Overview of St. Jerome Parish

By Fr. Joe Grbes

March, 2003


Dear Parishioners,                

This is the first time I am writing this kind of letter to you.  The reason for this letter is that I have made a brief analysis of our parish, and I would like to share some information with you.  We recently celebrated our 90th anniversary, and have successfully begun our 91st year.  We are on the right path towards celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2012.  With this in mind, I would like to share a few things as I look back upon the past and forward to the future. 


This parish has a proud and rich history.  People have always felt at home here.  This is a place of prayer, gatherings, and joy.  Here families and individuals created friendships and found happiness.  Here is where generations of our people made history with their lives, their participation in this community, and their unselfish love. We must continue the journey of faith begun by our ancestors whose love and sacrifice made possible the parish we enjoy today. They established our strong sense of identity as members of St. Jerome Parish. When we flip through the pages of our books and bulletins, we realize how much St. Jerome Parish is a part of our people’s soul. 

Traditions, Societies, Clubs

From the very beginning, St Jerome Parish maintained and fostered Christian and national traditions.  When I read what my fellow Franciscans wrote of the events in the parish over the decades, I was proud that the various organizations gathered people together and kept the community together.  Some of them are no longer in existence, but others still are very active.  To belong to someone, to be a part of something, and to know that someone belongs to you is a basic human desire and need.  Man must belong to someone; he must find a home somewhere.  Belonging is a basic part of human existence.  With this in mind, I ask you to join some of our societies, clubs, and organizations.  Be active.  Give something to the organization, because through giving you will experience the joy of living.  Our parish has a variety of societies and clubs. Join some, invigorate these organizations, and bring someone with you as well. 


The above-mentioned organizations and their good works are especially evident in the archives of our parish.  This past year, in preparation for our 90th anniversary, we updated our parish archives.  Now all of the bulletins, yearly reviews, parish photos of various events, various documents, declarations, and correspondence are located in one place.  The archives are organized and ready for use in the celebration of our 100th anniversary. This makes it much easier to locate and gather information than in the past.  I extend a sincere thanks to all who helped in any way to make this possible. 


Our parish has two schools: St. Jerome School and the Cardinal A. Stepinac Croatian School.

St. Jerome School is doing well, and has made particularly great strides during the past two years.  I think that all of us can be very satisfied with the administration, the faculty, and especially the curriculum.  Much is offered to the students, much more than in previous years.  Music, drama, computers, and foreign languages are some new components of the curriculum of our school.  Thank you to all who unselfishly give of your talents and time for the good of the students and the school.  This school has a beautiful tradition of over 80 years of good education in a family atmosphere.  I hope that the school will continue to move forward in the years to come.  The future of the school has always depended on the love of the parents and on those who are involved with the life of the school.  Here I would especially like to ask the parents to be more open-minded and make their motto, “what can my family and I give to the school”, not only “what can the school give to my child and me”.  Unselfishness leads to the common good of the organization.  Yes, the school is doing well, but one issue lies heavily upon my heart, and that is the fact that it is pointless to send children to a Catholic school if the parents do not show them how to live by setting a Christian example!  A good example is more valuable than anything else.  This is why I especially urge you, while we offer them a good education all week long and work hard to give them all we can, when Sunday comes, let’s gather together in church and thank God for all the blessings and good we receive.  To be a part of this parish means to participate in the Sunday Eucharist and to be active in the community. Dear Parents, do not miss Sunday mass. I ask every family to make a commitment to attend Sunday mass each week (particularly the special monthly 9:30 A.M. monthly family mass). Yes, every Sunday!  This is the only way that it all makes sense.

