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The Madden Years

The Madden Years, The "Rock"


Epiphany's first four years were interesting, to say the least. While the new parish met with initial success, founding parishioners were well aware of the challenges that awaited them. Stability, rootedness and a sense of community were tough to come by in this former "frontier land". This was the area’s first generation as neighborhood and it was tough going for many families. The local economy was new and uncertain. Health issues were a constant concern. Like today, many of the recently arrived immigrant families spent most of their time and energy on keeping the family together and on survival.

Perhaps it was Providence who brought Father Jeremiah Madden to minister to and lead Epiphany Parish for the next 21 years.  

Ordained in Ireland, Fr. Madden arrived in the United States with what would become the last chapter of the "Irish Diaspora" caused by the Great Famine in Ireland during the mid 1800's. He came to Chicago to serve the ever increasing number of immigrant Catholics who arrived in waves at the 50 year old Archdiocese. Fr. Madden was appointed pastor of Epiphany Parish in July, 1905 and worked tirelessly building up the parish Fr. Erhard founded at the turn of the 20th century.

If one considers the enormity of the challenge left to Fr. Madden and his amazing leadership and ministry, it becomes clear to all our current parishioners that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to him as we continue to enjoy the fruits of his labor in service to the Church. Risking all, Madden took on a sizable loan from local bankers in order to purchase land allowing the parishioners of Epiphany to build a "proper parish building". By 1910 Epiphany had its first building to serve the growing parish's need at 4219 W. 25th Street.

The combination church/school proved a most adequate space to bring the Catholic community of Crawford together for worship, formation, education, social service, athletics, entertainment and solidarity. Epiphany invited all members of the community to be part of the parish. The newly formed Young Men's Club, The Holy Name Society, The Altar and Rosary Society and the Epiphany Dramatic Club were our parish’s earliest organizations promoting the faith, the Church and Epiphany Parish.

Perhaps Fr. Madden's wisest decision came early on during his pastorate when he invited the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters to take charge of the new school. Thankfully for Epiphany Parish, the Sinsinawa Dominicans accepted the invitation and in 1910 sent six of their Sisters to serve in the ministry of Catholic Education at Epiphany. Sisters Frederica, Sixtus, Joseph, Matthew, Florence and Laurine arrived at the site of the school and took charge of Epiphany's children. The Sisters found their first few years at Epiphany quite challenging. There was room for only grades 3 through 8. The combination school/church building wouldn't be complete until 1915. They had no decent place to call home (the convent was built in 1929) and they shared in the daily challenges and difficulties of this new and growing community. Yet they met this challenge with a winning Dominican spirit. Remembering her arrival at Epiphany Sister Frederica, one of the six "pioneer" nuns, reported, "The parish couldn't be poorer than it was, but there was a grand spirit there, fine, warm-hearted people. Those were happy years at Epiphany."

The Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters headed our parish school until 1994 when the Order came to the sad decision that they could no longer continue with their leadership of the school. Their 84 years of loving and dedicated service will long be remembered and the fruits of their labor continue to bring life and hope to Epiphany and the entire Archdiocese. The Sinsinawa Dominican's witness to Jesus' gospel and mission demand our gratitude, prayers and respect. Every parishioner of Epiphany, past and present, has been blessed by their heroic response to God's call and their generosity in sharing their faith with Epiphany.

If it was Providence that brought Fr. Madden to Epiphany, Providence also brought him home to heaven in a most fitting way. Fr. Madden's 21 years of ministry established Epiphany as a true parish. He faithfully celebrated the Sacraments of the Church and was a "rock" of stability for the community through difficult economic and political times and World War I, the war to end all wars. Jeremiah Madden, priest and pastor, died on Thursday, April 1, 1926. It was Holy Thursday, our Church's great feast celebrating the gift of the Eucharist and the institution of ordained ministry in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It was a good day for Fr. Madden to go to God.



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