Sunday, April 8th
Our Best Friend
By Thomas Groome
In the First Letter of Saint John, we read this extraordinary three-word description of God: It boldly states, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This is the cumulative punchline to God’s self-disclosure over the previous 2,000 years, first to the Israelites and then in God’s own Son, Jesus, the Christ. The Hebrew Scriptures reveal many attributes of God—of mercy, justice, loving kindness, compassion, graciousness, and so on. Now, encouraged by the teachings of Jesus, John summarizes “God is love.” And to say God is love is to say that God is in love—with us.
Note well the Greek term here is agape. So God is love toward us with the fullest form of altruistic love. God does not love us because we earn or deserve it, but out of infinite generosity. And God continues to love us unconditionally—even if we don’t return God’s love. There is literally nothing we can do to stop God from loving us.
From ancient times, philosophers have also recognized this kind of agapaic love as the highest form of friendship. It is not based on utility, nor on familial relationships, nor on eros. It is love, pure and simple, given without deserving or even expecting return. That God is infinite agape toward us means God is our best friend.
The first part of 1 John 4:8 is the clue to how we are to respond and live into our friendship with God. The full verse reads, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” In other words, our friendships are precisely how we can come to “know” this God who is love. This could not be otherwise. Created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), we are made to love and be loved. To live without love/friendship negates who we are and blocks us from experiencing God’s love/friendship. As John says a few verses later, “Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
Might our divine friendship prompt us to share our friends with God and God with our friends? We can surely raise up our friends before God, praying for them, asking God to bless them, that we be good friends together. And, as appropriate, why not share our divine friendship with our friends? To witness that God is our best friend can inspire human friends to consider or deepen their own divine friendship.
Professor Thomas Groome is a professor of theology and religious education and the director of the Church in the 21st Century at Boston College.
Sunday, March 11th
By Father Tom Hurley
I know that I often joke around about “March Madness” which goes far beyond the NCAA basketball tournament. I talk about “Catholic March Madness” because it seems like so much is jammed in to this one month of March. And this year: it is! So once again, I’d like to highlight a few things happening in the “brackets” of our Old St. Pat’s March Madness in the hopes that you’ll start marking calendars and join us for these great moments. I know a lot of these items you’ll find in other parts of this publication but, as your pastor, I am feeling the need and urgency to make a more pointed invitation to everyone.
As you can see around the city, it’s turning Green these days in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day. No one celebrates our patronal saint’s day better or longer than Old St. Pat’s. We’ve been honoring this great missionary here in our part of Chicago since 1846. Please help us keep this great tradition going by joining us next Sunday March 18 at 1:00 pm for our community celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Complete with the Sheila Tully Irish dancers, the Shannon Rovers, and our Irish traditional instruments, there’s no better place to pray in thanksgiving than in this magnificent house of prayer.
On Wednesday evening March 21 we welcome Sister Diane Bergant from Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park who will lead us in a Lenten evening and we’ll have the opportunity to celebration the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Diane is a leading biblical scholar and person of great energy and wisdom. I know you’ll enjoy her presentation.
Friday, March 23 at 5:30 we host our annual Fish Fry for Lent. Since it started a few years ago, it’s proven to be a great community builder. Come join us!
After we celebrate Palm Sunday together on March 25, we head in to the most significant week for us as a Christian people. I’ve never been in a church before that celebrates Holy Week like Old St. Pat’s. The intentionality and vibrancy with which we gather people and celebrate these sacred liturgies of the Paschal Triduum are a great life-giving experience.
Holy Thursday is March 29 and our Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins at 7:30 concluding with the Night Watch. Prior to gathering at the Lord’s Table, it has become customary at Old St. Pat’s to gather first at the dinner table together. This year, we welcome some of our young adults who will perform a few of their pieces from Broadway on Adams during the dinner.
Good Friday is a day of prayer and there are numerous opportunities. A few of us clergy persons will be available at 10:00 a.m. for those who would like to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion will be celebrated at 12:00 noon and again at 5:00 p.m. Terry Nelson-Johnson does a remarkable job at leading the Stations of the Cross at 3:00 p.m. And then, for the first time on Good Friday, we will host the Seven Last Words of Christ at 7:00 p.m. We will welcome the internationally acclaimed Rachel Barton who will perform in this moving experience of music and reflection on the Seven Last Words.