Cardinal Stepinac Croatian School has been in existence for 30 years.  The children learn the Croatian language, history, and culture.  I know that many of you sacrifice  much so that your children can attend our school and learn something important.  The school is important not only because of what is learned, but also because of the social dimension.  The Croatian School is a meeting place for all generations and an organization of which we are proud.  Parents, please be responsible, take Croatian School seriously, and understand that it is an honor to be a part of this parish and school.  I hope  this school will continue to grow, and the number of students and the participation by the parents will increase.  The number of complete Croatian costumes increases each year.  The performances outside of school are better and more frequent.  The children are included in Sunday mass readings because through this they become active members of our community. I ask the parents to be more active and more responsible.  When we speak of discipline in our school, I believe that there can be no compromise with the parents or the children, because discipline is the mother of learning.  Discipline is not an option; it is the only path to learning!


Croatian Catholic Radio “The Voice of St. Jerome Parish”

Our Croatian Catholic Radio program has been in existence for a few years.  Even though this program is only a half-hour long, it has a good number of listeners. Since we switched to 750 AM the signal now reaches St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Rockford.  We are happy to be able to come to those who cannot come to us.  Thank you to all of you who support our program.  We invite your comments and opinions, because that is the only way to make it better.


Spiritual State of Our Community

What is the state of our parish?  Am I satisfied?  Maybe my answer lies somewhere in the middle.  I think that the Sunday mass attendance is better.  We Franciscans have always tried to convince people that there is no substitute for gathering in church each Sunday.  I think that we have had a good number of spiritual retreats, talks, guests, and special masses during the past few years.  Our parish has welcomed many guests ranging from Cardinal George to local bishops, Croatian bishops, charismatic priests, and missionaries, etc.  I think that each of our guests, in his or her own way, has given much to us so that the ears of our souls were opened and our souls refreshed.

It is especially important for parents who have children in our school to show by example how important the sacraments are. Teaching, through their own example, how important it is to encounter Christ is the best way.

It seems to me that at times our people do not know as much about the sacraments and our faith as they should.  That is why we have catechism booklets in our pews as reminders.  The sacraments are not to be regarded as a formality.  They are the spiritual content of our faith.

Last year, the number of engaged couples who had been living together before marriage especially saddened me.  Why is this taking place?  How do the parents influence this issue?  Do the parents just overlook this, and if they do, then why?  Certain  moral principles and values have been in existence for years. We cannot overlook or ignore them and time cannot change them.  St. Paul says, “Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow”.

When you choose godparents, sponsors, and marriages witnesses, then please choose individuals who are practicing Catholics.  The sacraments are about witnessing our faith, not about gifts, money, or appearances!

Our mass schedule is 5:30 P.M. on Saturdays and 7:30, 9:30, and 11:00 A.M. on Sundays.  Is this satisfactory?  Is the schedule just an excuse for some to miss mass, or does something else get in the way?  I think that just as the Eucharist is a sacrifice, so is it a sacrifice to come to mass.  We are called to leave everything and come to Christ.  Are you satisfied with the spirituality of our parish community?  What should be changed, added, or improved?  Please tell us.  We Franciscans always welcome and value your input. What do you think? I am not talking about complaints, but rather about constructive criticism for the good of all, and especially for the generations to come.

The Velika Gospa celebration is our main parish event.  I take this opportunity to ask all of you to participate in the planning for this event.  Many times all the work falls on the same group of people every year.  This is our great feast and celebration, and we are proud of it.  If everyone helps in some way with the feast, it would be fantastic.

We offer the opportunity for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Thursday from 7P.M. to 9P.M.  Several times a year we schedule Evenings of Reconciliation in addition to the regularly scheduled times for the sacrament of Confession.  Please avail yourselves of this vital sacrament regularly. We also have two novenas at our parish, the St. Anthony novena in June and the Velika Gospa novena in August.  These are beautiful days when we can draw closer to the saints, the people who have already traveled our earthy path and whose lives remain inspirations to us.

A catechism instruction program (CCD) is held in our school each Sunday morning during the school year for those grammar school age children who do not attend Catholic schools. This program is staffed by volunteer parishioners and is always happy to have more volunteers.  We also ask you to consider offering your time and service as mass lectors or Eucharistic ministers.  Everyone is invited to become involved in these church ministries. 

Last year we had monthly seminars featuring various interesting topics.  This year we will try to continue them.  Your input on topics for the seminars is welcome.



