Step 1: Testing the Waters

As I explained in last week’s blog post, I will be writing a paper examining the Catholic role in the gentrification of Pilsen. This topic has special relevance to me due to my history of studying gentrifying neighborhoods. There are common themes in these neighborhoods such as a marginalized community presence, systematic lack of public investment, and proximity to public transportation. However, Pilsen stands out in how Catholic powers, both clergy and lay groups, truly ruled over the neighborhood for so long. Founded by the Irish and inhabited later by the Czech and then Hispanic communities, Pilsen was centered around its Churches. However, as my initial research has suggested, many of the Catholic Churches have been demolished or been used for other purposes in the past half a century. What happened?

St. Vitus.PNG
The now-closed St. Vitus Catholic Church in Pilsen (Source: Google Maps)

A common thread among several of the article I have found has been the church pictured above: St. Vitus Catholic Church. It is mentioned as a neighborhood powerhouse in the biography of famous Bears Coach George Halas as he grew up in Czech Pilsen. However, it was closed in 1990, seven years short of its 100th anniversary, to make way for a Latino Community center. I am hoping to use both the closed church and the organization, The Resurrection Project, which took the building over as launching points for my research. I believe that, by focusing in on this one building present throughout much of the neighborhoods’ history, I will be able to construct a cohesive and coherent narrative of the Catholic role in the changing neighborhood.

A meeting of The Resurrection Project held on the steps of St. Vitus Church (Source)

In my research, I hope to answer the following questions:

  • Who opposed the neighborhood changes? Who was for them? Who is a part of The Resurrection Project?
  • What role did Catholic Churches, especially St. Vitus, play in each ethnic community?
  • When did each ethnic change happen? When did the neighborhood’s churches rise and fall?
  • Where were incomers moving from and where did the outgoing group go?
  • Why were the Catholic Churches, especially St. Vitus, abandoned?
  • How did Catholic groups respond to each change in the neighborhood?