Holy Saturday Easter Vigil March 31st is an incredible experience when we formally welcome close to 45 adults into the Catholic experience. If you’ve never been to the Easter Vigil, you should consider coming this year. Witnessing these extraordinary adults say “yes” to the Lord in this moment of initiation is nothing short of inspirational.
Finally, a big big thanks to those who got March Madness started already this past Tuesday March 6th. Under the direction of Bill Fraher who conducts our concert choirs and the great coordination of Sheila Greifhahn who directs all of our special events, our 22nd annual Siamsa na nGael was just outstanding. Entitled “How does it feel to be free” this remarkable presentation on the life of Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell, highlighting the plight of slavery that continues to plague our world today, the writers, singers, players, narrators, and dancers were nothing short of excellent. Thank you again and again for all who supported this significant cultural event of Old St. Pat’s which truly is our gift to the city.
Thank you for being the Church and making it happen each and every day! Blessings to you in this time of March Madness as we pray for one another and for the world we are called to serve in the name of the Gospel.
Father Tom Hurley
Thursday, March 29 | Holy Thursday
Community Dinner | 6:00 p.m.
Registration: Click here.
Contact: Keara Ette | email@example.com
Mass of the Lord’s Supper | 7:30 p.m.
Night Watch | 9 p.m. – 12 a.m.
The church will be open until midnight for silent prayer and reflection
Friday, March 30 | Good Friday
Sacrament of Reconciliation: Individual Confessions
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Old St. Patrick’s Church
Contact: Tom Micinski | firstname.lastname@example.org
Liturgy of the Passion and Death of Our Lord
Time: Noon & 5 p.m.
Location: Old St. Patrick’s Church
After the 5 p.m. Passion Liturgy and before the 7:30 p.m. Seven Last Words of Christ, there will be an optional simple soup supper in Hughes Hall
Contact: Tom Micinski | email@example.com
Stations of the Cross Service
Time: 3 p.m.
Location: Old St. Patrick’s Church
Contact: Tom Micinski | firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross
Time: 7:30 pm in the church.
Contact: Mark Scozzafave | email@example.com
Saturday, March 31 | Holy Saturday
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Location: Old St. Patrick’s Church
Contact: Tom Micinski | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 1 | Easter
Masses will take place at 7, 8, 9:30, 11:15 a.m. & 1 p.m.
7 a.m.: Church
8 a.m.: Church, Hall
9:30 a.m.: Church, Hall, Cafe, Gym
11:15 a.m.: Church, Hall, Cafe, Gym
1 p.m.: Church
NO 5 or 8 p.m. Masses
Sunday, February 25th
By Fr. Tom Hurley
In the wake of the Parkland High School shooting and the killing of Commander Paul Bauer, I said last week in my homily that something has to be done about the epidemic of guns in this country. Although the shock and horror of Columbine (and every other senseless killing before and after the events of Colorado) should have been the impetus for change, nothing seems to change. I have been watching closely the actions and words of the high school kids in Florida who have been courageous and outspoken about the need for change in this country when it comes to gun control and mental health treatment. I am fearful that once the television cameras no longer focus on these kids, the energy for change will dwindle.
I also mentioned last week during the homily that there have been some voices who have been upset when we, as priests on the altar, start mentioning things related to politics. But I also said that for me, this is not about politics: this is personal. I was 16 years old when my sister was killed by someone with a gun. I have credibility to speak on this issue. And besides, this is not about politics: this is also about the Gospel. I have no desire or expertise to get into politics. I was ordained to preach the Gospel. The Good News of Jesus Christ which we are called to proclaim is the gospel of Life, Non Violence, and Peace. How we protect human life, God’s greatest gift to us, from the womb to a natural death (not by violence) is what we as disciples are called to preach, practice, and defend. The late Cardinal Bernardin called it the Consistent Ethic of Life, or the Seamless Garment. While there are many layers to this: poverty, education, drugs, guns, abortion, capital punishment, homelessness, the Gospel calls us to be proclaimers of the Kingdom of God which is all about protecting God’s creation. We have serious work to do.