Much work has been done in our parish over the last 6-7 years.  We have been very busy with renovation projects.  I would say that the restoration is more or less complete.  The church has a new look.  The exterior of the church has a new façade and a new roof.  The stairs and entrance have been redone with a quality and classic look.  I still hope that we will get the sculpture of St. Jerome (a work by Ivan Mestrovic), but the administrative process and documentation necessary for this undertaking to be realized is taking a long time. 

The interior of the church has a new look:

-Hardwood floors have been installed throughout.

-The pews have been refinished.

-The kneelers have been reupholstered.

-The church walls and ceiling have been redecorated with paintings of the apostles, angels, the Franciscan coat of arms, and symbols of the Holy Spirit.  The painting of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemani has been retouched and preserved.  It is the only painting that remains from the original church that was built in 1884.

-The statues of the saints have been painted in vivid colors.

-A bathroom has been built in the back of the church.

-The vestibule has been remodeled.  The drop ceiling was removed and two paintings above the entrances were added (the coat-of-arms of the Chicago Archdiocese, established in 1843, and the coat-of-arms of the Croatian Franciscan Custody, established in 1926).

-Belgian carpets of excellent quality have been installed in the aisles.

-The church balcony has also been renovated with new paint, refinished pews and kneelers, and new carpeting.

-Our organ has an improved sound.  Throughout the past year maintenance was done and an electronic system was added.  The organ is certainly in the best possible condition ever.

-We recently received our new marble altars, which are truly beautiful works of art.

-Last year, through the generosity of Fr. Zlatko Sudac, we received a beautiful painting of       Blessed Cardinal Stepinac.

-We are still awaiting the communion rail, two pulpits, and a baptismal font.

-The carpeting on the floor of the main altar has been replaced with new black and white marble tile.

-The frames for the pictures of Our Lady of Sinj and Blessed Cardinal Stepinac, which grace the two side altars, will be replaced.

A detailed account of the finances involved in the restoration of the church and all parish property will be published as soon as all work is completed.


The School Building

Our school building has a new roof.  The hall was remodeled six years ago.  A few months ago windows where installed in the kindergarten class.  A modern, energy efficient lighting system has been installed throughout the building, giving us 10% more light while using 20% less energy.

The kitchen was outfitted with new dishes and shelves for storage.

The school was painted a few years ago.


The Rectory

New windows, new central heat and air, and new floors were recently installed.  We also remodeled a room to serve as a library to house Croatian and English books and the parish archives.  The parish has a nice selection of books, videos, and audiotapes, that are either of a spiritual or ethnic nature.

The rectory has computers and Internet connections.  Our web site is www.stjeromecroatian.org, and it has many visitors.  New information is updated on a weekly basis.  Our pages are visited not only by Chicagoans, but also by people from all over the country and Europe.

A computer program has been created to keep track of the weekly donations as well as other financial data.

The rectory has a new roof and the basement has been organized and outfitted with shelves for storage of various items needed for Velika Gospa, bingo, and other celebrations.

The kitchen has been remodeled.

We will soon receive a beautiful Franciscan Fathers coat-of-arms made of copper, which will be placed on the exterior of the rectory.

The sacramental records of baptisms, first communions, confirmations, marriages, and the deceased are in the best shape possible.  The records of the deceased date back to 1912 and are now computerized.  We hope to have all other records computerized this year.


Small Hall

A few years ago the small halls (1st and 2nd floors) were completely remodeled.  The first floor is beautifully decorated and is a nice gathering place for our parishioners.

The second floor is also very handsomely done, and features a big screen television for showing movies and other needs.  The 2nd floor serves mostly for seminars, discussions, and meetings of our clubs and organizations.  The second floor also has a space for storage of the Croatian school costumes as well as other materials used by the school.   Our “Croatian Catholic Radio” studio is on this floor.


