As the weather gets warmer, more people want to be outdoors to enjoy the many good things about Chicago. If you are walking in the Loop these days, especially on the weekends, you notice so many more visitors along Michigan Avenue around Millennium Park (checking out the Bean, parents watching their children enjoy the wading pool, young people strolling through the gardens), shoppers galore along the Magnificent Mile, runners and cyclists on the paths along Lake Michigan, bathers on the beaches, athletes playing volleyball on the sand, and people looking at the stands at the Farmers Market in Daley Plaza. It’s a great time of year and a wonderful time to be out and about.
However, there is another side of being out and about in Chicago during the summer. All too frequently we hear about gang members and young people with little or nothing productive to do out and getting into fights or confrontations which often end in shootings, injuries and often death. It’s a sad state of affairs when individuals sitting on a porch minding their own business are shot and killed, when youngsters playing in a park are gunned down, when storeowners or customers are injured or killed during a robbery. Too many neighborhoods around the city are punctuated with gunfire, screaming and sirens rather than enjoying the peace and quiet of a summer evening. Fear and gun smoke replace tranquility and the smell of barbeque.
What can be done to change this “rite of summer?” The Chicago Police Department is deploying more officers on the street, especially in designated difficult neighborhoods on the South and West sides. The department has cancelled days off on weekends for dozens of officers on tactical, saturation and gun teams; they will work from 6:00 P.M. until 3:00 A.M. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The plan, called the Summer Surge Overtime Initiative, is in its third year of trying to tamp down the rise in violence that seems to come with higher temperatures and more people outdoors.
This year more police officers will be riding mountain bikes in certain neighborhoods so that they can traverse a larger area as well as to respond more quickly to any disturbance nearby. Hopefully both of these approaches will have good results in lowering injuries and deaths. Many people point out that a lack of jobs for our young, especially males, is a significant contributing factor in this problem. Unfortunately there seems little hope for a fix in this area for the foreseeable future.
Just last Friday of the Memorial Day weekend Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off a new program called “A Summer of Faith and Action,” in which he has asked churches, community organizations and city agencies to sponsor all kinds of activities in the neighborhoods to engage the residents, especially the young, in this anti-violence initiative.
Some churches are opening their facilities and sponsoring programs on their premises. I commend Father Michael Pfleger and the St. Sabina Catholic Community for what they have done in the past and will do again this year by having teams of gang members and friends joining to play basketball, thereby using their pent up energy in more productive ways than wandering the streets and looking for possible trouble.
I have been impressed with a new initiative by Pastor Corey Brooks of the New Beginnings Church at 6620 South King Drive. This is the same pastor who awhile back was camped out on the roof of an abandoned motel just across from his church while he was attempting to raise $450,000 to buy the motel, raze it, and eventually replace it with a new community youth center. I do not know whether he raised the entire amount of his goal, but I do remember that he was able to purchase the property and has since torn down the abandoned building. I give him a lot of credit for looking for ways to address the needs of young people in his neighborhood.
Now Pastor Brooks is calling for 5000 adult African American men (and I think now he has invited women as well) to volunteer some of their time to form what he calls “Brothers on the Block.” He will train these men in beneficial ways of interacting with the youth and offering them some solid adult male models with whom they can identify rather than with unsavory ones. The idea would be that these 5000 men would divide up into groups of ten and then spread out to 500 different blocks each Friday evening in the summer beginning on June 6th. The hope would be that this effort would reduce the violence, offer some positive alternatives and thereby make our city safer and more hospitable. Whether this actually works or not remains to be seen, but I truly commend Pastor Brooks and his team for trying it and for coming up with a creative plan to address this situation.
Recently U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon gave a speech at the City Club of Chicago and addressed this topic. In that speech he said that it was time for leaders in all areas of the city to come together and work on a solution. “It is my problem, and it’s your problem,” he said, talking about the city’s gun violence and gang culture. “We have here in this room business leaders, law leaders, and civic leaders. We have thoughtful people, and we have powerful people….I want us to talk about these issues today and tomorrow and every day and every week until we get to a better place than where we are now.”
He unveiled a new initiative called the Youth Outreach Forum, which is modeled after the Project Safe Neighborhoods program. Monthly meetings are held with juvenile offenders who have been jailed for gun or violent crimes. The goal of the program is to let teen convicts know in an honest way the consequences of re-offending. Mentors will be on hand to provide long-term counseling, access to after-school activities and help with job searches. “Basically, it’s trying to give these kids alternatives to the gang route.”
It’s a strange thing to hear someone say they are rejoicing that last weekend there were only two young people killed and 26 injured by guns and violence on our city streets, but that certainly is better than Easter weekend when nine were killed and 36 wounded. We can and we must work together to move beyond what we have come to think of as what happens every summer in Chicago. We need to work with parents and emphasize their role as teachers of moral and ethical behavior. We need to use our schools as places where interesting and worthwhile programs are offered. We need to encourage young people to go to our libraries where they can read and discuss good books. And we need people of all ages to give good witness, to help our young develop their talents and skills, and to offer them jobs and a hope for the future.
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
Luke begins the Book of Acts by referring to his “first book,” the Gospel, and summing up the final days of the risen Christ on earth. Then he narrates the story of Jesus’ ascension. For Luke the ascension is the bridge between the story of the earthly Jesus and the ongoing story of the Church, which is an open-ended story in which we are called to play our parts. To assist the Church in its task, Jesus promises “power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you;” this power will transform the disciples, enabling them to preach the gospel “throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In the verse preceding today’s second reading, Paul gives thanks for the Ephesians, a standard feature in Greek-Roman letters. He prays that they may gain knowledge of God, leading to “the hope that belongs to God’s call.” Our hope is based in Christ, who after his resurrection took his seat at the right hand of the Father in heaven. This is the place of honor, signifying that he is “far above every principality, authority, power and dominion.” As “head over all things,” Christ is head of the Church, and we are united to him.