I hope the cameras stay on those kids in Florida and throughout the United States. They seem to be the ones whose voices make the most sense and their outcry is real and spot on. I am marking my calendar for March 24th and I hope you do as well. This appears to be the date when there will be marches for gun control.
I also want to share something I received from the Community Renewal Society, a faith based organization of which Old St. Pat’s is a member. The Reverend Robbie Craig, CRS’s Interim Excecutive Director, wrote in a recent letter: “We must take action to end the killing of our children and others in our communities by calling on our government to make changes at every level. We can begin today in our state. Right now in Illinois, Senate Bill SB 1657, The Gun Dealer Licensing Act, which passed the Senate in April 2017, is pending in the House.
“SB 1657 would give Illinois the ability to encourage and enforce better business practices for gun dealers and hold corrupt dealers accountable. This bill, supported by the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, will provide critical oversight to curb a major source of illegally trafficked firearms from entering communities in Illinois. I’m urging you to take action now by telling/demanding your state representative to vote YES on SB1657, The Gun Dealer Licensing Act, to help keep kids safe from violence. Let’s work together in faith and action to protect God’s Children.”
I’ve never really written articles like this before. It’s not been my style. But as your pastor, I cannot be silent any longer. This violence must stop.
For a peace in the world,
Father Tom Hurley
Sunday, February 18th
By Keara Ette
Gathered at Table: What Are You Hungry For?
“Old St. Pat’s is such a great church. It’s like you really have it all together.” “What a great array of ministries you have there – it must be a community really motivated in faith and mission!”
These recent compliments about us elicited from me two different responses. At first, I smiled and proudly said something like, “Thank you! I love being part of this community!” But my secondary response was one that gave me pause: I thought to myself: “Wait – do people actually think that we (members of this faith community and leaders of these ministries) actually have our acts together?” Of course, then my Catholic guilt complex gets going and I wonder if I should have tracked down those individuals to confess to them that I, and often many of us here, are actually a mess.
Because while it is always our goal to “put our best foot forward” for the members who give of themselves with such passion and generosity and for the visitors who have heard so many good things about us …the truth is that Old St. Pat’s is a community of broken people. Over the course of my 10.5 years as a part of this community, I have been the humble recipient of stories of people whose lives, relationships, identities, and spirits have been broken open … and a world that didn’t always hold them tenderly at those moments. I have been part of moments that felt like we “were at our best,” and I have seen us fail to truly follow the radical call of the Gospel, the radical challenge of discipleship.
I am also reminded of a story that Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ often tells* of a young man who was finishing up the 18-month process of job training and transition at Homeboy Industries. Fr. Greg had asked him to share his story at a conference room full of social workers. The young man shared:
“My mom beat me every single day of my elementary school years with things you could imagine and a lot of things you couldn’t. Every day my back was bloodied and scarred. In fact, I had to wear three t-shirts to school each day: first t-shirt because the blood would seep through; second t-shirt you could still see it; finally the third t-shirt you couldn’t see any blood. Kids at school, they’d make fun of me, ‘Hey, fool, it’s 100 degrees, why you wearing three t-shirts?’”
And then, he stopped speaking, so overwhelmed with emotion, and he seemed to be staring at a piece of his story that only he could see. When he could regain his speech, he said through his tears, “I wore three t-shirts well into my adult years because I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want anybody to see them. But now I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my scars. My wounds are my friends. After all, how can I help heal the wounded if I don’t welcome my own wounds?”
Throughout Lent, what would it look like if we all did some excavating of the soul? What might happen if we were able to Gather at the Table with our authentic selves to be transformed by the Spirit along with the bread and the wine? What would it look like if we held up our hurts along with the hurts of others who have been cast aside or cast out?
Fr. Greg seems to think that if we make friends with our wounds, we are able to more naturally stand with the wounded who are poor, marginalized, discarded. And when we stand with these wounded brothers and sisters, we might “stand in awe at what they have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”
Are we willing to risk this work during Lent? Can we let ourselves deeply consider, “What am I hungry for?” If we do, perhaps we can discover if our common brokenness, our common, hunger, and our common humanity might draw us together in kinship, and bring forth the hope of new life and Easter Resurrection.
