For the first time in 24 years, a stake of Zion is named after the city of Chicago proper.
Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy organized the Chicago Illinois Stake Jan. 24-25. In doing so, he divided the existing Chicago Heights Illinois Stake, renaming it the Valparaiso Indiana Stake. Elder Pinnock is president of the North America Central Area.The stake division culminated a complicated set of stake and mission boundary realignments in three states that have taken a year and a half to plan and execute, said William Goodman, released as Chicago Heights stake president and called as president of the renamed Valparaiso stake. He described the reorganization as historic and reflecting an exciting period of growth. Some 900 people thronged the Orland Park Ward meetinghouse in Chicago for the stake conference at which the division took place.
"It means that Indiana now has another stake
principallyT within its boundaries," Pres. Goodman said.
As for the new Chicago stake, its cosmopolitan makeup, he said, is reflected in the fact that it is tri-lingual, with only about 60 percent of the members speaking English. The other two predominant languages are Spanish and American Sign Language.
"The First Presidency has assigned the new Chicago stake to care for all the hearing-impaired Church members in the Chicago metropolitan area," Pres. Goodman explained. "They now belong to the Chicago 6th Branch. And in the new Chicago Stake, there are three Spanish-speaking units: Chicago 2nd Ward, Hyde Park 2nd Ward and Westchester 2nd Branch."
Alan Clair Jensen, who had been first counselor to Pres. Goodman in the Chicago Heights Stake, was called as president of the new Chicago Stake.
President Heber J. Grant organized the original Chicago Stake in 1936, the first in Illinois since the end of the Nauvoo era in 1846.
It existed under the name Chicago Stake until Jan. 14, 1974, when it was renamed the Wilmette Illinois Stake. (See Deseret News 1997-98 Church Almanac, pp. 188, 218.) Also on that date, the Chicago South Stake became the Naperville Illinois Stake.
Last July 1, the Illinois Chicago Mission was divided to form the Illinois Chicago North Mission. With the Jan. 24-25 stake division, each of the two Chicago missions now has four stakes within its boundaries.
"We had developed over the years a missionary effort among the Spanish-speaking people of the city that really had no boundaries," Pres. Goodman noted. "Often, Spanish-speaking people would be baptized in one stake while they lived in another. This created a dilemma when it came to setting up boundaries for the full-time missionaries. We have worked for some time to get the boundaries clarified."
As part of that effort, the Chicago 2nd (Spanish) Ward and the Cicero (Spanish) Branch were transferred from the Wilmette to the Chicago Heights stake when the mission was divided. "That set definite boundaries for priesthood leadership and was a great blessing for everybody involved," Pres. Goodman said. "It consolidated the neighborhoods for more effective missionary work."
He added: "Those two units coming into the Chicago Heights stake built up the momentum for the creation of a new Chicago stake. Now, in the new stake, we estimate are between 3,200 and 3,400 members, and more than 1,000 are Spanish-speaking." Then, with the addition of the American Sign Language branch, "it is a very mixed stake," Pres. Goodman said.
"It is very dynamic when you have that kind of mix. And the work of the Lord is continually moving forward among the African American population within the stake."
Two other stakes - South Bend Indiana to the east and Naperville Illinois to the west - were affected by the reorganization and realignment.
The La Porte Ward and the Michigan City Branch from the South Bend Stake were made a part of the renamed Valparaiso Indiana Stake. That alleviated an inconvenient situation in the South Bend Stake, which previously had units in two and, for part of the year, three different time zones. Most of the South Bend stake was in the Eastern Time Zone, but the two units that were transferred to Valparaiso Stake are in the Central Time Zone. Moreover, much of the Michigan City Branch is in Michigan, which recognizes daylight-saving time while Indiana does not.
"Pres. [Terry] Bleak in the South Bend stake said it had been quite a challenge to plan activities" with stake members living in three time zones, Pres. Goodman said.
The Valparaiso stake will retain one Illinois unit, the Chicago Heights Ward. The other units in the stake are the Griffith 1st and 2nd wards, Valparaiso Ward, La Porte Ward and the Michigan City Branch (which was realigned to include the resort community of Chesterton on the Lake Michigan shore and renamed the Chesterton Branch).
The new Chicago stake comprises the Hyde Park 1st Ward, serving students and other members at the University of Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology; Hyde Park 2nd (Spanish) Ward; Chicago 6th (American Sign Language) Branch; Ryan Woods Ward; Orland Park Ward; Chicago 2nd (Spanish) Ward; Westchester 1st Ward (transferred from the Naperville Illinois Stake); and Westchester 2nd (Spanish) Branch (a combination of the Cicero Branch and Melrose Park Branch, which was transferred from the Naperville stake).
Comprising only the south half of the city of Chicago plus suburbs to the south and southwest, the Chicago Stake is among the smallest non-Utah stakes in the Church geographically. Demographically, however, it takes in a population of more than 2 million, Pres. Goodman noted. It is bordered on the east by Lake Michigan and the Indiana state line; on the south by Interstate 80; on the west by the Tri-state Tollway and on the north by the Eisenhower Expressway.
Pres. Goodman contrasted that with the original Chicago Stake formed in 1936 that extended into Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.