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Community Partner Spotlight: St. Procopius
by Diana Pando
Did you know St. Procopius was founded in 1875 and served the Czech community that lived in Pilsen at the time? Today, the parish is home to many Spanish-speaking parishioners living in the community. It is also a sanctuary for the Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos. For years, parishioners have been going there to celebrate weddings, baptisms, and quinceñeras.
Leading the parish is Father Sean O’Sullivan, a Jesuit priest who grew up in a small town in Ireland and ended up in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. He loves the community because “it’s like a small town in the middle of a big city.” After his training to become a priest, he was assigned to work at Cristo Rey High School. There, he was asked to become the pastor at St. Procopious.
While working at the parish he became more involved with the Hispanic community and observed great similarities between the Irish and Hispanics. Over time, he fell in love with the culture, language, and people. Father Sean jokes that he has spoken to his mom a dozen times and she always asks if he is taking care of himself. He always responds, “I have a hundred moms in Pilsen taking care of me.”
What surprises Father Sean about the community is the faith and resilience of the people. He sees firsthand how the church is a central point for much of the immigrant population. “They attend the mass in Spanish because attending a mass here is the same as going to a mass in Mexico,” says Father Sean. “It makes them feel safe and comfortable.”
Father Sean has also observed how hardworking the people of Pilsen are. “They sacrifice a lot to make sure their kids can be successful in the U.S.,” he says. He also tries to help families by connecting them to opportunities and writing recommendation letters for schools and jobs. He also works to strengthen their faith. “People get caught up in the American way of life,” he explains, “and sometimes you forget your faith or where you came from.”
The parish offers traditional services but also offers other services including:
- A free legal clinic for parishioners to inquire about immigration, divorce, and domestic violence every first Saturday of the month.
- A dual-language school focusing on English and Spanish. By the time students graduate they are able to speak, read, and write in both languages fluently.
- A weekly youth group to engage youth in positive community activities.
The parish also works on issues of immigration and Obamacare in collaboration with partner organizations. “We collaborate with organizations like TRP,” he says, “because we can’t do it all ourselves. We need to work as a community and be able to reach out and help people.”
One of their biggest fundraisers for the church is their Kermes to celebrate the Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos. The event happens on August 8 – 10, and features music, activities for children, a street mass, delicious foods, and a procession of the Virgen de San Juan in the neighborhood.
While some parishioners have moved out of the neighborhood, they always come back around this time to participate in the Kermes. “I’m really happy to be part of this community,” Father Sean says, “and to work and be able to continue to grow and keep cultural traditions alive.”
If you would like to volunteer or need more information about the Kermes for the Virgen de San Juan Celebration, contact St. Procopious at 312-226-7887 or visit their website at www.stprocopiuschurch.org.