*This story can be found in Fr. Greg’s new book, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship (Simon and Schuster, 2017).
Sunday, February 12th
By Fr. Tom Hurley
I just wanted to use this column this week to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your gracious and kind receptivity to my message last Sunday, February 4th at all the Sunday liturgies here at Old St. Pat’s. I received many emails throughout the course of the week that were very complimentary and likewise very affirming of people’s intentions of participating in the Annual Catholic Appeal. For those who could not be with us last Sunday, by way of summary, I spoke at all the liturgies last week about the significance of Mark’s gospel of Jesus reaching out and grasping the hand of Peter’s Mother in Law who was sick with a fever. The mother-in-law gets more than just a cure. She understands the deep power of healing which goes beyond just the elimination of a fever. She realizes the importance of discipleship and our call to participate in it.
This is what Jesus is trying to show his newly formed group of friends. And then the whole town gathers at the door- way, because everyone is carrying some burden that is in need of healing. Our call as disciples is to transform the town, offer healing and second chances, and then move on to the next town.
Connecting that beautiful gospel text to the Cardinal’s energetic call to keep renewing the Church of Chicago and our shared responsibility to ‘transform our town,’ I made the “ask” for everyone to help us achieve our goal for the Annual Catholic Appeal this year. As I mentioned, the goal for Old St. Patrick’s Church is $170k and because of your ongoing generosity, I know we can both meet and exceed that goal. I pointed out last Sunday that when we go past our goal, everything else we raise will be used for our newly formed Old St. Pat’s Relief, which is our way of respond-ing to humanitarian needs around the world. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and following our previous outreach to victims of Katrina many years ago, a group of Old St. Pat’s members felt it was necessary to build a fund and a process so that we can be better prepared to respond immediately when, unfortunately, a need arises. So remember, anything that goes beyond $170k remains with us! Therefore, I just want offer a gentle invitation again to please consider a pledged gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal. As I mentioned in the e-blast from last week and my reflections last Sunday, I am making a $1,000 pledge to the ACA this year. I don’t keep mentioning that for the purpose of bragging (that’s not good) but only to be transparent and let you know that I think a pastor’s involvement is really important. I never want to ask you to do something that I myself am not willing to do also.
Okay, enough about the ACA. Let’s move on to Lent! This week we begin what is known as the Springtime of the church year. Beginning Wednesday with Ash Wednesday, we usher in this sacred time of the year for us to keep deepening our faith and being aware of our spiritual hungers. Even though the calendar says February 14th and thus Valentine’s Day, what better way to show our Love than to gather for ashes and begin this holy time together.
So I hope you’ll join us throughout the day on Wednesday and likewise during this season of Lent. Among the various opportunities to be inspired and renewed, I invite you to mark your calendars for February 20th with internationally acclaimed speaker Edwina Gately and March 21st for our Evening of Reconciliation and we welcome renowned scripture scholar Diane Bergant. Both of these will be evenings you will not want to miss. These are incredible voices in the church today.
Have a great week. See you on Ash Wednesday.
Fr. Tom Hurley
Sunday, February 4th
Sunday, July 16, 2017
By Patti Dougherty
Whom among us doesn’t desire to feel welcomed? As a new parishioner at Old St Pat’s nearly ten years ago, I attended a New Member Dinner where I was formally welcomed to OSP. Besides learning the rich history of the church and the mission of the parish, I met about 25 other new members. Like undoubtedly so many before me, I already felt that radical hospitality that is synonymous with OSP before attending the dinner, but was eager to learn more about “my” new church. As a life-long Catholic, in the five parishes that I had attended as an adult, this was the first new member dinner for which I had been extended an invitation. So how could I possibly say “No” to being wined and dined?!!
At the time I attended, the dinner was catered, served by OSP volunteers, and held in Hughes Hall. It was a lovely occasion, with a tour of the church, cocktail gathering, dinner, a welcome by Father Hurley, and an opportunity to introduce oneself and how each of us made our way to OSP. As a result of attending the dinner, I wanted to extend the hospitality that had been shown to me by volunteering my time to help serve the monthly dinners.
