In Roman times, Christians gathered secretly in caves and catacombs, hidden from the persecution of centurions. During the Islamic ascendancy, Christians practiced their faith in former strongholds such as Jerusalem and Damascus despite the threat of the sword. In the 20th century, Christianity survived Nazism, Fascism and Bolshevism -- the three greatest destructive forces yet devised by mankind -- and Christians rebuilt their churches and their communities after those plagues were vanquished. Yet, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, Christianity, and more specifically, Roman Catholicism, is dying before our very eyes.
Was the famous North Side St. Nicholas Church destroyed by war? By terrorism? By the neglect of centuries? It was destroyed by men of the cloth. It was Bishop Vincent Leonard, in 1972, who graciously accepted the "gifts" of property from the ethnic parishes that were required by the Roman Catholic Church to cede their buildings and land. It was then-Bishop Donald Wuerl, in 1994, who merged the two St. Nicholas parishes and subsequently closed the North Side church. Ultimately, it was Bishop David Zubik, who recently did what others could not and would not -- destroy the church of the first Croatian Roman Catholic parish in the United States despite its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places and its designation as a City Historic Structure.
I remember a supporter speaking before the Historic Review Commission more than a decade ago, in reference to St. Nick's omnipresence in daily traffic reports, who said if the church were destroyed that people simply would refer to the place where it once stood in those reports.
The North Side landmark will live on in our hearts and minds, well after these men pass from the Earth. The church gave far more than they ever could.