St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church is observing 100 years in Forest Park, and now, even the street signs are celebrating.
On March 28, Forest Park’s village board designated the 800 block of Elgin Avenue “Honorary St. Bernardine Way.” Reverend George Velloorattil, who has been the pastor of the church at 7246 Harrison St. for two years, said the congregation was happy about the designation.
“We feel honored and proud to have Elgin called ‘St. Bernardine Way.’ It is going to be a permanent sign,” Velloorattil said.
Velloorattil said the church had moved to a few different locations in its 100 years in town.
“We’ve been here in Forest Park since 1911, when we started out in a large meeting room at Harlem Avenue and Madison,” he said. “In 1920, we bought a little house right across the street from our current location, and it worked well. We were in a small log cabin.”
Twenty years later, the population grew, so the current church was built in 1940.
“Now remember, that was World-War-II-time,” Velloorattil said. “It was hard times, and people were still able to raise the funds to build this beautiful church.”
The church has also had an adjacent elementary school since 1915.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said that the street sign was a great way to honor the parish.
“I think that every good community needs good, sound places of worship,” Calderone said. “Of course, St. Bernardine’s is a Catholic Church and school. Over the years, they have filled the need for families that seek a Catholic education and religion in our community. They are our only Catholic church in Forest Park.”
The church has a long list of centennial activities planned between now and Nov. 21, when Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, will come to the church for a closing centennial mass.
Starting May 8, and continuing every second Sunday of the month through November, the church will hold block masses (or, block parties).
“We will have a tent, and have mass in the tent, and will have food and a little party after Mass,” Velloorattil said. “This is the way of bringing people together. If people don’t come here, we go there. It will be an attraction for all the neighbors. The whole block will be involved.”
The church is also planning to host couples’ masses for couples who have been married for 10 years or longer, and special youth masses for teenagers and children in the community.
Velloorattil said anyone is welcome to come to the church or participate in the activities.
“St. Bernardine’s is a wonderful, open place,” he said.