Archdiocese of Chicago, Its Parishes and Ministries Launch Anti-Violence Initiative
Chicago, IL (April 4, 2017) – The Archdiocese of Chicago, its parishes and ministries, including Catholic Charities, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, and Kolbe House, have launched an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs that address the root causes of violence and to identify and actively seek partnerships with like-purposed groups and individuals. The Archdiocese also announced it is seeking out and investing in new approaches and partnerships to breaking the violence-causing cycle of despair, racism and poverty in the city. As part of these efforts, the Archdiocese will create the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund, which will include funding from the Archdiocese and other donors. The Fund will be used to invest in new anti-violence approaches and expand promising programs. Pope Francis sent a letter to Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, to express his support and encouragement for the efforts the Archdiocese and other Chicagoans are making to create peace.
Click here to read Pope Francis' letter in Spanish and in English. (Link)
“The causes of the violence we are seeing in our city are complex and deep seated, but I have a strong belief, based on the good will and the many dedicated efforts of our civic and religious leaders, that these causes can be addressed and the suffering can end if we all work together,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Bolstered by the encouragement of the Holy Father, we are dedicated to creating a framework for peace building in our city.”
Click here to read Cardinal Cupich's remarks from the April 4 press conference. (Link)
The Archdiocese also announced today that it will begin the process of holding the first U.S. meeting of the Scholas Occurentes in Chicago next year. The Scholas program, now active in more than 100 countries, brings young people together for a week of encounter, discussion and problem solving. The participants will be chosen from schools throughout the two-county Archdiocese area. Pope Francis is personally supportive of this effort and has given it the status of a papal foundation.
Archdiocesan Community Programs and Services
The Archdiocese of Chicago and its ministries have been working in neighborhoods for more than 150 years. At St. Sabina, located on the south side of Chicago, the Archdiocese houses Strong Futures, a City of Chicago sponsored program for at-risk 17-26 year old men. As of February 2017, 22 of the 50 men who started with the program last July had full time jobs, 12 had part time jobs and five men had internships. This is the best success rate in the country for such an effort. The Archdiocese is committed to expanding the Strong Futures program to address the high unemployment rate among young men of color, as well expanding the anti-gang Peacemakers on the Street initiative at St. Sabina where former gang members do direct intervention by reaching out to current gang members and community members on the south and west sides. The Peacemakers have already brought six gangs together to begin to talk with each other as well as with 6th District police officers.
Catholic Charities in Chicago offers 150 programs at 164 locations across Cook and Lake Counties. Today every 30 seconds someone comes to Catholic Charities in need, which is about one million people a year. Catholic Charities provides shelter and counseling, job training and housing assistance to ease the desperation that begets violence. This work continues to expand. The Austin Bank Corporation recently donated to Catholic Charities its flagship building on Lake Street in the Austin neighborhood. In the new space, Catholic Charities plans to provide social services, including counseling, job training and placement, a senior center and food pantry
“We are all aware of the epidemic of violence in Chicago that has challenged the best leaders among us to find solutions,” said Monsignor Michael Boland, President and CEO of Catholic Charities. “We have responded in communities throughout the Archdiocese where the need is the greatest and will continue to work every day to make this a more peaceful city.”
Mercy Home has been serving children for more than 130 years. The original mission of Mercy Home was to house homeless, orphaned, and abandoned boys in and around the Chicago area. Today, Mercy Home serves both boys and girls and is composed of two separate campuses where abused and neglected children are cared for in one of their fourteen residential programs.
“We have 130 years’ experience in caring for those whose lives have been scarred by violence – the violence of poverty, the violence of neglect and the direct experience of violence to themselves and their family members,” said Rev. Scott Donahue, President and CEO of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. “We know that we will only break this cycle of violence by reaching out and saving one young person at a time.”
Kolbe House is a parish-based jail ministry that serves as a sanctuary for those affected by incarceration. Kolbe House provides one-on-one visits, counseling and religious services inside jails. It stands with ex-offenders — individuals reentering society after incarceration — and family members, providing them with emergency support and referrals to social services. Kolbe House works for change through educating the public about the reality of the criminal justice system and those caught in it.
The Archdiocese’s Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago, is helping bridge the many social barriers in Chicago using a restorative justice framework. The effort focuses on restoring a sense of human connection in communities in need through storytelling, peace circles, proximity and intentional presence. PBMR also has created a community Restorative Justice Hub (RJ Hub) dedicated to supporting court involved youth through outreach, mentoring, case management and other programs. RJ Hubs are safe spaces in a community where youth are welcomed and supported in building healthy relationships, expressing themselves, addressing trauma and developing necessary skills and competencies. The strategy guiding RJ Hubs is helping people to move beyond the effects of adverse childhood experiences, guiding them towards sustainable healing and growth. The Urban Life Skills Program in Little Village and the Lawndale Christian Legal Center in North Lawndale are both emerging RJ Hubs. PBMR hopes to further replicate the RJ Hubs model in other areas of the city.
A Walk for Peace
The Archdiocese has not forgotten the power and peace born of praying and expressing solidarity as it takes up this work together. Cardinal Cupich has invited all people of good will, including civic, education and religious leaders from across the city to join him for a Walk for Peace through Englewood on Good Friday, April 14. The walk will begin at St. Benedict the African Church, at the corner of 66th Street and Stewart Avenue. During the walk, participants will trace the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who lives were lost to violence. Pope Francis pledged to accompany Chicagoans in prayer as he walks the Way of the Cross in Rome’s Colosseum that day. For more information on the Walk for Peace, visit www.archchicago.org/peace-walk.