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Voices of Hope: Homelessness

Voices_homelessThe latest issue of the Helpers’ publication Voices of Hope is now available. This issue looks at one of the most challenging problems in our society today: homelessness. Every day, people throughout our nation and the world go without the basic necessity of shelter. What struggles must they overcome? And how can we reach out to them to offer our support and assistance?

Read the latest issue, then share your thoughts on how we as a society may tackle the problem of homelessness that hurts so many of our brothers and sisters.


Helpers and friends come together to make a difference

Helpers and friends come together to make a difference

The Helpers recently came together with many of their partners in ministry for a day of reflection on the issues in our world that touch us most and how we can work together to address these challenges. Click on the picture above to see a collection of photos from the day on our new Facebook page (and while you’re there be sure to “like” us on Facebook too!)

Voices of Hope: Faith and Immigration

Voices of Hope issue 8_cover_Page_01The issue of immigration is one that touches the lives of millions of Americans. In our daily travels, we are likely to encounter many immigrants who have come to the United States in search of a better life. We see them in our workplace and in our community. They are our friends and neighbors. And most important of all, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The newest issue of Voices of Hope puts a human face on the issue of immigration, viewing the subject not in terms of politics or law but rather through the lens of faith. Contributors share their stories of living the migrant journey and of reaching out in faith and love to travelers looking to begin a new life on American soil.

Click here to download the complete issue.

Lenten Reflection

Ash Wednesday is a very busy day in our parish.  With nine masses and prayer services in the course of the day, our presiders and ministers are in contact with hundreds, even thousands of people.  Every year, I am deeply touched by the human connection that we make as we use the ashes to mark foreheads with the sign of the cross. Some respond “Amen,” others say “thanks” and many simply stay silent.

This year, as I met with a line of children, I repeated a familiar blessing phrase, recalling for them the importance of following the example of Jesus in loving others.   One eight –year old boy stopped me short.  As I marked his forehead, he looked at me and said in earnest,

“But I don’t know how to do that!”


I stopped the ritual for some moments, and talked with him briefly about what this could mean for him, and what he could do, and asked him if he thought he could do it, and he nodded and said, “I think so.”

Afterwards, I thought how that boy represents so many children and youth we come in contact with, who simply haven’t been taught the social and life skills they need to grow into healthy adults.  We assume that if we say something once, that the young person should remember it, understand it, and practice it.  But studies of child and adolescent development show that is not how it happens, that we adults need to regularly teach and remind young people of what is expected of them, particularly when encountering new situations.

In these days of reflection, I am grateful for the adults in this community — parents, educators, social workers, probation officers, youth workers, and so many others – who know that it is our adult responsibility to carefully teach our children and youth the behaviors expected of them, rather than punish them for what they do not know. 

I am especially grateful for the children and youth, like the boy on Ash Wednesday, who remind me in many ways of my responsibility to them.  They are helping me become a better person.

Angie Kolacinski,SOH Pastoral Associate, Youth Minister

An Experience of Being In Communion With A Saint

When I was asked to write on the Communions of
Saints, I thought about what I wanted to share.  I Thought about what I wanted to share.  I thought of how important the Communion of Saints is for us as Helpers.  How could I share this aspect of our charism as I experience it in my life?

A good friend of mine, Esperanza Godinez, passed away this past July 6 after losing a battle with cancer.  It was at her Funeral Mass, as I listened to the readings, the homily, and the eulogies that I realized the reality of the Communion of Saints.

Esperanza, whose name means “hope” in Spanish, was a woman who dedicated her life to her family and to serving her community.  Her deisre to serve led her to take a leadership role in organizing the Living Way of the Cross every Good Friday on 18th Street in Chicago.  This traditional way of remembering and “walking” with Jesus is a powerful event that estends for about 20 blocks in the predominatley Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood.  Esperanza’s bilingual skills were put to good use as she rode in the procession van and led the rosary in English and Spanish.  For about 20 years, Esperanza devoted herself for months in advanve of Good Friday to recruiting, training and ultimately executing this faith-filled event.

Esperanza had a vision of being for others, bringing people together, and building bonds that strengthened the community.  Holy Trinity Croatian was her moe parish.  Her ministry worked as a “bridge” between the ENglish SPeaking community, the Spanish spekaing community, and the Croatian community.  She did not speak Croatian, but her easy going and friendly attitiude towards people made her a person that connected with all three ethinc groups.  Her desire for unity and commitment to different ministires in the parish testified to her love for her parish community and the Church.

Pilsen is a neighborhood in the city of Chicago that has been the port of entry for many ethinic groups.  It is also a neighborhood that is beleived to be one ot thre poorest in the city.  The many needs in the community are part of the dialoguies of concenred individuals such as Esperanza and community groups.  For many years Esperanza was a memeber of the Advisory Board of the Resurrection Project.  This organization was founded by the PirlsenInterfaith Groupd with the purpose of developing numberous low0income and affordable housing units and residences in the area for families with financial difficulties.  Esperanza’s concern for the well being of the families kept her involved in the development of the community.  She often spoke at publice events on behalf of the fmailies and also about issues of safety and peace in the neighborhood.

