San Rocco Oratory

of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Christ, risen and ascending
Christ, risen and ascending, is portrayed here on the back wall of San Rocco Oratory.

2007 Carnivale at San Rocco Oratory: full house
2007 Carnivale at San Rocco

Another image of 2007 carnivale

Another image yet of the 2007 carnivale

Bob Riley, guitarist, and Frank Granno
Bob Riley, guitarist, and Frank Granno, man of all seasons

DiGiovanni Clan gathering at San Rocco, March, 2007
The DiGiovanni Clan, meeting in the San Rocco Oratory Hall, March 18, 2007, just before the Feast of St. Joseph the next day.

The DiGiovanni Clan fills the hall, completly.
The DiGiovanni Clan fills the hall, completely.

Easter 2007: Full House
April 8, 2007: For Easter Sunday, San Rocco was filled to capacity: standing room only.

Easter Sunday at San Rocco, facing towards the back of church

Again, Easter Sunday at San Rocco
Mike Prisco, here standing in the middle aisle, directs people to fill every available place.

April 15, 2007: Baptism of Rocco, son of Christy Brown and Jason DeBergh, on the right.
April 15, 2007: Baptism of Rocco DeBergh, son of Christy Brown and Jason DeBergh, on the right. This is the profession of faith by the parents and godparents. On the left are Michaelene Brown and Ryan DeBergh, godparents. Note that Rocco is paying attention, eagerly.

After baptism, parents and godparents hold a lit candle.
After the baptism, parents and godparents hold a lit candle. Again, note that Rocco is very interested in the flame.

Our Father, at the altar, at the end of the baptism liturgy.
At the end of the baptism liturgy, the people gather around the altar for the Our Father and a final blessing.

Kids at door of the church
May 15, 2007: For the annual May Crowning, kids gather at the door of the church, to form up in procession.

May Devotions at San Rocco
Traditional hymns in honor of Mary are sung for May Devotions; these songs are found in the back of the current issue of the Leaflet Missal. Note the choir and the organist, Marty Hesse, help with the singing.

Part of the Congregation present for the May Crowning
These are some of the people who came to the May Crowning, at San Rocco Oratory.

Frank Granno, speaking at gathering of Catholic War Veterans
Frank Granno, speaking at a Chicago Heights gathering of Catholic War Veterans.

Father Petrongelli preaching at Sunday Mass
July 1, 2007: As he did the preceding Sunday, Father Petrongelli preaches the sermon, after the Gospel.

Marinucci family at Sunday Mass
At Sunday Mass in this front pew is the Marinucci family: Bob, Barbara, Rob, Kristen, and baby Dominic, who was just baptized in June. Dominic is learning what to do during the sermon.

Blessing for 25th anniversary
At the end of Mass, there is a special blessing for Jeff and Rita Hajkowicz, on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Beginning of the San Lorenzo procession, at the Amaseno Lodge
Here is the beginning of the San Lorenzo Festival procession, forming up at the Amaseno Lodge, on 24th Street.

Fire Engine in procession
Police cars precede and follow the procession. Here, you see the fire engine and the fire department ambulance, also in the procession.

Kids lead the procession, carrying the banner
Kids lead the procession, carrying the banner. Right behind them are the crucifer and two candle-bearers. The priest wears red vestments, for the Feast of St. Lawrence.

Head of the procession
Here, the procession is moving north, towards 22nd Street. The candle-bearers are Phil Faso and Anthony Panici; the crucifer is Michaela.

Moving east on 22nd Street
Moving east on 22nd Street, the U.S. flag is on your left, the Italian flag on the right.

St. Lawrence, once again, en route.
St. Lawrence, once again, en route. Livio Planera is on the left, wearing a sash.

Procession at the door of San Rocco Church
Here, the procession pauses at the door of San Rocco Church. On the left, holding the American flag, is Augusto Zomparelli. On the right is Joe Grilli. In the center is someone wearing Italian clothing from the sixth century, in red. In the background, looking on, is St. Lawrence.

