“Being parish not only at church but also in our neighborhood”
Last Saturday night a group of 17 people in the 1700 building on 56th Street came together to share a wonderful evening of food and fellowship. “We are here together because of Pope Francis, to follow his call to evangelize. So let’s start here, we want to get to know each other as the people in this high rise, and be there for each other, when there are needs.” Teresa Vazquez said at the onset of the evening. In fact, everyone was very happy to get to know each other as part of this community across floors in the building. It also gave a chance to Fr. Elias, who had been invited, to get to know the parishioners better. If you would like to start something in your block, contact the parish office! Stay tune for things going on in other blocks. (11/15/2015)
Do you know your fellow parishioners on your block? As part of our parish life and outreach, we are going to begin to make an effort to connect our parishioners with Catholic neighbors who live in your own building, or on your own block.
We have checked the names and addresses in a few areas so that we can make a modest beginning. We have prepared the names of parishioners who live 4800 Chicago Beach Drive, University Apartments, and also South Kimbark Avenue.
The purpose of this program is not to ‘do’ anything, plan anything or organize anything. We just want to bring our experience of ‘church’ closer to home, and make our Christian fellowship experienced in some measure, even where we live.
Watch this page, as we take the first steps in our block fellowship experience. Pray for this effort, that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us, as we try to make the church alive where we live, in our building, in our neighborhood. If it grows, perhaps it will enable you to meet and greet your fellow parishioners, and recognize them when you see them here in Church, and in your local community. Please pray for this small program, as we begin. If you would like to be involved, or if you have questions, please direct them to Paola in the parish office. More information about this effort will be announced regularly in the bulletin. Stay tuned!
Eva P. lives in the block of 4800 Chicago Beach Drive. When she meets parishioners or friends in the lobby or laundry room, she greets them and speaks with them. During these conversations she has reconnected with some neighbors who were St. Thomas parishioners some years ago, and they have shared how their lives are going and also the difficulties that mean they cannot get to church anymore. But all expressed thanks that they feel that they are remembered and still in contact with the parish. Fellowship leaders can put a bulletin in the mailbox of parishioners who might like to receive it. Some fellowship leaders plan on gathering neighbors at a table during the time of Sunday hospitality. These are great ways to reach out to our neighbors and connect them to our community, showing our love and support for our neighbors.
In the University apartments, Sr. Jamie reached out to every parishioners by giving them a call and simply asking “how are you doing?” We discovered a parishioner who is confined at home, and was very happy to receive the call. He had a question for the parish, and Sister was able to help him connecting to the parish office and eventually an arrangement of a visit of the pastor was made. Sr. Jamie also invited a neighbor to meet at the parish hall for a coffee and donut after Mass. These are just some initial steps of the block fellowship project. We are very happy with these small steps, simple acts of care and kindness as are building our St. Thomas community in our own neighborhood.
As Pope Francis said “A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it.” (Evangelii Gaudium)
The Block Fellowship has been warmly welcomed by the parishioners who are involved in it. People discover Catholic neighbors and fellow parishioners. That’s a big step in building community. And concrete things do come from it. For instance, recently we discovered that a Catholic neighbor was scheduled for surgery, and a priest was able to arrange for a visit to celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick. If you are interested in being involved in this project on your block please contact us through the parish office.
Here are two quotes of Pope Francis from the ‘Joy of the Gospel’: The Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need, a kind of “charity à la carte”, or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. (180).
An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles. (183).