The parish is where we Catholics go to practice our faith and celebrate the gospel. It is where we gather in fellowship, both in times of joy and difficulty.
The Claretian Missionaries minister particularly in high-poverty, urban areas. We live in the communities where we work and our parish work is to bring God’s Love and Word beyond church walls and into our neighborhoods. Because the needs of our communities are many, we develop a wide range of programs to serve various age groups. We are dedicated to serving the people through our shared faith, and to improving their daily lives through our community development programs.
Claretians and laity work together to create safe neighborhoods where people can live with dignity and care for one another even amid the many urban challenges. Community development starts by greeting others with a friendly “hello.” It is important to enter into conversations of purpose, about why people should care for their community. We engage local leaders and provide leadership development programs to mentor new leaders in the parish and in the neighborhood.
The results can be miraculous. Graffiti stops, violence drops, attendance at schools improves, grades improve, and more people live with hope. We have a long history of partnering with people from public and private sectors to build healthy communities.
An example is one of our parishes in Chicago, IL:
The parish formed a partnership with the local park and soon basketball tournaments were set up. With encouragement from the church, the nearby elementary school set up a partnership with another local elementary school. Soon, a probation officer and judge took an interest in the youth activity, and a local business decided to sponsor a college scholarship for a young person. The police were encouraged to talk to the neighbors at community meetings. Within a few years, a coalition began, the Peace and Education Coalition. Out of the partnerships and coalition, an alternative high school was created, and scholarship programs grew. The parish created summer programs and an out-of-school program that featured tutoring and a Kids Meal Program where children get a good third meal every weekday.
There is no end to the possibilities of service when relationships are strong.