Migrant Ministry of the Catholic Parishes of Oak Park

Our St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy and St. Giles Parish is partnering with Ascension and St. Edmund Parish to form an organization that is called Migrant Ministry. Our goal is to work toward hosting migrants. Currently and as of January 2024, we are providing assistance to migrants and asylum seekers at the former St. Edmund School (now St. Edmund Center) located at 200 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, IL 60302.

The Migrant Ministry was created in June 2023 to respond to a humanitarian crisis in our area by providing food, clothing, and showers to asylum seekers who arrived in Chicago with very little. Powered entirely by volunteers, the ministry welcomes adults and children with breakfast and donated clothing each Tuesday and Thursday morning. In addition, the ministry connects migrants with medical providers, aid to find housing or temporary shelter, and other assistance to settle into the community. The Migrant Ministry began in the St. Catherine-St. Lucy Rectory, and since January 2024 is housed at St. Edmund School.

The Migrant Ministry is led by Celine and Don Woznica, Margie Rudnik, and a leadership team of volunteers – For more information, please contact Margie Rudnik at (margaretrudnik@gmail.com) or Celine Woznica (immigrantministry@gmail.com).


As asylum-seekers arrived in Chicago from Latin America over the past year, a public conversation about the mobilization of city services and marshaling of private sector resources began. In Firsthand: Homeless – The Migrant Experience, WTTW explores the complicated migrant experience through the eyes of five individuals who reveal why they left their home countries, their perilous journeys across continents, and the political forces that have shaped their new lives in Chicago as they search for housing, jobs, and education.

Watch Esteban’s Experience – Featuring St. Edmund Center

Watch Emili’s Experience

Watch Alba’s Experience

Watch Jose’s Experience

Watch Victoria’s Experience

Read / Watch Complete WTTW Series – Resources


MINISTRY UPDATE – JUNE 23, 2024
¿Somos una Iglesia?

Our asylum-seeking brothers and sisters whom we serve through the Migrant Ministry consistently refer to Centro San Edmundo (the former Saint Edmund School) as “la iglesia” (the church). For a long time, we corrected them, explaining that the church was the building across the street with all the scaffolding, that we were located in the former school building.

“Entiendo” (“I understand”), they would answer… and then later refer to the Centro again as “la iglesia.”

For a variety of reasons, many of the volunteers who have been helping out at the Centro twice a week for almost a year have stopped attending church. They describe Centro San Edmundo and the Migrant Ministry as their “church.” The work and the mission fill their spirits. They return week after week, often bringing friends and family members along to share the joy and love they are experiencing.

Are the migrants correct when they refer to the Centro as “church?” What do we mean by “church?” Let’s Google it. Check out the Google map. The side entrance to the school (which has no address) has been marked with the church symbol and the Spanish words for “help” and “clothes.”

Faith in action is faith. Faith in a loving God who brings us together. Thank you so much for your ongoing support of the Migrant Ministry!

If you would like to volunteer for any of these programs, please email us at immigrantministry@gmail.com.

MINISTRY UPDATE – JUNE 16, 2024
Thank You to the High School Students!

Yay for the Youth who have added so much energy and enthusiasm to the Migrant Ministry! The Trinity Blazers earlier this year took up a collection raising in excess of $6,000 for the Migrant Ministry. Wishing to have a more hands-on experience, twelve girls signed up for a Blazer Service Day last Thursday, helping to distribute clothing and other supplies to the migrants.

Oak Park River Forest High School’s (OPRFHS) Huskies for Hope have been providing service hours for more than a year. Projects included collecting quarters so migrants could do laundry, helping to pick up bales of winter coats, loading and unloading bags and bags of donated clothing, and volunteering on Ministry Mornings. Next year’s co-presidents of Huskies for Hope will spend the summer organizing games for older children in the 2nd floor gym.

And three students from an OPRFHS Civic Class as a service-learning project collected donations at a variety of athletic events and presented Migrant Ministry with $600. What a gift the youth are to our ministry! Thank you!

Our Migrant Ministry Mornings are expanding. The most recent count is reaching over 300 people per week for breakfast, clothing, blankets, toiletries. The Housing Program has been asked to provide a home for a family of six. We are looking for an apartment and volunteers to accompany them.

If you would like to volunteer for any of these programs, please email us at immigrantministry@gmail.com.

