InFormation (2021) Moments in Time 

Places: Immaculate Conception Retreat, Chicago, Illinois

Immaculate Conception RetreatAs a sophomore in high school, I visited this monastery on my way to enter Mother of Good Counsel Prep in 1962. I was awestruck by the newly-ordained reception to me, so much so that that is the only memory I have of that visit.

These men cemented my resolve to join the Passionists as I began this journey. For most of the seven years of my tenure with the Passionists, this monastery remained a mystery, even though I was aware that this retreat was the beating heart of Holy Cross Province. I was not sure the upper echelons here were even aware of who I was.

Immaculate Conception Retreat As I was completing my novitiate year in St. Paul, Kansas, I suffered post-traumatic epilepsy. The religious stigma of epilepsy still permeated the Church. That attitude could have precluded my taking of vows within the Order. I was told by the novice master that a decision had been made by the provincial and his consultors to allow me to continue. For that decision, I am forever grateful. The historic edifice was sold in 2011 and eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places, on March 6, 2013. Today [2021]. I wanted to find out more about the provincial retreat. In the following paragraphs are excerpts from the Registration Form for that application which best describes some of its history. This PDF document is a gold mine of both historical information and images of the property.

Immaculate Conception Retreat"The Passionist Fathers Monastery is located on a 4.3-acre landscaped lot (a small portion of the original fifty-four acre tract that the congregation purchased in 1904) with mature plantings and trees. The building faces North Harlem Avenue. A circular asphalt driveway provides vehicular access to the primary entrance. Directly adjacent to the property on the south and west are single-family residential developments. The current Immaculate Conception parish church building, constructed in 1963 at the northeast corner of West Talcott Avenue and North Harlem Avenue, is located just north of the monastery and is connected to the monastery with a modern narrow enclosed masonry walkway. However, the land that the church was constructed on was owned not by the Passionists but by the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the two buildings have never been under the same ownership. Northwest of the monastery is the mmaculate Conception School. The first portion of the school was completed by the Archdiocese in 1924, and several large additions were completed in the postwar period. Directly north of the courtyard formed by the building's two wings is a small cemetery that houses the remains of Passionist brothers who lived at the monastery. This cemetery, although historically related to the monastery, is now under separate ownership and is not included within the proposed boundary for National Register listing."[1] Read more...


"In addition to serving as a retreat for Passionist laymen, the new facility in Norwood Park also served as a seminary for students and theologians who were in the process of becoming Passionist monks. The legal name for the congregation in Norwood Park, the Passionist Academic Institute, reflected the monastery's importance as an educational center. The monastery at 5700 North Harlem Avenue served this role until 1967 when the seminary was relocated to the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago's Hyde Park community."[2] Read more...


"By the late 1920s, the forty members of the Passionist congregation in Norwood Park were struggling to maintain the sprawling fifty-four-acre tract of land that they had purchased in 1903. Even with the expansive gardens, orchards, and recreational facilities that had been developed around the monastery itself, over half of the property wasn't utilized. The post-World War I boom that had doubled Chicago's population had also increased residential development throughout the city, and the Passionists decided to sell a thirty-seven-acre portion of their property for subdivision in order to pay off Provincial debts. New homes were erected throughout the 1920s and 1930s to the south and west of the monastery remaining grounds.[3] Additional lots along the south side of the property were condemned in the 1950s as part of the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway."[4] Read more...


"At its height in the early 1960s, the monastery housed sixty-one Passionists, including twenty-five seminarians. Many of the priests were involved in missionary work across the country, establishing new foundations in California, Texas, Alabama, and other states, as well as in China, Japan, the Philippines, India, and Jamaica. 18 The Immaculate Conception parish also thrived in the post-World War II period "as German, Italian, and Polish families moved into new houses that were being constructed in Norwood Park ." The parish added classrooms and teacher's quarters to the school during the 1940s and 1950s, and by the late 1950s plans were made for a new church. The Passionists sold the parcel of land at the corner of Talcott and Harlem Avenue, directly adjacent to the monastery, to the Archidiocese in 1961, and the new modern church building was dedicated in 1963."[5] Read more...

1. United States Department of the Interior. (2013). National Park Service/National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. NPS Form 10-900 OMB No. 1024-0016, p. 3.

2. Mayworm, Susan. (1985). A History of the Passionist Community at Immaculate Conception Monastery. Passionist archives, Box 574.

3. "Passionist Fathers Sell 37-Acre Tract," (14 August 1927) Chicago Daily Tribune. Deeds and other materials from the Passionist archives.

4. Various land records from the Passionist Archives.

5. (1980). A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago Published in observance of Centenary of the Archdiocese 1980 Sponsored by His Eminence, John Cardinal Cody. Archdiocese of Chicago: First Edition, Vol I, p.427 -428.

The following images were all taken from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.