The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The little church that could

Chicago congregation breathes new life into Catholic school, rectory

A church on Chicago’s North Side perhaps should be called “The little church that could.”

Concordia Lutheran Church has a membership of fewer than 200, but it has transformed a Roman Catholic school and rectory into a $12.5 million campus that will serve all ages when its community and learning center opens this fall.

The congregation has offered preschool, after-school and summer camp programs for 25 years, currently serving 88 children, ages 3 to 12.

When it opens Concordia Avondale Campus (one mile away) it will serve an additional 211 children, including infants and toddlers, through its child-care center. It will offer programs and educational and recreational activities for teens, parents and the elderly.

Plans for the Avondale site began about 10 years ago after Nicholas Zook, pastor, realized the congregation’s child-care center had as many children on the waiting list as it had enrolled in the program. “I asked members, ‘Why is the vision of the church limited to the perimeters of the building? Why do the walls define how far we could go?’ ” he recalled.

So Zook asked his ward’s alderman if property was available for the congregation to acquire. He learned the former St. Veronica Roman Catholic School and rectory were available. With help from elected officials, private donations, and city, state and federal grants, Concordia purchased the century-old buildings—considered by many as architectural treasures—in 2001.

Renovation and construction work began last year. It includes restoring some of the building’s original architectural features—such as staircases, facade and stained-glass windows.

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