I-Team Report: A Matter of Pride
November 30, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- After last year's Pride Parade drew 800,000 participants and spectators, there was a drumbeat from City Hall that the event had outgrown Boystown and might have to be moved downtown, due to public drunkenness and safety concerns. Parade organizers didn't want that, so they redrew the route and changed the start time. Now they are hearing the beat of a different tune. It is coming from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Belmont Avenue, one of the city's oldest and most ornate Roman Catholic parishes.
Next June 24, when the procession would normally be under way at Sunday morning Mass, another procession will be passing by, directly in front of the church; the 43rd Annual Pride Parade, the result of new routing for the raucous spectacle that concerned parishioners say will make it "impossible to participate in Mass."
"Having lived in the neighborhood for several years, I know what the tremendous crowd means and the parade coming down Belmont Avenue at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning would make it impossible," said Kate Mulligan, parishioner.
Pastor Thomas Srenn has organized a petition drive calling for the parade to be rescheduled or rerouted and for parishioners to call complain to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and their alderman.
While a spokeswoman for the Chicago archdiocese says that it's a local parish issue, she says the church would have to close on that Sunday with the parade on Belmont Avenue because it would block access to the faithful.
"I don't know if people have actually looked at the route," said Richard Pfeiffer, parade coordinator.
Pfeiffer has run the gay pride parade for 40 years. Pfeiffer says churches along previous parade routes have never complained and he maintains Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be able to stay open, with access from North Broadway two blocks away, via an alley to the back of the church.
"It will be easier to get in and out because it will no longer be blocked on either side. We are offering barricades, marshals monitoring to make it easier for people to come in...so we were kind of surprised by the response," said Pfeiffer.
"We were a little taken aback by the concern about the parishioners feeling they had a right and entitlement to make sure their Sunday services were protected and the hours remain the same," said Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward.
The parade is in Alderman Tunney's ward. Tunney is Chicago's first openly gay member of the City Council and notes that he is a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. He helped parade leaders with the changes for next June's event.
"Obviously there are Saturday night services, there is Sunday evenings services and there is an early morning service and afternoon service, maybe not 11 or noon, but we think they can work with them," said Tunney.
Down the street, the much smaller St. Peters Episcopal Church says it will reschedule services around the parade.
Father Srenn wouldn't speak with the I-Team so we don't know whether he would compromise with the Mass schedule. Some parents of parish school children say the community needs to work together but...
"I think changing the route ultimately would kind of help everybody, possibly even changing the day, those are probably two of the big ones," said Julie Barreda, parishioner.
"It's tied to 13 or 14 of the major gay pride parades are the last Sunday in June, in and its tied to a national and international gay pride parades around the world so changing the day, we don't want to do that. But again, there are 52 weeks in a year and there are church services every Sunday," said Pfeiffer.
Catholic officials say attending Mass every Sunday is an obligation that other congregations may not have.
This issue will be decided sometime after January first when the city begins accepting requests for parade permits.
Parishioners and parade organizers both told the I-Team they want to work this out but for now it is a standoff.
2012 Pride Parade website
Our Lady of Mount Carmel's website
Alderman Tunney's website
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