I grew up in the Catholic church my whole life. I was baptized a Catholic, Confirmed as a Catholic, & attended Catholic grade school and high school. I was invited to sing for Pope John Paul II in Rome and participated in numerous ministries at our family’s church.
The Catholic church has admittedly had issues in the past decade with dwindling attendance. Many reasons can be blamed for that. So, why wouldn’t Catholic churches around the world be trying all they could to welcome people into their churches? Enter Old St. Patrick’s (Old St. Pat’s) Church in Chicago, Illinois.
Old St. Pat’s is a historic church. Built more than 150 years ago, the structure represents decades of many happy memories and some that are not so happy. When I started Delack Media Group, one of the very first weddings we filmed was at Old St. Pat’s. Our style of filming weddings has certainly changed over the years. Nevertheless, after the wedding, I sent the officiating priest a link to the wedding trailer we created. I remember the priest replying back via email with positive praise. At the same time, I heard rumblings amongst other Chicago wedding vendors that Old St. Pat’s was planning on adding a preferred vendor list. I replied back to his email asking about that list and how I could get on the list. No reply.
Fast forward several years and we were contacted by a bride who was getting married at Old St. Pat’s. She loved our style of filming weddings and wanted us to videotape her day (including the important wedding ceremony). By this point, there was a well-established wedding vendor list at Old St. Pat’s. Brides who wanted to get married at Old St. Pat’s and would like to have photos and video taken of their ceremony were now required to choose a photographer and videographer only from the preferred wedding vendor list provided by the church.
It’s a mystery to many on the outside how the vendors were included on the list in the first place. I figured a quick call to the wedding coordinator would clear things up. I was wrong. I left several voicemails and also emailed her; none of which were returned.
Remembering my previous email conversation with the pastor, I also attempted to reach him by phone. His secretary advised me that anything related to weddings (including the vendor list) had to go through the wedding coordinator. So, here I was…completely stuck. I have a client who’d love to have us film her day but the church won’t let us inside. The bride also tried separately to speak with the church staff about including us on their vendor list (so that we could capture her ceremony) and she was met with a stern “No”!
I did end up booking the wedding, but sat outside the church while the wedding ceremony was going on. I sat on the stairs of Old St. Pat’s thinking of how this was the first time a Catholic church has told me that I was not welcomed inside their doors. For me, that was a sad day and a lonely hour watching the Chicago traffic drive by the church. I couldn’t help but think how God was feeling for me at that hour.
As an entrepreneur who was worked very hard to build my business up, it was extremely disheartening to hear that someone was trying to limit my potential income. To know that a Catholic church was behind all this was unfathomable. For a religious organization (who’s already suffering attendance issues) to prohibit people from attending their services; much less a religious sacrament is unforgivable. The church’s website even talks about the importance of gathering. “Gathering is so important to us”, the church’s website says about its mission. “Gathering in order to be nourished and fed by the Spirit is essential to our identity.” So, why then is Old St. Pat’s turning away wedding vendors? Perhaps it’s because a few bad apples spoiled the pot? Perhaps you have to pay to play? I have no idea, but in any case, the wedding vendor list at Old St. Pat’s is alienating brides and is leaving a sour taste in the mouth of many wedding photographers/videographers in Chicago. Now that the vendor list has been in place for a few years, Old St. Pat’s is beginning to develop a reputation amongst the wedding community in Chicago that is not positive. I met with another bride this week who had initially planned on getting married at Old St. Pat’s, but decided against it solely because of the wedding vendor list….certainly a sad testament for the church.
That’s my two cents. Please let me know yours in the comments section below.