St. Francis of Assisi was founded in 1990 by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to serve western Orland Park and unincorporated Cook County. When the Cardinal assigned Fr. Ed Upton to begin the parish, Fr. Upton met with the clergy/personnel board. They presented to him some challenges: there was no place to offer Mass because there were no public buildings; there was no rectory or place to live; and those who were already registered in a current parish were grandfathered; therefore, did not have to join the new one.
So, no place to worship, no place to live, and no parishioners — that presented a challenge. However, God works in wonderful ways.
Since there was no public building, the parish had to rent space at the Pinewood Plaza, 143rd and Will Cook Road - a shopping center. That proved to be a great gift because it allowed the parish to develop a unique identity. We were affectionately known as “Our Lady of the Mall” or “St. Walgreen's” and began with about 250 families. We were able to use that worship space and then, later on, also used Centennial School for mass and our Religious Education sessions.
Since those early days, we have grown to approximately 3,200 families. The first Mass was celebrated in our church in October of 1995 and the church was dedicated by Cardinal Bernardin in April of 1996. In 2004, we completed construction of the St. Francis Center, which was designed primarily for Religious Education, but also used by our Youth Group and Adult Formation activities.
Besides the two buildings on campus, we also are one of the co-sponsors of Cardinal Bernardin School, which began in the year 2000. It continues to be an excellent regional Catholic school located on the campus of St. Elizabeth Seton at 167th and 94th Avenue.
In June of 2013, Father Ed Upton retired; becoming Pastor Emeritus and Father Artur Sowa was named Pastor of St. Francis.
Every parish needs focus; it needs a Mission. The Mission of our parish is articulated in its Mission statement, but can be summarized this way.
First of all, a parish needs to be welcoming. People need to feel and experience a sense of community and hospitality when they come to the parish. We hope that you, as new parishioners, feel welcomed. Welcome is not just the responsibility of the parish staff, but that of the entire parish. Feeling connected is the basis for a Christian community.
Second, the heart of any parish is the Eucharist, gathering at the Lord’s Table. We are nourished by God’s Word and strengthened by His Body and Blood. Together, we journey through life supported by our Catholic Community of Faith. Third, we must share our faith. We are to spread it and pass it on. We do that in our Religious Education Program, Children’s Liturgy of the Word on Sunday mornings, our Special Religious Education Program for children with special needs and, of course, our Parish School.
In addition to our catecheses programs for the children, we also have a vibrant Youth Ministry to nurture the faith and formation of our youth and we also offer a variety of religious formation opportunities for the adult community.
Part of our outreach and sharing of our faith is lived out through the actions of our Helping Hands and Catholic Charities @ St. Francis Committees where parishioners have opportunities to support and volunteer for various charities, soup kitchens, funding of pantries, and our sharing parish, St. Agatha.
The parish Finance Council assists Fr. Sowa in the financial aspects of the parish. Through the council we know that our funds are accounted for and used responsibly; our Development Committee helps us to raise funds; the Building & Grounds Committee looks after the facilities and grounds. The Parish Council is organized into four commissions: Liturgy, Human Concerns, Education/Formation, and Parish Life. All four commissions work to carry out our Parish Mission.
Our Mission ~ The St. Francis of Assisi community is a welcoming Christian family. We believe in Jesus Christ, and are guided by the Holy Spirit and the example of St. Francis. We gather to celebrate, to grow in the knowledge of our faith rooted in the Catholic tradition, and to recognize our responsibility to reach out to the world.