In Matthew’s final scene, Jesus meets the disciples in Galilee. This is where he first met them and where much of his public ministry took place before he journeyed to Jerusalem in Judea to die. Jesus tells them that he has been given “all power in heaven and on earth,” and he commissions them to “go, make disciples.” They are to do this by teaching “all that I have commanded you” and “baptizing them.” Matthew concludes by having Jesus promise, “I am with you always,” reinforcing his identity as Emmanuel, a name Matthew associated with Jesus in his first chapter.
For Reflection: Does my prayer include thanksgiving for others? Do I have a sense of sharing in the commission of the disciples? Are you aware of the many ways God gives you to spread the Good News?
2014 FRANCISCAN PROVINCIAL CHAPTER
Last week in the bulletin I gave you a synopsis of what a Provincial Chapter is in a religious community such as the Franciscans. I hope it was helpful to put into perspective why such a meeting is so important both for the life of our Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart and for each member of the province. It can serve as a background for the adjustments of the schedule at St. Peter’s for that week.
Our 2014 Provincial Chapter is scheduled to be held in St. Louis from the evening of June 8th until noon on June 13th. It is a very significant meeting for our Sacred Heart Province and for all the other provinces in the United States since we all are discussing how we can make better use of friar personnel and to better serve the needs of the Church in ministry and witness. We ask that you keep us in prayer that we will be open to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit during this week and that we will be faithful to our Franciscan Rule and way of life.
As a result of the legislation I mentioned above, more of the friars will be in attendance, and that will result in some schedule changes for that week here at St. Peter’s. Our entire lay staff will be here the week of June 8-13, so the church will remain open for the same hours as usual. The gift shop will have its regular hours, the security personnel will be here, and the social workers will be available on the lower level to assist the needy and the homeless as they always do so well. However, I ask you to take note especially of the following schedule changes that will be in place from Monday, June 9, through Friday, June 13:
1) There will be only three Masses daily: 7:15, 11:40 and 5:00.
2) Confessions will be heard only two times daily: 11:00-1:00 and 4:00-6:00.
3) The front office will be open only from 10:30-4:30.
4) There will be no priest available on the mezzanine.
5) Programs scheduled in the auditorium will not be changed.
This schedule allows the majority of the friars to participate in the Provincial Chapter while it tries to accommodate the needs of our people to the extent possible. Neither the weekend before the chapter nor the weekend following will be affected; therefore the Saturday schedule and the regular Sunday Mass schedule will remain the same. The majority of the friars will return to St. Peter’s by Friday evening.
If we are to serve you well and with the spirit of St. Francis, it is necessary that we periodically refresh ourselves to keep alive the charism that our Franciscan life brings to the Church. We feel confident that you understand this even though it may mean that you change some of your own schedule that week because of the shortened services. During our time at the chapter we will be praying for you, and we know you will be raising us up in prayer as well. We will keep reminding you of the above changes between now and the chapter; you might tell your friends also in case they miss these published changes. May the Lord bless you and keep you always!
SECOND COLLECTION NEXT WEEKEND
On the weekend of June 7-8 people in the Archdiocese of Chicago will have the opportunity to make a contribution toward the needs of the retired diocesan priests who have served the people of Chicago for many years. More and more of these priests who have reached their senior years have moved from full active ministry to either part-time positions, full retirement while doing some supply ministry, or even complete retirement with some assistance. Some of these priests continue to live in rectories, some in archdiocesan senior housing, and some in nursing facilities. By contributing to this collection you are able to say thanks to them for all they have done and you help the Archdiocese defray the costs of their retirement.
Raising Faith-Filled Kids One Word at a Time
My dad could whistle so loudly you could hear its piercing sound three blocks away. When we heard his signature tune, we’d come running home. That was just one way my dad was a good shepherd to us. He also guided us to ignore the calls of those who would lead us into bad behaviors and instead to listen to God’s call to live a life worthy of being called Christian.
You can help your children become attuned to God’s call by familiarizing them with stories from the Gospel: worshiping with the community on Sundays, praying regularly at meals, bedtime, and in good times and bad. Be a good shepherd: teach your child how to listen for and recognize God’s call. God will speak to all who call on him.—Tom McGrath
AN EASTERTIME CHUCKLE
Moe and Sam, who were both 90 years old, loved baseball; it had been one of their greatest loves all their lives. One day they were sitting together on a bench in their neighborhood when Moe turns to Sam and says, “Will you promise me something? Promise me that, if you die first and go to heaven, you’ll come back and tell me if there’s baseball there.” Sam agreed and made Moe promise the same thing.
3 months later, Sam died. The next week Moe woke up in his sleep with someone calling his name. “Who’s there?” he called out. “Moe, it’s me—Sam!” “Oh, Sam, it’s so good to hear you. How’s heaven?” Moe asked. “It’s great, but I have some news: some good and some bad,” Sam told him.
“Well, tell me the good news first,” Moe replied. “Okay. The good news is that indeed there is baseball in heaven.” That’s great,” Moe exclaimed. “What’s the bad news?” “Well, the bad news is that I was reading the lineup, and you’re pitching on Friday!”