CHICAGO—You've probably seen it while driving on the Kennedy Expressway. A large banner over scaffolding out in the distance - SAVETHEDOME.NET.
Lourdes Duarte, our 5 p.m. co-anchor, came into the office a few weeks ago asking me if I knew anything about it. Turns out it's one of Chicago's notable churches - St. Mary of the Angels in Bucktown (1850 N. Hermitage). After nearly 100 years of operation, the building was falling apart. Pieces of plaster were literally falling on parishioners during mass.
The short term answer was to put up a net (hello, Wrigley Field!), but Father Hilary Mahaney knew something more had to be done. The answer was a $2.5 million restoration of the dome. They were able to acquire a lone from the Archdiosese, but it has to be paid back.
They turned to the web, starting a website dedicated to dome fundraising - SaveTheDome.net. A large banner went up over the scaffolding, encouraging passersby to head to the site and hopefully donate.
So far, the church has raised over $900,000, about a third of the way to the $3+ milllion figure they're looking to raise to also repair the historic towers on site (one was struck by lightning this year).
The staff told me that back in the 1988, the church was scheduled to be demolished. Parishioners protested, and three years later, the buiding reopened. They want to keep it that way, but after a century of punishing winters and summers, the work has to be done.
My feature on St. Mary will air at 5 p.m. today on the WGN Evening News. You can check out their website and donate if you like, it's SaveTheDome.net.