The Convent

Unfortunately, there are no more Sisters living in our convent.  I hope that the time will come again when there will be enough sisters so that they can return to us.  In the meantime, the interior of the building has been redone with new paint, windows, and carpeting.  A new roof was installed recently.  There are two floors in the convent.  The first floor serves as St. Jerome’s pre-school and the second floor is temporarily unoccupied.  The basement of that building serves as a computer lab equipped with 25 computers for use by our school children.


Our Lady’s Oasis of Peace

About 6 years ago, a small shrine featuring the statue of Our Lady of Medugorje, was built between the school building and the convent.  It is nice to see many people stopping by throughout the day to say some prayers and to reflect.


Our parking lot is what it is. Unfortunately, it is too small to meet our needs.


Looking to the Future


I think that the first thing we need to work on is doing more with the youth and for the youth.  I would like St. Jerome parish to have a “youth minister”.  By that I mean a young person or persons to gather the youth and create programs for them.  The Archdiocese can help us with this.  This year, from October 30-November 2, there will be a Catholic Youth Festival at Navy Pier.  This may be a good way to get started.

The quality of our lives depends on the quality of our spirituality, and that is why we ask for your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas.  You may contact us directly or we can place a suggestion box in the back of church.

Our church choirs are doing well.  Can we do better? I think, definitely, yes.  It would be nice for all of those talented people with nice voices to join our choirs.  I would especially like our 9:30A.M. English mass and 11:00A.M. Croatian mass to have a children’s choir sing once a month.  There are many talented children with great voices.  I ask the parents to respond to this request.  Come and talk to us.

We are always interested in ways to improve our ministry of care for the sick of our parish and show our concern for them.

We Franciscans are very busy.  You all know that our greatest wish and desire is to do everything well, but we cannot do this alone.  We need your help.  You have always been very open and helpful, and I ask you to continue.  Take some time and give us your ideas and your spiritual strength, but please be less critical and more constructive.

Watch what you say. Do not speak badly about people.  If you cannot do good, then do not do evil either.  Everyone likes to enjoy a good reputation.  Everyone loves to be loved.  When you criticize, do so with love.

I would be very happy if each one of us would make it  a point to bring at least one more person to Sunday mass.  Can you do this?  You will be happy if you do this. The community that prays together must succeed.

I also suggest that we make a parish photo album this year.  This means that we would have a photographer come to the parish and take pictures of our families on a scheduled day and time.  The cost of this involves only the pictures that we buy. The album will be donated as a gift. 


Miscellaneous Concerns

 As I have already mentioned, the physical condition of all of our buildings is good.  As I see it, and as necessity dictates, there are a few things that should be done within the next few years.  They are as follows:

-Completely remodel the school hall and outwardly expand the wall where the stage is now…  This way we can have a quality stage that is large enough for all of our functions.  Remodeling of the bar area is necessary, new tables and chairs are needed, and the lighting needs to be changed.   All of the classrooms need new windows.

-Find extra land around our parish…  Our parking lot is too small.  Our Velika Gospa feast is too crowded.  I think we definitely need to try to find some additional space nearby.

-I am personally against any new or direct financial burdening of our parishioners with regard to pledges and campaigns.  We have done this several times already, and I feel that’s enough.  I think that our parish can gradually move forward with these projects.

-Create a system that will allow our parishioners to be able to borrow and make use of the materials in our parish library…

-Our parking lot is in need of a new fence and repaving.  The parking lot renovation depends on the above-mentioned projects.

- Publish a yearly “state of the parish” report in addition to the annual financial report…  Continue to provide comprehensive information through our weekly bulletin, annual calendar of events, Christmas, Easter, and Velika Gospa mailings, and Velika Gospa Newsletter…

In my overview of our parish I have been as brief as possible.  I can speak much more about all of the various themes.  With this short overview, I wanted to inform you of the status of our parish, and invite and encourage you to join in an active dialogue regarding our community.  Together we can accomplish everything.  Sharing with one another always increases joy and diminishes sorrow! 

I am truly appreciative of all that you do in our parish, and of the generous gifts of talent, time, ideas, and especially prayers.

With faith, hope, and love as we continue our journey together,

Fr. Joe Grbes, OFM

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