You never know when a relevant surprise is going to sneak up on you and bite you on the gluteus maximus (no, that’s not the name of a fictional gladiator; guess again). While working on tonight’s blog post, I have local public television on and as I’m trying to ignore the boring pledge week promos during the breaks, when I get a big surprise. No, it’s not the news that Pledge Week is over (please God; public television and public radio are well worthwhile investments and important to the community; but the very necessary pitches do tend to go on and on). And what’s the surprise? A WTTW special program about Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church at Adams Street and Desplaines Street in the West Loop area, right on Route 66. It’s the oldest public building in Chicago, having survived the Great Chicago Fire That’s all they were showing tonight on channel 11 in the Chicago area from 7pm onward, two showings back to back. I just caught it by accident while channel surfing!
Having missed most of the first showing tonight (this is a brand-new program, and of course the station management saved it for the pledge drive, as they often do), I’ve scheduled it to tape to my DVR at 9pm. But what’s really cute is that Father Jack Wall, the former pastor who is mostly responsible for the church’s ongoing renovation that began back during the 1980s, is answering the phones and talking to people who pledge money to the station, as is the current pastor, the much younger Father Tom Hurley. Niiiiiice. Tonight’s volunteers manning the pledge phones are also folks from Old St. Pat’s. Way to go. Meanwhile, the breaks still last too long while the station people make their pitch again and again and again. Yada, yada, yada. Which is why I’ll be skipping all that when I play it back on my DVR. If you wish to donate to Chicago public TV, however, please do call WTTW at 773-588-1111.
The documentary program is titled Old St. Pat’s: A Renaissance Story. The important bit: the show will be rebroadcast early next month on Wednesday night, September 3rd, so watch the TV listings for WTTW/Channel 11 to make sure you don’t miss it. Just one note: this is really about the revival of Old St. Pat’s in the modern era and its various programs for the surrounding community, not so much about the older history of this landmark church, its architecture, the incredible Celtic revival interior decor, or the artist behind it who was at one time a graphic artist for the Chicago Daily News, Thomas A. O’Shaughnessy, although the film does mention all of those. The filmmaker, Michael Leonard, is a Chicagoan and an Emmy Award-winning reporter. For more on the early history and architecture, you’ll have to read my blog posts here and here. BTW, Old St. Pat’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Interestingly, I just noticed that one of the pledge gifts tonight is a book I can highly recommend – Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago. A big coffee-table picture book about the church architecture of the Archdiocese of Chicago, it was written by liturgical architectural historian Denis R. McNamara, beautifully photographed by James Morris, and covers 68 churches and chapels in the metro area, including Old St. Pat’s. In fact, I’ve used this book as one of my many references in writing about this landmark church, both for the blog and for our upcoming Route 66 book. Do catch this documentary film if you possibly can, and send a few dollars both to WTTW for making this available to us and to Old St. Pat’s, where the renovations are still ongoing.
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Until next time,
your Route 66 road critic, Marie