Planting Roots For Our Lady of Hope


Journal & Topics Reporter

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Our Lady of Hope Catholic Parish combines the hopes and dreams of its founding families, with new projects for its modern membership.

While its boundaries include southwestern Park Ridge and southern Des Plaines, it is the only church within the village of Rosemont.

Around the time the church was founded, little subdivisions were wedged between farmland. Much of the major traffic traveled out on Higgins Road to the Douglas Aircraft factory-established midway during World War II to build C-54 Skymasters transport planes for the war effort.

After the war, the Higgins corridor had a new population, but the aircraft jobs were gone. The airfield survived at what had once been Orchard Field, but so did a handful of other little fields in the River Road and Touhy corridors, eventually closed to avoid air traffic accidents.

Discussions for several projects went underway, including Chicago’s plans to expand the Douglas field for commercial traffic despite its municipal airport location at Midway. O’Hare Airport started passenger traffic within a couple of years. 

It was around this time that the local leaders of the North Leyden Fire Protection District decided to incorporate as the Village of Rosemont. In 1956, the Archdiocese of Chicago was considering expansion in the area as well, but the rapidly-changing local landscape made choosing a parish headquarters challenging.

The Illinois Toll Highway Authority was acquiring land to build the Tri-State and Northwest (now Jane Addams) tollways. One of these would obliterate Rosemont’s Thorndale subdivision (close to the modern Rosemont Fire Station along River Road), while connections between the Northwest Tollway and O’Hare would enclose the Scott Street subdivision.

The Heuer family lived at River Road and Bryn Mawr. Mom Kathryn Heuer had started a hot dog stand across the street (later Heuer’s Restaurant and now part of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center), with foot-long hot dogs and signature foot-long buns. The two Heuer daughters and their young families shared the frame family home with their parents. Younger daughter Jay Heuer Corr remembers she handled the stables where they offered 5-cent pony rides and wagon rides over to the Des Plaines River.

Neighbors to the south on the west side of River Road were the Koehns, another longtime farming family who operated Rosemont Gardens, located where the convention center’s main parking garage is now located.

One of the first factories in that area -- what became the first “A Hall” of the original O’Hare Exposition Center -- was run by the father of Ken Velo, now Monsignor Ken Velo, who has maintained his connections with Our Lady of Hope while serving in important archdiocesan posts.

Jay and Michael Corr were sending their older children to St. Beatrice’s in Schiller Park, a parish which was just emerging from mission status and starting a parochial grade school. They had a number of friends among the young priests, and heard unofficially one year before the official announcement, that their area would be getting a parish of its own.

Dorothy and Charlie Skrip lived just north of Devon on Stillwell, in the Orchard Place section of Des Plaines, named for the same local orchard that gave the future O’Hare International Airport its call letters, ORD. Their closest Catholic parish was St. Stephen Protomartyr in Des Plaines, which was also trying to grow.

Rev. Francis J. Buck was an assistant pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Chicago when he was contacted by Cardinal Samuel Stritch on June 26, 1957 and invited to come to discuss founding a new parish. It would be one of the last parishes that Cardinal Stritch would launch after a long career of expanding the archdiocese.

“The idea of forming a new parish between Schiller Park and Des Plaines on the northwest side of Chicago was conceived by his eminence, Samuel Cardinal Stritch and his board of consultants,” Buck wrote in a history of the parish’s beginnings, found in 1986 inside the parish’s original time capsule.

“It was deemed necessary to form this new parish because of the excess number of children in St. Beatrice School to the south and St. Stephen’s to the north. Both pastors, Father Thomas Hanley of St. Stephen’s and Father Henry Roszkowski of St. Beatrice Church agreed to the formation of a new parish.”

The day after his meeting with the cardinal, Buck made his first visit to the area, with Rev. William Long, “Father Rowley, Father White and Father Clark.” The archdiocese had an option on a triangle of property between Devon and Higgins, with the point bounded by the future toll road.
He returned June 30 with his brothers, Gerald and Stanley and their wives, to explore the surrounding area as far out as Elk Grove.

