Renew My Church-Unification

Our Next Steps – The Unification Process, August 2022 and Beyond

Now that our pastor and associate pastor have been officially named to the parish of St. Mary-St. Nicholas we’ll be working to make this unification a joyous and spirit-filled experience. The archdiocese has assigned Vanessa Baldwin to us as a project manager to accompany our two churches through the process of unification which will take approximately one year. 
Meet the Unification Team of St. Mary-St. Nicholas [Unification Team]
We Continue the Naming Process:

Fr. Jean Philippe thanks everyone who submitted a suggestion for the new name for our parish. We collected 60 names! On August 31, the Unification Committee met to review all the names, and based on the Archdiocesan criteria for selection, 11 names were eligible to use. During the weekends of Sept 11/12 and Sept 17/18, all parishioners will have a chance to vote on the 11 names, ranking the top 5 of your choice. Ballots will be inserted in the bulletins, as well as a link to the online ballot. This is your opportunity to let us know your vote!

Once the ballots are tallied, the top three name choices will be given to Cardinal Cupich for his final review and decision. Our hope and prayer is that we’ll have our new name sometime in October. Please check here for all the updates.

Cardinal Cupich Names New Priests, Effective July 1 2022
Father Jean Philippe Lokpo
Pastor, Saint Mary-Saint Nicholas
Fr. Jean Philippe, born in Togo (West Africa), was ordained a priest on December 18, 2010, after studying theology at Catholic Theological Union. He served in the Comboni Missionaries Province of South Africa from 2011 to 2019. He then did a Spiritual Renewal course in Rome and was assigned to the North American Province in 2021. Fr. Jean Philippe speaks English, French, Italian and a South African language.
Father José Manuel Ortiz
Associate Pastor, Saint Mary-Saint Nicholas

Father José Ortiz, born in Cardenas in the Diocese of Tabasco (Mexico), was ordained a priest on August 21, 1999. He also studied theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He served in Mexico (1999-2005) in the Province of Central America (2006-2015), Mexico (2015-2019), Sabbatical in Rome (219-2020). He was assigned to the North American Province from July 1, 2021. He speaks English, Spanish, and Italian.

Renew My Church: Decision from Cardinal Cupich

On Saturday, January 29, 2022, Bishop Mark Bartosic delivered the Renew My Church decision from Cardinal Cupich for the Evanston Catholic community. Effective July 1, 2022, the communities of St. Mary and St. Nicholas will be unifying into one new parish with both churches remaining open for Sunday masses.
Please read the entire announcement below and click HERE to watch the announcement video recording.
Download: English or Spanish
Meet Saint Mary’s GFDT (Grouping Feedback & Discernment Team)
Our representatives to the Renew My Church Team for the Evanston Grouping
This team has completed its phase of the Renew My Church process and a new team, the Unification Team has been created to see us through the unification of our two churches into one new parish. (See their biographies above)

Kathy Benn

Kathy has been a parishioner with St. Mary’ since the early 80’s.  She has been active in the religious education program as a teacher and has also participated in the parish by lecturing and engagement with the Parish Council.  Kathy has worked in Sales and Account Management in  the Healthcare industry for her career and she resides in Evanston with her husband Adrian.  They have a son Patrick who is currently an officer with the Marines.

Shelley Benson

Shelley has been a faithful parishioner of Saint Mary Parish, Evanston since 1985. Along with her husband Jon, they have raised their family here with their three children, Joe, Mike, and Jillian. Their children were altar servers, went through confirmation, celebrated a wedding, had grandchildren baptized, and more at Saint Mary’s. This has truly been a home parish for the Benson family.

Shelley has served on Parish Council a number of terms, chaired the Building and Renovation committee during the 1999-2004 renovation project, currently serves on the Arts and Environment team, and is the coordinator for the Eurcharist Ministers ministry.

Shelley is excited to begin the next chapter of her life in retirement, beginning September 1, 2021. She leaves her position as Assistant Vice President of Talent Management for Mather, Evanston, with a sense of fulfillment, and is eager to begin doing those things on her growing list of retirement activities.

Carolyn Y. Buford

Carolyn has been a parishioner of Saint Mary, Evanston, Il. for eight years, following many years of membership in St. Mary, Rockville, MD; St. James, Arlington Heights, IL.; and St. Raymond, Mt. Prospect, IL. She is a former part-time volunteer in Saint Mary Parish Center.

Carolyn believes her mindset, skills and experiences will aid in the critical thinking, communication and leadership needed in meeting RMC’s goals and objectives. Ms. Buford’s career spanned some thirty-five years retiring as an internal auditing  executive of large commercial and secondary financial institutions, Chicago and Washington, DC. She earned BS and MS degrees from DePaul University, Chicago, IL. and enjoys the opera, travel and exercise.

Karie Ferrell

Karie has been a member of the staff of Saint Mary Parish since July 2000 and in parish ministry since 1989. She has fulfilled a number of roles  in ministry through the years, director of religious education, adult faith formation, youth ministry, webmaster, bulletin editor, hospitality. She has worked for the Office for Divine Worship, Archdiocese of Chicago, and has been an author for Liturgy Training Publications. These twenty years of ministering at St. Mary’s and collaborating with the Evanston cluster of parishes give her insight that will be useful in the Renew My Church process. She lives here in Evanston and has two grown sons.


John Hitt is a partner at the law firm Chapman and Cutler LLP and has been a parishioner at St. Mary since 2003.   He and his wife Stephanie have four children, all of whom attended Pope John XXIII school.   John served on the School Board at Pope John XXIII School for six years, serving as either President or Vice President for four of those years, and also served as a member of the Finance Committee of the School Board.   John also was an assistant coach for four years for various Poe John XXIII girls and boys basketball teams.  He currently is a member of the St. Mary Parish Finance Committee.
James Holzhauer-Chuckas, ObSB
James is an Oblate of the Benedictine Order and the senior director of United Catholic Youth Ministries in Evanston, which is the network for youth and young adult ministry in our Evanston parishes. James is, newly, married as of February 14, 2020 and lives with his partner, Denisse, in south Evanston. James has lived in Evanston for over 20 years and has a rich background in the parishes of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, having graduated from Pope John XXIII School and currently serves as the Director of Campus Ministry.
James has degrees from DePaul University in religious studies and non-profit administration as well as certification as a diversity practitioner from the Society for Diversity. James is bilingual in English and Spanish and did biblical studies in those languages as well as Ancient Greek, Latin, and Aramaic. James is a sharp advocate of human rights and collaborates with many non-profit organizations to bring the principles of Catholic Social Teaching to life in the world. For fun, James plays soccer and volleyball, loves Star Wars and Jurassic World and Park lore, and enjoys spending time with Denisse as well as friends and family.
Watch St. Mary’s 2nd Town Hall Meeting
October 12, 2021
Hear the possible scenarios for the future of St. Mary’s & the other Evanston parishes.

Watch St. Mary’s First  Town Hall Meeting
August 18, 2021
Introduction to the Renew My Church process for our Evanston Grouping