By Karie Angell Luc For Chronicle Media
For those looking for a sign of spring, or for hope springs eternal, maybe all they need to do is look up at a cloudy windowpane for clarity.
On the second floor of the St. Celestine Pastoral Center, 3020 N. 76th Court in Elmwood Park, is a set of windows in the office of the Rev. Paul Cao, pastor of St. Mother Theodore Guerin Parish.
Condensation droplets and whatever the elements have done to one of the windows have made what appears to be a figure of the Virgin Mary to believers.
The window faces a one-way street near Chicago’s border, lined with historic bungalows along St. Celestine Church in a neighborhood where people frequently walk their dogs and families go for strolls.
On March 28, several people, including neighbors and visitors, agreed the window figure looked like the Blessed Mother, seeing details including a face, hair, shawl and hands.
One viewer reported seeing a cascade of roses and a rosary with a cross in Mary’s hands.
Cao compares the window’s likeness to popular variations of images of the Virgin Mary found in places worldwide and here inside St. Celestine Church.
“It looks like it might be Our Lady of Guadalupe or looks like an image of the Blessed Mother,” Cao said. “It looks like an image of the Blessed Virgin.”
Is this a blessed manifestation or a phenomenon interpreted by the eye of the beholder?
“I don’t want to say it’s a miracle, I mean, it’s up to the people,” Cao said.
“It’s up to the people that pass by, but for me, yeah,” Cao said, “it looks like a Blessed Mother.”
The parish was formed in 2018 by combining St. Cyprian Church of River Grove and St. Celestine Church.
Cao came to St. Celestine Church in 2013 as pastor, “But I didn’t pay attention, you know, to the window and one day, I looked up,” said Cao, seeing, “‘Oh, the image of like, a Blessed Mother.’”
That was seven or eight years ago, Cao recalled.
“And it’s still there and even the rain, and the sun,” Cao said, “and the image is still (there).”
Inside St. Celestine Church are numerous devotions to the Virgin Mary, including large artwork of the Blessed Mother familiar to Catholics.
Cao said people have noticed the image for a while. At a Friday night Lenten pasta dinner held at the church on March 24, several parishioners softly said they were fond of the Mary window and knew others in the community who were also aware.
Cao spoke of a colleague who noticed the Virgin Mary shape in the window.
“In the office, one of the staff one day, I talked to her and she looked (saying), ‘Oh, it looks like a Blessed Mother,’” Cao recalled.
Last December, lighting was installed inside the interior windowpane. With a flip of a switch, the idea was to light up the window for Christmas and brighten people’s lives at the holidays.
Months later, on March 28, a motorist who parked in front of the pastoral center said she was looking at Mary Mother before getting in her car to drive off into the sunset.
Good Friday is April 7 and Easter is April 9. Cao plans to leave the lights on at night and may keep doing so as adoration of the Blessed Mother continues perpetually.
“In May is the month of Our Blessed Mother, the May crowning, beginning of May, so I can leave it on the whole month of May for people, you know, to pass by and they can pray to a Blessed Mother,” Cao said.
One area Catholic who remained anonymous brought purple flowers, a color for the season of Lent, and gave them to Cao.
Cao brought the flowers inside the office and put them by the window in what might be considered as a launch of a shrine offering and gesture by a believer.
Oscar R. Tesoro of Chicago stopped by the pastoral center on March 28, saying hello to Cao. Tesoro looked up at the windowpane among curious onlookers.
Was it the Blessed Mother?
“I think so, I think so,” Tesoro said, indicating he was seeing, “the face of the Virgin (Mary).”
Cao may install a statue of the Virgin Mary in the vicinity of the pastoral center’s front lawn, creating a space for people to pray and reflect.
“If people stop by and take a look, if they look at the image and it inspires them, and helps them to comfort them, or ask the Blessed Mother to strengthen or anything to help them,” Cao said, “I think to help them to be closer to Christ, to be closer to our Blessed Mother, I think that’s a great thing, to be faithful to God.”