The First Mass
On June 13, 1927, George Cardinal Mundelein transferred Father Thomas Hogan to Edison Park to be the founding pastor of the newly-created Saint Juliana Parish. The first Mass was celebrated in the auditorium of the new Ebinger School on June 19, 1927, feast day of its patroness. For two months, Father Hogan served ninety-one families from an improvised altar in the auditorium while the parishioners built a temporary church at the northeast corner of Osceola and Touhy Avenues. Mrs. Albert Dehlinger gave her sewing basket for the first collection box, and Mrs. Henry Oelrich made the altar linens. The temporary church later served as a parish hall and then classrooms until 1954, when it was demolished to make way for a second addition to the school.
Work began on a permanent church and school in the spring of 1928. It was the first diocesan attempt at constructing a combination structure designed with two separate units, lending more dignity to the church and privacy to the school. The Franciscan Sisters, led by Sr. Mary Camille, principal, moved from their apartment at Pratt and Ottawa avenues into the convent above the four-room school in time for the opening of the new classrooms in September of 1928.
The New Parish Grows
A short time later, Cardinal Mundelein made his first visit to St. Juliana. At the dedication of the church-school building, he said, "This beautiful little church is the...culmination of a special hope of my own. Years ago, when I passed through Edison Park and learned to know this region as one of the only towns in all Cook County without a Catholic church, I began to look forward to the day when we could erect an edifice here–a church just like this: beautiful, dignified, practical for every purpose–which would exemplify all that we preach and believe." Richard Turk, son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Turk, Edison Park residents since 1917, was the first child baptized in the new church.
In October of 1929, the nation's prosperity came to a shattering crash with an economic depression that was to cripple the entire country and leave its scars well into the next decade. Father Hogan's fine beginning was a fortunate preparation for the times ahead. Card parties, dances, picnics, raffles and other means of raising money were explored and exploited to maintain the youthful parish. In the late 1930s, the renewed expansion in Edison Park was again stalled as both men and building materials were devoted to World War II. After guiding St. Juliana Parish through the years of financial crisis, Father Hogan died suddenly on August 24, 1940. He was deeply mourned by the people for whom he had labored so willingly and tirelessly for 13 years.
Father Young Arrives
Samuel Cardinal Stritch appointed Rev. Francis C. Young pastor of St. Juliana in October, promoting him from his assistant pastor position at St. Philomena Church. Father Young was a lecturer and pioneer in Christian radio broadcasting. The nineteen years of Father Young's pastorate saw great changes in the composition and complexity of the world, the community and the parish. Hovering war clouds burst into grim reality. Young men of the parish were called to serve their country. Reflecting the spirit of the time, Father Young wrote "Our Nation's Prayer," a poem and hymn of religious patriotism.
Baby Boom Years
With the end of the war a marked expansion took place in the parish. Prior to the war, thirty-seven babies had been baptized in one year. By 1950 this figure rose to 104; in 1956 it was 203. In the early '50s school enrollment increased until it was necessary to convert the original "temporary" church from a parish hall into two classrooms. The nuns moved from their quarters on the second floor of the school to a rooming house at Touhy and Ottawa Avenues–the "Maggie and Jigs House"–freeing their former convent space for four additional classrooms. Early parish leaders had planned for the eventuality so the conversion was an easy one.
Although St. Juliana was divided by the formation of St. John Brebeuf in Niles, still more classrooms were needed. Six classrooms were housed in rented storefronts on Touhy Avenue. In 1954, the original temporary church structure was demolished and in its place an addition to the school was built, adding twelve classrooms, a library, parish hall and principal's office. The name of Father Young is synonymous with youth to all who knew him. He had a deep concern for the children of the parish, and worked to provide them with a good Christian foundation. St. Juliana graduates remember how he urged them to "Build Big." He encouraged the generosity of the people during the expansion years so that more young people could benefit from Catholic education. Father Young died on June 30, 1958; much of the traditions of St. Juliana Parish can be attributed to his years as its leader.
For six months, assistant pastor Rev. Andrew Coneglio served as administrator, spearheading the fundraising drive for a new convent during his tenure. In December of 1958, Albert Cardinal Meyer named Rev. Michael Kilbride as pastor. Under his guidance, the new convent was built and an additional eight classrooms were added to the school. In June of 1963, the now-Monsignor Kilbride broke ground for a new church, and one year later, Bishop Cletus O'Donnell joined Monsignor Kilbride in dedicating the splendid new house of worship at the corner of Touhy and Oketo Avenues. Noteworthy is the extraordinary generosity of parishioners throughout those expansion years. Between 1960-1965 nearly $1.5 million dollars had been spent on construction projects and by 1969 the parish debt was fully retired. Tribute also belongs to Msgr. Kilbride for his tireless leadership.
New Leaders for a New Church
Monsignor Kilbride's retirement in 1969 led to the arrival of Monsignor James M. Lawler, along with the call of Vatican II. The time had come for new forms of lay involvement in parochial activities. Msgr. Lawler drew upon his long experience as director of the Archdiocesan Propagation of the Faith office and fostered the development of a school board and religious education board. All parish organizations were invited to become part of a coordinating group known as the Combined Clubs Committee, and groundwork was laid for a strong and efficient parish council. Msgr. Lawler's gentle spirit and warmth were quickly appreciated by his people. Unfortunately, ill health cut short Msgr. Lawler's stay at St. Juliana. He resigned his pastorate in the fall of 1972.
