the church and destroyed its entire roof structure on October 7, 2015. Stated for demolition once again due to the costly repairs, the church was saved for a second time in 2016 when support from the local community made possible a unique solution and the Archdiocese of Chicago conferred ownership of the church property to the Institute.

Our Campaign

Meet the Institute

Founded in 1990 within the Roman Catholic Church, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is a society of priests, sisters, and oblate brothers whose aim is to bring the truth and charity of Christ the King to every sphere of human life. Currently serving in eleven countries around the world and in thirteen dioceses across the United States, the Institute is devoted to the sanctification of souls through the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite with Gregorian Chant and through the spirituality of its holy patrons, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Benedict, as well as St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

The Institute Comes to the Shrine in Chicago

At the invitation of the then-Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, the Institute’s priests and oblate brothers arrived in 2004 to reestablish life as a Catholic Shrine in the closed church building at the corner of 64th Street and South Woodlawn Avenue. Attracted by the rich history of this once-thriving parish that had since deteriorated into an empty, but beautiful shell of a building, the Institute accepted Cardinal George’s invitation and took on the restoration of both the community and the edifice. Given Chicago’s vibrant Catholic heritage, as well as the central location of Chicago in the heart of the country, the Institute established its headquarters in the United States at the Shrine, thereby making this architectural jewel its flagship church.

As of May 2018, $2.9 million in gifts and pledges has been raised toward the first phase of the campaign, and gifts and pledges continue to arrive. The Institute must raise all of the funds, since no insurance monies were available for the building after the fire. Upon completion of Phase 2, the Shrine will seek an occupancy permit for regular use of the building. Phase 3 will take place while the building is occupied.

ShrineConcert2018 Choral Concert at the Shrine: May 2, 2009
Photo Credit: Abbe J. Jessel

Phase 1: Securing the Building Envelope ($3.0 million)

Phase 2: Preparing the Interior and Reinstalling Mechanical Systems (Early estimate: $3.0-$4.0 million. An initial gift of $300,000 has been secured to begin Phase 2 fundraising.)

Phase 3: Interior Work: Ceiling, Floor, Walls, Steps, and Decoration (Total cost: Under Study)

The Shrine is one of 17 houses of worship (chosen from over 220 applicants) to be accepted into the National Fund for Sacred Places in 2017. As part of National Fund participation, the Shrine is eligible for a capital grant of up to $250,000 dependent on a 2:1 match. To receive the funds, the Shrine needed to raise an additional $500,000. This goal was reached in April 2018, and the combined $750,000 will complete the Phase 1 goal of $3 million.

ShrineMayCrowning2018 Mother’s Day May Crowning Ceremony, 2014
Photo Credit: Xavier Boudreau

We hope you will join us in our campaign to restore the Shrine. Your generous assistance is critical to our effort to restore this landmark building and continue as a bridge-builder in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago.

Use the donate link in the menu at the top of the page.  You may also contact:
Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico
Institute of Christ the King
6415 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637-3817

Phone: 773-363-7409


Outreach by the Numbers

As a meeting place for the neighbors, the Shrine is a bridge-builder in the Woodlawn neighborhood offering a forum for residents to establish relationships with one another and organize community support, including cleanups for the improvement of security, living quality, and peace of our local area.

As the last remaining Catholic church in the neighborhood, the Shrine is a beacon of hope and renewal for the whole community. The Shrine works diligently to provide excellent opportunities and critical services to our neighbors.

• 50 free admission concerts since Spring 2009
• Annual lectures on the arts and architecture
• More than 1,000 attendees for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago 2016 event
• An annual St. Joseph’s table with dozens of community members
• Annual Christmas giveaway of coats and gift items for children
• Hosts monthly community meetings
• Member of the peacemakers in Sacred Places movement
• Space-sharing and community service support for next-door St. Martin de Porres House of Hope
• Community Health Fair