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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fire at ICK Chicago

Heartbreaking. Pic found here

Yesterday, while cruising through my newsfeed on Facebook, a number of Catholic groups I follow posted some news stories about the Institute of Christ the King National Shrine in Chicago sustaining serious damage following a fire. I was quite sad to see this bit of news for a number of reasons.

My connection to the Institute of Christ the King (abbreviated as ICK) stems from its branch in Tucson, AZ where I attended my first Latin Mass (and, by proxy, met my husband), was catechized and formally received into the Catholic faith. I was quite fond of the founding canon (their term for priests), Richard von Menshengen, and have come to accept his successor, Canon William "Bill" Avis. Through Canon Richard, I met a number of the other ICK priests, including the order's founder, Monseigneur Gilles Wach. It was also from Canon Richard that I learned of the US headquarters of the order in Chicago, my home town.

Exterior of ICK Chicago, September 16, 2012

It was during a short, disastrous stint in Illinois during the end of summer 2012 that I was privileged to visit ICK Chicago, as I have taken to calling the order's US HQ, twice. Though I was attending there under less than optimal circumstances (the family feud which I would flee to Arizona to escape from by the end of September was almost at its breaking point by this time), I could see that the church was going to be beautiful once the renovations done up to that point were completed. I was also blessed that I got to see in person the famous Infant Jesus statue from Spain, which was made in the 18th century.

Interior of ICK Chicago, September 2, 2012. Their famous Infant Jesus statue is perched on top of the altar in the middle of this picture.

Due to my history with the order, I've been following the story of the ICK Chicago fire and from the news reports I've read, the official cause was listed as accidental when a pile of varnished rags "spontaneously" ignited (one report I read stated that the rags were put next to some plastic that began smoldering), destroying the roof and sanctuary. While I want to believe the Chicago Fire Dept's official judgement on the matter, I have a hard time believing that a pile of flammable rags would just ignite by themselves. And even if that one report was correct in that rags were placed next to some plastic that began smoldering, HOW DID THE PLASTIC START SMOLDERING?!

The rector of ICK Chicago and the ICK's provincial superior, Canon Matthew Talarico (who I've also been blessed to meet on a few occasions), holding the fire damaged Infant Jesus statue. His hand with the orb (see here for original) was gone, but the rest of the statue survived. Pic found here 

Until I read of concrete evidence pointing to this fire being accidental, I seriously think it was caused by arson though I have no idea what the motive (if any) could have been. The neighborhood ICK Chicago is located in is poor and Black, as is most of the South Side of Chicago, though it was starting to be gentrified as of 2012 when I was last there. I think there was a hit put out on this church, just because of it being there and the demographic it attracted (wealthy suburbanites i.e mostly white people). My husband thinks it was arson to collect on insurance money, but I don't buy that. The war zone that has become the South Side of Chicago can, and does, claim more than human lives.

If you have the means to, please visit the gofundme page that the ICK has set up to repair the damages from the fire. I normally wouldn't put out a crowdfunding call, but the ICK holds a special place in my heart because if I hadn't been to one of their churches, my life never would have changed for the better.

Please keep the ICK in your prayers. They may change your life for the better too.

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