Back in Chicago, we were the members of Holy Cross Parish, which had been founded by the Lithunian immigrants (including Mary’s grandparents) that lived in Back of the Yards. The church had been built by the old-timers and was magnificent, practically a cathedral. It had, among other things, a real old-fashioned organ, the kind with leather bellows and pipes and all kinds of stops and everything. The only person who played that organ was an old Lithuanian named Julius, who was joined by his wife Paulina, who was a soprano. As times changed in Back of the Yards, most of the Lithuanians who started the parish had either died or moved several miles away to Marquette Park, but they still returned to the old church in Back of the Yards to attend Mass on Sunday morning, which was said in Lithuanian and which featured Julius and Paulina doing the old hymns in the mother tongue.
The Lithuanian population continued to dwindle, with the Lithuanians being replaced by a growing, lively Mexican population. They were members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, and attended Masses in both English and Spanish at a small mission church not far from Holy Cross. When IHM was founded, a number of Mexican families in the neighborhood, many of whom had grown up there and had been members of Holy Cross, started attending weekly Mass there, and soon, with the Mexican population replacing the Lithuanians in Back of the Yards, they discussed building a larger church.
The idea was presented to Cardinal Cody, the Archbishop of Chicago, who was aware of the situation in Back of the Yards and how Holy Cross was practically empty on Sunday morning while, over at IHM, they were running Masses practically all day Sunday to accommodate all of their parishoners. This was becoming a common thing in Chicago, so he decided that, rather than build another large church in a neighborhood that already had four of them, he would merge Holy Cross and Immaculate Heart of Mary Parishes and create Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, which would be staffed by the order of priests that had staffed IHM, sending Father Vyto, who had been the pastor at Holy Cross for most of his adult life, to a parish in Marquette Park, perhaps hoping that his presence there would encourage the Lithuanians who lived in Marquette Park to start going to Mass in Marquette Park and to forgo what had become a weekly ritual of packing the kids and the old folks into cars and driving to Back of the Yards to attend Holy Cross. The money that had been saved to build a new Immaculate Heart of Mary Church would be used instead to renovate Holy Cross.
Now, as you can imagine, this went over with the parishoners of both parishes like a lead balloon. Various delegations from both parishes went to see His Eminence to plead their cases. They were told, in the most pastoral way possible, “Tough shit, I’ve made up my mind. I don’t care if you don’t like each other, we can’t afford to support both parishes. You don’t like it, go somewhere else. You’re now one parish, deal with it.”
So, we set about doing just that. In the evaluation of what should be done to fix Holy Cross Church up, the subject of repairs to the organ, which was at least 70 years old at the time, came up. When they learned how much it would cost to overhaul it, they decided instead to invest in a brand new electronic organ.
When Julius heard that his organ wouldn’t be part of the renovations, he reacted the way you would expect a man in his 70’s would: He pitched a fit. “You not fix organ, I fix myself!” And, to his credit, he kept the old instrument in good enough working order that he was able to play it for the Lithuanian Mass once a week. Eventually, though, it needed more repair than he was capable of doing, and he went to the pastor demanding that someone be hired to overhaul it. And he was told, “Nuh-uh. We have a brand new organ, play that one.”
I think he sulked for a couple of weeks until enough of the old-timers convinced him that he should swallow his pride and play the new organ, and before long, he and Paulina were back, sounding just as bad as they ever did.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word about The Budding Beauty Vanity and the Big Bruiser tow truck, new from Marx!
Toilet water… huh huh…