The History of St. Bride Church
St. Bride Church was organized in 1893 as a mission of St. Kevin Church (located at 105th and Torrence Avenue). Rev. Timothy D. O’Sullivan, pastor of St. Kevin Church, established the mission to serve 45 Catholic families who lived north of 87th Street in the lakefront neighborhoods of Cheltenham, Windsor Park, and South Shore.
The area known as South Shore was sparsely settled in the 1890s, but because of its location along Lake Michigan it promised to become a fine residential district; moreover, South Shore was linked to the city’s downtown business district by the Illinois Central railroad. To the north was Jackson Park, the site of the Columbian Exposition of 1893, and to the south were the steel mills of South Chicago.
In May 1893, Father O’Sullivan bought a parcel of land on the east side of Coles Avenue just south of 78th Street for $5,480 and here he directed the construction of a one-story brick church. Completed at a cost of $3,000, the edifice was dedicated on August 6, 1893.
St. Bride Church remained a mission until 1900, when Father O’Sullivan resigned his pastorate at St. Kevin Church in favor of the newly established parish in South Shore; he took up residence in a house at 7839 S. Bond Avenue (now South Shore Drive). His apostolic burden was lightened in 1902 when the Carmelite Fathers from Saint Cyril College (now Mount Carmel High School) in Woodlawn volunteered their assistance.
In the summer of 1907, the parishioners voted unanimously to build a new church. On September 18, 1907, ground at the southeast corner of 78th and Coles Avenue was broken for a French Gothic edifice with a seating capacity of 600 persons. The cornerstone of the $50,000 structure was laid on June 14, 1908, and the new St. Bride Church was dedicated on June 6, 1909, by Archbishop James E. Quigley. At the time, the parish roster listed 300 families.
The old mission church was then remodeled into four classrooms with the result that St. Bride School became the first Catholic grammar school in South Shore. Since its opening on September 7, 1909, the parish school had been staffed by the Sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Ladies of Loretto through the close of the school year in 1998.
Following Father O’Sullivan’s death on October 31, 1910, at the age of 72, Rev. William J. Lynch, former pastor of St. Catherine of Genoa Church, was named pastor. One of his main concerns was the construction of a new school. In 1911, an eight classroom structure with a seating capacity of 400 students was completed at the northeast corner of 78th and Coles Avenue.
Father Lynch embarked on a program of expansion: in 1920, a three story flat building at 7760 S. South Shore Drive was remodeled as a convent and the present rectory at 7811 S. Coles was completed in 1925, on the site of the original St. Bride Church. In 1929, four more classrooms were constructed to accommodate the increasing number of Catholic children who lived in the area.
At the time of Father Lynch’s death on April 19, 1933, South Shore had become a very substantial family-oriented community with a population nudging the 70,000 mark.
On May 5, 1933, Rev. Thomas F. Friel was appointed pastor. During his 32 year tenure as pastor in South Shore, Father Friel celebrated both the 25th and 50th anniversaries of his ordination. He was invested as a Domestic Prelate with the title Right Reverend Monsignor on April 30, 1939.
Following World War II and continuing into the 1960s, a number of high rise apartment buildings were constructed along the lakefront. Many of the Catholics who moved into these buildings became members of St. Bride parish.
Msgr. Friel died suddenly in the parish rectory on April 27, 1965, at the age of 79. His successor was Right Reverend Monsignor Malachy P. Foley, P.A., former rector of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, for 21 years.
The years of Msgr. Foley’s pastorate bridged changes in the community as well as in the church rituals. For several decades, South Shore had been a largely Catholic and Jewish neighborhood. In the late 1960s, it became a predominantly black community. According to the 1970 census figures for this community, nearly 70% of South Shore’s 80,660 residents were black. One of Msgr. Foley’s chief concerns was to improve the curriculum in the parish school.
On December 8, 1968, old and new members of the parish gathered to celebrate the 75th anniversary of St. Bride Church.
Named pastor emeritus on December 22, 1969, Msgr. Foley continued to serve the people of St. Bride parish until his death at the age of 81.
Rev. Joseph D. Ryan served as pastor from January 3, 1970, until December 30, 1977. During his pastorate, ties between old parishioners of Irish and German descent and new black and Haitian parishioners were strengthened.
Rev. James W. Kinn was named pastor of St. Bride Church on February 22, 1978. Father Kinn left St. Bride in 1981, and Rev. Robert Burns was named pastor. Father Burns retired in 1992 and Rev. Robert J. Kyfes was named pastor. Father Kyfes held his pastorate at St. Bride from 1992 until October, 2003, when he left to become pastor of St. John Fisher Church. Rev. Robert J. Roll became pastor of St. Bride Parish in August, 2004. Father Roll had previously been pastor at St. Peter and Paul (Paulina Street) for 18 years.
By 2005, with the increased costs of education and the changing demographics in the neighborhood, student enrollment had declined to such an extent that St. Bride School closed its doors on June 10, 2005, with the graduation of its 96th class. The school building is currently being leased by the Chicago Public Schools.
St. Bride Parish continues to be active and thriving in the South Shore neighborhood. The parish is composed of a mixture of many ethnic groups that have bonded as a faith community. The parish programs encompass all areas of worship and outreach. Programs include Faith Sharing, Exercise Class, a Senior’s group, Youth Scripture Study, Camp Bride – our Summer Camp, Weekly Food Pantry, Teen Club, Choir, Lay Ministries, Parish Council, Fundraising and Finance Committees.
Chronology of Pastors of St. Bride
(Date of death noted)
Rev. Timothy D. O'Sullivan
First Pastor 1893 - 1910
+ October 31, 1910
Rev. William J. Lynch
Second Pastor 1910 - 1933
+ April 19, 1933
Msgr. Thomas F. Friel
Third Pastor 1933- 1965
+ April 27, 1965
Msgr. Malachy P. Foley
Fourth Pastor 1966 - 1969
+ October 15, 1977
Rev. Joseph D. Ryan
Fifth Pastor 1970 - 1978
+ March 23, 1998
Rev. James W. Kinn
(Retired) 1978 - 1981
Rev. Robert E. Burns
Seventh Pastor 1981 - 1992
+ October 27, 1997
Rev. Robert J. Kyfes
(Currenty Pastor of St. Joseph Church, in Homewood, IL)
Eighth Pastor 1992 - 2003
Rev. Robert J. Roll
Ninth Pastor 2004 - present