Church officials in Chicago are praising the “Christmas miracle” — a last minute donation that saved the city's 120-year-old church from the auction block.
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood was set to go up for auction after a bank foreclosed on the property, which was saddled with $8 million in debt, The Associated Press reported Friday.
Parishioners came for a final service on Thursday to say their goodbyes before the Friday auction.
“A lot of people thought that this was it and it was hard to see,” the Rev. Nicholas Jonas said.
An eleventh hour phone surprise, however, appeared to save one of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the midwest.
Church leaders say they received a phone call just before midnight from a group of benefactors who offered a nearly $2 million donation.
“We prayed for a miracle to happen, and we didn’t give up,” Jonas said. “A group of guardian angels came forward.”
The nonprofit responsible for the donation wished to remain anonymous but at least one member of the congregation is affiliated with the group, church leaders said.
The money will allow the church to file for bankruptcy, halting the auction. The donation will also prevent the church from being demolished by an investment bank firm, Parish Council President Stanley Andreakis told the AP.
The church now has some time to sell a closed school it owns in northern suburban Deerfield for extra funds, CBS Chicago reported.
“We feel like kids. You wake up at Christmas and you have a present,” he said. “You are like, ‘I get to keep my church.’”
Services will continue over the weekend ahead of the Christmas holiday.