Spirit and Light: A Catholic Collaborative for Living Faith

A Center for Lifelong Learning and Faith Formation for Oak Park

Evangelization Team Being Formed – CLICK if interested in joining!


Coming to Life since July 2023

With gratitude for all who have participated in the process to create the new Oak Park Catholic ministry collaborative.  This ministerial effort of both unified Oak Park Catholic Churches will include joining religious education programs as well as offering adult faith formation opportunities.

This collaborative now has a name and mission statement! – Spirit and Light: A Catholic Collaborative for Living Faith

Spirit and Light is the catechetical center for Oak Park’s two parishes: Ascension and St. Edmund, and St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy and St. Giles.

Mission StatementSpirit and Light kindles the fire of faith in each person to bring the joy of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s presence to the world.

Vision StatementSpirit and Light is an inspiring, prayerful, inclusive Catholic initiative for learning, reflection, discernment and encouragement that

  • reaches out to people wherever they are;
  • nurtures the journey of seekers and empowers those sojourners to walk with each other;
  • enriches connections with God;
  • inspires people to live the Gospel;
  • stirs the soul-hunger for meaning;
  • and fosters a vibrant community living in joy and deepens relationships among people of faith.

To get involved or ask questions, contact Marci Madary at mmadary@archchicago.org.

What is Spirit and Light?

Some people have wondered exactly what Spirit and Light is. It is a Catholic collaborative for living faith. But sometimes a simple phrase isn’t completely clear. Therefore, various people have written down their understanding and experience of Spirit and Light.

Written by Rich Kordesh, Member of the Lifelong Learning Committee“Devoted to the renewal of Oak Park’s Catholic parishes, Spirit and Light seeks to enrich the personal, spiritual journeys of all members. It also offers support and formation activities for unchurched sojourners who are looking for renewal in their spiritual journeys. It offers new forums for community building among those within and those on the margins of the Church.”

Written by Alex Ryan, Spirit and Light Evangelization Lead“More than simply a unified religious education program, the Spirit and Light collaborative is a new way to think about formation, evangelization, and inspiration for a life of faith. As those working in evangelization, life long learning, religious education, faith and fellowship and more come together to share their inspiration, their work and their faith, an environment emerges where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each area of focus is inspired by the initiatives and philosophies of the other, resulting in a continuum of connection points and resources for a seeker to grow throughout their entire life as a disciple of Jesus.”

Written by Jim Schwarber, Chair of the Spirit and Light Advisory Board“Spirit and Light is the future of the church. It is a lay-led interparish furtherance of our mission to bring Jesus’s love and teaching to the world. It seeks to weave different ministries together into a garment that wraps us all in the love of Christ. It expands as necessary to accomplish the mission.”

Written by Laura Kelley, Co-Coordinator for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd“Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!” – “Spirit” animates – “Light” illuminates – Both radiate, cannot be easily contained, want to spread and be shared – These ideas define the mission of Spirit and Light to me because it seeks to connect and fill the places/spaces that exist between the church and the home, so that one unified thread of living our faith exists. It offers opportunities to live life to the full (a life that animates and illuminates Christ’s love to the world).

Written by Cooky Perez-Eraci, Director of Youth Ministry“Spirit and Light is a collaborative systematic approach to Catholic faith formation that focuses on education and nurturing the Catholic spiritual growth. This approach encourages shared responsibility and community involvement and involves various members, such as parents, volunteers, and parishioners, to teach and learn about their faith. Faith formation is a continuous journey beyond formal classes or programs and involves the entire faith community to evangelization and forming missionary disciples, from womb to tomb.”

Written by Connie Rakitan, Director of Faith & Fellowship“The benefit of “Spirit and Light” is to be an organized, harmonized “clearing house” for the many programs of faith formation (religious education – cradle to grave) offered by our two Catholic parishes / five worshipping communities here in Oak Park and beyond. It connects these programs with each other and with other parish activities so that there will be coordination and collaboration among us all. These programs are the many gifts – Spirit and Light brings us into one body.”

Spirit and Light – Staff – Contact Information

There are coordinators of various programs who are responsible for their specific area yet support one another. The entire team is here for the children, families, and all parishioners. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.

