In 1890 there were swamps and ponds of water in the area where Holy Cross Parish stands today. That is why this section of the city was called “Town of Lake.” It is not surprising that the Lithuanians, who love lakes and streams, began to colonize there. The Lithuanian people in the district were unorganized in 1890, but by February 6, 1902, they had formed a charitable organization under the title of St. Vincent Ferrer. A committee of Lithuanian people was appointed and they approached Archbishop James Edward Quigley with a request for permission to found a Lithuanian parish in Town of Lake.
The Archbishop agreed, asking for at least sixty Lithuanian families on whose support the parish could depend. On February 1, 1904, ten lots were purchased on 46 street between Hermitage and Wood Streets. The land was purchased by the Society of St. Vincent Ferrer, who also gave $250 from its treasury. And the rest of the money, $8,000, was a partial loan made by the American Trust and Savings Bank to the parishioners of the new parish.
June 16, 1904, Rev. Alexander Skrypko came to Chicago and began the organization of the new Lithuanian parish in Town of Lake. He was appointed pastor by Archbishop Quigley two weeks later. Over time the church and its parishioners grew, so the temporary church could no longer accommodate the people. October 26, 1913, Archbishop Quigley laid the cornerstone of the new church, which was one of the most beautiful Lithuanian churches in Chicago. For the better part of the 20th century Holy Cross remained a Lithuanian parish, but a couple of blocks away, a Hispanic community was steadily building.
Located on Ashland and 45th, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church was founded through different circumstances. During the late 1930s, the Mexican population was dramatically increasing. So much that mass was being performed on store front “chapels.” Claretian priests from St. Francis of Assisi Church were traveling to the neighborhood on Sundays for mass. The priests saw the need for a new church which would better suit the growing Mexican population. In 1941 a former butcher shop was rented and outfitted as Our Lay of Guadalupe chapel. For the next three years Rev. Aloysius Dot, CMF, served the Mexican community. Through drives he hoped to collect enough funds for the purchase of permanent facilities.
On March 5, 1944, Our Lady of Guadalupe was relocated to 45th and Ashland, just a couple of blocks away from its original location. The “church” was moved to four store front locations which were purchased by Rev. James F. Tort, CMF, Rev. Joachin DePrada, CMF, and the Archdiocesan Chancery Office. Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch encouraged Father Tort to enlarge the chapel even if it meant $20,000 worth of renovations. Fr. Tort obliged and on December 30, 1945, Archbishop Stritch dedicated the chapel. Shortly thereafter it was renamed to Immaculate Heart of Mary. From August 1, 1947 on, daily mass was celebrated in the chapel, with Rev. Raymond Sunye, CMF, as pastor.
The population of Mexicans had still shown no signs of slowing down. With the growing population of the neighborhood, Immaculate Heart of Mary was not big enough to accommodate all of the people. Holy Cross, meanwhile, was going through its own changes. With the turn of the 1970s, the Mexican population in Back of the Yards Community was no longer the minority. The parish had to accommodate all of its parishioners, supplying the Hispanics with a Spanish mass.
Holy Cross Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is a vibrant Catholic parish community located in the primarily Mexican-American nieghborhood of the Back of the Yards. It is mostly a young, immigrant, low-income, working class community.