History of St. Jerome

In the early days of Rogers Park, the few Catholics had two alternatives for Sunday Mass: St. Henry’s Church at Ridge and Devon and St. Mary’s in Evanston. In 1893 a committee approached the pastor of St. Mary’s to ask if he could send a priest to say Mass in Rogers Park on Sundays. Peter Philip offered his store at Ravenswood and Lunt as a site. In the spring of 1894, the strong Catholic spirit of the little community led to the formation of a new parish. Plans were drawn, a property acquired, and a little wooden church dedicated to St. Jerome, was quickly constructed at Morse and Paulina.

The first Mass at St. Jerome was celebrated by Fr. Hugh P. Smythe (pastor of St. Mary’s), on September 11, 1894. The appointment of the first pastor was not until May of 1895, Fr. Arthur Lonergan. Tied in with the population growth, new parishes were established nearby St. Jerome and St. Henry. St. Ignatius was established in 1907, later St. Gertrude’s in 1912, St. Margaret Mary in 1921, and St. Timothy in 1925.

The history of St. Jerome Parish quickly became a story of growth. The needs of a booming population were met with the provision of a school and several expansions. St. Jerome Parish continued to grow as the population of Catholics increased. In the late 1960s, there were more than 9,000 parishioners and more than 3,000 registered families.

The current era of St. Jerome really began in the early 1960s. Massive changes took place which included the use of native languages, rather than Latin, for Mass; the turning of the altar so that the priest faced the people, and a greatly increased role for the laity. We were among the first to have a parish school board, a pastoral council, and lay lectors. Later, lay Eucharistic ministers were added. These ministries were opened to women. In the early of 1960s, in efforts to serve the growing Hispanic population of Chicago, many priests began to study Spanish, and eventually at St. Jerome bilingual priests were provided. The parish is composed of many different ethnic communities who are gradually working together to integrate their cultures and activities.

The future certainly will see more changes. New immigrants may well bring new languages and customs, and repeat the cycles of the past. But the common thread that brings us and keeps us together – our shared Catholic Faith – will not change.