Gazette Article by: Malachi Flanagan, M.D.
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 1998
Founded in 1936, Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Parish was named in honor of three young girls who were martyred in Rome early in the second century.
The late Cardinal George Mundelein purchased a 3.5-acre lot at the corner of Linden Street, Hill Road, and Ridge Avenue from the Alles family, who had owned the property since 1838. Wendell Alles and other immigrant farmers from Trier, Germany were among the founders of New Trier Township, the community’s governing body for several years before Winnetka was incorporated in 1869.
Between 1936 and 1939, Faith, Hope’s religious services were conducted in the New Trier High School auditorium. Construction of the original church, convent, and school was completed in 1939 after a long delay caused by the village’s denial of the parish’s request for a building permit. The parish appealed this ruling, and in an April 1939 landmark decision, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously overruled the village’s position.
Faith, Hope’s founding pastor, 34-year-old Father Thomas Burke, became a respected community leader who greatly reduced the apprehension of both church parishioners and other village residents during the parish’s early years. As a result, concerns about a decline in property values resulting from the placement of a large church and school complex in the prosperous residential area of south Winnetka never materialized.
The parish school was founded by the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. The members of this teaching order, established in 1849, brought to Faith, Hope an excellent reputation as educators. School enrollment began with 100 students and grew to more than 500 by the 1960s. During the same period, the parish congregation increased from 250 families to more than 800. To accommodate this growth, a new church was completed in 1962.
Designed in American Colonial style, the church, majestic bell tower, separate circular baptistry, and rectory are faced with brick and rimmed with Indiana limestone. The structures are connected by a covered walkway.
The church’s interior is marked by four large stained glass windows designed by Anton Wendling and executed by the noted T. C. Esser Studios in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The massive altar, carved from black Belgian marble, is backed by a large, intricately carved, gilded mahogany choir screen. The superb 3,000–pipe organ was designed and built by the Casavant Freres of Quebec, Canada.
Faith, Hope’s second pastor, Msgr. Eugene Lyons, guided the parish gently yet effectively through the vast changes that resulted from the Second Vatican Council and the turbulent 1960s and 1970s in a rapidly changing country in a rapidly changing world.
Today, through the leadership of Pastor Father Thomas Ventura, his hard working associate priests, and lay personnel, the work of the parish community has greatly expanded and is characterized by the widespread involvement of its members in numerous charitable activities. They include regular food-sharing programs with several inner city parishes on the near West and South Sides and the active participation of many parishioners in the Good News Soup Kitchen in the Howard Street area. An active member of the Winnetka Interfaith Council, the parish provides religious education to its own students and other children in the community.
Father Burke, Faith, Hope’s founding pastor, commenting in 1963 on the parish’s simple beginnings, said, “How did it come about? The simplest explanation: One planted, others watered; but God hath given the increase.”