Tom & Eva Planera 50th wedding anniversary
At the 50th wedding anniversary of Tom & Eva Planera, the children and grandchildren gather in a semi-circle.

Renewal of Wedding Vows
With their children behind them and their family and friends in front, Tom & Eva renew their marriage commitments.

The immediate members of the Planera Family

Livio and Carmina Planera: 50th anniversary
Oct. 27, 2007, Livio & Carmina Planera celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Here, in San Rocco Oratory, they renew their marriage vows. Jean and Sam Ciambrone are witnesses, on the left and right.

Gene and Livio Planera dancing
From the left are Gene & Eva Planera, Carmina and Livio, at Scrementi's in Steger, Illinos.

Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 25, 2007
Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 25, 2007

Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007: major snowstorm in the morning
Dec. 16, 2007: A major snowstorm Sunday morning leaves the parking lot and other property with about 8 inches of snow. It is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent.

Dec. 16, 2007: Mirka and Barbara
Dec. 16, 2007: Mirka Blazejewicz (left), local handyman with snow shovel, and Barbara Pilcek (right) The two women are visitors from Poland. Witajcie!

Don Turlek
Don Turlek is Risk Manager for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He coordinates the insurance work of Gallagher Bassett. He responds immediately to word of the fire and shows up Sunday afternoon, the same day, to inspect the damage. He says that the firefighters did a professional job. They didn't knock out the stained glass windows, but they did level the sacristy wall, to prevent any further fire outbreak. This action was appropriate, he says.

Giertsen arrives for restoration work
Monday, December 24, the day after the fire, Giertsen arrives promptly for restoration work. This company is recommended by the Archdiocese of Chicago and is sent out to St. Rocco by Gallagher and Bassett. They have done restoration work across the country for many years.

Crucifix, statues, stations, etc. are packed away in the truck, to be cleaned and restored offsite.
Crucifix, statues, and stations are packed away in the Giertsen truck, to be cleaned and restored offsite.

Pam Jones of CBS-TV interviews Mayor Angelo Ciambrone
Here, Pam Jones of CBS-TV (left, in red) interviews Mayor Angelo Ciambrone. It is about 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve. Her report appears on the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. evening news. The window on the right, in the door, is to the reconciliation room, the confessional. As you can see, it is completely blackened with soot. The white spaces on the wall to the left are there because the stations of the cross have already been removed.

St Rocco
On Sunday, Dec. 23, the St. Rocco statue is burnt to a crisp, totally blackened

Statue of St Rocco, burnt to a crisp. Note the holes in the statue.
Note holes in the statue.

Sacristy, totally destroyed
Sacristy of the church, totally destroyed. Note how the wall where the fire started has been knocked down by the firefighters.

Crufifix on the back wall (rerodos) and presidential chair
Here are the crucifix on the back wall (the rerodos) and the presidential chair. The vertical beams behind the wall draw heat and so stand out. You can see the soot covering the carpet and the presidential chair.

[Jan. 14, 2007] Newly printed envelopes are made available, with a printed option for people to contribute directly to the building fund.  Marty Bramlette Hesse returns to San Rocco today, from her trip to Thailand. 

[Jan. 17]  Wednesday morning at 11 a.m., in South Holland, Father Gilligan reports to Bishop Perry on San Rocco, in the annual meeting the Vicar has with all pastors and rectors in his vicariate.  (There is only one rector.)

[Jan. 28] For the first time, the choir sings the Cherubic Hymn ("Let Us Who Represent the Cherubim").  On the back wall of the church, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Angelo Ciambrone, is now installed a large painting of Jesus Christ, risen, glorious, and ascending into heaven.  This image was salvaged from the wrecking ball at the now demolished St. Joseph Church on the east side of Chicago Heights.  The demolition was completed  April 6, 2006.

[Feb. 9] Friday evening at 7 p.m., the new finance committee meets at ACP in South Holland.  The Archdiocese of Chicago wants every parish to have such an advisory board, and San Rocco is no exception.  The purpose of such a committee is to implement best practices commended by the Archdiocese; the members of the group, presumably competent in accounting, finance, etc. are to advise the pastor, in this case, the rector.

