In mid-April, the Weekly published a story on the closure of St. Columbanus School, a Catholic institution in Park Manor. The pastor of the St. Columbanus parish, Matt O’Donnell, wrote this response.
On Saturday morning, the sound of honking cars echoed up and down 79th Street. Passersby were responding to a group of young people waving signs reading “Free Prayer” and “We Believe,” as part of the Prayer on the 9 prayer line and peace march.
Two long, drip-irrigated plant beds run parallel to the southernmost wall of KAM Isaiah Israel, a Reform synagogue that straddles the border between Hyde Park and Kenwood. Some sections of the two beds bear different varieties of kale and collard greens. Others are filled with what appear to be weeds but are actually a cover crop, storing up carbon and nitrogen in the soil for produce that will be planted in weeks to come.
For everything there is a season—innocence, adolescence, first love. One major life experience, though, is not temporary, but changes along with the seasons of life: learning. A solid grammar school education can set a solid foundation for life. For many years, St. Columbanus School served that role in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Park Manor, providing a culturally rich, warm environment, as well as an academically rigorous one. According to St. Columbanus alumna Leslie Cain-Cauley, who graduated with the class of 1980, what made St. Columbanus special was that it was a family; parents were friends with each other outside of the school and supported the teachers, and the students had pride in the school. In 2015, however, St. Columbanus had to close its doors and merge with St. Dorothy School due to low enrollment. The merged schools became the Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, which has a STREAM curriculum (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math). The new school not only marks the end of an era in this community, but points to the variety of changes in the Catholic community as a whole—economic, educational, and social.
“Of course, as good Chicagoans, we ignored this.”
Fifteen years ago, when Mack Julion first came to Saint Sabina’s in Auburn Gresham, the church didn’t have a youth ministry. After working for a few years in the office of the church’s longtime pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, he managed to convince Pfleger to let him start one. Now, the church’s youth ministry has programs for parishioners from ages thirteen to thirty-five. In some ways, Julion is a perfect Saint Sabina’s success story: the church empowered him to empower others.
“When you empathize with someone, those are the only answers that really make sense.”
To Sister Kathy, being a nun and being socially ‘radical’ are inseparable.
West Point Baptist Church, the longtime home church of gospel legend Albertina Walker, sits squarely next to Ellis Park in Bronzeville. Just a block north at 35th Street, a commemorative street sign reads “Albertina Walker and the Caravans Drive,” marking this span of Cottage Grove a homage to the “Queen of Gospel” and The Caravans, the gospel group with which she grew to international acclaim. Continue reading
Terry Shanks leaned back in his chair and chuckled while swarms of shrieking children ran past his office to gym class. As we returned to his story, told in his firm but earnest voice, Shanks beamed with a cheerful smile. Currently in his role as a part-time locker room attendant for the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Shanks also works as a minister with the United Praise Ministry, a church in Chatham. Shanks was born in 1957 and lived between 47th and 43rd in what he calls “a rough little area.” He now lives with his wife Mable Shanks—his four grown children have moved out. Continue reading