St. James parish is located south of downtown, and, like many urban parishes in the United States, is in an economically poor neighborhood that has been abandoned in several ways. The neighborhood was nearly devastated decades ago when two major interstate highways were built around it, literally demolishing blocks and blocks of homes and businesses. The neighborhood has never fully recovered economically or socially. The historic church that once graced the campus was torn down several years ago and worship takes place in the former school auditorium. It is a small, diverse parish– about half of its parishioners are African American. The church has an extensive social service outreach to the local community as well as a robust campus ministry at a local university, making it ripe for evangelization outreach.
As the latest addition to our list of missions, we are overjoyed to live with and serve among the people St. James Parish in Chicago. On March 1, 2016, Father John Edmunds, S.T., began leading our missionary efforts there. This new work provides a great opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our founder, Father Thomas Judge, by working to preserve the Catholic faith, especially among those who are forgotten in today’s society. It is the foundation of our missionary work. This new mission also gives us yet another opportunity to foster a missionary spirit within the laity so that they, too, are empowered to share the Good News with others.
Another unique aspect of this new mission is it will also be home to our English-speaking Student-Brothers studying for the priesthood. Beginning in the fall, they will be attending classes during the week, and on weekends they will work in the parish. Father John anticipates them serving the parish youth and reaching out to the men, women and children in the neighborhood who might have “fallen away” from the Church.
Father John is thrilled that he will be in a community with so many eager and faithful Catholics. When he spoke to me about his new assignment, his enthusiasm was evident! “St. James seems like a great place for Trinity Missions because of the parish outreach to the poor,” he said. “My prayer is that we can use that as the starting point to bring the merciful presence of Jesus to the neighborhood.”