Every year, every parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago has a number of mandated “special collections.” Parish priests are not overly fond of these for a variety of reasons: although all of them are very worthy causes, there seem to be so many of them, and some of them seem to have so narrow an interest that it is not immediately obvious why every person in every parish is being asked to contribute. Moreover, when it seems like we cannot get through a month without having one, the very name “special collection” suffers a diminishment of force. Special? How can something be so very frequent and yet still be special?
Which brings us to Mother’s Day and a special collection that is truly special, not just for the Archdiocese as a whole, but doubly so for us here at St. James. Every Mother’s Day for quite a few years now, we have had the special collection for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Even a partial and highly incomplete list of the good works done by this organization would take up all the pages of this bulletin. They feed the poor, they help people find housing, they arrange for poor families to bury their dead, they find safe shelter for victims of domestic abuse, they arrange for adoptions and work especially hard on behalf of hard to place children, they help people in danger of losing their gas and electricity, they match seniors in need with the agencies that can help them, and on and on and on. I lived and worked for about ten years at St. Peter’s in the Loop, and hardly a day went by that we didn’t make a referral or two to Catholic Charities for some person who wandered into the front office in search of some kind of help.
Here at St. James we, like most parishes, make the same kind of referrals, even if not on a daily basis. But here at St. James we have an added connection, a deeper relationship with Catholic Charities than most parishes can boast of – they are our landlord, and one of the main reasons that our food pantry can continue on as it has. To be precise, East Lake Management owns the building in which the parish offices and the food pantry have space, but Catholic Charities holds the long term lease on the property, and we have our offices and food pantry warehouse through the generous donation of Catholic Charities.
St. James has been here for about a dozen years and for all of those years it has been rent free. Thus, Catholic Charities was an indispensable partner with St. James, from the very beginning, in our social care outreach and programs. They gave us the place gratis and without any formal sub-lease agreement. This past year that informal arrangement was regularized, and starting in July 2015 we will begin paying Catholic Charities a monthly rent of $600 – a price ridiculously low and far below the going rate for such a property. St. James has its own financial problems, and this added expense will increase them, but it was only fair that we begin to pay something, and God knows and we know that what little rent we will be paying will all be for a good cause.
The Mother’s Day collection is next week. The special envelopes are in your monthly mailing and extras are available in the back of the hall. Please think about it, and do what you can. And thanks for your generosity.
Fr. Bob Sprott, O.F.M.