The short version...
Church of the Holy Family stands as a beacon of faith in Park Forest. We are a place of prayer, peace and joy to all who join us. Our community is richly diverse, with people of different ages and backgrounds coming together to worship and serve together. We welcome all individuals seeking God’s love and our doors are open to every soul seeking to welcome Jesus into their heart.
The Episcopalians formed a Sunday School in the fall of 1949 in a house at 26th and Western. This project was supported by the other Episcopal churches St. John’s, Flossmoor, and St. Ambrose, Chicago Heights.
The first Vicar of Holy Family was the Rev. John Ruef, fresh out of seminary. The first service was conducted on July 30, 1950. By August there were 40 children ready for Baptism. In 1952 the first building, now the parish hall, was completed. It was used as the church at first with the idea that it would become the parish hall when the church was built. The crucifix in the parish hall was behind the altar and was hand made by Fr. Ruef’s father. Fr. Ruef resigned in the summer of 1954 in order to resume studies for his doctorate. He was eventually the Dean of Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin.
In November, 1954, the Rev. Robert Ruffie, Curate of Christ Church, Waukegan, became Vicar. In the fall of 1955 the men of the parish built an addition to the original building, now the offices and kitchen area. The Sunday School grew to 200 to 300 students, and was housed in rented space at Sauk Trail School, just to the north of the Church. This is why there is no large educational building on the premises.
In November, 1957 ground was broken for the new church, which was first used for Midnight Mass on Christmas, 1958. The church was designed by a young architect, Edward Dart, who became a well-known architect in the Chicago area. He also designed St. Ambrose, Chicago Heights; St. Nicholas, Elk Grove Village; and St. Michael’s, Barrington. His last project was Water Tower Place on the near north side. The Church has a steep pitched roof and the floor plan is cruciform. The windowless walls symbolize that the church is set apart from the world. The wall separating the nave from the narthex is mostly glass with an angel etched in the glass.
Part of the identity of Holy Family is the presence of several pieces of rather nice art work, in addition to the church itself. The reredos behind the altar is actually wrought iron covered with silver leaf. It and the Pieta on the choir loft were designed by Dom Hilary Bacon, a monk at the Episcopal Benedictine Priory (now Abbey) of St. Gregory in Three Rivers, Michigan. It was consecrated at the same service as the altar and baptismal font. At that same service on May 13, 1961, Fr. Ruffie was installed as Rector, Holy Family having been admitted as a parish a couple of weeks earlier. Interestingly the service was conducted by Bishop Reginald Mallett of Northern Indiana rather than the Bishop of Chicago. The church has several pieces of art work by Odell Prather. The four shrines in the outside aisles were done by her as well as the sculpture in the Narthex which is called “God’s Eye.” In September of 1969 she executed the outdoor crucifix on the east side of the building given in memory of Andrew Leonas.
The crucifix in the Narthex was above the altar of St. Ambrose, Chicago Heights when that parish closed and most of her members transferred to Holy Family, the crucifix was installed here. There is also a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary from St. Ambrose currently in the office area, but eventually to be installed in the church. The aisle candles used at Midnight Mass are also from St. Ambrose. The Stations of the Cross are from St. Raphael’s Church in Oak Lawn and were installed here when that church closed.
Music is also a part of our parish identity, though there will be another session on music and liturgy in this series so I won’t say a great deal about it now. The original portion of the organ was purchased in 1971 from Valparaiso University in Indiana where it had been a practice organ. In 1989 there was a major expansion of this instrument which was completed Easter, 1993. The Columbarium was built in 1982 and the bell tower was separately financed, but part of the same project.
On February 2, 2002, the Rev. Elizabeth Lloyd was ordained as a Deacon. Betty was a long-time member of the parish and is the first Deacon called out from it. She continues to serve here.