Puerto Rican History at St Teresa of Avila Parish
by Carmen Ubides
Between 1953-1959 many Puerto Ricans came to live in the evolving community of St. Teresa of Avila Parish. During that time the Pastor was Fr. Joseph Adams.
Pastor Adams, was responsible for the administration of the parish, the Pre-K and the educational program from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
Through the Cardinal’s Office the Puerto Rican community was helped by two religious women, Sr. Rosemary Claire and Sr. Pauline. They taught some of the parish women to sew on portable machines. These women then made clothing for men and ladies that were all sold and the profit was donated to the Church.
In 1959, the first Puerto Rican women’s group at St. Teresa of Avila Church was founded by Mrs. Carmen Ubides. The name of the group was “Damas de Sta. Teresa de Avila.” The first elected president was Mrs. Georgina Perez.
Las Damas de St.Teresa De Avila assisted in all special church events, prayer group sessions, fundraising for the school, church functions and organized retreats focused on building our Catholic faith. Presently, Las Damas de Sta. Teresa de Avila are working the same way with fewer people due to deaths and people leaving Chicago. We also have a Spanish Mass once a month at 10:30 A.M.
During 1959, Puerto Rican groups started to organize themselves into small groups that met in homes. The Puerto Ricans wanted to help children in school, the church and to be empowered through prayer and working with the church first and the community second.
Also in 1959 there was an active youth group in the neighborhood who called themselves the “Young Lords”. The leader of the Young Lords at that time was Jose Jimenez (known as Cha-Cha) a teenager who attended St. Teresa’s school and recognized the need of having a good education and helping the poor.
Many groups evolved within the Puerto Rican community in 1960 and some are still here. These are known as The Group of Cursillistas and their dedication to the Church and to their communities were very well performed.
Hermanos de La Familia De Dios – A new group of religious men directed by Fr. Mahon (R.I.P.), Fr. Headley, and Don Jesus Rodgriquez (R.I.P). They visited our church to help us make visits within our neighborhood and to help people to hold onto their faith and to attend to church. During this time, “Los Hermanos” gave religious classes in their homes or apartments and used the book “Dios Llega al Hombre” which was very well accepted by all families. We had the most beautiful spiritual experiences with the different families…It was a real blessing!
In the 1960’s, we had a girls program named “Las Hijas de Maria” for ages 12-17. “Hijas de Maria” met to pray the rosary and receive the Sacred Body of Jesus Christ once a month. In the month of May, they held the most beautiful Crowning for our Blessed Mother Mary. The girls’ participation was outstanding all the time. These experiences were very traditional, events that and we all enjoyed, respected, and will never forget.
We also had sports programs including softball, volleyball and a bowling league. The athletic groups no longer exist and we feel the need to connect with our youth/teens to bring them back to church, to help empowering their faith, and give them options to get involved through sports and social networking.
We have to give credit for all the good work performed to the presidents of all the groups. May the good Lord reward their efforts.
From the “Hermanos de La Familia de Dios”, another group of men formed, the “Caballeros de San Juan Council #9”. This group was involved with the political events of the community and city events.
Helping Fr. Laibach were: Fr. Matthias Hoffman, Fr.Donald Headley, Fr. Charles Obie and Fr. John Ring. All of these priest really inspired the Hispanic Community to grow more spiritually and to be faithful in our church and within the community and city.
Through these years, St. Teresa of Avila community was going through a big change. Many poor people moved into the area of Halsted and Armitage in Lincoln Park. We were not really accepted because the residents of other races did not realize we were citizens of United States.
During the 1970’s, we had the cooperation of the Cardinal’s Committee Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago. They offered many supportive services to the people of all races, making sure that people didn’t suffer in their main needs of life.
We always admired the Sports Programs of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The programs had opportunities for our youth, teens, young adults and seniors. Programs provided in our community were banquets, dances and a great drama of the Passion of Christ during Lent time. These programs have been cut due to lack of participation and neighborhood demographic change. There are no youth programs today. The Archdiocese always helped all nationalities.
