Benedict’s parents were brought from Africa as slaves to Sicily. He was born a slave but was set free in his youth. His temperament was refined and cheerful, despite the racial slurs he suffered from his neighbors. He eventually gave all his possessions to the poor and became a hermit near Palermo, following the rule of Saint Francis.
When Benedict was forty years old, Pius IV decreed that all such hermits should become members of the Franciscan Order. Benedict entered a friary in Palermo as a lay brother. The friars there appointed him as their superior because of his outstanding virtue, even though he was not a priest. As superior he introduced a stricter observance of the Franciscan Rule and was venerated by all his brethren. He asked to be allowed to return to the kitchen when his term as superior ended. People began coming to see him from all over Sicily for spiritual direction. He became famous for his care for the sick and the hungry.
He died after a severe illness, at the hour he had foretold. Years after his death, when his body was exhumed it was found incorrupt. His veneration spread throughout Italy, to Spain and Portugal, and even to Latin America.
His feast day is April 4th.
Eight parishes formed into two worship communities along geographical lines: St. Justin Martyr, St. Raphael, and Sacred Heart came together at the St. Justin Martyr site. St. Brendan, Our Lady of Solace, St. Martin, St. Bernard, and St. Carthage came together in a new church built on the site of the 1968-razed St. Bernard church.
By 1995 the single parish with two worship sites split into two separate parishes (St. Benedict the African West and St. Benedict the African East), reflecting the independent growth and stable Eucharistic communities at each site.
2016 saw a further evolution of Catholic presence in Englewood, as both parishes formed a single new parish of St. Benedict the African (SBA), with no indicators of west or east. We are hopeful and strong with the newness of our faith community, and move forward with the confidence, courage, and joy of a people who share faith and faithfulness.
The architecture and art of St. Benedict the African Parish are something one does not plan to see and has to see to behold. Here is a rare chance to view ten thousand gallons of holy water and to experience a full immersion baptism.
The church building was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Belli & Belli and is one of the very few Catholic churches built in Chicago to serve a predominately African American community. Upon entering the church building one begins to to catch a glimpse of the many surprises inside. Several artistic renderings in sculpted wood, stained glass and original art work welcome and draw one into the building.
In our art there is a record of our beauty and value. We bring and leave it here in order that our church may be assisted in her ministry by a fully grown, functioning, willing and able community who sees Jesus in the center of the circle we make whole and unbroken.
Exquisite works of art in stained glass, wood carving and painting were commissioned for this space. Additional originals reflecting black spirituality have been added to the collection as a commitment to continue the inspiring of worship. We invite you to see for yourself both online and in person. View more.
St. Benedict the African is a great place to receive the sacraments that Jesus left the church in order to help people live holy lives. All Catholics have a right to receive sacraments and are encouraged to call the parish office to arrange for the sacraments of initiation and/or the sacraments of healing. Read more.
Saint Benedict the African is located right off I-90 and I-94 and is about 15 minutes from the Red and Green L train stations.
The parking lot is adjacent north of the church building with entrances on the Stewart and Harvard streets.