This committee was first formed last year, May 15, 2006, when the group met at ACP for the first time.  This is where the San Rocco correspondence, files, and records are maintained.

[Feb. 17, Saturday] Carnevale is celebrated today,with a hall filled to capacity.  There were 113 tickets sold for the evening; entertainment was by Bob Riley.

[Feb. 21]  Ash Wednesday:  Liturgy of the Word at 7 p.m., concluding with distribution of ashes, as a sign of penance.

[Feb. 23]  Friday evening at 7 p.m., for Lent, we begin Stations of the Cross, followed by Vespers. 

[Wednesday, Feb. 28]  Mayor Anthony DeLuca hosts a breakfast for local clergy at San Rocco's hall, named after St. Anthony. The director of economic development for the city of Chicago Heights Is Mr. Joe Kudra.  He gives a power point presentation on advance planning for renewal of downtown.  Mr. Kudra says that the anticipated extension of the Metra railroad would benefit Chicago Heights, as would commuter stations for the two railroads that intersect here.    Also in attendance are two aldermen and various personnel from city government.


Local clergy of the area meeting at San Rocco Oratory
Here, February 28, 2007, local clergy meet at San Rocco Oratory, in the hall, at the invitation of Mayor DeLuca. In the center is the pastor of St. Agnes Church; on the right is the pastor of the Cornerstone Church on Chicago Road.

Mayor DeLuca, speaking at the Hall of San Rocco Oratory
Mayor DeLuca welcomes the clergy to the hall of the San Rocco Oratory. He speaks of future plans for redevelopment of the downtown.

Joe Kudra speaks to the clergy.
The Director of Economic Development for the City of Chicago Heights is Deacon Joe Kudra. Here, he speaks to the assembled clergy.

[Sunday, March 18] Today, the annual reunion takes place of the DiGiovanni clan; they gather from around the country.  Many of them participate in Sunday Mass at San Rocco Oratory.  They then meet in the hall at the east end of the parking lot, where a St. Joseph's Day Table has been prepared.  Pasta and bread are made from scratch.  Food is provided in abundance.

[Sunday, March  25] Mass today includes a blessing of the newly installed image of Christ, on the back wall of the Oratory.  It is a painting of the risen Lord, ascending to heaven, done orginally for St. Joseph's Church, Chicago Heights, by Bernadine Gwiazda, at the request of Father Jack Juchinski. There is also  Polish music used for the celebration, some in English.  Visitors include parishoners from the now-closed St. Joseph Church. San Rocco is filled to overflowing.  The Chicago Heights Star and the Daily Southtown give this Mass front page coverage.  At the end of Mass, Bernadine speaks briefly and recounts how the painting was saved from destruction.  Father Gilligan gives her a framed copy of a related article, from a previous issue of the Sun-Times.  A comparable article was in the Tribune, fully available from Topix.

Bernadine Gwiazda and Father Gilligan
March 25, 2007: Bernadine Gwiazda and Father Gilligan, holding a framed copy of the newspaper article, featuring the rescue of Bernadine's painting of the risen Christ, ascending. In the background is Joe DiMaggio, server.

St Joseph's Polish Choir, singing at Sunday Mass at San Rocco
The Polish choir from the closed St. Joseph's Church sings some familiar songs, during Sunday Mass at San Rocco. On the right is the choir director, Mrs. Barbara Pavich, currently from St. Liborius in Steger, Illinois, in the Joliet Diocese. This guest choir joined the San Rocco choir in singing in English, for example, Holy Father; they sang the last verse in Polish, on their own.

St. Joseph's Church Choir
Above is the assembled choir from St. Joseph's Church. Below are several photos from the April 22 frittata brunch.

April 22, 2007: Kitchen preparation of frittata.
Sunday, April 22, 2007: In the kitchen, people prepare the frittata. It is about 110 degrees Farenheit.

St Anthony Hall, fillled with people.
The hall, named after St. Anthony, is filled to capacity; every table is taken. With air conditioning in effect, the temperature in the body of the hall is ok.

