Dear Friends and Families of St. Pius V,
For the families at St. Pius V, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Posadas, an old Mexican tradition that reenacts the drama of that first Christmas Eve. That night Mary and Joseph found themselves homeless in a strange city. Finally a door is opened for them in a humble stable, where they welcome their child into the world. This year our Christian base communities again organize the evening Posada in our church: processing together, praying the rosary, reflecting on the nativity story, and finally sharing Christmas sweets and the delight of breaking the treat-filled piñatas.
As we listen to the familiar gospel stories recounting those dangerous early years of Jesus’ life, we see the Holy Family’s journey mirrored in the lives of parishioners who sought posada in St. Pius V and found a loving welcome. I hope you will be inspired by this story of one of our parishioners, whose courage and fortitude, along with some support from our HOPE at St. Pius V counseling staff, liberated her from her abuser.
This Christmas season we offer posada to the newborn Son of God as we celebrate his birth by committing ourselves to accompany families like Erendira’s, whose presence in our lives reminds us of the true meaning of gift-giving and the spirit of Christmas. Thank you for helping us to provide posada to so many people. Your prayers and financial gifts are needed and welcomed to sustain this ministry. May your family, friends and faith in God bring you peace and joy this holy season and throughout the New Year.read more
Our parishioner Erendira Ruiz has given us her permission to share this reflection with you at Christmastime. Her personal courage and the transformation that she has experienced is an inspiration to all of us. We hope you find her story as inspiring as we have!
My name is Erendira Ruiz and after two years without interruption, I have participated in the HOPE program at St. Pius V Parish. Several months ago, my companions and I, along with our dear counselor, named our group “FORTITUDE.” We call it that because we have learned what it is to live, love, have confidence, respect, healing and wisdom, to name a few.
It has not been an easy task for our counselor to teach us, week after week, how important it is to have a healthy esteem and love for oneself; to begin to get to know ourselves in order to recognize when someone is doing us harm, when we like something and it interests us; to cease being co-dependent, feeling guilty, negative and pessimistic. To be able to discard that heavy burden of past resentments; to be able to say that little word “NO”: No to the ill treatment, to the abuse, to the self-inflicted punishment.
Instead, we have learned that we have a right to live in a peaceful home free of domestic violence, and to be loved; to have confidence in ourselves and in what we decide. We have struggled, my companions and I, day after day, to set limits in our lives, learning to live healthy and independent lives. For me, what has been most difficult is to raise my self-esteem; to not permit anyone to think that he or she has the right to invade my privacy, to not be so hurt when someone rejects me, or to not want to always be with others so as not to feel abandoned, hoping with all my strength that those people will fill the void within me.
To all women who, like me, are victims of domestic violence, I encourage you to take advantage of the programs offered by St. Pius V Parish. Don’t wait fifteen years as I did. Seek help before your family is destroyed. The counselors are there to guide us, encourage us and instruct us, not to tell us what or how to think.
I am tremendously grateful to all the people who work at St. Pius V parish. It is a difficult job to maintain their programs and the sessions are free of charge for all in the community.
To my beloved friend Rosalinda, who practically carried me to the door of St. Pius V; to Luis, Carlos, Maria, Magdalena, Sandra, Dolores and others, many thanks for sharing with me your knowledge and your time. My wounds are healing. I also wish with all of my heart to thank my counselor Veronica for all the help that she has given me. With her I learned to say “Stop” to the things I don’t like and realized that it isn’t so bad to be alone. Today, after two years, I can say that I enjoy a good breakfast alone. I sit and watch the moon. I like to run, to walk, to dance, to read alone. And, if sometimes I feel the necessity of a hug, well there are the trees or some little animal that loves me and thanks me. Veronica, for being part of this change in my life, I feel very fortunate for having met you. I have many things for which to thank you and I want you to know that thanks to your counseling, today I am able to walk with a lighter heart because I have forgiven myself and I struggle every day to pardon the people who have hurt me. Now I know that God has been with me always; that He never abandoned me and never will.read more
Mary McCann Sanchez’s new role as director of Casa Juan Diego completes a circle for her, bringing her back to where she studied almost 30 years ago. Then, she was teaching in Catholic schools and public school ESL programs while she completed her master’s in education at an NIU satellite campus in Pilsen.
“These are the golden threads that are woven through my story as an educator,” Mary muses. “I’ve always focused on social justice and peace-building, and I’ve always encountered Dominicans along the way.”
Mary studied at the Dominican-sponsored Siena Heights College in Adrian, Mich., collaborated with Dominican brothers in Honduras after working with Salvadoran refugees in Honduras for Catholic Relief Services, and, during her last tour in Pilsen in the 1980s, joined members of the St. Pius V community in social justice efforts. She is happy to be back, now at the helm of Casa Juan Diego, a position which seems tailor-made for her many skills and passions.
She begins her leadership of Casa Juan Diego at a challenging moment. The building at 2020 Blue Island is under construction, so the program operates out of a temporary facility nearby at Holy Trinity Church. The bigger challenge is responding to the needs of our students in light of the constantly shifting priorities — and funding streams — of the Chicago Public Schools.
“Casa Juan Diego is a solid project because it is built on the felt need of the community, going back to 1996,” she explains. “We have a committed staff with strong roots in the community who know this is not just a place to work. They have a compelling sense of mission.”
She thinks of Casa Juan Diego as a “hinge” that opens the door to success for students, ages 6-17, who benefit from after school programs that focus on education, cultural appreciation, and peace-making. “Immigrant students and children of immigrant families face special challenges and benefit from the programs we offer,” she says, “and so do the children of families rooted in the community for generations. With all of the challenges also come the strengths of resiliency, tolerance, and an appreciation for family and faith.”
For more information about Casa Juan Diego, or to learn ways you can support the center’s mission, contact Mary at 312.421.7647 or use the contact form on this page.read more