St. Juliana's next pastor, Msgr. Martin Howard, had been rector of the Archdiocesan minor seminary for many years and had also served as pastor of St. Basil Parish on the south side of Chicago. The parishioners would know his quick wit and kind heart for far too short a time; death claimed Msgr. Howard on June 12, 1975. The burden of his loss was a heavy one for the people of St. Juliana.
Decades of Service
In September of 1975, Father Donald J. Ahearn arrived as the new pastor of St. Juliana. In a very short time he proved himself to rank with his predecessors as a dedicated and energetic priest in the service of his people. Fr. Ahearn spent twenty years as pastor, retiring in June, 1995 to become Pastor Emeritus. During his twenty years our parish grew in size and love for one another; Fr. Ahearn possessed a wonderful quality of always making people feel wanted, welcomed and loved. His Irish wit and warmth were true gifts for our parish. At the time of his passing at age ninety-one on January 1, 2017, Father Ahearn had lived among the parishioners of St. Juliana for nearly forty-two years.
A Dressler Decade
Rev. Philip J. Dressler became the new pastor of St. Juliana in July, 1995 and with him came many new ideas. He developed a parish pastoral council, appointed a full finance council, and introduced the Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) program. Father Phil officially retired in June of 2004 after forty-four years of active priesthood. He served as parish administrator until November 2005, when a new pastor was appointed. Father Phil joined Father Don Ahearn as fellow Pastor Emeritus, resided at the rectory and continued to celebrate masses and funerals until he passed away in May of 2016.
A Term Cut Short
Rev. Stephen F. Kanonik was appointed pastor in November 2005 and served our parish for ten years. His tenure marked an era of many necessary infrastructure repairs and projects. Replacement of roofs on the church, school and parish center, major masonry repairs and reconstruction, all new doors, concrete replacement and landscaping upgrades for the church, technology upgrades, abatement and replacement of many asbestos flooring areas in the school and wide-scale renovation of the chapel–to name just a few. A very visible and popular legacy of his time here is our new electronic sign. In June 2015, Father Steve was appointed by Archbishop Cupich to serve as Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese of Chicago and left our parish two years earlier than anticipated. We were sad to see him leave but gratified that his gifts and talents would benefit all parishes and agencies across the archdiocese.
Brief But Busy
While we awaited the appointment of our next pastor, Rev. Robert Beaven left behind a comfortable retirement (and winter in a warmer climate) to serve as parish administrator for the 2015/2016 fiscal year. He took his return to the workforce quite literally and spent a very busy year helping us prepare for the arrival our next leader. We were grateful for Father Bob's sure hand, and energetic and benevolent guidance until June of 2016, when he once again returned to official retirement.
A New Era
On July 1, 2016, we welcomed our new pastor, Rev. James Wallace. Most recently associate pastor at Mary, Seat of Wisdom in Park Ridge, Father James brings to our parish boundless energy and a new vision for the future, both in our parish and in the community, as the Renew My Church initiative moves forward.
About our Church
The Collect of the Mass on the feast day of Juliana Falconieri reads: "O God, You wonderfully refreshed blessed Juliana, Your virgin, on her deathbed, with the precious Body of Your Son..." This simple statement of the theme of St. Juliana Parish–Christ in the Blessed Sacrament through the sacrifice of the Mass–is represented through the simplicity of modern design in our church, an expression of the devotion of our patroness to the Blessed Sacrament.
Tree of Life
The tree of life is the nucleus. All dominant architectural features within the church emanate from it or emphasize its primacy. Executed in graduated tones of cleavage marble and gold and copper Venetian glass tesserae forming the reredos, the tree holds the body of Christ, a corpus of sculptured brass repoussé. Symbolizing the cross, the tree signifies the eternal cycle of life, death and resurrection. The Christian tree of life stands on Golgotha, the place of suffering; and on this tree, the cross. Christ heals the disobedience wrought by Adam and Eve at the tree in paradise.
The tree of life amplifies the moment of the cross, and in a way, the tree parallels the Church's movement from tradition to modernity.
A trace of red tile in the mosaic compels attention to the candlesticks of flame-colored bronze resting on a black marble altar and white marble steps. Eighteen semi-precious Carnelian gems set in the tabernacle door represent the blood and water shed from Christ's side. In anticipation of the liturgical changes of Vatican II, the altar–almost stark in its resemblance to a sacrifice table–is projected from the raredos to facilitate the priests' offering of Mass while facing the congregation. Relics of the martyrs, Sts. Dilectus and Candidas, are sealed into both the main and side altars.
The free-hanging contemporary treatment of a bronze canopy lends of feeling of space to the part of the sanctuary above the tree. Complementing this weightless effect is the dark marble, stressing the importance of the altar, pulpit and communion rail. Even the gold carpeting in the aisles and the graduation of light through red and purple windows in the back of the church to the orange, grey and yellow of the raredos, emphasize and enrich the tree.
The tree is my eternal salvation. It is my nourishment and my banquet. Amidst its roots I cast my own roots deep; beneath its boughs I grow and expand, reveling in its sigh as the wind itself. Flying from the burning heat, I have pitched my tent in its shadow, and have found a resting place of dewy freshness.
An early homily on the Passion.