St. John of God School    

 As it appeared in the NEWS SUN - (Lake County, IL Daily Newspaper)

May 26, 2010


ANTIOCH -- When Cardinal Francis George visited St. Raphael the Archangel, Lake County's newest Catholic parish, to dedicate a machine shed converted into a temporary worship space in 2007, he looked around at the tasteful arrangement of art and furnishings culled from several defunct churches and declared parishioners "the best scavengers in the archdiocese."

That talent will be taken to a spectacular level in the construction of a new St. Raphael church in Old Mill Creek, which will involve the deconstruction of parts of the nearly century-old St. John of God Church building on Chicago's South Side and reconstruction on the new 23-acre church site at Route 45 and Kelly Road.

St John of God

The Rev. John Jamicky celebrates Mass at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Antioch.
(Thomas Delany Jr./ News-Sun


St. Raphael the Archangel Parish will hold a ground-breaking service at 1 p.m. June 27 at the site of the new church, Route 45 near Kelly Road, in Old Mill Creek. Bishop George Rassas will preside.

Cardinal Francis George will lay the cornerstone for the new building on Sept. 29. Construction is expected to be completed by summer 2011.

The parish also takes in parts of Antioch, Lindenhurst, Lake Villa, Wadsworth and Gurnee. The church's temporary home is located at 2101 E. Route 173, Antioch. For more information, call (847) 395-3474 or e-mail .

Built in 1918 to serve Polish families in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, the Renaissance-style, stone St. John's was shuttered in 1992. Huge portions of the church -- the facade, including portico or covered walk, and two 115-foot steeples, each with three bells, the narthex or formal entrance, and the cut round-stone at the rear -- will be dismantled stone by stone, shipped north and reassembled to form the front and back of the new St. Raphael, with fresh construction in-between.

"We're doing something that's never been done before in the history of church construction," said Rev. John Jamnicky, founding pastor of St. Raphael. "When it's done, it will be the most outstanding church in Lake County."

The classical design of the old church fulfills the wishes of parishioners who dislike the vanilla, modernist architecture of recent new Catholic church buildings.

"Ever since I came up here to found the new parish, all I ever heard is 'Father, we want a church that looks like a church,'" said Jamnicky, 64, a former chaplain at O'Hare International Airport.

The church building, which will seat 900, will be erected on former farm property with room for expansion. Parishioner Bill Booker, 53, of Antioch said it will be hard to miss.

"It will call travelers in," he said, alluding to Archangel Raphael, patron of travelers.

"We're so excited," said parishioner Carol Easley, also of Antioch. "We can't believe our little town of Antioch is going to have such a magnificent house of God. I hope it draws people from all around."

St. Raphael's business manager, Richard Gambla, estimated construction of the church will cost between $8 million and $9 million. A pledge drive raised $2.5 million from 220 parish families, and because another 200 families have joined, a mini fund-raising campaign is about to be launched.

The interior of the new church -- marble, altar, pews, doors, stained glass, art, organ cabinet -- will be foraged from St. John of God and another former Chicago church, St. Peter Canisius. "We're saving the patrimony of the archdiocese," Gambla said. "These are all things people have donated in memory of their family members."

The church organ will actually be the old Chicago Medinah Temple organ, in storage for the past eight years, and that St. Raphael parish members talked Chicago Mayor Richard Daley into donating.

"We've been very frugal and we're getting a lot more for our dollar," Gambla said.

While pastors and parishes are free to come up with designs for new parish buildings, Gambla has noted a recent preference by the archdiocese for "conservative building structures that look like churches."

"When you come into our church, you will know it's a Catholic church," Gambla said. "We're a very, very strong traditional parish."

Marilyn Warden, 75, of Antioch, who has attended monthly meetings on the new construction, said she sometimes dreams about the new/old St. Raphael, which should be completed by summer 2011.

"A house of God shouldn't be like every other place in the world," Jamnicky said. "It's a piece of heaven built in the world we live in."