Outside the Mother Cabrini Shrine

At the base of Lincoln Park 2550, a posh condo tower nearing completion at Lakeview Avenue and St. James Place, a modest set of classical columns flanks the project’s southeast corner. The contrast between the opulent tower and those humble columns speaks volumes about the neighborhood’s history: now one of Chicago’s priciest communities, Lincoln Park used to house working-class immigrants.

Ministering to those immigrants—in Chicago, other U.S. cities, and around the world—was the lifelong work of the nun Mother Cabrini; after her 1917 death in the hospital that used to stand on this site, she became the first U.S. citizen canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. That modest peristyle marks the entrance to her shrine, which will open Monday in the defunct hospital’s church. It had been closed for a decade while the site was redeveloped into the gleaming new tower.

The shrine has an unusual footprint: offices, galleries and other spaces are in a piece of the tower’s base, behind which sits the preserved church. “The shrine commemorates a woman who was part of American history,” says Sister Joan McGlinchey, project coordinator for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the order founded by Mother Cabrini. “She ministered to the needs of immigrants around the world, and she worked here, knew Chicago neighborhoods, and founded three institutions here. Then she came back to Chicago and died here on this site.”

It’s an intriguing place—and, because Mother Cabrini is considered by at least one priest to be the patron saint of parking spaces, possibly a beatific addition to the parking-challenged neighborhood. Click through the pictures below for a tour.