People without a table.
These people represent the overflow crowd; there is no room for them at a table. On the wall, above right, is an image of a singer in the choir, in typical Roman choir dress of her era.

[Sunday, April 29] In Olympia Fields, the Midwest Palliative non-profit organization holds its annual benefit.  This organization provides hospice care to individuals, without cost.  The local "Braveheart" organization has affiliated with Midwest, for the whole metropolitan region.

[April 30] At Holy Name Cathedral, a special panel of non-Catholics meets in the auditorium, reflecting on Cardinal George's ten years here as Archbishop of Chicago.

[May 9, 2007]  At 7 p.m.  on Wednesday, the finance committee of San Rocco meets in South Holland, at ACP.  Rob Markionni explains his work as executive director of a local golf association, a non-profit organization.  The group also considers "best practices" requested by the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Now, for example, the Sunday collection is counted on Sunday by two unrelated individuals and deposited immediately.

[May 13] Father Gilligan meets with Joe Grilli and John Onofrio, to consider the previously planned expansion of the San Rocco hall, named after St. Anthony.  After some consideration, it is decided to postpone the expansion until we have more in the bank.   We're about half way there, thanks to a recent bequest.

[May 31] Wake at Steger Memorial Chapel, on Chicago Road, for Romie DiRenzo.

[Friday, June 1]  At 11 a.m., we celebrate the funeral of Romie DiRenzo.  She was a regular at Mass and devotions at San Rocco, well known to many.  One of her nieces is Olga Sebastiani.  Burial was at Calvary Cemetery in Steger.

[June 13] Wake at Steger Memorial Chapel for Peter Hahto's mother. Choir rehearsal at Marty Hesse's house.  New members include Greg Schmit and Raven Hodge, who brings a friend, Megan.  Dinner too [pizza].

[June 17] Baptism at Sunday Mass of  Dominic, child of Rob & Kristen Marinucci.  Dominic is the grandchild of Bob and Barbara Marinucci.

[June 19] Birthday celebration for Cesarina Planera, at Mamma Mia's, over on 24th Street.  Her son, Lou, has organized the event as a surprise party.

[June 26] Training over the phone for Father Gilligan, for the new automatic phone notice system.

[Sunday, July 1, 2007]  Father Tommaso Petrongelli, of the Order of the Mother of God, presides and preaches at Mass, as he did on the preceding Sunday.  Father Tommaso is visiting his two brothers, Italo and Americo, who are part of the San Rocco community, with their wives, Rosemary and Phyllis.  Father Tommaso's grand-niece, Alexus, serves Mass today.  At the end of Mass, there is a special blessing for Jeff and Rita [Zomparelli] Hajkowicz, who celebrate today their 25th wedding anniversary. (They have two children, one 18, one 21.)  In the preceding week, Father Petrongelli said Mass each day for 15-20 people.  Saturday evening, he also led the people in the rosary and spoke of his missionary work in India.

[Saturday, July 7, 2007]  At 11 a.m. today, we celebrate at San Rocco the funeral of Mary Gadotti, widow of the late Giovanni, who was buried from here in 2003. Mary's daughter has long been active in the Chicago Heights Drama Group.   Many members of this group participated in the funeral Mass, with several choral pieces, among them I Lift My Soul.  Jan Mercado, Music Director at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Chicago, sang the verses to both the entrance and the Communion Psalms.   Marty Hesse accompanied the organ for those songs for which accompaniment was necessary to sustain the singing.

[Sunday, July 8] At Sunday Mass, Father Max Ssekiwala proclaims the Gospel and preaches the sermon.  He studied theology at Mundelein Seminary and spent the next four years as a secretary for Bishop Perry.  In his sermon,  Father Max appeals for donations for his ministry in his home diocese in Uganda.  People of San Rocco therefore contribute to his cause in a second collection, taken up immediately after the first, during the preparation of gifts.