Our Spirit and Light Advisory Board was formed in October 2023 – An Advisory Board for Spirit and Light has been created for the following purposes:

  • Advise and consult with the Spirit and Light Director.
  • Plan, organize and execute activities to raise funds for Spirit and Light.
  • Plan, organize and execute activities to build community among the families that participate in the programs of the Spirit and Light.
  • In conjunction with the Ascension and St. Edmund Parish and St. Catherine St. Lucy and St. Giles Parish Pastor, Directors of Operation, Finance Committees, Spirit and Light Director and Director of Administration, to create the budget for Spirit and Light.
  • Participate in the hiring process of those employed by Spirit and Light.
  • Offer feedback to the Pastor regarding the job performance review of the Spirit and Light Director.

The Members of the Advisory Board represent all worshipping communities in our Oak Park Catholic Parishes: Jim Schwarber, chair – Jean Meister, secretary – Luis Beteta – Tim Blatner – Glynis Hall – Paul Kraft – Katie Kudlacz – Esther Lopez – Melanie Pivarski – LaTrice Porter-Thomas – Kathleen Sproat

The Advisory Board will meet once a month with some work between meetings.

If you have questions, concerns, or ideas regarding Spirit and Light, please feel free to reach out to an Advisory Board member. You can also contact Marci Madary at mmadary@spirtandlightcenter.org.

Spirit and Light Advisory Board

Update as of December 2023

The Spirit and Light Board of Directors met December 8 to discuss lifelong learning opportunities, Religious Education programs, and fundraising. The advisory board consists of nine individuals from Ascension, St. Edmund, St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy, and St. Giles Churches, and the St. Giles Family Mass Community. Spirit and Light is the catechetical center for Oak Park’s two parishes: Ascension and St. Edmund, and St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy and St. Giles.

Spirit and Light Director Dr. Marci Madary reported that Peter O’Leary’s three-part presentation on Mysticism was attended by more than 100 individuals in November, and there have been over 850 views on the Oak Park parishes’ YouTube channels. The presentation was funded by a generous donation. O’Leary, a poet who holds a PhD. from the University of Chicago Divinity School, spoke at McDonough Hall – CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE PRESENTATION

More than 430 students are registered for Religious Education, including 112 children preparing for First Holy Communion/Reconciliation, and 141 students preparing for Confirmation. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has enrolled 156 children in program at the St. Giles and the Ascension campuses. Religious Education programs are aided by the unified Oak Park parishes, which together fund a quarter of Religious Education costs.

Advent sales of calendars, candles and books raised nearly $1,000, not including Luminaria sales, which are continuing.

The Spirit and Light Board members are Jim Schwarber – President, Jean Meister – Secretary, Luise Beteta, Tim Blatner, Paul Kraft, Katie Kudlacz, Esther Lopez, LaTrice Porter-Thomas, and Kathleen Sproat.

Oak Park Catholic Religious Education

Update as of August 2023

We are excited to announce an update to all the Religious Education programs in the Oak Park area! Historically there were separate Religious Education offerings in each of the four Oak Park Catholic Churches as well as the Family Mass Community. Over the past few years, there has already been some collaboration between those Religious Education departments. This year, that collaboration will be even stronger.

With a unified Religious Education, families will be able to discern which Religious Education model works best for them, empowering parents to truly be the first teachers of their children. Religious Education will be more responsive to unique situations. Some classes have a Montessori style learning environment with experiential opportunities. Others have a more traditional classroom and use a text book. One has families coming together to share prayer and engage faith.

Catholic families across Oak Park and surrounding areas will be able to get to know one another better, creating a broader community and stronger sense of identity.

Sacramental preparation for First Communion, First Reconciliation, and Confirmation are a part of this collaboration. While most children will receive sacraments at their home parish, with a unified preparation program, families can now select the day and time of the classes that work best for them.

This unified Religious Education is a part of Spirit and Light: A Catholic Collaborative for Living Faith. It is a catechetical resource for the Catholic Community in Oak Park and the surrounding areas. Its mission is welcoming all and sharing Christian faith within the Catholic context.

See 2023-2024 Program Offerings and FAQ (PDF)

Religious Education Registration 2023-2024

How the Spirit and Light Center was formed!

