At a press conference held Tuesday, April 4th, Cardinal Cupich announced a bold initiative of the Chicago Archdiocese, its parishes, and its ministries, including those run by Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, Catholic Charities, and Kolbe House, the Archdiocese’s jail ministry, to build a culture of nonviolence in Chicago.

The initiative will expand the capacity of outreach programs already in place that address the root causes of violence in our communities, while investing in new approaches and partnerships with groups, businesses, and individuals to break the cycle of despair, racism, and poverty that fuel violence in Chicago.

Cardinal Cupich also announced the creation of the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will support and expand programs that fight violence, and personally pledged $250,000 to it from his own discretionary funds.

The event was held at the Peace Center in the Austin neighborhood and the date was chosen to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., who dedicated his life’s ministry to peace and justice.

Fr. Scott

In addition to Cardinal Cupich, Mercy Home’s President/CEO Fr. Scott Donahue addressed the media to pledge Mercy Home’s support of the effort and to announce a partnership between the Archdiocese and Youth Guidance, which developed the Becoming a Man and Working on Womanhood program that has been used successfully with our young people, to establish similar programs and the parish and school levels.

“The only way to break this cycle of violence is by reaching out and saving one life at a time,” Fr. Scott said. “We must rebuild around each one of these young people the circle of support many of us take for granted in our families. Young people cannot reject violence if that’s the only thing they have known. They cannot reject violence if retaliation is the only response they have seen, if the gang is the only support system they’ve experienced in their young lives.”

Monsignor Michael Boland, President and CEO of Catholic Charities, also expressed support for the initiative and described his organization’s work in addressing the causes and effects of violence and helping people in need.

“Catholic Charities provides shelter and counseling, job training and housing assistance to ease the desperation that begets violence,” Boland said. “We have seen violence reduced by interventions such as these and we know we can make a difference if we spread our impact even further.”

Fr. Scott and Monsignor Boland co-chaired the Archdiocese’s anti-violence committee, which meets at Mercy Home.

The announcement made headlines across the country, and enjoyed support from Pope Francis, who encouraged Chicago’s peacemakers in a letter, which Cardinal Cupich read at the press conference.

Learn more about the initiative and watch video of the full press conference here.

WALK WITH US FOR PEACE

As part of the program, the Cardinal is inviting all people of good will to join him for a Walk for Peace through the Englewood community on Good Friday, April 14. The walk will begin at St. Benedict the African Church, at the corner of 66th Street and Stewart Avenue. During the walk, participants will trace the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those whose lives were lost to violence.

In Pope Francis’ letter to Chicagoans, the Holy Father pledged his support to marchers, writing, “As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city.”

Learn more about the Good Friday Peace Walk.

Photos courtesy of the Chicago Catholic

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