Mercy Home opened its doors to local and international leaders from the faith community, labor, the hospitality and tourism industry, community-based organizations, academia, the hospitality workforce, and government for a conversation about the challenges facing Chicago’s hospitality industry and to develop a shared vision for the future.
The event, chaired by Dr. Peter Warrian, Senior Research Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto and Fr. Clete Kiley, Chaplain, Chicago Federation of Labor, is part of a larger multi-year initiative titled “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si’,” which was inspired by Pope Francis. The Initiative is coordinated by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The International Labor Organization and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development are also collaborators.
Every guest is an angel in disguise…
– Fr. Kiley
In the event’s opening remarks, Fr. Kiley explained the day’s specific focus on hospitality in Chicago within the broader topic of the future of work, tying the core concern of one of the city’s leading industries to a set of important values expressed in Christian scripture and in every faith. Describing our responsibility to welcome the stranger, Kiley said “Every guest is an angel in disguise.”
Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said, “Chicago’s hospitality industry is second-to-none because of the workers who make the beds, set the tables and provide the exceptional entertainment experiences for our guests.” In looking ahead, he said, “Industries are changing with the developments of automation and artificial intelligence and hospitality is no different. We’ve seen the way industries can change with automation practically overnight, placing unrealistic demands on workers or worse, eliminating their jobs entirely,” Reiter said.
“We’re committed to working with our partners to protect those critical jobs that make Chicago make sure workers are treated with dignity and respect.”
The discussion from the gathering will result in the drafting of a values statement to help stakeholders navigate the challenges facing Chicago and the hospitality industry.
Ambassador Anne Leahy, member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, travelled from Quebec to represent Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Dicastery Prefect.
“Cardinal Czerny has asked me to assure you of his deep concern about the working conditions for workers engaged in the hospitality industry in this city, in North America and throughout the world,” she said. “Your collective effort to formulate a Statement of Values for the Hospitality Industry is a valuable contribution to the global project “Future of Work: Labour after Laudato Si” that could inspire other sectors in other regions.”
I’m proud that Mercy Home lives by the values of hospitality that were at the heart of the day’s conversation, and that we were able to facilitate that important dialogue at our Home…
– Fr. Donahue
Over 80 attendees participated in small group conversations, facilitated by Sister Mary Priniski, Chapter Prioress, Catherine of Sienna Chapter, Adrian Dominicans with theological reflections by Fr. Louis Cameli, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich’s Delegate for Formation and Mission. A number of our young people who work in the industry, including Mercy Home Community Care members, participated in the discussions. Each table had at least one young person from Mercy Home who contributed their perspectives on the topics discussed.
Speakers at the event included Ignacio Alonso Alasino, Project Manager, “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si’” Project of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), Imam Tariq I. El-Amin, Resident Imam of Masjid Al-Taqwa, Jay Rowell, Executive Director of HIRE360 and Roushaunda Williams, UNITE HERE Local 1 shop steward and IL AFL-CIO Vice President.
Mercy Home President Fr. Scott Donahue reported that he received innumerable comments following the event. “So many people remarked on the gracious welcome that our coworkers and young people extended and how impressed they were overall with our facilities on the West Loop Campus,” Fr. Donahue said. “I’m proud that Mercy Home lives by the values of hospitality that were at the heart of the day’s conversation, and that we were able to facilitate that important dialogue at our Home.”
The event’s lead sponsor is the Chicago Federation of Labor. Co-sponsors include Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, ARISE Chicago, the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Aquinas Literacy Center, the International Catholic Migration Commission, and “The Future of Work – Labour after Laudato si’” initiative.