[Aug. 12, 2007] The annual San Lorenzo Festival takes place, over three days.  Sunday, at the Amaseno Lodge, the procession forms up at 11 a.m.  Around 11:35, Mass begins at the church, San Rocco Oratory.  Both Italian and Latin are used. 

St. Lawrence himself, being carried in the procession
St. Lawrence, as he is carried in the procession.

Neighborhood families on 22nd Street
Neighborhood families on 22nd Street find the parade of interest.

Sunday morning, about 11:20, La Fondita is open, at the southwest corner of 22nd and Butler.

[Sept. 2, 2007] The original cornerstone of San Rocco Church is installed in front of the Oratory, in its own brick memorial.

[Sept 9] In memory of Vince Pasteri, many friends and relatives visit San Rocco for Sunday Mass.  Afterwards, they remain for a brief memorial service, including some slides of his life.  A funeral Mass was previously celebrated in Florida.

[Sept 21]  Friday night, a calamari dinner is a great success, from 4:30 to 8 p.m.  Anticipated attendance was 125-150; over the course of the evening, 217 dinners are served, of both calamari and beef.  Fortunately, to accommodate the large number of  guests, Steve Scrementi had backup.  From her wheelchair,Sharon Billo provides singing during the dinner.

[Sept 23] At Sunday Mass, Msgr. Bonnanote, brother of Cleto, concelebrates.  He reads the Gospel in Italian and helps with Communion.  With the people, the choir sings Praise Him for the first time, accompanied by Marty Hesse, in Gospel style.  Msgr. Bonnanote is a secular priest, from the diocese of Monte Cassino, south of Rome.  Siempre benvenuto.

[Oct. 8] At Hirsch Funeral Home, Chicago Heights, Tony Annunziata is remembered at his funeral, a Liturgy of the Word.  Tony was a faithful member of the Oratory community. 

[Oct. 14] For the third Sunday in a row, the choir sings the Cherubic Hymn by Bortniansky.  In full, four-part harmony, the choir does a magnificent job.  People say so afterwards.  From noon to 4 p.m., the hall is well used, hosting a spaghetti dinner. 

Oct. 27 birthday party for one-year-old Jackson
Oct. 27, 2007, at the one-year-birthday party for "Jackson" of the Jobbe Family, above, three participants greet you.

Two members of unknown religious orders
Here are two members of unknown religious orders, from Italy, no doubt.

Kids at play
Kids at play, just east of the St Anthony Hall

[Nov. 11, 2007] At the end of Sunday Mass, Gene (Joseph) and Maria Pancamo renew their wedding promises, after 50 years.  The choir sings May the Lord Bless You.

[Nov. 12] At 7 p.m., Monday, Tony DiStasio arranges  a memorial Mass is celebrated at San Rocco for the intention of his father who passed away in Italy six months ago, to the day, June 12.  Tony's mother is visiting and is able to participate.  The Italian language is used for the prayers of the Mass, including the Eucharistic Prayer.

[Nov. 25] Today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, we welcome a brass choir; the liturgy is enhanced with trumpets, trombone, French horn, and tuba.  Celeste Jones directs both the brass choir and our own, four-part chorus.  Brass is used for River of Glory, In Bread that Is Broken, and Sunday Morning, in that order.  The melody for Sunday Morning is the same as that for He Is Coming, which the congregation sang immediately before the choir sang Sunday Morning.

[Tuesday, Dec. 4] Today, the movers deliver to the hall, named after St. Anthony, some furniture donated by Ed Waymel, bookkeeper at American Catholic Press.  Ed has moved from Dolton, Illinois, to Highland, Indiana.  So, thanks to Ed, the hall now has two comfortable armchairs and a living room couch as well. 

[Saturday, Dec. 8] By vote of the people the previous Sunday, the time for Mass on this day is transferred to 10 a.m.  It's the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Normally, a holyday Mass would be at 7 p.m.

[Tuesday, Dec. 11] Minnie Lauteri has a funeral Liturgy of the Word at Panozzo Funeral Home.  Burial is in Monee, at Skyline mausoleum.

