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History of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, at 91st and Brandon Ave. on the far southeast side of Chicago, was the first Mexican parish established in the city.

Half a million Mexican-Americans call Chicago their home today, but at the turn of the last century early Mexican immigrants coming to Chicago fought an uphill battle to plant their roots here.

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Throughout the early 1910s, Mexicans from a variety of regions within Mexico began to settle in communities throughout Chicago due to the many low-paying jobs available in the steel mills. This area included South Chicago. The community faced many challenges including poverty and discrimination.

In 1918, Chicago's Cardinal Mundelein was approached by the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, and by the Provincial Superior of the Claretian Missionaries, who expressed concern for the spiritual welfare of this Mexican community. In the fall of 1923, Cardinal Mundelein established Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.

Later that year, Fr. William Kane, S.J. began to minister to the needs of Mexican immigrants who had settled in the steel mill community of South Chicago. Before long, a small frame church was erected at 9024 S. Mackinaw Ave. The original edifice of Our Lady of Guadalupe was an old army barracks transported from Michigan.

In 1924, Cardinal Mundelein asked the Claretian Missionaries to take responsibility of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. In 1925, several more Claretians traveled to Chicago, including Fr. James Tort, C.M.F. Fr. Tort became pastor of the parish and organized the construction of the current church.

Fr. Tort had a strong devotion to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hope and hopeless or difficult causes, who was relatively unknown to the general Catholic population at the time. Many of Fr. Tort’s parishioners were laborers in the nearby steel mills, which were drastically cutting back their work forces in the late 1920s. Night after night Fr. Tort asked St. Jude for his intercession to help the workers of the parish.

This led to the Claretians establishing the National Shrine of St. Jude as a key part of the church. While the National Shrine is more widely known, the church today still hosts many celebrations and Feasts that reflect the culture of the parish.

The congregation at Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as the European Catholics from the city’s north side, showed such great response to the devotion to St. Jude that Fr. Tort began regular devotions to the patron of hope, including the first Solemn Novena which was held on February 17, 1929.

Today, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is home to a thriving parish community, which ministers to the Hispanic Catholics from the neighborhood and non-Hispanic Catholics from a variety of Chicago neighborhoods.