MINISTRY UPDATE – JUNE 9, 2024
Count on the Nuns!

An average of about 250 migrants every week visit Centro San Edmundo in search of clothes, shoes, blankets, towels, jackets, and personal hygiene products. With our new card system, we can control how many of the highly-desired items the visitors can take, but we often have to limit certain items like blankets and towels to one per family per visit.

And still we run out of these highly desired items. Our supply of blankets and towels has been lean for a couple of weeks and last week we ran out completely. Darn! As a ministry, we purchase underwear, socks, and toiletries, but for everything else we depend on in-kind donations.

In stepped the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of LaGrange with an enormous donation of blankets and towels, so much that Sr. Jackie Schmitz CSJ (a regular volunteer with Centro San Edmundo) reported that her car was so packed she couldn’t see out the back window. She was afraid she would get pulled over. The volunteers who coordinate the blanket and towel donations were absolutely giddy. It gets cool at night in the shelters but now the migrants seeking blankets will not leave disappointed.

The CSJs know how to get things done! They have an enormous network of supporters and admirers and they know when and how to tap into that network. And didn’t we all learn as children to obey the nuns? THANK YOU, SISTERS OF ST. JOSEPH OF LA GRANGE!!!

If you would like to volunteer for any of these programs, please email us at immigrantministry@gmail.com.

MINISTRY UPDATE – JUNE 2, 2024
Welcoming the Migrant Children!

The housing volunteers of Migrant Ministry have welcomed 17 children since we began finding homes for migrants. These children range in age from 18 years old to newborns, including one born here early this year. These children have weathered unimaginable hardships, lack of food and clothing. The stories are hard to hear: being carried through the jungle and the desert, traveling on top of a train while being held by mom, living in a van on Chicago streets. We have already heard about sleeping on the police station floors or in tents outside during some harsh weather. They have been exposed to all sorts of infections; one child was recently hospitalized with pneumonia. At least one child with elevated lead levels. They have had to leave behind beloved grandparents and school friends and, in some cases, siblings who have remained behind with family members. The grief and trauma are hard to imagine.

We have done our best to welcome them, and they are so grateful for the simplest toy. The smiles are so beautiful. You have made this possible with your donations of money, gift cards, clothing and food. Thank you also to the Oak Park and Berwyn schools for the welcome they have extended to the students. Imagine arriving at the first day of school with minimum language skills.

Our Tuesday / Thursday program is expanding. The most recent count is that over 250 people come each week for breakfast, clothing, blankets, toiletries. The English language classes are continuing and have now expanded to Saturday morning.

If you would like to volunteer for any of these programs, please email us at immigrantministry@gmail.com.

MINISTRY UPDATE – MAY 26, 2024
Restoring the Art Room!

Thank you so much, members of the St Catherine-St Lucy and St Giles Parish who volunteered last Sunday to paint the 3rd floor art room of St. Edmund School – What a team! What a great job! What a wonderful space!

Under the guidance of Migrant Ministry Super handymen Mike Doyle and Phil Hausken who spent days spackling and preparing the walls in anticipation of painting, teams of families and teens transformed the beautiful but tired room into a space where creativity and healing can take place through art. It is what the Migrant Ministry had dreamed of since the first day we toured the former St. Edmund’s School and entered the space tucked under the eaves of the classic Gothic structure. Art is such a powerful tool for storytelling, self-expression, and healing. What a gift this space is for our asylum-seeking brothers and sisters. We anticipate three uses for the space: 1) an art studio for the artist-migrants we have identified; 2) art classes for migrant children; and 3) art therapy sessions.

The next step is to equip the room with a wide variety of art supplies. How about it? Any old art supplies gathering dust in your basement? Abandoned art projects? Art tables? Easels you would like to move along? We can use them! Please email us at immigrantministry@gmail.com.

Last week we provided shoes, clothing, towels, toiletries, blankets, and other supplies to almost 300 migrants, severely depleting our supply. Please check the list below for most-needed items. All items must be clean, washable, and in good condition. Thank you for your support of the Migrant Ministry.

MINISTRY UPDATE – MAY 19, 2024
Celebrate Volunteers!

