THE NEIGHBORHOOD BRIDGE

Catholic Community of Oak Park Social Ministry Center on the SC-SL Campus

The Neighborhood Bridge is a social ministry outreach to residents across Austin Boulevard in Oak Park, IL, focusing initially on school families. It is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization registered as a not-for-profit in the state of Illinois with a Board of Directors. After a heartening year-end fundraising effort in 2023, the real work of the Neighborhood Bridge, “to use the St. Catherine-St. Lucy campus as a base for powerful ministry outreach to our neighbors on the West Side,” has started in 2024.

As Cardinal Blase Cupich called it, the Neighborhood Bridge is an example of one of the main tenets of Renew My Church – living our faith by helping those in need.

The Neighborhood Bridge Website


THE NEIGHBORHOOD BRIDGE UPDATE

FEBRUARY 11, 2024

Come visit The Neighborhood Bridge! – At our brand-new website (https://theneighborhoodbridge.org), learn about the exciting progress The Neighborhood Bridge is making in creating a human services connector for our neighbors in Austin based on the campus of St. Catherine – St. Lucy.

It’s all happening because of the support of this community, whose donations are enabling the important work to begin on the Renew My Church initiative: “to use the St. Catherine – St. Lucy campus as a base for powerful social ministry outreach to our neighbors on the West Side.”

A generous gift of $100.000 from a local family foundation is aimed at the renovation of the lower level of the former rectory to house current ministries as well as services requested by school families.

Meetings with community leaders early in the process revealed that Central West Austin, which borders the St. Catherine – St. Lucy campus, is considered a desert for human services agencies, and service organizations are looking for ways to better connect with these residents. As they noted, proximity matters when someone is looking for help.

Visit the website to meet the extraordinary people behind The Neighborhood Bridge and see who is partnering in this endeavor. Recently, members of the Board met with local service providers and representatives of the five partner schools in the Austin community to update them on the progress of The Neighborhood Bridge. Read about those meetings and learn what the media is reporting about this effort.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletters at the website. Want to get involved? Fill out the volunteer form there. Want to donate to the effort? Donate online at the website or mail a check to:

The Neighborhood Bridge
P.O. Box 1853
Oak Park, IL 60304

As Cardinal Blase Cupich said In a brief conversation with Fr. Carl Morello and Board president Dan Doody, The Neighborhood Bridge is an example of one of the main tenets of Renew My Church – living our faith by helping those in need.


THE NEIGHBORHOOD BRIDGE UPDATE

JANUARY 2024

After a heartening year-end fundraising effort, the real work of the Neighborhood Bridge, “to use the St. Catherine-St. Lucy campus as a base for powerful ministry outreach to our neighbors on the West Side,” has started.

The Board of the Neighborhood Bridge is launching its search for the Executive Director, who will be from the Austin community and will be charged with connecting school families and other Austin residents with the network of service providers in the area. The Board is crafting a job description, which will soon be posted.

Just after the new year, members of the Board met with local service providers and representatives of the five partner schools in the Austin community to update them on the progress of the Neighborhood Bridge.

Finally, the Board is in ongoing talks with the Archdiocese to secure a master leasehold for the St. Catherine-St. Lucy rectory in order to make the necessary upgrades so it can serve as a hub connecting Austin residents with the services they need.

In a brief conversation with Fr. Carl Morello and Board president Dan Doody, Cardinal Blase Cupich called the Neighborhood Bridge an example of one of the main tenets of Renew My Church – living our faith by helping those in need. Cardinal Cupich met with Fr. Carl and Dan on his visit to see firsthand the work of the Migrant Ministry at St. Catherine-St. Lucy in late December.

The Neighborhood Bridge will launch a website next month, which will chronicle exciting developments as they happen.

Those interested in helping build the Neighborhood Bridge can donate by mailing a check to:

The Neighborhood Bridge
P.O. Box 1853
Oak Park, IL 60304


THE LAUNCH OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD BRIDGE

DECEMBER 2023

It’s official!

After almost a year during which a team representing the Oak Park parishes explored ways to enact the Renew My Church imperative “to use the St. Catherine-St. Lucy campus as a base for powerful ministry outreach to our neighbors on the West Side,” The Neighborhood Bridge has been launched.

The Neighborhood Bridge is a social ministry outreach to residents across Austin Boulevard, focusing initially on school families. It is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization registered as a not-for-profit in the state of Illinois with a Board of Directors, which sets the stage for the next important phase, fundraising to hire the necessary personnel to make the vision a reality and to ultimately upgrade the rectory to fulfill the mission.

While fundraising is ongoing, the Board will begin a search for the Executive Director of The Neighborhood Bridge, who will be from the Austin community and, as the public face of the center, will interact with schools, connecting school families and other Austin residents with the network of service providers active in the area.

