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St. Francis of Assisi Church Again Threatened by UIC

Chicago's oldest Mexican Catholic church, St. Francis of Assisi Church at Roosevelt and Newberry, has been battling displacement by the University of Illinois for years -- and finds itself once again threatened by its powerful neighbor.
The St. Francis of Assisi Church at 813 W. Roosevelt Rd., by the corner of Roosevelt Rd and Newberry, has been battling displacement by the University of Illinois for years -- and finds itself once again threatened by its powerful neighbor.

Vehicle movement to the Church and its parking
lots have been made very congested after UIC permanently closed off Newberry Street to through traffic and by the narrowing of the street. Newberry is a North-South public street that goes from Roosevelt Rd to Maxwell Street.
People can not come or leave via Maxwell Street and it is very difficult for two vehicles, driving in opposite directions, to move even in the half-block still accessible.

Gerardo Reyes, President of the St. Francis of Assisi Preservation Committee comments "Many of our parishioners have vans for their big families and they can not turn around at the blocked off end of Newberry and the street has been made unnecessarily narrow. I was told UIC narrowed
the street to put in trees. We don't need trees. We need the space to serve our parishioners."

"In 1996 UIC made a deal to eliminate us, to kick us out of our holy Church and to destroy the Church itself. Wrecking equipment came and took everything out and they knocked holes through our roof. But we fought back by occupying the Church and living in it, and praying for nine months to
get it back. Now, it seems UIC is using another route to remove us. We have much debt to pay for fixing the Church from the damage from the demolition attempt. If our community can no longer come together because of congestion, they will go elsewhere, and we will loose an important religious and cultural institution and we will not be able to pay off our debts."

St. Francis of Assisi Church is the oldest Spanish speaking Catholic Church in Chicago and is considered a mother church to Mexican Catholics throughout the metropolitan area. It was built in 1866, originally a German
Catholic Church, the church of Cardinal Francis George's family. In the 1920s it became a Mexican Catholic and a Spanish speaking Church as a result of the large Mexican immigration to that part of the city, where UIC's East Campus now sits. Parishioners come to St. Francis from all over the metropolitan area. so, access to parking and ease of driving is very important keep the community together.

Reyes says further, "In November of 2000, UIC took away the big parking lot we were using and now they hurt us further. This year we sent Mayor Daley 850 signatures on a petition to ask him to get UIC to modify its plans and not close Newberry but he has ignored our plea for help. Newberry is a city street. UIC can not do this without the permission of the Mayor. UIC showed us one set of plans and then they implement another plan. That is not fair. We beg the Catholic people of Chicago and all people of good will
to come help us and stop what UIC is doing to us."

For more info, contact Gerardo Reyes, President of the St. Francis of Assisi Preservation Committee at 773-254-3348; Carlos Villasenor at 847-928-9095; or Aurelio Bermudez
at 708-795-6603.

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