The thread by which I remain tied to the Catholic Church is a very thin – though amazingly strong – one by the name of St. Nick’s. Located in Evanston, IL on Ridge Avenue – about a mile from my house – it is a church with an incredibly vibrant community and so much diversity, passion, compassion, and love. We found it shortly after moving to Rogers Park (at the northern tip of Chicago). My wife and I decided we would check out the nearby churches to see which one suited us. Or first trip was to St. Nicks, and it was then that we had our first encounter with Father Oldershaw. How to describe him. He is a Holy man. A Shaman. He would be regarded as such no matter the time or place he was born. You feel grace in his presence. We finished the service and knew it was pointless to check anywhere else. St. Nick’s was where it was at. At first we were attracted to Fr. Oldershaw’s homilies, like teenage groupies chasing after the Elvis. They are electric. He is a master story teller and he has the true soul of an artist. But not too long after, we began to realize it wasn’t just him, it was everybody. Sister Christina, the choir, the servers, the families. This was a totally jazzy community and diverse in a way that makes you realize everyone else who uses that word to describe an experience is just paying lip service. You have the feeling at St. Nicks that the Pope has no idea what is happening there. Which, quite frankly, is just the way we like it. In the past, the best thing church could be for me was quick. I grew up serving as an alter boy for Monsignor Slowey who liked to keep mass under 25 minutes if he could. Fast forward to Easter vigil this year and the nearly 5 hour service in both Spanish and English that was one of the most wonderful church going experiences of my life. If you are searching for a place where you can feel good about your faith…and by that I don’t mean that your faith is made easy…then St. Nick’s may be for you. Much will be asked if you stay long enough…but it won’t feel burdensome at all.
Side note: Father Oldershaw is now Pastor Emeritus of St. Nicks, and Father Bill Tkachuk has taken up the mantel of running things day-to-day. How’s he doing…see for yourself in this article he wrote for U.S. Catholic.