Shrine update #5: “Our community will rebuild” – statement from Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico


October 8th 2015

“Our community will rebuild”

That is the statement the Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico, Provincial Superior of the US Province of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, would like to pass on to the many friends, benefactors, and residents of the city of Chicago regarding the October 7th fire that has devastated for a second time the historic church, now known as the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, on 64th and Woodlawn. Thankfully, nobody was injured in the extra-alarm blaze. We are also very grateful to the Archbishop of Chicago, the Most Reverend Blase Cupich for expressing his support and prayers at this time from Rome.

The 92-year-old church landmark was in the second phase of a six million dollar renovation when fire broke out Wednesday morning destroying large parts of the roof, the choir loft, some of the windows, and apparently most of the interior furnishings of the church. The damage from water and smoke in the church and sacristy is extensive with early estimates running upwards of 3 million dollars.

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Since 2004, when the congregation of the Institute of Christ the King took over the historic church, the community and neighborhood has witnessed a great transformation. The Infant King devotion, introduced by the congregation, has attracted adherents from all over the country. “Hundreds of prayer requests come in weekly from the local area and across the country and it has been a great source of joy in watching this devotion grow,” said the Rev. Canon Talarico.As the interior and the exterior of the church were slowly renovated, the Shrine congregation, composed of members and families from the local community, some from as far away as Indiana, grew steadily.

The renovation of the church also positively touched the local community by reviving the cultural life of the neighborhood, offering concerts and social events that edified many. Mike Medina, president of the Woodlawn Residents Association, said “From organizing block clean-up days and hosting meetings with city and civic leaders, to promoting local businesses and teaching hockey to neighborhood youth, the Shrine of Christ the King has been a tireless advocate for Woodlawn and serves our neighborhood with a giving and gracious heart. We stand together with the Shrine!”


The outpouring of support not only in Chicago but nationally has been a great source of encouragement in light of this tragedy. “We have been tested by fire, but this outpouring of support especially from our neighbors helps sustain and renew our faith in our work at the Shrine, in the local community and beyond,” said the Rev. Canon Talarico.The 3-alarm fire took 150 firefighters several hours to bring under control. Courageous firefighters were able to save the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament and the 18th century Spanish statue of the Infant Jesus which is iconic of the mission of the Shrine.

“It was beautiful inside.” Nicole Raciunas, a regular member of the Shrine community said. “I know it’s a building, but it is our home. We’re just always here. We did the best we could to make it a beautiful place for God.” Sister Therese O’Sullivan, who runs the shelter next door for women and children said, “I know the spirit of the priests there and this will not stop them. I’m sure they will rebuild.”


We invite everyone to a special High Mass which will be celebrated by Msgr. Michael Schmitz, Vicar General of our worldwide Institute, this coming Sunday, October 11th, at 12:30pm at St. Thomas the Apostle Church on 5472 S. Kimbark Ave., Chicago, IL 60615.

If you would like to contact the Shrine for interviews, please contact our emergency hotline at (708) 761-0285 or

If you would like to support and help the Shrine recently devastated by the fire, please go to the Institute’s main page on or

We invite you to remain in contact with us on the ongoing development of this community story on social media:

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