LaDonna Manternach, BVM, president of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, BVM sisters, survivors of the fire, families of victims, and representatives from the Chicago Fire Department participated in a lights and sirens procession on Tuesday, May 31 to bring The Blessed Mother statue “home.”
The Blessed Mother statue honors the 92 children and the three BVMs who lost their lives in the 1958 fire of the Our Lady of Angels school in Chicago. The statue resided in the foyer of the school after reconstruction finished in 1960. Due to a steady decline in enrollment, the Archdiocese of Chicago closed the school after the class of 1999 graduated. The Chicago Fire Department (CFD), having a special relationship with the Church of the Holy Family, moved the statue to the church for safekeeping.
Mission of Our Lady of the Angels (OLA) “re-acquired” the building and completed a multi-million-dollar renovation, re-opening it as their new Outreach Center to the poor. Only one thing was missing: the statue.
Again with the help of CFD, the statue was transported along the 6-mile journey, carefully strapped to the front of a fire truck. Making her way from W. Roosevelt Street to 3814 W. Iowa Street, The Blessed Mother statue is now home.
Many were in attendance or watched livestream as Bishop Robert Lombardo, founder, and director of Mission OLA offered a prayer and blessing before the fire truck departed. Additional fire trucks joined the lights and sirens procession. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, offered remarks and blessed the statue during a ceremony, which included prayer, scripture reading, hymns sung by Maternity BVM elementary students, and a flower wreath placed on Mary’s head.
LaDonna spoke at the ceremony, stating, “It is a privilege to be here today, on this holy ground. Like Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth, though we traveled from the ‘hill country’ instead of to it, it is like ‘coming home.’” She shared information from the BVM annals throughout the years and asked for a moment of silence. “The school fire was a tragedy that will never be forgotten in this neighborhood, in this city, and across the country . . . Let us pause and remember them and their families. May they rest in peace.”
LaDonna continued, “The BVM Sisters departed in 1996, allowing for a new ministry to begin. In 2010, a community of faith, reaching out in service to the neighborhood was reestablished with the founding of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels and the Franciscans of the Eucharist. The ministry you are about here is one of love . . . like Mary coming to Elizabeth’s door, once again this image of Mary stands at the door to greet all who are seeking refuge and respite. Once again, the school . . . this building . . . is an oasis where people of different races and cultures are working peacefully in bright and cheerful surroundings.”
Let Us Remember:
Sister Mary St. Canice Lyng, BVM, Sister Mary Seraphica Kelley, BVM, Sister Mary Clare Therese Champagne, BVM, the 92 children, and the many others who were injured in this devastating fire on Dec. 1, 1958.
To read LaDonna’s full speech, click here.
To learn more about Mission OLA, visit: https://www.missionola.com/
Archdiocese of Chicago: The Blessed Mother Statue Honoring Victims of the Tragic 1958 School Fire Returns to Our Lady of the Angels