At the time I served my first dinner, the venue had moved to the church rectory and was now being planned and prepared by OSP member, Joe Schroeder, a personal chef who volunteered his time and incredible talent. In 2014 Joe had an opportunity to move to North Carolina with his partner, all involved with the dinners were saddened by the news. But as fate (or the Holy Spirit) would have it, at the last dinner he prepared, Zahra Kasza was in attendance with her husband, Tom. In learning that it would be Joe’s last dinner, Zahra, a nutritionist and former restaurant owner in Nantucket, stepped up to replace him. Aided by her mother, Shirin, at her side, she seamlessly filled Joe’s big shoes, continuing the tradition of preparing feasts fit for kings. Because of the Journey Forward Campaign which included remodeling of the rectory, last year the dinners moved from the rectory to either a restaurant or the 711 building. As we edge closer to coming full circle, we are all eager to return to the beautifully renovated new rectory which will hopefully take place in late summer.
If you or someone you know is new to Old St. Pat’s and has not yet been extended an invitation to attend a New Member Dinner, feel free to contact Lauren McCallick, Director of Development, at 312-831-9355 or at laurenm@ oldstpats.org. New members are also offered an invitation to meet with a new member ambassador to help them navigate the many ministries, services, and activities of interest to them at OSP
As I look back, little did I know at that first dinner how something as simple as the call to volunteer would change my life. How was I to know that the other volunteers would become close personal friends with whom we would share the special occasions of our lives, the joys and heartaches of life, and impromptu “Just Pizza” nights with lively discussions about spirituality and religion. How was I to know that at an age that is considered beyond middle age, I would make new friends that I felt I had known my entire life, and that I know will forever be an integral part of my life. How was I to know that OSP which draws from 200+ zip codes would be my adult spiritual home comparable only to the 30-family St. Isidore Catholic Church, my childhood spiritual home nestled among the corn and bean fields in Central Illinois.
The New Member Dinner Volunteers and the New Member Ambassadors are two ministry groups at Old St. Pat’s. Our dinner volunteers host new members for a special meal once per month. Our New Member Ambassadors are responsible for reaching out to recent additions to the Old St. Pat’s community. They welcome new members with a phone call or email and work to set up one-on-one conversations for further discussion and sharing. We are so blessed to have volunteers like Pat Dougherty who really are the face of hospitality to new Old St. Pat’s members. If you might be interested in either (or both!) of these ministries, please reach out to Lauren McCallick (email@example.com, 312-831-9355) for more information.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
By Lauren Gaffey
One of the things I love about spring and summer is spending time in my garden. I love waiting for daffodils to emerge in the spring and feeling the relief that winter is finally on its way out. I love planting annuals and adding an instant burst of color to the yard. I love that my kids will join me on a “garden walk,” where we go look to see what is blooming today. I love the way the garden looks different every week as some plants bloom just as others fade a bit.
In the Gospels for the next two weeks, Jesus tells his disciples parables in which he likens the Kingdom of God to a field. In the first parable, on July 16, the seed is the word of God and we are the soil in which it is sown. We can choose how we receive it, and how we live it out in the world. The parable on July 23 talks about a good sower and an evil sower who each plant seeds in a field. The good seeds are those who live as true disciples and bear good fruit through our lives.
When we hear the parable of the sower, we know we want to be the good, rich soil. We want to be the person who “hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” But we also know that there are times in life when we may be more like the other types of soil. Perhaps we are the seed sown on the path “who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it” if we hear Jesus tell us to serve the “least of our brothers and sisters,” but we don’t live this out. We might be the seed sown among thorns when we allow our desire for more money, or prestige, or power, to become more important than our desire to follow Christ. But the good news is that God is always giving the seeds of our faith more opportunities to grow.
I have learned that most plants have a certain resiliency and determination to grow. Several years ago I asked my aunt (a master gardener) how to tell which direction to plant a tulip bulb. She showed me the top and bottom, but then said “but even if you plant it the wrong direction, it will figure out which way is up and grow anyway.” I loved this! Not only did it mean I didn’t have to worry about being perfect in my planting, but I loved the idea of my beloved little tulip stem beginning its growth heading straight down, only to do a U-turn and head back to the surface.
