By Amanda Reilly
On Thursday, June 6, 2019, at 9:30 am over 150 people from the neighborhood began to gather in front of Saint Rita’s Catholic Church on 63rd ST. for an inter-faith celebration with Cardinal Cupich. The morning began with the sounds of mariachi and mingling of people from SWOP, United Power for Action and Justice, as well as other local community organizations and faith-based institutions based in Southwest Chicago. The gathering was opened with remarks and greetings from Rev. Homero Sánchez of St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church, and it continued with readings from Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic traditions.
Imam Omar Karim from the Ephraim Bajar Cultural Center, Rabbi James Brazelton from Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, and representatives from St. Rita’s read from religious texts. The readings were followed by testimonies about the “Reclaiming Southwest Chicago Campaign.” The well-established campaign is an effort to address vacant properties and blight in the neighborhood as a direct result of the foreclosure crisis. The campaign continues to work through the neighborhood house by house, unit by unit, family by family, changing blocks, and reshaping the community.
Testimonies from Keana Lindo, local resident and SWOP leader, and parishioner of Ascension Parish, Nick Brunick, highlighted the impact of the campaign, as well as the work yet to be done around rehabbing vacant buildings, giving the neighborhood a physical facelift, and most importantly, continuing to create a stronger community through development of relationships throughout Southwest Chicago. Alia Bilal, from Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), gave brief comments and offered a prayerful reflection for those gathered. Additionally, Rabbi Capers Funnye from Beth Shalom provided spiritual fruit for contemplation. The event culminated with Cardinal Cupich speaking about the work of the Reclaiming Campaign and the work’s connection with our call to action as people of faith. The cardinal extended his best wishes on the work of the campaign and prayed for peace for the community. The gathering was closed with a renewed call to action from Rev. John Celichowksi.
If you are interested in learning more about the Reclaiming Campaign or would like to become more involved in this effort please contact either Harry Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org or Amanda Reilly: email@example.com.