Espranza was a compassionate person.  That compassion led her to bolunteer in ther Prison Ministry carried out at Kolbe House which  is based at Assumption Parish near the jail on 26th Street in Chicago.  This ministry provides direct services, education and advocacy for all those who are now, have been or are likely to be detained or incarcerated in the correcitonal faciltiies of Cook  and Lake Countie.  In her visits, she listened, prayer with and enroucrage the men to havehope and not to despair.  As she lay in bed battling cancer she would say how mush she missed her priosn ministry, since she found so much faith in the men she visited.  The faith of these men strengthened her own faith in God, who she felt never abandons His children, and who forgives and has mercy on those who have erred.

It was no coincidence that the reading chosen for Esperanza’s Mass of Resurrection was Mathew 25:31-46.  “When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? WHen did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clother you? When did we see you ill or in priosn and visit you?  Whatever you did for one of these least of my brothers, you did for me.”

As tears rolled down the faces of many of us who knew Espranza, we realixed how much she had tried to live this Gospel.  A sense of gratitude for her life and her witness filled my heart.  We knew that her wokr adn the way she had touched so many peopl;e live did not finish with here departure form this earth.  Her spirit, her faith, her good works and manificent example of what it means to live one’s life as a Christian would not die.  She was a saint for the many people who were touched by her kindness and faith and who, throug her, felt the kindness and care of God in their lives.

It is in trying to live our lives as true Christians that we live in communion with people who, like Esperanza, makes God’s love visible and tangible in our midst.

Jesus came to bring the Good News to the most abandoned of this wrold;  the marginalized the impoverished, andt hose who are vistims of insituional injustice.  When we put into action our faith in Jesus as Esperanza did, we are in communion with Him who gave His life for us.  Esperanza’s beleived and lived her life in deep union with Jesus.  She is a saint in a true sense of the word.  She was not perfect but a woman of faith, of courage, of kindness, of cmpassion and of hope.  Jesus invites us to be in communion with Him.  Esperanza’s life also calls us to be in communion with Jesus.  We are in communion with the saints who live their lives trying to live the Gospel values.

As a Helper, I beleive we are called to live our lives in communio with the many saints who have lived before us. In life and after death, the love of God unites us all. This is our ultimate calling which is enriched by the life stoires of those  who now live in the love of God forever.

Sr. Alicia Gutierrez, SH, Chicago, IL  cahli23@aol.com

Less really is more.

We’ve been reading all of the usual and expected end-of-year, begining of the new year articles that are published annually and there’s one thing that strikes us as quite sad.

Maybe it’s because we haven’t lost a job this year, or still have our homes to go to each night when we leave work,or can afford food to take with us but we seem to be the only ones who aren’t glad to bid farewell to 2009.

Not to say we are not enthused by the possibilities that come with any new year and 2010 (heck, just being able to say “twenty-ten” is cool to us) is no different. But we’ve never seen or heard so many pundits, bloggers, newscasters not to mention our friends’ holiday card letters extolling the idea that this is the year we prefer to observe in a rearview mirror.

No question, the year had it’s challenges for more folks than probably have ever been affected in a single year by the economy since the great depression that began in 1929.

But is that a good enough reason to wish away time? Of any kind? Isn’t it true that these tend to be the sort of years we remember most? Or recall as the time that we got stonger, closer, better, richer, smarter, when we found time, God, friends, family and reality.

Discovering friends, family and boardgames!

It is years like 2009 that have made us more aware of what we need and what we can do without. We learned that staying home and cooking is not only more affordable but fun, relaxing, brings us closer to our families and we re-discovered board games!

We realized we DON”T have to keep up with the Joneses anymore because it’s the Joneses who just sold their house for less than half of what they paid for it–and that was BEFORE they took out two home equity lines of credit on the mortgage.

We finally got through to the credit card companies who we learned prefer to take lower interest payments in trade for getting paid at ALL. Of course the additional price we pay is no credit card. But how bad is that?

And the government PAID us to buy a new car through the CARS program, of which I shamelessly took total advantage trading in my 13 year old, 139,000 mile Chevy Blazer.

Thank goodness the internet is holding our hand through all of this, coupons for restaurants, hair salons, spas, entertainment venues, and who knows what else, reminding us that prices were grossly inflated, we were willing to overpay and everyone but us was laughing all the way to the bank.

Then there’s the weekly grocery shopping…we will never have to pay $5.00 for a box of LIFE cereal, $12/lb for radicchio lettuce or save our pennies for a gallon of milk again– I don’t care how much the truckers are charging the manufacturers to get that gallon from Wisconcin to my Chicago zip code.

Suddenly it’s cool to find clothes at second hand shops and Salvation Army stores. How little we paid for that cute skirt, darling braclet or chic trenchcoat is a badge of honor that measures not only our fashion sense but our dective prowess as well.

We could go on and on with all sorts of examples. Let us go on record as being grateful for 2009 and leave it at this:  2009 will become the new 1929, we will tell our kids what we “did without”  that year and we will be grateful that we raised them to do the same– for a lifetime.