This image of plant starting out heading in the wrong direction until it finally figures out which way it should go fits perfectly with my faith life. Sometimes I strike out, confident of what I am doing, only to hear a quiet whisper, or a gentle nudging from God to change direction. That whisper may be in the form of my husband challenging me to look at a situation from someone else’s perspective. The nudge may come from a feeling of restlessness when I haven’t spent much quiet time allowing God to creep in amidst the busyness.
My hope is that I can be like that tulip in the garden in that, even if I start out in the wrong direction, I can eventually make my way toward the fullness of a deep relationship with God that lets me bear fruit in the world “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
Sunday, July 2, 2107
by OSP Immigration & Refugee Team
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” -Matthew 25:35
This month we focus on immigration myths. Sorting through the confusing and contradictory claims about immigrants and immigration is a challenge. Two reliable sources of info are the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their Campaign for Immigration Reform and the Anti- Defamation League, the sources for the information here.
MYTH: Immigrants are overrunning our country, and most are here illegally.
The Facts: Although it is true that there are more immigrants living in the U.S. than ever before the percentage of immigrants in the overall population is not much different than many other times throughout our history. Today immigrants make up approximately 13% of the total U.S. population. From 1900 to 1930, immigrants made up between 12% and 15% of the population, and there were similar percentages in the 1850s and 1880s. During those periods immigrants successfully became part of American society, helping to build the thriving and diverse country we have now, and there is no reason to believe today’s immigrants will be different.
In 2014 there were approximately 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S., which is actually a significant decrease from the 12.2 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in 2007. Today, in fact, the net migration from Mexico (the number of people entering the U.S. from Mexico minus the number of people leaving the U.S. to go to Mexico) is around zero.
Myth: Immigrants bring crime and violence to our cities and towns.
The Facts: Many studies have shown that immigrants, regardless of where they are from, what immigration status they hold, or how much education they have completed, are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes or become incarcerated. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, while the overall percentage of immigrants and the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. both increased sharply between 1990 and 2010, the violent crime rate in the U.S. during that time plummeted 45 percent and the property crime rate dropped by 42 percent. Studies have consistently found that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans, and that there was no correlation between crime rates and levels of immigration.
Want to take local action? CALL TODAY to support the Illinois TRUST Act!
The TRUST Act’s main provisions will:
Bar local law enforcement from engaging in immigration enforcement without a court-issued warrant
Assist immigrant crime victims seeking legal protection
Bar federal agents from making arrests in schools and health facilities
Bar local participation in a federal registry based on country of origin or religion
Call Gov Rauner’s Springfield (217-782-0244) and Chicago (312-814-2121) office.
“Hello, my name is ____. I am an Illinois resident, and I am calling to ask that Governor Rauner sign the Illinois TRUST Act, SB-31. This will protect our 4th amendment rights, and will make me, my family and people I care about more secure in Illinois. Can you pass this message along to the Governor? Thank you.”
No 7 a.m. or 12:10 p.m. Mass.
Old St. Pat’s offers the only sign language interpreted Mass on a Sunday evening in Chicago?
Are you aware . . .
Old St. Pat’s has offered this service for many years at the 5 p.m. Mass?
Would you help us . . .
Spread the word among your friends and family about this service?
Old St. Pat’s is very proud to offer sign language interpretation. We strive to provide a comfortable and participatory environment for all who worship with us.
When a young couple brought their newborn baby boy home from the hospital, their five-year-old daughter kept asking them if she could hold her little brother. They told her, “Not now,” and they continuously had to tell her “No” for the next few weeks as she kept asking over and over. They were afraid somehow that she would drop or scare parents of an infant might come to pass. However, after a few weeks, they finally relented and allowed her to hold her baby brother. When that moment finally arrived, she sat anxiously on the couch with her arms open, ready to cradle him. As she held him, her parents overheard her whispering into his ear, “Baby brother, what does God Feel like — I’m starting to forget?”