One of our community’s best times was in the 1970’s when the Archdiocese sponsored baseball programs for teenagers and adults. The “Leagues of Dominoes” for adults was held around the city of Chicago. It was amazing to see the joy and new friendships made during those events and, most of all, there was a tremendous increase in attendance in our churches of Chicago and some suburbs.
At this time we also had more blessings from God when we opened the Betances Free Clinic. It was a great help for all of our poor people. I can’t forget the good and blessed heart of Dr. Jack Johns. Lots of people in the neighborhood had serious sickness issues. Through the clinic services, problems were discovered and lives were saved with the right prescriptions and medicines. People went to Dr. Johns for advice as well.
In the 1970s, we had a Christmas celebration we will never forget: Mass at Midnight in three languages, English, Spanish and German. It was a great and holy time. Tears of joy lived in most of the people’s faces and after mass we wanted to dance in the Holy Spirit!!!!
Some of the groups that organized since the 1970’s are still in existence. Others changed their names. The Caballeros de San Juan is now Caballeros del Santo Nombre de Jesus, president Mr. Bolivar Gonzalez. The Damas de St. Teresa De Avila, president Mrs. Maria Pena.
In the year 1980, parishioners Mr. and Mrs. Luis Angel Arroyo and Mrs. Carmen Ubides founded the First Spanish Prayer at St. Teresa’s. We joined the Charismatic Prayer Group at St. Aloysius Church in the year 1982 and have not been affiliated with the Charismatic Movement since 2009. We still meet every Friday from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. starting with the Holy Rosary. Everyone is welcomed!!! The central purpose of the prayer group is teaching the importance of Prayer within the Family and to live the Word of God.
In the 1986, Fr. Jim Noone (R.I.P.) was a very dedicated pastor as all other pastors before. Fr. Noone joined the good Lord in 1991. We will never forget all the prayers and support that was given by Fr. Arturo Perez and Fr. James C. Kiley.
In April 1991 we were blessed by the presence of Fr. John Hoffman as a Pastor of St. Teresa’s. During Fr. Hoffman’s time, we still all the groups active and the church was busy as it had been.
In the year 2005, Fr. John Blazek became pastor. He later left St. Teresa’s and was replaced by Fr. Frank Latzko in 2008.
Everyone welcomed Fr. Frank as the new pastor. Since 2008, we’ve lost people within the Spanish Community and the Cardinal was not pleased by the lack of attendance at Sunday 10:30 a.m. masses. With that said we lost our Sunday Spanish Mass …still hurts!
Carmen Ubides has been an active member of St. Teresa of Avila parish for many years supporting all programming and focusing on the Spanish Community’s liturgy, Friday night prayer group, retreats, special events and services. Mrs. Ubides served as a programming assistant in the early 1970’s and then as Parish Secretary from 1974 to 1995.
We thank all the Pastors, Priests, Deacons and Associates who helped St. Teresa’s Parish.
- Fr. Matthias Hoffman (R.I.P.)
- Fr. George Cerny
- Fr. Jim Noone (R.I.P.)
- Fr. John Hoffman
- Fr. John Blazek
- Fr. Frank Latzko
- Mr. Virgilio Bonifazi (R.I.P.)
- Mr. Julio Martinez (R.I.P.)
- Mr. Roberto Figueroa (R.I.P.)
- Mr. Mariano Perez
- Mr. Hector Rivera
Priests that regularly helped greatly:
- Fr. Donald Headley
- Fr. John Ring
- Fr. Pedro L. Bou, S.V.D.
- Fr. Charles Obie
- Fr. Braun
- Fr. Eric Vargas, S.V.D.
- Fr. Phillip C. Clark
- Fr. Meyr
- Fr. Bill Grogan
- Fr. Romulo Franco
- Fr. Michael Cronin
- Fr. Richard Murphy
- Fr. Arturo Perez
- Fr. James C. Kiley
- Fr. Peter Bowman (R.I.P.)
- Fr. Ronald Galt
- Fr. Benjamin Aguilar, O. Carm.
THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!!!