In his homily on Ascension Sunday, Fr. Rex reminded us that when Christ ascended into heaven, it was not the end but the beginning. The beginning of Church. The beginning of living the new command: Love one another as I have loved you. This past week the Migrant Ministry honored the volunteers who embody the Church, living the new command in loving service to our migrant brothers and sisters.

A midday luncheon (of Venezuelan arepas and empanadas) can hardly repay the hours, days, and months that over 300 volunteers have worked to make the Migrant Ministry so successful. Volunteers contribute their most valuable assets – time and attention. We honor the volunteers who come every Monday to sort and store bags and bags of donations. We are grateful to the volunteers who staff the distribution rooms on Tuesdays and Thursdays, helping migrants select clothes, shoes, blankets, toiletries, and other basic supplies. We cherish the breakfast team that dishes up smiles and nourishing food and the “abuelos” more than happy to engage children in the playroom while their parents select items to take home. Gracias to the ESL team dedicated to helping our New Neighbors to learn English and the developing legal team ready to assist the migrants in completing their immigration forms. An amazing Housing Ministry team searches for reasonably-priced apartments in the area, works with the landlords on the lease, sets up the utilities, and collects donated furniture and household goods for the migrant families’ new home. A “mentor” team then steps in to accompany the families as they navigate life in the U.S.

Yes, we are blessed by our volunteers who in return, feel they are blessed by the migrants.

MINISTRY UPDATE – MAY 12, 2024
The Ascension of the Lord

Thank you to donors and volunteers! – Because of your donations of money, clothing, food and much, more, Migrant Ministry is now supporting 11 families and two individual men in 9 separate, stable households. We estimate that we have helped with 9,000-10,000 visits from migrant men, women, and children at the Tuesday/Thursday mornings for food, clothing, toiletries, diapers, medical visits and ESL classes. We are helping with the immediate needs at Centro San Edmundo and long-term needs through the housing programs. All because of your donations. Thank you.

A special thank you to all those who walked or donated money at the CROP Hunger Walk. Migrant Ministry will be a recipient of a portion of the local funds raised. All global funds raised from the CROP Hunger Walk go to CWS (Church World Service) which provides services to the migrants as they travel north. Eighteen of the migrants were able to return the favor by walking to raise money for CWS here in Oak Park proudly waving their Venezuelan flag. Thank you all for the opportunity to support this organizations, too.

Our Tuesday and Thursday program is expanding. The most recent count is about 300-350 people coming each week for breakfast, clothing, blankets, toiletries. The English language classes are continuing and have now expanded to Saturday morning.

Our numbers continue to grow for our breakfast and “free store” distribution of clothes, shoes, bedding, light jackets, and toiletries. That means we are in great need of donations! Please review the Spring Shopping List below. We are most in need of gym shoes and sandals for men, women, and children, summer T-shirts and shorts, new underwear, towels, and toiletries. Thank you for your donation!


MINISTRY UPDATE – MAY 5, 2024
Trinity Donation, Saturday ESL Classes, Legal Assistance!

The Migrant Ministry has so much to celebrate! The amazing young women of Trinity High School’s Social Justice Club raised $6,575 during a recent Spirit Week for the Migrant Ministry. The students created a variety of fun activities to raise the money and then proudly presented the check to Migrant Ministry leaders Margie Rudnik and Celine Woznica (who were so overwhelmed they actually got a little teary-eyed!). Thank you so much, Trinity Blazers!!!

Saturday morning ESL classes have started to complement the Tuesday / Thursday classes that have been offered since last summer. The first Saturday, not one student showed up. Then we spread the word that parents can bring their children if necessary. Twenty-three adults came ready to learn English while their children played in an adjacent room. The program will continue to grow as the word spreads. Yay! Our ESL program is run by volunteers with extensive ESL experience and education.

Our legal assistance program is getting organized with volunteers spending time at various workshops and other events to learn how to help migrants fill out their forms for Temporary Protective Status and for Asylum. Volunteer lawyers from our parishes are offering to review the completed forms.

Our numbers continue to grow for our breakfast and “free store” distribution of clothes, shoes, bedding, light jackets, and toiletries. That means we are in great need of donations! Please review the Spring Shopping List below. We are most in need of gym shoes and sandals for men, women, and children, summer T-shirts and shorts, new underwear, towels, and toiletries. Thank you for your donation!