[Thursday, Dec. 13] Father Ralph Starus has a funeral Mass at his parish, St. Stanislaus in Posen.  Father Starus accepted a side altar from San Rocco, to be used for weekday Mass in his own parish.  One of his parishioners, the late Jeff Dandurand, built the choir risers and the stand for the Virgin Mary, as well as other church improvements.  Father Starus was a classmate and friend of Father Michael Gilligan.

[Sunday, Dec. 23] A fire in the early morning damages the interior of the church.  The pews, walls, ceiling, hymnals, and statures are covered in soot.  The statue of St. Rocco is thoroughly destroyed by fire.  Carpeting is severely damaged as well.  The sacristy suffers the most damage.   However, the sacred vessels are undamaged.  The building itself is intact. No one is hurt.

On the east wall, near the shrine  of St. Rocco,the statue of St JosephSt. Joseph is undamaged.  St Joseph statue, undamaged(Joseph is venerated among Catholics as the "Protector of the Church.")  Joseph is holding the baby Jesus, who has his right hand raised in blessing.  A palm cross in the hand of Jesus is also undamaged and not covered in soot. St Joseph, mentioned in today's Gospel

Frank Granno opens the church about 9:20 and finds the building smelling of smoke. Upon his arrival, about 9:30,  Father Gilligan retrieves bread, wine, and a chalice; he takes them across the parking lot to the St. Anthony Hall. Paul Rodriquez carries over the boxes of the Christmas  issue of the Leaflet Missal.  Joe DiMaggio gets people milling about to go over to the hall. Officer Ward gets the black choir folders from the front pew, near the organ. (As usual, Rob Markionni had the choir music already organized in these folders, ready to go.)

Chicago Heights police are there, represented by Officer Ward.  Among the firefighters is Mike Vitello, who himself used to go to San Rocco.  These civic personnel arrive promptly, about 9:45 a.m.

Because the firefighters now see embers, they rightly know that flames could break out again; no further entry is permitted into the church building. Because of embers in the wall behind the St. Rocco statue, firefighters have to knock down that wall, leaving a mess in the sanctuary.  This destruction is necessary, to prevent further fire damage.

Over in St. Anthony's Hall, men had set up a table for an altar, with a white towel for an altar cloth.  Mass is celebrated there with the whole congregation.  The Advent issue of the Leaflet Missal could not be used, because the covers were covered in soot.  However, the Christmas issue, undamaged, has appropriate songs for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The people sing The Lord Lives in Light, The Lord of Light Is near, and The Church's One Foundation, as well as the usual responses and acclamations.  The choir sings, as they do during Advent, An Angel Came to Nazareth, the Trisagion, We Look for Light, We Bring You Praise, One Is Holy, and Blest Be the Name of the Lord.  Aside from the lack of vestments and a crucifix, the Mass is relatively normal, if impromtu.  Mike Prisco obtains two large vigil lights, to serve as candles. Celeste Jones directs the choir and plays the piano, which had been donated some time ago to San Rocco Oratory, by St. Joseph's parish in Homewood.

The Gospel of the day recounts the story of the Annunciation, in which Joseph is said to have seen an angel, in a dream, who told him that his wife, Mary, would bear a son, whom Joseph  was to name Jesus.  The Gospel of Matthew says that this happened to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah that a virgin would bear a son who would be named "Emmanuel," that is, "God with us."

In part to make sure it can be heard, the Gospel today is chanted according to the traditional Roman tone for this purpose.  There is no electronic amplification in the hall, and chanting the Gospel is the practice from this Sunday onwards.  Since 2000, at St. Rocco, the introduction and conclusion to the Gospel have been chanted, as well as the people's responses.

 In the homily, Father Gilligan said that these words are fulfilled in your hearing:  Christ is present in the Church, as Emmanuel.  That is why we are Catholic, why we are Christian.  The Church is not the Pope, the clergy, or the buildings.  No, the Church is the people.  In them, God is present, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, in the Eucharist, in any common prayer the people offer.  This is the living presence of Emmanuel, God with us through Jesus Christ.  Clergy die and are replaced.  Buildings wear out and, in due time, collapse or are destroyed.  But the Church endures and survives, because the gates of hell cannot prevail against her.  That is the promise, given in the Gospel,  to Peter and to you.  In the end, the Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ himself, God with us.

