Parish History (Taken from "A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago" Published 1980

To meet the needs of 560 Catholic families who lived in the west end of the village of Northbrook, a fast-growing suburb in northern Cook County, John Cardinal Cody appointed Rev. Robert Herne to organize a new parish, effective May 15, 1968. The Northbrook area was developing so rapidly that St. Norbert Church at Walters and Spruce could no longer accommodate the Catholic population. Father Hern came to Northbrook from St. Richard Church in Chicago where he had served as Associate Pastor. He celebrated Mass for the first time on June 30, 1968 in the cafeteria of Glenbrook South high school, near West Lake Ave. and Pfingsten Road. This arrangement continued for the next four years.

A two-story home at 1495 Sanders Road was purchased and converted into a parish center. The building contained living quarters, a meeting room, an office for the Catechetical Coordinator, a chapel, and a confessional. As a result of an Archdiocesan policy restricting the construction of grammar schools, Our Lady of the Brook parish did not establish the traditional parish school. As in many of the new suburban parishes in the Archdiocese, a Christian Education Program was begun. By the fall of 1968, Susan Talty was coordinating religious education classes for grade school and high school students; classes were then held in private homes in the parish. In the summer of 1969, Sister Jo Ann Persch, RSM took over the responsibilities of Catechetical Coordinator, assuming the title of Director of Religious Education. She was succeeded in 1973 by Sister Mary Gleason, IVBM, who served through the 1978/79 academic school year.

Our Lady of the Brook parish was canonically established on Aug. 11, 1969 and the following boundaries were set: the Lake Cook Road on the north, Willow Road on the south, Milwaukee Ave. on the west and Pfingsten Road on the east.

Following the official establishment of the parish, plans for a Worship Center were commenced under the direction of a building committee. When the final design was completed by architect Donald Sunshine of Sunshine, Jaeger & Kupritz, permission was obtained so that construction could begin. On Nov. 8, 1970, ground at 3700 Dundee Road was broken for the new building. The New World noted that, “After the official groundbreaking, each parish family will break ground with small shovels and trowels and will take a portion of earth to their homes. They will be given seeds to plant in this earth, symbolizing the spiritual growth of each individual along with structural growth of the worship center. “

Between 1968 and 1970, parish membership more than doubled, from 350 to 750 families. Our Lady of the Brook parish was featured in an article in The New World of March 5, 1971. Father Herne recounted how he and his parishioners had worked to create the community of spirit necessary for a parish. According to The New World, “Starting a parish in Northbrook was a complex operation. In the case of most parishioners it involved separation from a parish with which they had identified for years. St. Norbert had just completed construction of a church; the new parish had no physical facilities. St. Norbert had a good school; the new parish did not anticipate building a school at all…Father Herne had the job of developing distinctly separate parish pride and loyalty while maintaining strong ties to St. Norbert.”

About 200 children from Our Lady of the Brook parish were then enrolled in St. Norbert School. Moreover, one third of the seats on the St. Norbert Parish School Board were held by members of the new parish.

Home liturgies became a way of bringing together the priest and people of Our Lady of the Brook parish. From the start, parishioners were very much involved in decision-making; indeed, the parish name was selected by popular ballot. Bi-weekly planning sessions included the priests, catechetical director, and four lay couples. On May 6, 1972, Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new Worship Center. On the following day, Father Herne celebrated the 25th Anniversary of his ordination. Cardinal Cody traveled to Northbrook on Nov. 5, 1972 to dedicate Our Lady of the Brook Worship Center.

Two fundamental objectives of the 27,400 square foot structure were “to build less and use it more” and “to provide a particular environment for a variety of activities.” Flexibility was achieved by the use of platforms – including the altar – which could be moved in and out by means of a compressed air system and the hydrofoil principle. The building provides seating for 800 persons with overflow seating to accommodate a total of 1400 persons. A small chapel – used for daily Mass – is at the west end of the structure; it seats 180 persons. A complex includes space for religious education and social gatherings as well as administration – rectory quarters.

The unique, multi-faceted building was called a prototype for parishes in the future. Our Lady of the Brook Worship Center is a contemporary design with a brick façade. Inside, clear glass windows close to the ceiling provide a view of the sky from many angles. The west wall behind the altar is a stained glass window depicting major doctrines of Catholicism. A social area is located at the entrance to the building and this space can be closed off from the rest of the center by a divider. A detailed description of the church was published in the New World on Aug. 24, 1979.

Our Lady of the Brook continued to grow in membership, from 900 families in 1975 to 1300 in 1979. No one ethnic group predominated. The Women’s Club, organized in 1968, was active in promoting a family feeling in the parish. There was also a Teen Club for high school students and the Brookers, a theatrical group which produced an original musical every year. Assisting in the celebration of the Mass were the Choir, Organists, Guitarists, Commentators, Lectors, Ushers, Servers, and Eucharistic Ministers. The Liturgy Group met twice a month to prepare Sunday liturgies. The parish Religious Education Board headed up the Christian Education Program. Active parish groups included the Legion of Mary, Ladies’ Board, Christian Family Movement, Charismatic Group and several Bible groups. The Ministry of Care program was lead by Sister Geogianna McGregor, BVM, involved in establishing a pastoral ministry program at the Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview.

The Religious Education Program at the time had a Director, five coordinators, an administrative assistant and a secretary. Our Lady of the Brook participated in ecumenical activities: in 1975, the parish and community – in conjunction with the Northbrook Clergy Association – sponsored a Vietnamese family. Church Women United used the worship center to promote their programs. The Northbrook community uses the facilities for election day, and occasionally, the school district used the facilities for PTA meetings and luncheons. Rev. Robert McDonald was associate pastor of the church, and Michael Murray was the first permanent deacon to be ordained from the parish.

*End of 1980 article*