MINISTRY UPDATE – APRIL 28, 2024
Welcoming More Families

Migrant Ministry is proudly supporting eight households with 9 families and 2 single men, thirty-six people total. We moved two families into an apartment last week. It is a beautiful place with much light and terrific furniture and household items, mostly donated. We plan to move another family into an apartment before the end of April. A single man with his sister and her family, four more people who were living in a van. Thank you all for your support for these families.

The housing part of this ministry has amazing volunteers who search for apartments, furniture and household items. And lots of volunteers who accompany these families once they are moved in. We could use more volunteers to accompany our families. Please consider this volunteer opportunity. It is so rewarding watching a new family settle in and become part of our community.

Our Tuesday and Thursday program is also expanding. The most recent count had more than 360 people coming for breakfast, clothing, blankets, toiletries. The English language classes are continuing.

After having closed donations to deal with overstock, we are now fully open again but only for the items linked below. We are most in need of gym shoes and sandals for men, women, and children, summer T-shirts and shorts, towels, and toiletries. Thank you for your donation!


MINISTRY UPDATE – APRIL 21, 2024
Good Things Happening, Numbers Are Up!

So many good things are happening! The wife and infant daughter of one of our leading migrant volunteers finally made it to Chicago after a harrowing trip up north that started in December. We are so happy for you, Saul and Maria! Another exciting development is the inclusion of asylum-seekers in our Migrant Ministry CROP Walk team, providing the opportunity for the migrants to raise money for the organization (CWS) that fed them as they emerged from the Darien Gap. Inspiring!

Similar to what occurred in 2023, the number of migrants arriving to Chicago slowed down for the first three months of this year but are now beginning to increase. We are certainly seeing that on our Migrant Ministry days at Centro San Edmundo. The first week of April, we saw 280 migrants; the second week the number increased to 320 and many of them were very recent arrivals, having just arrived three days earlier.

After having closed donations to deal with overstock, we are now fully open again but only for the items linked below. We are most in need of gym shoes and sandals for men, women, and children, summer T-shirts and shorts, towels, and toiletries. Thank you for your donation!

MINISTRY UPDATE – APRIL 14, 2024
Migrant Ministry Continues!

The transitional shelter at Centro San Edmundo (in the former St. Edmund School Building) has now closed as of April 5. Our congratulations to the Oak Park Resettlement Team that so quickly and effectively relocated the many families.

Our Migrant Ministry continues. We continue to run the program on Tuesday and Thursday mornings hosting our migrant brothers and sisters and of course the children, many children. We invite them for breakfast, for a change of clothes and shoes and coats. Then there is the opportunity to sit quietly over a cup of chocolate or coffee and tell their stories to the many volunteers there to listen. Even if the listening is through cell phones using Google translate. The link to everything that is needed is below. Right now, one of the biggest needs is blankets and towels. They don’t need to be new but usable.

Finally, the Housing Team continues to accompany families and will be adding two new families in April and May. We continue to need mentors to accompany them. Spanish speaking is not necessary.

MINISTRY UPDATE – MARCH 24, 2024
I want to wash their feet…

One of my favorite Holy Week traditions is the washing of each other’s feet on Holy Thursday. Volunteer footwashers process up the aisle carrying white basins, pitchers of water, and clean towels. They spread out across the sanctuary and wash each other’s feet, then invite the congregation to come and have their feet washed. It’s a powerful act of humility and service to wash the feet of the other and allow another to wash your own feet. In this act, we recreate Christ’s call to us to be humble servants and find Christ in one another.

Those of us involved in the Migrant Ministry have found Christ in our brother and sister asylum-seekers. I want to wash their feet, the feet that crossed seven countries and 3000 miles across rivers, over mountains, and through deserts. I want to wash the feet that plodded through the deadly Darien Gap, 66 miles of thick jungle between Colombia and Panama. I want to wash the feet that were cut, twisted, bruised, and blistered but trudged on, carrying children and hopes for a safer and better life in the United States.

I want to wash the feet of Wilmary, a single mother who made the trip with a toddler and a nine-year-old blind son.

I want to wash the feet of Yeiny who lost her husband in the Darien Gap but continued the journey with her three children so as not to shatter the dream they had shared.

I want to wash the feet of Jose Leandro, an indigenous man who fled the drug cartels in Colombia. In the photo above, he holds his tattered and worn shoes before throwing them away because he received new shoes in Chicago.

