In October 2015 the shrine suffered a devastating fire that collapsed much of its roof and its choir loft. The church windows and much of the interior furnishings were destroyed, though no one was injured. The tabernacle and an 18th-century statue of the Infant of Prague were rescued from the blaze.
The shrine church was built in 1927 as St. Clara Church and later renamed for St. Gelasius.
After the fire, the Chicago Archdiocese secured a demolition permit but deeded the church site to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest after an outpouring of financial support for its reconstruction.
Parishioners and the Coalition to Save the Shrine raised more than $3 million to rebuild the church.
Shortly after the fire, Mike Medina, then-president of the Woodlawn Residents Association, said that “From organizing block clean-up days and hosting meetings with city and civic leaders, to promoting local businesses and teaching hockey to neighborhood youth, the Shrine of Christ the King has been a tireless advocate for Woodlawn and serves our neighborhood with a giving and gracious heart. We stand together with the Shrine!”
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was founded in the west coast Central African country of Gabon in 1990. Its members are known as canons and wear blue choir dress to signify the community’s consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its motherhouse and international seminary are located in Gricigliano, Italy, in the Archdiocese of Florence.
“Recognizing the importance of a deep harmony between faith, liturgy, life, and the power of beauty in attracting the human senses to the things above, an integral part of the Institute's charism is the use of the traditional Latin Liturgy of 1962 for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the other sacraments,” the institute says on its international website.
It describes the “essential elements” of its spirituality as “great care for a solemn liturgy, complete fidelity to the doctrine of the Church and the Holy Father, and awareness of the central role of Grace, especially Charity.”
Another Chicago-based religious community that celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, has modified its practices under the Chicago archbishop’s new rules.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.