Last year, Sue Geegan wiped tears from her eyes as she, Father Terry Keehan, and more than 700 others walked down Michigan Avenue in remembrance of Chicagoans lost to gun violence. The walk was part of an awareness campaign. Geegan and Father Keehan turned it into action.
“We were so touched by the walk, and also just so frustrated – how can this keep happening?” Geegan said. In response, the parish launched a Lenten social justice project called "Walking Peaceful Pathways to Hope." The five-week campaign aimed to raise $25,000 to benefit Catholic Charities Peace Corner Youth Center and the Strong Futures program at the Faith Community of St. Sabina. As of mid-April, $86,000 was raised.
“We were so impressed with Catholic Charities Peace Corner and what they were doing for youth,” Geegan said. “It was a no-brainer and a perfect match for what we were looking to support.”
The Peace Corner, located in the Austin community on the city’s west side, offers afterschool activities, tutoring, mentoring, and athletic programs for youth as well as job training and employment opportunities for young adults.
"You can fold up your tent and give up or you can be an instrument of hope,” Keehan said. “One specific ray of hope is The Peace Corner, specifically focusing on younger people and giving them activities, nutrition, guidance, and hope.”
Holy Family educated its parishioners about the programs during Mass through videos featuring program participants and staff.
“This is the one place in Austin where children can come and feel safe,” said Catholic Charities Peace Corner Director Ralph Harris. “We’re the only game in town.”
Holy Family also created a display in its lobby that represents the struggles of communities like Austin. The display is surrounded by a chain-link fence, and inside are pictures of those lost to gun violence and their families at their funerals. At the center is a cross.
“Our ultimate message was hope and that Christ is at the center,” Geegan said. “We really wanted people to immerse themselves in the situations that others are experiencing. It brings us together as a community. It shows that even though we all come from different areas, we come together in solidarity when we see tragedy and injustice.”
The campaign will continue throughout the summer as parishioners make in-kind gifts to support the Peace Corner and seek volunteer opportunities on-site.
For more information on the Peace Corner and how you can help, visit catholiccharities.net/peacecorner.
CAPTION: Gene Garcia, Sue Geegan, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Kathy Donahue, Mike Waters, Fr. Terry Keehan, Pastor; Deacon Dennis Brown.