I want to wash the feet of Luis, battered and bruised because of his sexuality.

Holy Thursday means more to me this year than ever before.


MINISTRY UPDATE – MARCH 17, 2024
Faith Moves Mountains

For those of you who weren’t able to attend the concert, La Fe Mueve Montanas (Faith Moves Mountains) on February 27, 2024, above is an embedded video which will give you a flavor of the evening. This video was created by the Archdiocese of Chicago for their program, “La Hora Católica: Misa y Más,” and aired on March 10, 2024.

We are grateful to GIA Publications, Inc., the sponsor of this program, and to the musicians who participated. It is still possible to make donations to Migrant Ministry through this video.

Click to See More Pictures

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTThank you to everyone who has so kindly donated to the Migrant Ministry! Because of your overwhelming generosity, WE ARE ABLE TO PUT CLOTHING DONATIONS ON PAUSE FOR NOW. You have kept hundreds of families warm and safe in the winter months. Please note that the migrants’ needs will change as we head into Spring – and we will provide an update in the next few weeks. Thank you for your continued support!


DROP-OFF ITEMS DONATIONS

Only these items are needed – We ask you please to stick to this list:

  • Winter boots for men, women, and children are needed as well as shoes.
  • Winter Jackets.
  • Sweatpants especially for men and boys and leggings for women.
  • Hoodies, and layering items, socks, gloves, hats, blankets, suitcases, and sleeping bags.
  • New underwear for men, women, and children – Boxer briefs for men in small and medium – Underwear and sports bras for women in small and medium – Underwear for children in all sizes, particularly for boys.

We accept donations of items to the alley door of St. Edmund School on Mondays from 9 am to 12 Noon. Parking will be available across the street behind St. Edmund Church.


ONLINE ITEMS DONATIONS – AMAZON WISH LIST

Thank you for your support of the Migrant Ministry. Currently, we are in great need of gym shoes for children, men, and women (smaller sizes) and men’s T-shirts, sweatpants, and athletic pants. For more information, email immigrantministry@gmail.com.

We are also in need of items noted on the Amazon Wish List found by clicking on the button below. Items do not need to be purchased from Amazon; it is merely a list of needed items.

Donations may be dropped off on Monday mornings from 9 am to 12 pm at Centro San Edmundo previously known as St. Edmund School, 200 S Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL. Please enter from the Pleasant Avenue door.

Click to Donate Through Amazon


CLOTHING AND PERSONAL CARE ITEMS AND AMAZON WISH LIST

We welcome your donations, especially right now light summer clothes.

Please click of the button below for a current list of clothing and personal care items that we are accepting. We ask that you donate only the items listed below OR donate through the Amazon Wish List linked below. Thank you!

Donations may be dropped off on Monday mornings from 9 am to 12 pm at Centro San Edmundo previously known as St. Edmund School, 200 S. Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL. Please enter from the Pleasant Avenue door.

Click for Clothing / Personal Care Items

Click to Donate Through Amazon


MONETARY DONATIONS

If you would like to help by donating money toward the purchase of items needed, or if you would like to help defray expenses to provide meals and clothing items for the migrants, you can donate online through the GiveCentral link below OR send donations to St. Catherine-St Lucy and St Giles Parish, 1025 Columbian Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302. Include a note that the donation is for the “Migrant Ministry”. Thank you for your generous hearts!

Click to Donate Online


VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

The most important needs are housing and jobs. We continue to look for apartments to house families. The families that we are hosting are doing well, and there is a continuing need for mentors to accompany these families. With the new Temporary Protective Status for asylum-seekers from Venezuela, we are trying to find ways to help them complete those applications.

If you are interested in volunteering for Migrant Ministry, the accompaniment of the migrant families we have resettled into Oak Park, or if you know of an available home or apartment, please contact Margie Rudnik at margaretrudnik@gmail.com, or Celine Woznica at immigrantministry@gmail.com.

Other Ways to Assist (Google Doc)


VIDEO – Recent Concert to Support our Migrant Ministry
Excerpts / Clips from “La Fe Mueve Montañas” Concert on February 27, 2024

This video was created by the Archdiocese of Chicago – “La Hora Católica: Misa y Más” aired on March 10, 2024


VIDEO – What Our Migrant Ministry is about!
St. Edmund Center in Oak Park provides Services for Migrants