Our Lady of Peace, a Roman Catholic church in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, is a neo-Renaissance class act.
Completed in 1933 during the depression, the church was initially meant to be Gothic in style—the turn towards Renaissance was a money saving measure. The finished church doesn’t seem like a compromise to me, however, because wait until you get a look at this interior.
Our Lady of Peace is glowing with—remarkably unrenovated—beauty. Burton, our tour guide and one-time church archivist, said the flat ceiling is actually a screen hiding a 1930’s era “air conditioning” system (i.e. lots and lots of fans).
Our Lady is the home parish for Chicago’s Catholic Haitian community and they have a weekly French Creole mass.
I know you were just dying for a closer look at this wonderful art deco wooden altar. The background decor is painted with pure gold leaf.
Our Lady of Peace live up to her name with peaceful blue stained glass windows.
Outside the church we were delighted by the murals of street artist Dont Fret.
Realizing we were just a few blocks from Mosque Maryam, the headquarters of Nation of Islam, we walked over to check it out. Through his job, HOB has an almost two decades-long working relationship with some NOI members and has grown fond of their famous bean pies.
We climbed the stairs to the mosque and noticed the surrounding parking lots were packed—Minister Farrakhan was onsite. Immediately on entering I was whisked away from HOB to the right side of a screened-off vestibule with seven white robed Sisters, their heads draped like nuns. HOB was hustled to the left in the care of several dark-suited Brothers. Ahead of me, another woman with two small children entered the vestibule, was perfunctorily patted down and sent inside the mosque. One of the Sisters scrutinized every inch of my backpack, all the while grilling me about why I was there. It seems that “just walking around and was curious” was not an explanation they understood. Another Sister asked for my id, which I showed her. I thought I would be allowed inside at that point, but no, it was time for the most rigorous body search of my life. Seriously, TSA has nothing on this Sister, who groped my every body crevice to a degree that I thought we should both smoke a cigarette and take a shower afterword. Still, I wasn’t allowed inside. I poked my head around the screen to locate HOB, who was at that point being asked to “sniff his chapstick” by the Brother patting him down. Let me repeat: he was asked to sniff his chapstick. Seeing me peak around the vestibule, the Sisters reprimanded me: “turn your back—give the Brothers some privacy!” I turned my back, but could hear HOB calmly providing his name, phone number, and the name of a man he knows from NOI. Finally, the Brothers brought in the head of security who informed us he was very sorry, but the mosque was too full and there was no room for us to enter. HOB said “As-Salaam Alaikum” (peace be with you) to the Brothers and we departed. Though an open window I heard one full sentence from Minister Farrakhan’s speech, a sentence which contained an anti-Semitic statement.
I’ve traveled widely and visited religious sites including mosques, synagogues, Buddhist temples and churches of all sizes and affiliations. Prior to this day, I’ve always been welcomed inside. You know from reading my posts that I believe in having my own direct experiences, in seeing for myself before coming to conclusions. Well, I now have had a direct experience with the Nation of Islam and I have indeed come to my own conclusions. Thanks for the experience Minister Farrakkahn, you are welcome to smell my chapstick any time.
Where we slept: at home. Price: mortgage, assessments and utilities. Recommended: highly.