I’m a choir spouse. But for your sake, my wife does not encourage me to sing. However, I do sneak it in at Sunday mass while she’s in the alto section on the other side of the altar.
We have been parishioners of Old St. Pat’s for over 22 years, since our son started kindergarten there. OSP, as it is referred to locally, was recently highlighted on Chicago’s local PBS station for its 30 years of growth in programs and parishioners. Legend has it that in 1984 there were only four and that included the housekeeper and her dog. Having survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it is the oldest public building in the city of Chicago.
One of the many OSP programs that resonate with me is the designation of September as the “Season for Social Justice.” This year’s focus is Peace and Nonviolence; not only relevant globally but locally on the streets of Chicago.
I attended the kick-off workshop on Restorative Justice by Alex Wiesendanger of the Community Renewal Society [CRS]. The key questions Alex suggests we ask are: How can harm be repaired? How can we all be restored to right relationships?
CRS promotes Peace Hubs as a community space to intervene and reduce violence and as a more effective alternative to our current punitive justice system. They are a collaborator for The Reclaim Campaign.
The current Cook County criminal justice system is spending over $500 million dollars per year. But only a mere $1.9 million goes to violence prevention grants for community organizations. 90% of Cook County Jail’s population are pretrial detainees. 70% are nonviolent detainees. The Campaign is calling on County officials to divert low-level offenders and support those re-entering their communities and budget at least a $1 million increase in funding for the Violence Prevention, Intervention and Reduction Grants—with a focus on community-based restorative justice programs.
We are blessed with many good preachers at OSP. One of our regulars is Fr. Ed Foley from the Catholic Theological Union. One particular homily back in May clicked with me when he encouraged the congregation to be “Traders in Hope.” I have met many such traders during my community development career. We certainly need more of them, like Alex, if we are to restore justice. Communities here at home or abroad can’t develop if they are plagued with violence.
There are messages of hope we must keep on singing.
In prison cell and dungeon vile,
Our thoughts to them go winging;
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?
Verse added by Doris Plenn &
popularized by Pete Seeger in the 1950s