At the announcement time,  after Communion, August Anzelmo says that the church building itself is largely undamaged.  No one, fortunately, is injured. He says that the community had been through trials before and would surely come through this challenge. One of the firefighters, he says, noted that it was remarkable that the building was still standing.  From the back of the hall, firefighter Mike Vitello then draws attention to the undamaged statue of St. Joseph and the palm cross in the hand of the baby Jesus. Fred LoBue, retired fire chief, says that there was no doubt that the cause was an electrical fire Sunday morning.  There was, he explains, a power interruption, followed by a power surge.  The fire, he says, started in an electrical outlet right behind the statue of St. Rocco.

After Mass, men move the altar over to the hall and clean it, in preparation for Christmas Mass two days hence.  Father Gilligan notifies Don Turlek, Risk Manager of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Bishop Perry, our local vicar.  He also speaks with Jenny of Gallagher Bassett, who takes care of insurance coverage for the Archdiocese.  Mike Becich ("BEEsitch") of Gallagher Bassett also calls.  Mike says that the Archdiocese recommends certain professionals who can do necessary cleaning and restoration.

Later this afternoon, Paul Grossi investigates; he is from Giertsen, restoration specialists sent by Gallagher Bassett.  He points out to Father Gilligan and August Anzelmo how extensive the damage is.  The ceiling, for example, and the air ducts will have to be replaced; the electrical components of the lights are also fried and useless.  Tomorrow morning, he will have an electrician restore power to the building, so that there will be light inside.

[Monday, Dec. 24, 2007] An electrican restores power in the building, except for the two circuits that are damaged.  The overhead lights are so thoroughly covered with soot that the church remains dark, even though the lights are on. DonTurlek and Paul Grossi arrive, as well as a team of restoration specialists.  They remove from the church many of the statues and other damaged objects.  See the SouthtownStar.  Pam Jones arrives with a cameraman for a taping of a report on the fire; the broadcast is intended for the  6 and 10 p.m. news tonight on Channel 2, WBBM-TV.  Check out the video online; it is the lead story in the news this evening.  At the Channel 2 website, use the search engine; type in "rocco."  When the page you want appears, jjust click on the arrow in the middle of the photo on the right.

The DiGiovanni clan uses the hall this Christmas eve for their yearly celebration; it is appropriately decorated and set up.  An old custom is to have a big meal this evening, with many kinds of fish, without meat.  Over at the church building, several of the DiGiovanni clan are present for the taping of the TV video segment.

Christmas Mass: Marty Kabbes Hesse, pianist, and St. Rocco Choir
Christmas, 2007: Marty Kabbes Hesse, pianist, and the St. Rocco Choir. Even though some choir members are celebrating in other parishes today, there are sufficient singers in each section. Before Mass begins, the choir and people sing numerous Christmas carols.

[Christmas, 2007] The hall is filled to overflowing for Mass at 10 a.m.  This is so even though many regular members of the community are in other parishes today, visiting relatives. The choir sings  before Mass and during the liturgy as well.  As in previous years, the familiar Missa de Angelis is sung by choir and people, for the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.  This Missa de Angelis is sung all over the world, especially by the Sistine Choir in Rome, at major celebrations; it is perhaps the most well known Latin setting of the Ordinary of the Mass. In any case, at St. Rocco today, the singing sounds great; this is so in part because of the low, flat, reflective ceiling, the lack of carpeting, and (most important) the fact that  the people are famliar with the music.   Both the ceiling and the tile floor provide a good environment for congregational song.  Although a number of individuals are unhappy that the church is devastated, well-known Christmas carols and the liturgy itself are a great consolation.

We have ample copies of the perfect bound edition of the American Catholic Hymnbook and the Christmas issue of the Leaflet Missal.  In any case, most of the Christmas carols are known by heart and are sung readily by everyone.

