Chicago Sun-Times: As migrant crisis grows will faith groups step up and offer unused buildings?

Our Lady of Victory, Herman J. Gaul, 1911, 5200-5240 W. Agatite Avenue, Jefferson Park. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Joseph W. McCarthy, 1935, 7851 S. Jeffery Blvd. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Worthmann & Steinbach, 1916, 1600 W. Leland Ave. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“As migrant crisis grows will faith groups step up and offer unused buildings?

“What are the churches doing? That shorthand covers synagogues and mosques too. Religious organizations own substantial property in and around Chicago, much of it excess or used only a fraction of the time.

“As Mayor Brandon Johnson forges ahead with his plan to put people in tents as the weather cools, why aren’t more religious organizations offering space for new arrivals?

“It won’t be ideal. Maybe the radiators bang and the plaster is cracked, but wouldn’t migrants appreciate the heat and indoor plumbing?

“The Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago ‘has been trying to figure this out as well,’ said its executive director, Nisan Chavkin. ‘We don’t have anything official to share yet.’ The council represents some 40 denominations and theological schools.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago has for years closed and consolidated parishes as congregations declined and neighborhoods changed. Its real estate office posts several pages of property available for sale or lease, including churches, rectories, schools and convents. Can they make people more comfortable than at O’Hare Airport or a police station?

“The archdiocese directed questions to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, whose chief executive, Sally Blount, emphasized the group’s involvement in getting people into transitional and permanent housing. She said that since last December, Catholic Charities has worked with the state and city to sign leases for nearly 1,900 migrant households.

“As for immediate help for new arrivals, Blount wrote, ‘Representatives of the Archdiocese have walked through many properties with the City over the last year, across both administrations, none of which have ultimately been selected. We continue in those dialogues.’ Blount declined a request for a followup interview.

“The mayor’s office could not be reached. A main Johnson ally in the City Council, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said the lack of response is with the archdiocese, not the mayor.

“‘The mayor has been trying to discuss this. … We need the cardinal to pick up the phone and talk.’

“Sigcho-Lopez and others have been calling on the archdiocese to open closed churches for the migrants since last year.

“The migrant situation has stirred emotions around town. A commentary by Cardinal Blase Cupich published by the Chicago Catholic addressed that head-on. It said:

“‘This is happening; it is a crisis, and we cannot wish this suffering away or make excuses for not addressing these needs for political or ideological reasons. Like those in the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan, we cannot turn our backs on them, especially if we claim to be a church that takes pride in being a ‘field hospital.’ The fact is that people are here and need help. End of story.’

“Amen, cardinal. You wrote that in May. Now what” (Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 10/9/23)

Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times

As migrant crisis grows will faith groups step up and offer unused buildings? Religious organizations own substantial properties that sit empty or little used. Why aren’t they being opened to shelter people arriving in Chicago? David Roeder, Chicago Sun-Times, 10/9/23


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