A procession of 15 priests and deacons made their way down the center aisle of Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Arlington Heights. They were led by members of the Knights of Columbus, and at the end was Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, who came personally to celebrate the parish’s milestone anniversary.
“Good morning everyone, and happy anniversary,” Cardinal Cupich exclaimed. “On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we celebrate all the contributions this parish has made over the decades, and how much this faith community has grown.”
He greeted a standing room only crowd, which included longtime parishioners, many young families, as well as current and former teachers, a full choir and musicians.
Around the altar were Fr. Arthur Marat, pastor, with former pastors, Fr. Martin Barnum, Fr. Vince Costello, and later Fr. Ed Fialkowski. Priests from neighboring parishes joined in the celebration and Fr. Dan Lydon, CSV, president of Saint Viator High School. Associate pastors also were on hand, as well as current Associate Pastor, Fr. Gilbert Mashurano.
“It’s such a delight to see the church so full of people of all backgrounds coming together,” Cardinal Cupich said.
The packed sanctuary was a far cry from the church’s founding, when the Rev. Harold T. O’Hara staked out the large piece of land at Mitchell Avenue and Park Street, with a flock of 250 families. They celebrated Mass in the gym at nearby South Middle School and later in a small chapel, until the parish was able to break ground for a permanent church, on May 24, 1953, the feast of Our Lady of the Wayside.
A focal point of the Gothic-styled church is the large, stained glass window high above the altar. It is an image of a 13th-14th century fresco of Madonna and child, Madonna Della Strada, which hangs in a church in Rome, and roughly translated means Our Lady of the Wayside.
“The physical development of Our Lady of the Wayside Parish reflects the history and social development of the post-World War II Catholic Church in the American suburbs,” its website states.
In fact, as the second Catholic parish built in Arlington Heights, its membership grew to more than 3,000 families, and 1,000 students enrolled at Our Lady of the Wayside school within two years of its opening in 1954.
Yet at Sunday’s celebration, Cardinal Cupich — and Fr. Marat — looked to the future with confidence.
“We need to promote unity within our church, within our family and within our community,” Cardinal Cupich said. “We have to look for ways to include people, even if they have differences with us.
“Living out the gospel is living with our suffering, but that’s not the end of the story,” he added. “Yes, for those who believe we take up the future with fresh energy, mandated to live out the gospel in our world.”
Much of the crowd gathered afterwards for a reception, where Cardinal Cupich mingled casually with parishioners.
“It was such a beautiful celebration,” said Judy Amberg. “I thank God I’m a member of this parish.
In closing, Fr. Marat said, “I look forward to years ahead, as we grow as a community of faith. With God at our side, we, the Our Lady of the Wayside community, will travel safely.”