Sunday, October 7
Sitting on my desk here in the Fr. Wall Mission Center of Old St. Pat’s is a small framed picture of a house in eastern Kentucky, given to me by my good friend and fellow Foundations work tour leader, Jennie Motto. (She is one of the most inspirational young women I’ve met.) The house in the picture belongs to a woman by the name of Irene who we met this past summer when Jennie and I accompanied six of our teens on a week-long excursion to encounter the goodness of the people living in Kentucky. Irene cares for five of her grandchildren. By all appearances, Irene’s house has many challenges. It needs significant repairs and a lot of TLC. Unfortunately, because of her family situation and the cycle of extreme poverty in the area, the necessary upgrades probably won’t be happening any time soon. Yet, despite its many deficits, I know for a fact that there are at least two small rooms in that house which received a fresh coat of paint because some inexperienced teenage (and adult) painting “contractors” from Chicago had something to do with it! By Irene’s reaction, you would have thought the entire house went through an extreme makeover. And more than just the paint or the other physical challenges of the house, what I witnessed back in July was a mutual exchange of reverence and blessing between kids from Chicago and this gracious, inspirational woman of eastern Kentucky.
I couldn’t help but think of Irene and our experience on Worktour this past summer as I sit here on October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi! Perhaps seen as one of the most beloved saints in our history, Francis is more than just the guy who hung around with the animals! As important as he is to our commitment to care for all of God’s creation, animals included, Francis is also known as being a reformer for the broken church. A well-known piece of his conversion experience is worth repeating: After coming back from being imprisoned for a year during a time of war, Francis was sitting in the church of San Damiano in his town of Assisi when, during a time of solitude and meditation, he heard the voice of God telling him: Fix my house! Francis mistakenly thought the Lord meant to fix it with a hammer and nails. Upon further discernment, the young Francis soon realized that what the Lord wanted was a renewal and a rebuilding of the lifeless, struggling church of the 13th century.
The past two weeks we have hosted some significant moments of transformation here at Old St. Pat’s. Two weeks ago tomorrow, on Monday September 24th, over 400 members and friends of Old St. Pat’s gathered in our new space across the street from church for an evening of listening and visioning, in response the brokenness afflicting our church today. It was an evening of raw, heartfelt emotion in which people expressed their outrage at the broken system of the institutional church that has led to a crisis of epic proportion. We at Old St. Pat’s are committed to once again being the voice of change for the church. Many of you indicated that you are more than willing to be a part of our crisis response team. May the Spirit guide us to be the voices of change and challenge which desperately need to be heard.
And this past Wednesday Old St. Pat’s, in partnership with the Siena Center of Dominican University, hosted a speaker event with Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. If you were able to be part of the sold out crowd, you know that Nadia doesn’t hold back. Raw and spicy in her delivery, she is a passionate witness of the Christian message. Unapologetic, she doesn’t hold back in the way she communicates. She feels deeply committed to be a voice for those who may not find themselves comfortable or accepted in the church. Thanks to Bob Kolatorowicz from our team for putting together this compelling and provocative evening.
Sometimes we need those unorthodox, liberating, honest evenings to help us look at who we are as a church and as people of faith. As Terry Nelson Johnson stated so accurately, “it may not be nice church, but it was good church.” Thank you for being here and for being a part of this holy movement to repair, fix, and renew the church entrusted to our care.
Father Tom Hurley
PS. Many many thanks to all those Crossroads Runners who are out on the streets of Chicago running 26.2 miles for the Outreach efforts of Old St. Patrick’s! May the Road rise to meet you and bring you safely to the finish line! Cheers!