Stately situated on the corner of 24th Street and 10th Avenue in North Riverside is Mater Christi Church, which this summer will celebrate its 60th anniversary.
The church started as a mission church of St. Mary’s Parish in Riverside. With an increase in population in the area following World War II, it became apparent another Catholic church was needed to absorb all of the newcomers.
With the help of Father Murphy, pastor of St. Mary’s, and the Archdiocese of Chicago the new parish was formed. While the church was being built parishioners attended Mass at Komarek School, or as Husband Joe referred to it, “St. Komarek.” On Nov. 26, 1950 the first Mass at Komarek for Mater Christi parishioners was said by Father Wisniewski and the weekly Masses lasted almost two years.
The church building was completed, and on June 28, 1953, it was dedicated by Cardinal Stritch. The first Mass in the building was held on September 29, 1953. Father A.H. Menarik was named the first pastor, remaining there until his retirement.
An avid fisherman, Father Menarik mounted a fish he had caught in the basement of the school, in what was known as the Marine Room. It later was named Menarik Hall in honor of Mater Christi’s first pastor.
The parish thrived as its numbers grew and its school rooms were filled. The Mother of Mothers Shrine, located on 10th Avenue, became a national shrine with devotees all over the world. At one time two people worked daily to answer letters and requests.
Under present pastor, Father Lou Tylka, the area around the shrine has been refurbished, making it both an attraction and a place for meditation. The parish also has an active Women’s Guild and a men’s Holy Name Society. Pastor Emeritus Cy Nemecek lives in North Riverside and is still a part of the parish, frequently saying Mass. If you are fortunate, you will hear him sing the Our Father during Mass.
To celebrate the anniversary, the parish is having a raffle and a church picnic on Aug. 18 and is looking forward to celebrating not only with current parishioners but with former parishioners as well. It is a small, close-knit parish whose members come not only from North Riverside but surrounding communities.
The picnic will be held right on 10th Avenue from 2 to 8 p.m. It’ll feature food, music dancing and plenty of activities for the kids.
Mater Christi has been an important part of the history of North Riverside and will continue to be an important part of the community for many years to come.