Our Lady of the Angels used to be a thriving parish in a largely Italian-American neighborhood. In 1958, a devastating fire in the parish school killed 92 students and 3 nuns and injured many others. The school was rebuilt and reopened in 1960, but closed as a result of declining numbers in 1999. The parish closed in 1990. The demographics of the area have changed drastically since the time of the school fire; today it remains an area of poverty, gang activity, and violent crime. In 2006, the median household income in the area was $21,000, and 35 percent of adults did not have a high school diploma.
In 2004, Fr. Bob Lombardo answered Cardinal George's call to rebuild the church in this depressed Chicago neighborhood. When he arrived, many of the buildings were vacant or in disrepair. With virtually no budget to make repairs, Fr. Bob relied on the help of neighbors and friends to donate time, money, skills and prayer to rebuild this mission. The state of the mission today is a testament to Fr. Bob’s great faith and tireless work, and to the reviving power of God.
In 2006, the Franciscan mission opened in the completely renovated rectory. Kelly Hall, which had been the vacant and crumbling parish center, reopened in January 2009 as a fully renovated YMCA community center. The convent has been beautifully renovated, and now serves as a facility for retreats and other community gatherings. The Franciscans of the Eucharist, a fledgling religious community, began serving the mission in 2009. Today, the mission helps about 700 families each month to get good, healthy food. About 130 children participate in the after school program, and several hundred are involved in activities and programs at Kelly Hall.
The most recent project was the church, which completed renovations and was rededicated on April 14, 2012. The church was packed with people who had come to celebrate the remarkable resurrection story that has occurred in this place. There was such joy! And they didn’t pause their community outreach for the celebration, either: the day of the rededication, they held their monthly mobile food pantry, hosted a Daddy-Daughter Dance at Kelly Hall, and then served a fabulous dinner to all the guests at the Mass.
For more information about Fr. Bob and the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, visit their website, www.missionola.com, where you can learn about their many volunteer opportunities, donate money to support them, and view lots of pictures of volunteers and community members, and amazing before-and-afters of their ongoing renovations.
Tropical Fruit Pavlova
Pavlova is simple and elegant, and a perfect dessert for Easter, Mother's Day, or any other springtime gathering. Swap out the tropical fruit for berries in the summer. Also, I've heard it described as a symbol of the resurrection, since it spends 2 hours resting in the "tomb" (the oven that has been turned off) before it's done. A bit of a stretch, but kind of cute, right?
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Meringues and Fruit:
4 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 kiwis, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin
1 1/2 cups pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the meringues: adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
Scoop six 1/2-cup mounds of meringue onto prepared sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gently make small indentations in each meringue using back of spoon. It will be really sticky, so just do the best you can.Bake until meringues have smooth, dry, and firm exteriors, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven until completely dry and hard, about 2 hours. (Meringue shells can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.)
For the fruit: Gently toss mango, kiwis, and pineapple with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in large bowl. Let sit at room temperature until sugar has dissolved and fruit is juicy, about 30 minutes.
For the topping: Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip heavy cream, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.
To assemble, place meringue shells on individual plates and spoon about 1/3 whipped cream into each shell. top with about 1/2 cup fruit. Serve immediately.