September 8, 1982 was my 26th birthday and I was, at the time, somewhat estranged from my family. I found myself wondering where I came from and if perhaps the earlier generations of my family had it more together than my parents generation, thereby giving me more hope for my future. My father's birthday was coming up and because I hadn't seen him in a few years, I was thinking about him and wondered where and if he was baptized. I knew he had been born in Chicago but that's all I knew. I wondered how hard it would be to find out.
My parents had been married in the church where I had been baptized, Immaculate Conception - North Park, so I thought that would be a good place to start. They searched for Dad in their baptismal records and they could say for certain that he wasn't baptized there. As long as I had them on the phone, I asked for them to send me a copy of their marriage record. I knew where mom was baptized, Saint Michael's on Cleveland Street, and since they lived in the same neighborhood, I called that church. They didn't have Dad's baptismal record either. But again, since I had them on the phone, I asked them to send Mom's baptismal record.
Then I called the church where my older brother had been baptized, Saint Mary of the Lake, and again no luck. Then it dawned on me that the church that married them would have to know if they were both baptized Christians. I called Immaculate Conception back again and yes in the marriage information that they had, they knew that Dad had been baptized in Saint Ita's church on Broadway. I had never heard of that church before.
I called Saint Ita's and Dad's baptismal record was on the way. It turned out to be much easier than I would have thought. I was prepared at the time to call every Catholic Church in the City of Chicago if I had to, because now I had a mission.
Growing up, whenever we asked a question of my mother, she'd always respond, "go look it up". I can't remember ever getting a straight answer from her. My Dad on the other hand, would tell us anything we'd want to know and he instilled in us a love of learning. So between the two of them I got a love of learning and the ability to search until I found the answer to almost anything.
A week or so later, I received my Dad's baptismal certificate in the mail and it told me a lot. Dates, names of his Godparents, the priest who baptized him, but the best find was on the back. The church listed the other sacraments that he would have received over his lifetime, and space to write in the name of the Church if it was known. My Dad received his First Holy Communion at Saint Thomas of Canterbury Church in Chicago.
I considered all this a goldmine and all of a sudden had a million more questions that I wanted answers to.