“I’m talking about my heart.”

The Rosas family receives and gives back to parish, community

Antonia Rosas sits with her husband Rudolfo in their modest Pilsen home and declares “When I talk about St. Pius V, I’m talking about my heart.”

She makes this impassioned declaration because of the role St. Pius V has played in her family’s joys and sorrows – both of which have been plentiful. She and Rudolfo say that the support they received from St. Pius V during the difficult years after their immigration from Mexico kept their marriage and family together.

It started when they arrived in Chicago in 1995 with their toddler son. Antonia’s aunt invited her to join the parish Christian base communities. She accepted, she said, but participated only halfheartedly until parish staff member Dolores Tapia encouraged Antonia to give more of herself. She joined the parish leadership program, which, she says, taught her about her faith, about the principles of Catholic social teaching, and, perhaps most importantly, that she has her own voice she can use for good.

Antonia began using that voice to strengthen her family. Her participation in the parish women’s group helped her see that she and Rudolfo needed support as a couple. Though Rudolfo was initially resistant, they both say now that the programs helped them to understand each other, to improve their relationship with their three children, and to grow spiritually and emotionally. When Rudolfo brings out photographs taken on their wedding day – almost 25 years ago, Antonia says “Without the help of the programs at St. Pius V our marriage would not have lasted all these years.

“Your daughter has been shot.”

With the help of St. Pius V Parish, Antonia and Rodolfo faced a challenge this spring that they met with uncommon grace and strength.

On a mild March afternoon Antonia answered the phone and heard the words no mother should have to hear: “Your daughter has been shot.”

Sixteen-year-old Mireya, a leader in the parish youth group, was walking with a friend in Pilsen’s business district after school when a gunfight erupted between two gangs. She was caught in the (See page three) hail of bullets. Miraculously, the bullet that struck Mireya passed through her body without hitting a vital organ. While in the hospital, she was concerned about informing the principal that she might miss some classes. After a few days she was back in school.

On Memorial Day weekend mother and daughter spoke publically about the importance of programs in the faith community to curb violence. At a summer kick-off for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Faith and Action Initiative, Antonia expressed her gratitude for the life of her daughter. And Mireya? With her characteristic selflessness, she stood before the crowd and said, “I was so terrified. I thought I wasn’t the only one that got hit. I thought there were more.”

Mireya and her mom speak out against violence as Fr. Brendan listens.

Mireya and her mom speak out against violence as Fr. Brendan listens.

Speaking at the event Fr. Brendan Curran OP, St. Pius V’s pastor, pledged the parish’s support for the mayor’s efforts saying “Pilsen will be a model. We pledge that each and every Friday we will celebrate with block parties and join one another in prayer with Mass on the street. We commit ourselves to making our streets safe and we invite other communities to do the same.”

Later that week, at home with her parents, Mireya reflected on the values her parents share with her. She says she is “into” her faith in a way many teens aren’t because of her parents’ example and the support of the faith community at St. Pius V, and she outlined a plan for her future: a degree in social work and a lifetime of service — to give back to the community what she has received.

Creating a Path to Citizenship is a Moral and Pragmatic Concern

Photo courtesy of DePaul University.

Cardinal Francis George (l) and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert address the business community in support of fair and just immigration reform at DePaul University. Photo courtesy of DePaul University.

Fr. Brendan helped create and now serves on the steering committee of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC) which in February sponsored a panel at DePaul University. Panelists included Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. A Republican, Hastert called for legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the country. “My own party must acknowledge and embrace ever-growing Latino and Asian constituencies,” he said. “We should provide them with a path to citizenship.”

Cardinal George made the moral case for immigration reform and deplored increases in deportations. “Our churches have too many families torn apart by our immigration laws, too many good people who only want to be Americans, to work and be safe in their homes. I know that our nation’s soul requires that we treat them fairly.”


Illinois’ minimum wage workers

Wednesday we hosted a news conference at St. Pius V to draw attention to the need for better wages for Illinois workers. Governor Quinn was with us, and he called for a new minimum wage of $10.00. Currently a full-time minimum wage worker in Illinois makes around $16,600 annually, which is below the Federal Poverty Threshold of $17,916 for a family of three.

Along with Pope Francis, I’d like to ask how we can allow this to be. Continue reading

St. Pius V: Front-and-center advocate for immigrants

 “The joys and the hopes, the sorrow and the anxieties of the [people] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the sorrow and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”  

     These brief words from the Second Vatican Council shape our ministry at St. Pius V. They especially come to mind when we see the needs of so many immigrants and attempt to assist them. Here are highlights of some efforts made at St. Pius V these past months to address the joys, hopes, sorrows and anxieties of the immigrants we serve and for whom we advocate.

March for Dignity, Respect, and Justice: October 12

More than 100 St. Pius V Parishioners participated in this march organized by churches, labor and immigration rights groups in Chicago as part of a nation-wide week of action to convince Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and end deportations that divide families.

Two million too many

Fr. Brendan Curran, OP, Fr. Chuck Dahm, OP, and members of St. Pius V joined 140 community, faith, and civic leaders who stood in solidarity with immigrant families by blocking access to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office building on Congress Parkway on Nov. 6. The non-violent action drew attention to the 2 million families torn apart by cruel and senseless deportations of parents in the last five years, leaving their citizen children without one or both parents. U.S. bishops have repeatedly denounced this cruel and unjust attack on immigrant families.

Father Brendan Curran, OP, speaks to the media outside ICE headquarters.

Father Brendan Curran, OP, speaks to the media outside ICE headquarters.

License for immigrants

Illinois is poised to issue temporary visitors licenses in order to make our roads safer and allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally. Elena Valdez, our parishioner and a domestic violence survivor, learned to drive in order to free herself from her abusive husband, avoid the gang activity on her block by driving her children to school, and get to her job as a home health care worker for disabled children and home-bound elderly. This legislation is one more way that Elena can keep herself and her family safe. Governor Pat Quinn praised St. Pius V for our work in passing the law creating the licenses. Hundreds attended two workshops we hosted for those seeking licenses, one organized by the Illinois Secretary of State and State Rep. Edward Acevedo. The day applications began, more than 4,000 people made appointments in a few hours, causing the state to halt appointments until more sites and personnel could be mustered. Some immigrant advocates believe the law will also help decrease deportations that separate families, since driving without a license often leads to immigration officials deporting drivers.

Want to help?

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has ruled out any House action on immigration this year. He said the House prefers to address reform piecemeal, rather than in a comprehensive way. This directly contradicts the approach of the U.S. Bishops Conference. For more information visit the U.S. Bishops Justice for Immigrants website. Please phone, email, or write your U.S. representatives to urge them to support comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship and keep families together. (202) 224-3121.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The domestic violence service providers of the city of Chicago kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a noon rally at the Thompson Center Plaza downtown yesterday.

Dolores Tapia, Sister Virginia Jung, OSB,  and Fr. Brendan Curran, OP, of HOPE at St. Pius V family ministries shared the podium with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and leaders of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, which coordinated the event.

The speakers called for more action to protect victims from

Rally participants dramatize domestic violence-related deaths in Chicago.

violence within their own homes and families, while Dolores and Sister Virginia shared the story of how St. Pius V Parish developed services for immigrant women victims, their children, and for other family members.

The rally included a procession of masked figures representing the 57 victims in Chicago who were murdered in domestic violence crimes in the past 18 months.

More information about the domestic violence programs at St. Pius V is available here.