Our Lady of Ransom Parish was founded in 1960 when Rev. Theodore Paluch was asked to establish a new parish in the rapidly growing area of East Maine Township. On August 14, 1960, Father Paluch celebrated the first Mass for the new parish in Ballard School in Niles as work began to build up a parish community and to create a school and permanent church site.
The first Mass was celebrated on the church’s present site on July 29, 1962. In fall of 1962, the school opened under the direction of the Felician Sisters. A junior high building was added to the school for the 1965-66 school year. Father Paluch served as pastor until his retirement in 1979. He remained active at Our Lady of Ransom as Pastor Emeritus until his passing in 1991. Many of the parish’s present organizations and ministries began under his guidance.
In 1979, Rev. John Boreczky became the second pastor of Our Lady of Ransom. Under his direction, OLR was renovated in 1980. He resigned in 1981 and served in other parish work. Father Boreczky passed away in the fall of 2000.
Rev. Thomas Dore was appointed OLR’s third pastor on January 29, 1982. During his tenure, the parish embarked on a stewardship program, founded the Parish Pastoral Council, built a new residence for the sisters, and converted the original convent into the parish Ministry Center. Father Dore left OLR in late 1994 to become pastor at St. Giles Parish in Oak Park. Since 2009, Father Dore has served as the retired senior priest at Saint Pascal Church in Chicago.
Our Lady of Ransom’s fourth pastor was Rev. John R. Hall, appointed March 26, 1995. Father Hall had previously been assigned to Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, serving as director of special events at the cathedral under the leadership of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.
During Father Hall’s term, OLR launched the “Renew the Pride” campaign, which raised funds to remodel the church and render its facilities handicapped-accessible. Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new church in June of 2006. For more information about the interior remodeling, consult Our Church’s Furnishings.
Due to changing demographics and declining enrollment, Our Lady of Ransom school closed in June 2004. In subsequent years the school building was rented to various entities in keeping with her mission of serving early childhood education, seniors, and private elementary school children. On February 10, 2007, Father Hall suffered a fatal heart attack. Cardinal George celebrated his funeral Mass with concelebrants including 9 bishops and 117 priests.
Fr. Chris Gustafson had served with Fr. Hall since his appointment as Associate Pastor beginning July 2004. He worked with Fr. Hall in renovation of the church and in seeking to rejuvenate the community after the closing of the school. With Fr. Hall’s sudden and unexpected passing, Fr. Chris was called upon as Administrator to help the parish move through a difficult grieving process. On July 1, 2007, Cardinal Francis George named him the 5th pastor of Our Lady of Ransom.
With God’s grace and the generosity of so many, the parish debt was soon paid off as the parish celebrated its 50th anniversary throughout the year 2010, with gratitude for the past, faith in the present, and hope for the future. The archdiocese asked the parish to serve as a pilot parish for a new program aimed at Parish Transformation, bolstering both the mission and the financial strength of parishes. The parish strengthened its identity as a parish of great welcome and various organizations saw renewal. With another diocesan initiative entitled, “To Teach Who Christ Is,” the parish was able to create a long awaited Shrine to Our Lady of Ransom dedicated by Cardinal Cupich on Thanksgiving, 2015. Signage throughout the property was added including the same image of Our Lady on the facade of the church. Technology was updated. A scholarship fund for Catholic Education was established and funded. And beautifying enhancements were made to the church worship space. Importantly, ground work was laid to help bring about a spiritual renovation focusing on deepening personal relationships with Christ through authentic discipleship. Fr. Chris concluded 15 years of ministry at OLR and was named pastor of St. Norbert and Our Lady of the Brook Parish in Northbrook.
Now that you know the story of our parish, we invite you to become a part of the next chapter of its history. Join us for Mass each week. Consider getting involved in a service opportunity or ministry. Attend a social event. As we embark on the next 50 years of our journey, we hope that the community of Our Lady of Ransom will continue to grow in faith and fellowship, reaching out to the world with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.