Town Hall Summary and Surveys starting in January 2023

On January 26, 2023, a town-hall style meeting was held to discuss the possibilities of a center for lifelong learning and faith formation. More than 30 people attended and participated in the conversation. The evening began with prayer and brief history of the origins of this center. The planning teams were also introduced. Participants then divided into small groups, each with a facilitator who took notes. The evening ended with a large group forum for people to ask questions and express their feelings.

The following is a summary of the responses to the small group discussion questions:

What is something faith related that you would invite your neighbor to? – While there was a variety of specific events, the responses fell into six main categories:

  • Prayer and liturgical gatherings
  • Service and Justice events
  • Speakers, presentations, retreats, and workshops
  • Small group gatherings centered on a topic
  • Celebrations and festivities
  • Social events and potlucks

Have you had a significant experience that made your faith come alive? – The responses to this question were personal and thoughtful. Some people talked about the significant impact of retreats, pilgrimages, special masses, and other prayer experiences on their faith life. Others shared that life events, like having a child or losing a loved one, connected them deeply to their faith. Still others reflected that there wasn’t one specific moment but it is a lifetime being in a faith community and walking with God that has made all the difference.

After hearing the introductory remarks, what did you feel? – Some participants were excited that the process is open to the movement of the Spirit. The whole community has so much to offer. They feel this work is really important and desirable. They liked the idea of sharing resources and expressed that vibrant and different programs are needed. A couple expressed the hope to feel more personal attention and saw that there is more work that needs to be done in building bridges between the parishes as well as within the parish. Other participants didn’t have a good understanding of the endeavor and were not trusting of it. They were worried about the possible location of the center. Others were clear in their desire to see a level of transparency in this process and in the progress along the way.

What do you see as a potential for this center? – The following are a summary of the ideas that surfaced:

  • Social justice
  • Pair up teens with the elderly for community
  • Build relationship and providing meals
  • Focus on evangelization – evangelization to our own families and to the wider community.
  • A spiritual home for people in new high rises
  • Offer spirituality, scripture, speakers
  • Small group learning, centering prayer, learn from each other
  • Ecumenical outreach in LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, DIVERSITY – learning and understanding about others.

There were a few lingering questions: Where will we find the space? What is the timing on the Center? What are the potential costs and financial needs for this center?


Continuing Development of a Center for Catholic Faith – On Sunday, March 12, 75 people gathered to contribute toward the Mission and Vision of the Oak Park Catholic center focused on spiritual growth. Conversation was lively and a lot of ideas for the center emerged. Now a smaller group of people will synthesize the feedback from Sunday, the survey and townhall meeting into a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement.

Center for Spiritual Growth and Development Survey – One hundred and sixty people completed the survey. The responders were asked what their worshipping community is. The following is the percentage breakdown: Ascension 44% – Family Mass 16% – St. Catherine-St. Lucy 15% – St. Edmund 23% – St. Giles 26%

Over the next weeks, we will be sharing the results of this survey, one question at a time.

WEEK 1 – What are you looking for in your Spiritual Community? – 165/167 respondents answered this question.

Respondents also noted a desire for:

  • the traditional rituals of the church and getting back to religion;
  • education, formation, youth activities and catechesis;
  • diversity, inclusivity, and acceptance;
  • intergenerational faith sharing;
  • preaching opportunities, service opportunities, and a relevance to today’s world.
  • Many respondents noted the synergy of many of these categories, and some responded – “all of the above!”



Center for Spiritual Growth and Development Survey – We are continuing to share the results of the Survey conducted in January, which began to gather the community’s input on the development of a center for Spiritual growth and faith formation.

Question 3: How would you like to participate in the proposed Center? – 127/167 respondents answered this question.

Other responses included:

  • 4% stated that they would not participate.
  • 5% stated that they are not currently sure, or would participate as the Spirit leads.
  • Other individual responses included participating in, assisting with or helping lead: Retreats / Social Justice as an integral part of faith formation / Pre-evangelization / Meditation / Lunch and learns / An atmosphere of welcoming / Family activities inspired by the liturgical seasons / Participate in integrating the Center into the wider community, helping its members to grow as a unified – and unifying – body, bringing the light of Christ to the world.