The Chicago metropolitan area is large and varied. You can find whatever it is you want here… and everything you’d prefer to let pass by, also. But you will find a certain vibrancy which is inherant in a major metropolis that may not be present elsewhere. The faith of immigrant communities, in particular, and the community which they traditionally form for their parishes is strong and inspiring. The Polish community is the larest outside Warsaw. The various Hispanic parishes are very family oriented.
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, of interesting communities… and often people pitch in, get to know each other, stay connected for many years. It is a place which people tend to consider “home”. Once you have lived in Chicago, it stays with you forever. It truly is like a big “town”.
Suburban parishes may be large and vibrant or bland and typical. Often they have no parish schools, but large religious education programs. City parishes more often have Catholic schools, though many have closed for lack of enrollment in recent years. The Catholic high school system is largely run by religious orders here, of which there are many.
The politics of the people in the city is decidedly Democratic. But that doesn’t necessarily mean liberal. Often people’s real views, while perhaps somewhat egalitarian as suits a metropolis, lean more traditional. There are a lot of old skool Democrats here. Though certainly there are the very left liberals both socially and within the Church. Indeed, the North Shore Republicans tend to not exactly always be conservatives, save in ecomonics, perhaps. DuPage County (within the diocese of Joliet) trends more right wing politically, though religiously it may or may not be more conservative, again depending where exactly you choose to go.
Undoubtedly, the academic environment here tends to support and foster progressivist thinking. Chicago has long been a base of liberal Catholic thought and innovation…sometimes for the good, sometimes for the troublesome.
Yet it has it’s more conservative elements, also. There is significant memebership among Opud Dei locally. We have traditioanlist groups (both attached to the Church, like at SSPX). And some parishes just have a more conservative/traditional bent. Again, certain immigrant populations tend to adhere to the old world practices which may be in line with something you’d be more comfortable with.
Of course, Chicago has cultural institutions which offer opportunities of great potential. Not to mention the extensive parks. And the lake. Even transportation is significant.
Chicago is the 2nd largest Archdiocese in the country - and that doesn’t include neighboring dioceses which are part of the Metropolitan area. And, yet, there is so much ethnic/racial, cultural, and religious diversity which enriches the environment, also.
The wunnerful city uf Chicaga has so much to offer, but it also has it’s own tuft. As Nelson Algren wrote in his famous poem of many years ago, entitled City on the Make, "Once you’ve come to be a part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.”
So is Chicago a good place to raise a family? I think so! But it all depends on what you’re looking for, I suppose. Come visit for a few days and see what you think.