Embattled Chicago religious order plans to relocate

CHICAGO — Unit 5 first uncovered allegations in 2005 of cult-like behavior in the Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission. That report led to the mission being banned from the Catholic Church.

The mission now plans to make a suburban hospital its headquarters, but as NBC5’s Mary Ann Ahern reported, not everyone is happy about their new neighbors.

Love Holy Trinity is a religous group with a mission: one that lured Ashley Fahey away from a college scholarship and her Iowa family, to become a sister with the mission.

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Lora Knott, Fahey’s mother, described one of the founders of the mission, Agnes Kyo McDonald.

“God sat upon her lap is how she got her calling,” Knott said.

Nineteen months after Fahey joined, her parents said they had not been allowed to talk to Fahey or see her.

“I ask any mother, ‘How would you be if you haven’t seen your daughter?'” Knott said.

When Fahey left Iowa, she went to Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission’s headquarters on Chicago’s Northwest Side. The group focuses on Bible study and a stronger church commitment than other Catholics.

Cardinal Francis George, the head of the Chicago Archdiocese, said the mission is no longer sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

“We don’t really know what’s going on,” George said of the mission. “And so, it’s a matter of prudence to say, ‘Let’s distance ourselves from it.'”

In 2005, Unit 5 uncovered questions about the secrecy surrounding the mission, which led to George’s decision to call back one of its leaders, the Rev. Len Kruzel. The priest did not return to the archdiocese.

Instead, Love Holy Trinity is now trying to move its 300-member mission 70 miles away, to the city of Belvidere. Some local residents aren’t happy.

“I don’t care if they’re Catholics or green martians, I don’t think they belong right in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” Belvidere resident Jennifer Collins said.

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Collins happens to live right next door to the old St. Joseph Jospital in Belvidere. Vacant for years, now the Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission is trying to get the property rezoned so they can move in.

Belvidere residents have been packing town meetings to hear what the mission plans to do with the property.

But the mission’s plans for the building have changed. According to neighbors, the mission originally said only eight to 10 people would reside in the facility. But now, the mission wants to use it as a boarding school.

“That’s going to be their headquarters. They want to have a radio station out of there, they want to have newspapers coming out of there,” Collins said. “They want 120 full-time residents, they want the possibility of a boarding school.”

Neighbors are now asking how the plan could have changed so drastically.

Adam Tegen, Belvidere’s director of planning, appears to not be taking sides.

“Does it meet A, B, C or D? If so, we will recommend approval,” Tegen said.

While the future of the mission in Belvidere remains unclear, Fahey’s mother has maintained one hope.

“We’re trying to stay strong because we have to stay strong for Ashley,” she said. “We want Ashley to come home.”

In two weeks, there will be a vote in Belvidere on the mission rezoning proposal.

Unit 5 made attempts to reach the mission for comment on this story, but no one returned repeated calls.


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, WMAQ, NBC5.com, Apr. 26, 2007, http://www.nbc5.com

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday April 27, 2007.
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