St. Ignatius Parish was founded in 1907 by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) on a 19.5 acre piece of land they purchased from the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad to grow St. Ignatius College (now referred to as Loyola University), which was located nine miles south of the purchased land. The boundaries for the parish were created by reallocating territory from St. Jerome's and St. Ita's parishes. The first building was dual-purpose (church and rectory), could hold 400 people, and was located on the sand near Sheridan Road, north of Devon Avenue. Pioneer parishioners were solidly middle-class and generous in time, talent, and treasure.
In 1909, the Jesuits and the Society of the Holy Child Jesus received permission to establish a grade school. Between 1909 and 1911 the number of students grew, which necessitated the purchase of property in 1911 to build a school. The doors to St. Ignatius School were opened on September 14, 1912, with 225 enrolled students. During this time, the "el" train's route was expanded from Wilson Avenue to Howard Street and residential development abounded, leading to a great population boom in the neighborhood. St. Ignatius Parish grew from seven registered families to 280 registered families by 1913, overcrowding the small original church. In 1915 85% of parishioners voted to build a new, bigger church, on the property adjacent to the school (which was acquired in 1912) and in 1916, permission was granted by the Archdiocese of Chicago. The new church was formally dedicated on September 16, 1917. It was designed by Henry J. Schlacks, who specialized in ecclesiastic design. Schlacks was especially inspired by the neoclassical design of Il Gesu, a Jesuit church in Rome. John Mallin, an artistic collaborator, assisted with the interior of the church, including painting many of the murals.
A new pastor interested in society and the arts, Reverend Fitz George Dinneen, SJ, joined the parish in 1924. A rectory attached to the church was built under his guidance. A pipe organ was also installed in the church designed by Stephen Erst, the long time music director for St. Ignatius. Finally, a new school for boys, an auditorium and an impressive gym were constructed. Throughout this time (1920's and 1930's), numerous organizations formed to meet the needs of parishioners including the Glenola Club, which is still active in the parish today. These organizations held intramural basketball tournaments, summer recreation programs, lectures, book discussions, youth dances with live bands, sponsored movies, and community theatre productions. Philanthropy also played a part, with the St. Vincent de Paul Society distributing food, clothes and money to needy Rogers Park community members. St. Ignatius was also heavily involved in raising over $150,000 to purchase war bonds and help our country and our own parishioners (over 450 served in World War II.)
After the war, St. Ignatius focused more intensely on family-oriented activities and education. Educating children, and guiding youth became even more important as well as promoting the welfare of the family in all ways including the creation of the Christian Family Movement which sought to foster family and community life in a religious context. Sports continued to be a highlight of church life, with the intramural basketball tournament extending to girls in the 1950's. Theatre also continued to flourish with the addition of city-wide drama festivals held annually on-site and sponsored by the National Catholic Theater Conference. A Teen Club was formed that sponsored dances, teen shows, communion breakfasts, missions, picnics, basketball games, and time to meet and mingle.
The 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's were a time of great change for the parish, Catholics and the world. Renovations were done to the property, Vatican II brought many changes to the celebration of sacraments and mass, and views began to encompass bigger areas than the self-contained parish community. A Liturgy Committee, Parish Council and lay ministers began to serve the parish in the early 1970's. Ignatian Services was also founded at this time. Started with a few volunteers who attempted to address needs in the immediate community, the organization evolved to include a wide variety of social services with a professional coordinator that worked with agencies covering a number of social issues.
Hispanic parishioners began attending St. Ignatius in significant numbers in the 1960's. Originally, these members were mostly Cuban refugees. Mexican and South American (Peruvian and Ecuadoran) Spanish-speakers arrived later. In the 1980's, the Peruvian-American Hermandad del Senor de los Milagros was formally recognized at St. Ignatius and they established the first shrine in Chicago dedicated to Our Lord of the Miracles. In the 1990's a permanent shrine was added dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Similarly, the parish welcomed the Ecuadorian community and their devotion to Virgen de la Nube (Virgin of the Clouds) the patroness of Ecuador in the late 1990's.
In 1994, St. Ignatius Grammar School was consolidated into Northside Catholic Academy (NCA). The school buildings were rented to the Chicago Waldorf School the following year. Despite the school consolidation, parishioners remained dedicated to the parish and its ministries. Ignatian Services continued to provide the food pantry, coat drives, the Tree of Giving at Christmastime and other social services. The parish reached out to youths and teens with the hiring of a youth minister, having a children's liturgy of the word on Sundays, and forming the children's choir and Coro de Ninos. Beginning in 1993, the St. Ignatius Sing-Along Messiah concerts became known throughout the city for their beauty. Annual social and fund-raising events continued or expanded, such as the St. Patrick's Day Party and Parish Gala Dinner Dance. Beginning in 1993, a restoration program brought the parish's Kilgen pipe organ from an unplayable state to fully functional. In the process, many alterations that had been made to the instrument were reversed, returning it more closely to its original state. In 1999, extensive repairs were also carried out to the Deagan Tower Chimes making them playable for the first time in decades.
In the late 1990's the Jesuits determined they were no longer able to staff the parish. The Archdiocese officially took over in 2000 with the installation of Jerome Listecki as pastor. Shortly after his installation, Fr. Listecki was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. He was able to remain as pastor of the parish for a year and a half after being named a bishop. During this time, he raised funds for and completed the restoration of the Our Lady of the Angels chapel and made significant steps to stabilize the parish's finances.
The Reverend Joseph M. Jackson became pastor on October 26, 2002 and served until his retirement on June 30, 2018. During his pastorate, two permanent deacons, Rogelio Soto and Raul Mora were ordained and now serve the parish. Restoration work has likewise continued on many fronts including the restoration of the vestibule, main church ceiling, and baldachino, the restoration of the canteen and Holy Name room, the installation of a new church sound system, and the restoration of the Patriotic stained glass window. To aid these efforts and other parish ministries, Fr. Jackson has overseen several fundraising initiatives including the Millenium Campaign, the Centennial Campaign, and most recently the Celebrating Our Faith Building Our Future Capital Campaign. Currently, St. Ignatius parish is developing new ministries and implementing new plans through the parish transformation process overseen by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Throughout 2006 and 2007, St. Ignatius parish celebrated its centennial with a series of gala celebrations, concerts and special liturgies. Significant among these was the bi-lingual Mass and luncheon on April 30, 2006 with His Eminence Francis Cardinal George in attendance.
In the spring of 2018 Fr. Jesús Puentes was named pastor of St. Ignatius by Cardinal Blase Cupich. Fr. Puentes begins his pastorate at St. Ignatius on July 1, 2018 and is assisted by three deacons, Deacon Raul Mora, Deacon Rogelio Soto, and Deacon Larry Russow.
Today, St. Ignatius is home to over 700 registered families. It is a diverse and multicultural worship environment and community that continues to follow the traditions set forth by its founders with emphasis placed on fellowship, service and almsgiving, and support of cultural and educational endeavors. It strives to grow in spirituality and unity and follow the charism of its patron, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who believed God could be found in all things and that everything should be done "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" or "For the greater glory of God."