Mayor Ciambrone brings his own statue of St. Rocco, which is put up front, near the altar, with a nativity scene at the base of the statue.  This statue is traditionally carried in procession down 22nd Street each year, during the St. Lawrence Festival. There are a couple of poinsettia plants towards the front of the hall. A familiar tapestry of the nativity decorates the altar.

The first reading, from Isaiah,  speaks of God's people being consoled for the loss of their city, Jerusalem, for the devastation of their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods.  It is the Word which brings them light and hope.  The Gospel does that for us today.

Both ABC, Channel 7, and Fox News, Channel 32, are on hand, to tape the Christmas Mass.  They do interviews before the celebration, record much of the Liturgy of the Word, and leave during the sermon.  However, the Daily Southtown reporter and photographer remain during the whole Mass.  San Rocco is headline news in today's Southtown, with an article by David Schwab.  He also writes two other articles; all three are available online.  Father Wayne Wurst visits about 11:30 a.m., to express his sympathy for the fire in the church building; he heard about the incident on the radio.   He is chaplain at St Roch Oratory in Oak Forest; because of his Italian heritage, he refers to it as San Rocco.  (Is that confusing?)

The Venditti and Ziccardi clans use the hall this afternoon for a family reunion.   The tables are rearranged, and Christmas decorations are set out.

Christmas, 2007, everybody sings.
Christmas, 2007, everybody sings.

Christmas, 2007: full house. In the back are camera crews from two TV stations.
Christmas, 2007: full house. In the back are camera crews from two TV stations.

[Dec. 26, 2007] The SouthtownStar gives front page coverage to the San Rocco fire, with a dramatic, full-color spread of the ceiling in the hall.  A lengthy article by Isaac Wolf follows, on page 3. 

[Dec. 27] The fire inspector, Brian Czarnecki, from Hoyle Company, associated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, arrives to document the cause of the fire.  Giertsen continues to remove artifacts from the church, as they did yesterday.

[Dec. 29] Today, in the hall, we celebrate the funeral of Fiore Benedetti, 91, husband of Rosinella.  Both have been faithful members of the oratory community for many years.  At the Mass, Jeanette Dandurand led the singing, sang the verses of the Psalms, and played the organ when necessary to support the singing, for two hymns.  She used a portable keyboard.  Jessica Lolli read the First Reading; Bryan Cippola, the Second Reading.  At the end of Mass, Gina Santiago gave a brief eulogy.  Burial was at Assumption Cemetery.

 [Dec. 30] At Mass, on Holy Family Sunday, there are questions from the floor about the fire in the oratory. Fred LoBue says it is remarkable that the entire church building did not burn up completely.  One plausible explanation is that the fire ran out of oxygen in the closed building; however, he said the church was not airtight.  At the end of Mass, the people vote overwhelmingly for Mass on January 1 at 10 a.m.; there were only two votes for 7 p.m. 

Ceiling, with plaster from the exploded statue of St. Rocco
The exploding statue of St. Rocco leaves two plaster marks on the ceiling.

Electrical outlet where the fire began
Here is the electrical outlet, at floor level, where the fire began, perhaps from an extension cord.

Pointsettias wilted because of heat and lack of oxygen
In front of the altar are pointsettias, now wilted and dead. The heat and lack of oxygen are responsible. Note the Advent wreath in front, with wilted candles.

Choir music destroyed
In the northwest storage room, choir music is covered with soot and largely destroyed.

Note that the organ and music are covered in soot.
Note that the organ and music are covered in soot.

baptismal font, from the old Church of St. Rocco
The baptismal font, from the old Church of St. Rocco, is covered in grime, thoroughly blackened. The carpet is permeated with smoke and ash.

Wilted paschal candle in baptistry
In the baptistry is the paschal candle. You can see how it is thoroughly wilted.

Ceiling duct outlet in the southwest bathroom
Here is a ceiling duct outlet in the southwest bathroom. You can see that black smoke filled the building and came through the ductwork, bringing with it large amounts of soot.

San Rocco Oratory

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