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“We want to have a big foot in the house and a big foot out of the house," says the Rev. Jim Baraniak ’88, house superior at the House of Studies.

A Chicago Foothold for the Holy Spirit

If the No. 1 rule of real estate is location, it defines life at the Holy Spirit House of Studies. The Norbertine residence on the south side of Chicago sits within easy reach of bastions of learning and privilege on the one hand, tough neighborhoods on the other.

The House of Studies, off Lakeshore Drive, was originally purchased in 1963 for men studying for their doctorates. Loyola and DePaul Universities are nearby, and the University of Chicago is even closer. Since St. Norbert Abbey bought the house, men in priestly formation for the Norbertines have also found a home at the House of Studies. In 1968, Catholic Theological Union (CTU) opened in Hyde Park. “We joined on with CTU in their second year of existence,” explains the Rev. Jim Baraniak ’88, who serves as full-time house superior and master of professed/director of priestly formation at the House of Studies. “How blessed we are that our men can literally walk to school, other than at night.”

This past year has marked a change for the house. Abbot Dane Radecki ’72 sought a stronger priestly presence, so Baraniak was appointed to Chicago. “Our men in formation spend their first two years in De Pere,” he explains. “They will then come down and will be with me for four years.”

The priests in the house serve at parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. “I want us to be sent where nobody else will go,” says Baraniak, who first lived at the house 1989-93 as a student himself. “I am serving in one of the toughest neighborhoods in America, Brighton Park, at Immaculate Conception. There is urban violence and gang activity in this area. It has required me to shift gears and learn Spanish. I could only order a beer in Spanish prior to this experience. In October, I started doing Masses in Spanish. My goal is to start preaching in Spanish in July.”

Frater Johnathan [Turba] just began theology in the fall. He is beginning to assist me at Immaculate Conception Parish. He is fluent in Spanish. He has a mind for language. When people see two habits together, they see the brotherhood.”

Life at the house is much like life at St. Norbert Abbey, including morning prayer, evening prayer and daily Mass. (The men share in the cooking duties and Baraniak adds that he has taken on the role of janitor.) “I usually have Thursday mornings,” says the Rev. Patrick LaPacz ’09, who is in his fifth year at the house, having graduated from CTU in May 2018. “I lead morning prayer and celebrate Mass. I usually make it back a couple times a week for evening prayer. It depends on my schedule at the parish.” LaPacz serves as associate pastor at St. Bede the Venerable.

Baraniak says: “We want to have a big foot in the house and a big foot out of the house. I’m happy that we are serving at the parishes, but formation of our young men is the primary ministry. What you learn at Holy Spirit is what we expect you to bring back to the abbey.” 

A house with a history
The Norbertines are the fourth owner of the home known as the Holy Spirit House of Studies for the past 56 years. It was built by the Hoover family.

“Speculation is that it is the Hoover family from the vacuum cleaners,” says the Rev. Jim Baraniak ’88. “The letter ‘H’ is found on the woodwork, which works for us.” 

The residence later became the home of Mayor Edward J. Kelly. The Norbertines purchased it from the third owner, the Carmelite Fathers. 

“Every room is different,” says Baraniak. “We have several fireplaces. The stairs creak. We have a beautiful chapel in the basement. If you look at the blueprints, it was a very large room that had no purpose except to dry clothes. It now has life. We use it every day.”

In residence
Seven men currently live in community at the House of Studies: Baraniak, the Rev. Patrick LaPacz ’09, Deacon Jordan Neeck ’11, Frater Johnathan Turba and the Rev. Binu Varghese of St. Norbert Abbey; the Rev. Gerard Jordan of Daylesford Abbey; and Patrick Bergin, a Norbertine oblate of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey.

July 1, 2019