His niece, Mary Patricia Buck (later Mrs. Cheseck) was 15. The parish’s name was inspired by the prayer the teenager said while watching the planes taking off: “I hope all the pilots and planes take off and land safely.” The archdiocese approved “Our Lady of Hope” for the new parish name.

Buck and Roszkowski, a former classmate, negotiated boundaries with Hanley, which could guarantee 312 families south of Touhy. Roszkowski guaranteed 100 families south of Higgins; Rosemont was in the process of annexing farms on what would now be south of Bryn Mawr. Wolf Road would border it on the west. St. Eugene and Mary, Seat of Wisdom parishes negotiated the eastern border initially at Dee Road.

While Buck negotiated the purchase of land for the church, he and several of the other assistant priests from St. Thomas Aquinas met with Ralph Heinzl, the manager at O’Hare, to discuss starting a chapel at the new airport. Years later, the Rev. John Jamnicky, who ran the Catholic chapel in the airport basement, would stay at the Our Lady of Hope rectory.

Buck spoke regularly at St. Stephen’s masses to discuss the new boundaries. The first official meeting for the parish was July 22, 1957, attended by 150 people in the St. Stephen’s School Hall.
With the consent of its principal, Sister Mary Franceta, St. Patrick’s Academy, located on the northeast corner of Touhy Avenue and Lee Street in Des Plaines, hosted two Sunday morning masses in its chapel.

Through Village Clerk Margaret Lange, arrangements were made to have a third Sunday morning service in the River Road School (Willow Creek and River Road). The first masses were held July 28, and soon were all being held at the high school.

Fundraising was a challenge, although the amounts raised were worth substantially more in 1957. Rev. Hanley donated $500. The first collection totaled $157. Margaret Lange hosted a meeting and women agreed to sew vestments.

Buck needed a place to stay, and the Skrips, just up Stillwell from the church property, 
let him live in one of their upstairs bedrooms until there was a house to use as a rectory.

The first rectory, at 3122 Stillwell, Des Plaines was purchased in August 1956 but needed considerable repairs. Dorothy Skrip helped him organize paperwork, and later served as parish secretary for many years.

By fall, the rectory was ready for occupancy and its chapel hosted its first mass on Oct. 12. Women from the Altar and Rosary Society provided a housewarming shower for their first meeting.

A house across the street on the west side of Stillwell was used to teach the first catechism classes, where four women offered classes for public school children. Elaine Doerrfield was hired as the first organist, and an organ was donated.

It took until March 1958 to complete the land purchase and the groundbreaking was held May 11, 1958 by Monsignor Long, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas.

K.M. Vitzthun and G.D. Tesch, the architects, estimated a cost of $390,045 for the two-story structure. The plan was to first build a school consisting of 12 classrooms and an assembly hall, and to use the basement as a temporary sanctuary until a permanent church was built. It turned out the approximately 400-seat sanctuary was “temporary” for about 27 years.

Cardinal Stritch died May 27, while on a trip to Rome. Monsignor Long returned in September for the laying of the cornerstone. Saved in it were copies of “The New World,”; the Chicago Sunday Tribune; a local newspaper article about construction of the local toll roads; a copy of “Time” magazine; Buck’s history; the first dollar earned in a church fundraiser; and a list of important contributors. These were retrieved in the cornerstone when the building was demolished.
Cardinal Albert Gregory Meyer dedicated the building on May 30, 1959.

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, headed by Sister Iluminata, opened Our Lady of Hope School in September with four grades, adding a grade a year until the first graduating class in 1967. Jay Corr remembers the “Home and Community” parents’ group used to host bingo nights to help support the school.

Fundraising came through the women of Altar and Rosary and the men of the Holy Name Society. There were parish picnics and carnivals and the congregation was able to build a new brick rectory in 1965 at 9711 W. Devon.

During Buck’s years, the Latin masses began to be conducted in English.

Buck had envisioned building the permanent church at the point of Devon and Higgins, but that had not yet happened when he died on Sept. 8, 1979. It fell to his successor, Rev. Thomas Schwab, to work with the parish leaders to replace the basement meeting room with a modern church.

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