In addition to hiring the Executive Director, the other immediate goals are to secure a master leasehold agreement with the Archdiocese and to upgrade the basement to house some of the current ministries serving Austin residents, such as Faith & Fellowship, which has been accompanying people with severe mental health challenges on their faith journey for the past 41 years. With the intended improvements, the basement will be able to also host a center for adult education, providing training in areas the school families have requested, such as household budgeting, communication skills, computer skills, and violence prevention. Finally, it will become a distribution center for needed household staples, such as food, clothing, first aid supplies, and school supplies.

Meetings with community providers and leaders who serve the larger Austin community revealed that Central West Austin, which borders the St. Catherine-St. Lucy campus, is considered a social services desert and several organizations are looking for more space in this area to better serve residents. As they noted, proximity matters when someone is looking for help.

Getting to the upper limit fundraising goal would enable The Neighborhood Bridge to host in the rectory a wider range of needed services identified by Austin residents in surveys and focus groups, such as mental healthcare, primary healthcare, financial counseling, and job training, provided by established organizations that would lease space in the building.

Even as fundraising begins in earnest, the team that has been working on this project from the beginning, buttressed by new volunteers with much-needed skills who emerged from the public forums, will continue to meet with Austin residents at their schools and churches to elicit additional input on what services the community needs at The Neighborhood Bridge.

The Neighborhood Bridge came about due to the efforts of a small group of dedicated volunteers (the Feasibility Study Team) who have been laying the groundwork since last January, with the support and guidance of Fr. Carl Morello.

Since August, some of the Team presented the study’s findings in 18 public forums held at churches throughout Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park, as well as five schools in Austin. In all, about 325 members of the community attended the public forums, offering enthusiastic support for the study’s findings. Thanks go to the people who have devoted countless hours to the effort over the last 12 months, led by co-chairs Jack Crowe and Dan Doody. Other team members include: Maudette Carr, Mary Darnall, Mindy Dillon, Sarah Finnegan, Jeanne Gallo, Chris Griffith, Jim Jankowski, Jack Lesniak, Kenna MacKinnon, John Meister, Mike Morrissey, and Bill Rosenquist.

Those interested in making an end-of-year donation to The Neighborhood Bridge can mail a check to:

The Neighborhood Bridge
P.O. Box 1853
Oak Park, IL 60304


UNIFICATION / NEW REALITY NEWS

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

PUBLIC FORUMS FROM AUGUST THROUGH NOVEMBER 2023

PUBLIC FORUMS – Discussing Social Ministry Outreach to Austin Residents from the St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy Campus

During August, September, October and November 2023, many people from our community attended our public forums to learn about the findings of a Feasibility Study into whether the former rectory at St. Catherine-St. Lucy can be repurposed to serve, in the words of the Renew My Church outcomes, “as a base for powerful ministry outreach to the West Side of Chicago… supported by the entire Oak Park Catholic community.”

The forums thus far have resulted in enthusiastic support of the vision, as well as the addition of more than a dozen new volunteers to lend their expertise and skill as the project moves forward. This social ministry initiative has also drawn interest from the broader faith communities of Oak Park and River Forest.

We will continue to post our updates in the near future!

Questions? Please contact Feasibility Study Team Co-Chair Dan Doody at dan@doody.com.

PUBLIC FORUMS – Discussing Social Ministry Outreach to Austin Residents from the St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy Campus

Since late August, more than 350 people from our community have attended public forums to learn about the findings of a Feasibility Study into whether the former rectory at St. Catherine-St. Lucy can be repurposed to serve, in the words of the Renew My Church outcomes, “as a base for powerful ministry outreach to the West Side of Chicago… supported by the entire Oak Park Catholic community.”

The forums thus far have resulted in enthusiastic support of the vision, as well as the addition of more than a dozen new volunteers to lend their expertise and skill as the project moves forward. This social ministry initiative has also drawn interest from the broader faith communities of Oak Park and River Forest.

If you’ve intended to come to a forum but have been unable to do so, please plan on attending one of the two scheduled in the coming weeks. Feel free to bring family members and friends.

  • Sunday, November 12 at 11:30 am – Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church – 744 Fair Oaks, Oak Park
  • Thursday, November 16 at 7 pm – Pilgrim Congregational Church – 508 Lake, Oak Park

Please register for the meeting most convenient for you to attend by using the Online Registration Form below. Pre-registration will enable us to prepare each venue for the number of people we are expecting to attend. We urge you to come even if you are unable to register ahead of time; we always anticipate additional attendees.

Questions? Please contact Feasibility Study Team Co-Chair Dan Doody at dan@doody.com.

Click to Register Online NOW!


UNIFICATION / NEW REALITY NEWS

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

UPDATE AS OF MAY 2023

HISTORY

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.

FEASIBILITY COMMITTEE

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.