The Ignatian Mission Center proposal is a collaborative effort to provide community-centered programs in the Rogers Park-Edgewater area through use of the physical, intellectual and spiritual resources of the Catholic parishes in Rogers Park and Edgewater, Loyola University and other partners, including the local Jesuit community.
The mission center will develop innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary spiritual, educational and social service opportunities for area Catholics, Loyola faculty and students and community members to enhance the social, mental, spiritual and civic well-being of the Rogers Park-Edgewater community and the university.
The Mission would allow the university’s centers and the nearby parishes’ ministries to serve as a hub for the community and the university. The St. Ignatius parish property (church and rectory and possibly school buildings), located near the western edge of Loyola University, could serve as a meaningful presence and stabilizing community resource for the area. Programs could operate out of the St. Ignatius campus, local parishes or space at Loyola University, depending on the programming. Catholic social teaching reminds us that we are integrated beings, requiring both spiritual and physical nourishment and deserving recognition of our innate dignity. The mission center aims to nurture the people of our community, helping them fill the needs required to flourish in all ways.
Potential Programming and Partnerships
Over the last two years, St. Ignatius Parish, a working group from the university and former members of St. Ignatius, along with members of St. Jerome and St. Gertrude parishes in the Renew My Church process, have each taken up a process of reflection and discernment to inform the possible programs and services that might be located at the Mission. Former Ignatius parishioners and members of St. Gertrude and St. Jerome now are attempting to bring these proposals into focus, as recommended by the Renew My Church Commission. The possible programs and services are grouped into two basic categories: spiritual and corporal works. These are listed on a separate page.
Parishes’ history of service and cultural life.
The former St. Ignatius Parish and Sts. Jerome and Gertrude parishes have a long history of service to the community and vibrant spiritual and cultural life. In recent years, community service has included a food pantry at St. Ignatius, a free meals program at St. Jerome and a variety of programs geared toward older residents at St. Gertrude. All three churches have had religious education programs for youth, with St. Ignatius and now St. Jerome’s youth education assisted by Jesuit scholastics, as well as adult faith formation programs. The mission center would integrate some of the existing programs, and also facilitate and create new Catholic faith and corporal outreach for the whole community.
The need for a mission center, globally and locally.
In his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis shared his dream for our church. He said:
“I dream that the church makes a ‘missionary option’ capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s ways of doing things, our times and schedules, our language and structures can be suitably channeled towards the evangelization of today’s world rather than simply our own self-preservation”.
We need a church that, while serving the need for ongoing conversion among its own members, reaches out to those who have alienated or distanced from the Christian community and also to extend a creative invitation to those who have yet to discover the liberating message of Christ. There was a time that “mission” referred to “foreign missions.” But now we have come to see mission as essential to the Church’s identity. This has become even more evident in recent years as church attendance and parish affiliation have diminished drastically. People point to different causes when trying to explain these declines (e.g., the sex abuse scandal in the church, consumerism and secularism in U.S. culture, mobility in the United States which has broken down closed communities). Of special concern is that many Latinos who originally belonged to the Roman Catholic Church are leaving to become Evangelicals or are joining the ranks of the unaffiliated. Nearly one in four Hispanic adults (24%) are now former Catholics, according to recent studies by the Pew Research Center. The mission center would help to engage Latinos unconnected to the Catholic Church or re-engage those drifting from the church.
Looking beyond Latinos, who make up a sizable population in the area, young people are the largest group among the unaffiliated. But young people are also seekers: first, they become committed to a social issue that they see as affecting our collective lives (e.g., hunger in the community, global warming, racial injustice and refugees, etc.). But then, if they want to remain committed to this issue, they discover that they need a sustaining spirituality. The mission center would provide the corporal works such as a food pantry, social service outreach and domestic violence services to serve the community and give young people volunteer opportunities while at the same time offering paths to spiritual growth and belonging.
The mission center would have an advisory board that would develop a reasonable set of program offerings that could be fostered and sustained throughout the seasons of the year in light of the needs or suggestions that have been observed by the parishes and affiliated groups. We also expect to do community surveys on social service needs to help us see what people in the Rogers Park-Edgewater community at large and the parishes believe to be the most pressing needs. For its corporal works, the mission center would build on the successful St. Ignatius Food Pantry, whose staff and volunteers have experience working with thousands of clients a year, referring them to social service agencies and helping them in myriad other ways. In its spiritual works, the mission center would build on the rich heritage of Ignatian spirituality, integrate devotional societies based for decades at St. Ignatius Church and complement the spiritual formation already offered in area parishes.
A group working with the Rogers Park-Edgewater parishes, including board members from the parishes but operating independently, would be most suitable to run the mission center. Under church law, this would be known as a lay association of the Christian faithful, also commonly known as a Catholic lay association. Lay associations approved by the bishop of a diocese are allowed to raise funds through Church apparatus for apostolic (religious retreats, classes on Catholic spirituality) and charitable purposes, as well as being allowed to own consecrated churches.
Each mission center initiative (course, lecture series, service, etc.) would have a team that is responsible for providing the content, for sustaining the dialogue and for evaluating the outcomes. We can work with ministries from St. Jerome and St. Gertrude parishes, the Jesuit Community (including the Jesuit scholastics) and academic departments of Loyola University who have expressed a desire to participate in the mission center. We also would work to become a hub to bring services from Loyola University and other local nonprofits under one roof.
We have a dedicated core of longtime St. Ignatius parishioners who have funded various projects at the parish over the years. Many of them are interested in helping to make the mission center a reality, especially if it is sited on the St. Ignatius campus. The food pantry has had more than 60 consistent donors who provided funding for its operations, as well as longtime funding relationships with local companies, including S & C Electric, as well as the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Each of the three shrines at St. Ignatius has a dedicated, vibrant group supporting it, willing to fundraise to keep their home at the church. We would seek to expand our regular donor base as we conducted outreach in the area and beyond. If the lay association were to buy the property, we would aim to partner with a developer to help buy the property and redevelop a parking lot on Arthur Avenue or seek partners interested in working with us to renovate or repurpose the buildings. We would seek to lease various parts of the property to other nonprofits that we would integrate with the mission center. (See programming and partnership section for specifics.) Both the church and the auditorium-gym building are historic structures and we would seek landmark status and historic preservation grants for the church and possibly the auditorium-gym building. As we raise funds to purchase the property, we would seek seed money for dedicated endowments from former parishioners and others with ties to St. Ignatius and ties to Loyola University and would seek major donors to grow the endowments.
Pope Francis in his reflection, “Let Us Dream” says that now is the time to act. “But if the Church has a particular role to play at times of crisis, it is precisely to remind people of its soul, of its need to respect the common good. This is what Jesus did: He came to strengthen and deepen the bonds of belonging–of people to God and each other. That is why the one who matters most in the Kingdom of God is whoever makes themselves least, serving others and especially the poor.”
The mission center seeks to serve others and be a concrete demonstration of the Church doing good in the world through particular focused programming. This center will be a collaborative undertaking demonstrating in particular ways the service to faith and the promotion of justice.
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