Catholic Community of Oak Park Social Ministry Center on the SCSL Campus



Parishioners of all the Catholic churches in Oak Park have been involved in social ministries for years. By serving the homeless, the lonely, the mentally challenged, the hungry, those hospitalized, those seeking refuge, infants & toddlers, teens, and the elderly we have served God by serving each other.

During the Renew My Church (RMC) process, the recommendation of our collective churches to use the St. Catherine – St. Lucy (SCSL) campus, located at Washington and Austin Boulevards, as a social ministry center supported by both consolidated parishes in Oak Park was endorsed by Cardinal Cupich. This vision is an extension of the social justice outreach to Austin and beyond that has been occurring on each of our campuses and intended to add to those efforts, not replace them. SCSL is an ideal location to continue the outreach the Oak Park Catholic community has been engaged in to serve those in need on the west side of Chicago.

The SCSL School educates about 190 students, 85% of whom live in Austin, and is thriving. For many years, the SCSL ministry called Faith and Fellowship has served the needs of mental health-challenged residents in two facilities in Austin; the SCSL convent is now the residence of women recovering from addiction through SisterHouse, sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The current rectory was converted in December to serve as an emergency shelter run by Housing Forward, and Beyond Hunger has a cold storage unit in the rectory’s garage. As other social services agencies began inquiring about renting space on the campus, it was decided last fall to “take a breath and study the vision.” At that point, Fr. Carl Morello, pastor of St. Catherine – St. Lucy and St. Giles Parish, commissioned a Feasibility Study for the re-use of the SCSL rectory.


Fr. Carl asked Jack Crowe (from St. Catherine – St. Lucy and St. Giles) and Dan Doody (from Ascension and St. Edmund) to serve as co-chairs of the Feasibility Study Group. Their work began in October and was placed on hold when it was decided part of the 2nd floor of the rectory would be leased to Housing Forward. When the shelter was opened in January 2023, the Feasibility Study resumed.

Dan Doody introduced the Feasibility Committee organization and model to our collective parishes through the church bulletins in an article that ran for three weeks in late February and early March. Questions were encouraged and interested volunteers invited to participate. An article on the Feasibility Study ran in the Wednesday Journal and Austin Times in March. The Feasibility Study group has three committees: Facilities (working on the physical structure and needs of the rectory), Outreach (seeking input through surveys, visits to social service organizations, personal dialogue with leaders in the Austin community, and our various parish ministries) and Development (identifying both financial and human resources required for long-term success).

Currently there are thirteen dedicated volunteers working diligently on the work of the committees. Most importantly, the findings and recommendations of this committee will be presented to our pastors, staff, and parishioners once the committee’s work is completed, sometime this summer.

The anticipated Social Services Center is a long-term commitment by the people of our Oak Park Catholic parishes. Once the Feasibility Study is completed and presented to our parishes, the next steps in the process will be identified. We pray for the Spirit to continue to lead us as we move forward.

Please direct any questions to Dan Doody at dan@doody.com.