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Infant King Returns One Year After Fire

Sunday, November 6, 2016 1:04
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On the first anniversary of the fire at the Shrine of Christ the King, hundreds of faithful and friends gathered for a day of prayerful thanksgiving and expression of hope for the ongoing rebuilding. This event welcomed home the freshly restored statue of Christ the Infant King, the 17th-Century spiritual centerpiece of the Shrine which had endured some damage from the fire and smoke. The King has returned!

Monsignor Michael Schmitz, Vicar General in the Institute and Delegate of the Prior General for the United States, celebrated a votive Solemn High Mass of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary outdoors, against the silhouette of the Shrine. In his sermon, Monsignor Schmitz retraced the history of the Rosary devotion and how we are to imitate in our own lives and in the life of our Shrine family the Rosary mysteries of the life of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Solemn yet accessible, this memorable outdoor liturgy was made possible by many helping hands.  

Afterwards, a Rally for Resurrection was held in the street near to the Shrine’s active construction site. The newly appointed Shrine Rector, Canon Matthew Talarico, offered publicly gratitude and appreciation to all of those who helped the Shrine community throughout the tragic fire experience and its aftermath.

Canon Talarico thanked the Chicago Fire Department, which was well represented by firefighters of Engine 63 and Truck 16 from the neighborhood firehouse, and read a message from the central leadership of the CFD. He also thanked Fr. Elias O’Brien and St. Thomas the Apostle Parish for offering their church to the Shrine community in the weeks following the fire. He then expressed how much the Shrine family is indebted to the very generous neighbors at First Presbyterian for the continual use of their gym space as the Upper Room Chapel where Mass is offered several times each week. Words of thankfulness were also offered to Archbishop Cupich and the leadership of the Archdiocese of Chicago who made great efforts of collaboration with the Institute of Christ the King to work out the solution of Shrine ownership by the Institute in order to expedite the rebuilding process. Thankful mention was also made of the City Landmarks Commission and to Alderman Cochran for their kind assistance. Canon Talarico then thanked the Shrine’s neighbors and friends in the historic preservation community, who have been so very generous and helpful in raising awareness and in obtaining valuable contributions for the rebuilding of this landmark church of the City of Chicago. Emily Nielsen and Gabriel Piemonte of the Save the Shrine Coalition, along with Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago, expressed their ongoing support for this unique rebuilding effort.

The Project Manager, Architect Elizabeth Ortner of Studio 31A, then gave an update on the current status of the rebuilding work, which has been going full speed ahead since March. Upon receiving the City permit in early September for the new roofing system designed by Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, Inc, engineers, the Institute conducted interviews for several bids for the fabrication and erection of the steel trusses and supports for the new roof. The job was awarded to BJRJ Construction, who immediately commenced the steel fabrication process which will require at least three months. Upon completion, the new steel trusses and supports will then be installed? in the building, likely in early spring, given the winter weather conditions. The church’s walls will be protected over winter from any further damage from temperature cycling? effect. A complete masonry study of the building early this year by Simpson Gumpertz & Heger engineers has prepared the way for masonry repairs to the façade and tower later this autumn. The interior architectural elements of the church, including the plaster capitals which have suffered severe damage, have been scanned into digital format which can be used to recreate them.

Since March, all of the research, study and work which has been done on the building indicates the need to adjust the original budget of $2.5 million last March to $3 million. However, thanks to the charitable contributions of a large number of donors, over $1.5 million has already been raised toward this Phase 1 goal.

After these updates, Canon Talarico then thanked Abbe Alexander Willweber, the superintendent of sacred art for the Institute of Christ the King, for organizing and overseeing the restoration work of the Infant King statue and the beautiful antique portable apparatus which bears the statue. This restoration process has revealed that the venerable statue is even somewhat older than originally thought, dating back apparently to the late 1600s. The same firefighters who had saved this iconic statue from the fire one year previously then did the honor of carrying it for the procession which followed the rally.

Since the fire occurred on the feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7, Canon Talarico explained and invited everyone present to join in the recitation of the Holy Rosary and the singing of hymns. Prayers for peace were also offered for the benefit of the neighborhood and local community. Following the procession, friends from the St. Martin de Porres House of Hope sang some inspirational melodies to end the day’s ceremonies on a high note. Many remained afterward to take part in a reception offered in the reception hall at First Presbyterian next door to the Shrine.

The Institute of Christ the King is deeply thankful for the innumerable prayers, encouraging support, and generous contributions by kind-hearted souls in Chicago and around the world. These efforts, both spiritual and material, have born much fruit during this past year for the Shrine of Christ the King and its local community. Holy Mass is gratefully offered each week by the Shrine priests for the intentions of all these benefactors. This gratitude gives confident hope for the future as, with the help of God, the rebuilding efforts continue for the glory of Christ the Infant King and the good of His people.

Special thanks for the photos is given to Marc Monaghan (, to Tim Olk of the Chicago Fire Department, to Devon Neff for drone shots, to Abbe Alexander Willweber, and to Xavier Boudreau.


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