Those of us who live and serve youth and young adults in North Lawndale do so with the sincere hope they will never forget what God feels like, yet with violence and crime smothering our streets they do forget and sometimes lose any childlike innocence that remains within them. We want all young people to intimately feel embraced by the risen Christ even if their world seems to be falling apart. Well, that embrace was most evident this past Labor Day weekend when young people from North Lawndale, Little Village and the Old St. Pats Foundations Youth Group joined together for Workday 2013. They gathered at the 9,800 square foot Firehouse Community Arts Center at the corner of South Hamlin and West Ogden Avenue. This is an old Chicago firehouse being renovated into a state of the art youth and young adult Art Center with facilities that will accommodate a tech lab, a dance studio, visual art classes, culinary arts,
and a recording studio. It is due to open in the fall of 2013. The vision is for it to be a place of learning, fun, faith, creativity, and a safe haven from deadly street crime and violence on Chicago’s west side.
In a powerful show of love and service, more than 70 young people and adults, black, brown and white, stepped into the pain and hope that young people of North Lawndale live out every day. In fact, WorkDay 2013 at the Firehouse was so moving that one person quipped, “Today, the teens from Old St. Pat’s and Little Village came to own it with us.” You should have seen it. Their authentic love, engaging conversations, laughter and all the amazing work and heavy lifting moved those who were present from being participants in a work project in the morning to being unified pilgrims on a movement of hope by the afternoon. True family, true community, truly uthentic kindred connections took shape that day. One young person said, “Think about it; we started out as omplete strangers at 9 a.m. but by 4 p.m. we were sharing a meal and stories and laughing together in the Old St. Pat’s Church Hall. Now we need to keep the momentum going.”
The Firehouse Ministry is grateful to Becky Gee, Vince Guider, Chris Eagan and all who are associated with the Old St. Pat’s Foundations Youth Ministry and the North Lawndale Kinship Initiative. We also are indebted to J.L. Rolloff Service, Inc, for donating a dumpster that the work crews filled to capacity by the end of the day. Everything went smoothly because of the able management of Dennis LaMantia, an Old. St. Pat’s member and the WorkDay Project Coordinator.
William Weimholt of the Kinship Initiative Leadership Team added his much needed knowledge and skills on construction to oversee several critical projects. John Doheny and Emily Byrne, the Workday Adult Chairs, and Merideth Anderson and Danny O’Conner, the Teen Chairs for the site, centered, guided and inspired us all. The gifts and enthusiasm of Mary Oakes, Allyn Pilewski, David Pokraka and all the other teens and adults also made the day completely enjoyable and successful.
In the end, an incredibly beautiful glass and tile mosaic was installed. A huge exterior brick wall was whitewashed in preparation for a mural to be painted at a later date. Ultra-modern donated office furniture was put together in a complicated assembly process. Several walls, ceilings and floors received fresh coats of primer, paint, and sealant. Several drywalls were set, windows and floors got scraped and cleaned, refuse was hauled out, and bathroom fixtures installed. The Firehouse renovation took a huge leap forward toward the place of joy and hope that it promises to be in the near future.
This all happened on WorkDay 2013 because a large group of youth and adults remembered what God feels like. Consequently, we are on a roll toward finishing Phase One of the firehouse renovation and then opening the first and second floor facilities in the near future where we will host culinary classes, visual arts and poetry sessions. Phase Two will include our second floor where we will have a tech lab, dance studio and administrative offices. We pray for support to complete Phase Three which includes production studios slated for the basement level and a new elevator. The elevator is especially vital for those with disabilities who need to get to the second and basement floors. Later on, we also hope to construct exterior balcony and courtyard areas and also improve the outer façade and open-air gathering areas.
We are ever so close to fulfilling our dream of an arts center that can help transform the lives of our youth and families. We use the word ART as an acronym for “Art as Redemptive and Transformational.” This is what our relationship with Old St. Pat’s, others in our community and Christ can be — transforming. I want to thank the parents, youth, adult leaders, all volunteers, those who prayed for our success and those who donated supplies and resources. As that young person said, we look forward to a long, kindred relationship with Old St. Pat’s in which miracles will become the norm. May we continually share God’s loving touch with one another.
Much love, Old St. Pat’s, much love!
Pastor Phil Jackson is Associate Pastor of Lawndale Community Church, Lead Pastor of the House Church, and Founder and Executive Director of the Firehouse Community Art Center.
Learn more about Pastor Jackson and the Firehouse Community Arts Center Ministry at www.thaFirehouse.org.
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