The bus to the church took us to the farthest western border of Chicago, meandering through a maze of dead mall parking lots and past a concrete replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It felt like we were traveling, well, as close to traveling as feasible without a car, during a pandemic.
I had that familiar traveling anxiety, centered on the great unknown: where was I going to find a bathroom? Not too promising while we walked to our destination…but there, a gas station with a public restroom! I ran inside and got in line to use the facilities, wearing gloves for warding off cooties despite the hot weather.. Just as HOB joined me, a man emerged from the bathroom politely reaching out to HOB with—horrors!—the dreaded Pee Stick (the wooden stick with an attached bathroom key that gas stations keep at the counter) and HOB grabs it. He actually touched the Pee Stick with his bare hands.
Anyway, after I got done dowsing HOB with hand sanitizer and yelling at him to never, ever, ever touch a Pee Stick again, we continued on in search of the church. Cutting through a strip mall parking lot and there it was: St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
I had looked at photos but really wasn’t prepared for this funk-modern ode to seventies optimism peaking out from behind a Dunkin Donuts, under low flying planes about to land at O’Hare airport.
I’m trying to understand how this church came to be. I’m certain there were some Ukrainians and they wanted a church. Probably they formed a committee. That committee was all “Hmmmmm…what kind of church should we build? How about…13 futuristic elevator shaft-like towers topped with golden boobs? Great!”
Completed in 1977, St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was designed by Zenon Mazurkevick. While we were marveling at Mr. Mazurkevick’s achievement, I said to HOB, “I really wish we could look inside.” And immediately a church caretaker, who had overheard, asked another man to let us inside.
Judging from the righteous 70’s modern exterior, I expected the church’s interior to feature shag carpeting, bean bag chairs in place of pews, lava lamps instead of candles, and macramé owls holding up icons. Oh, and a priest giving out communion in the form of fondue.
Nope. The interior of St. Joseph the Betrothed did not feature any seventies flair.
Rather it was lovely and traditional, with the elevator shaft towers flooding the space with light.
Here’s where the priest sits, behind the iconostasis.
Notice that the dominant colors of the cupola reflect those of the Ukrainian flag.
All of the church fixtures were pretty and rather pristine.
I love it when a church gets all meta and has little versions of the church incorporated into the church fixtures and frescos.
Here’s that St. Joseph the Betrothed selection committee I was talking about earlier, celebrating their selection of their boob-elevator church, painted behind their halos.
After all that hard work, the selection committee relaxed in a hot tub.
DON’T STARE AT HIS FIVE HEAD.
And so it is written, he shall wear a Vuitton robe to distribute the holy communion.
Even the side doors get a fresco—these dudes are like “This way to the priest’s sacristy.”
At least Christ looks like he belongs in the funky seventies modern church I imagined. (I also want to give the fresco artist a high five for using geographically and historically accurate skin tones).
After our tour of the interior, we continued outside for a longer look at the architecture. Not to worry, we didn’t ride bikes or skateboards.
However, we did eat a picnic, watched over by a flamboyantly crowed Mary and baby Jesus in a charming shrine.