Building Healthier Communities
Despite the poverty and violence in the community, Holy Cross Parish staff doesn’t talk about their neighborhood, the Back of the Yards in Chicago, as a dangerous place that young people should fear. The staff is mindful of the sometimes dangerous realities of the neighborhood, but they don’t let incidences of violence interrupt their youth programs. This consistent sense of normalcy offers a peace of mind and a sense of hope to young people who face more obstacles than many other children their age.
Though there’s still much work to be done, the Holy Cross staff has made remarkable progress in the neighborhood. Incidents of violence are now the exception, rather than the norm. The neighborhood is not only producing doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, police officers, and healthcare providers, but these successful people are choosing to remain in the neighborhood to help the next generation succeed.
These professionals, combined with the growing number of parish-trained leaders, are changing the way the community thinks about itself. Throughout all their programming, Holy Cross stresses grassroots leadership, peace, academics, hospitality, and the belief that everyone has something to contribute to the community. Now more young people and adults are speaking out about neighborhood problems and organizing to face them head-on rather than retreating into their homes and locking the doors. The best indication of Holy Cross’s effectiveness, however, is the fact that kids return to their youth programs from year-to-year and actively recruit their friends to join too.
These programs have a tremendous impact on the community not only because of the skilled and dedicated parish staff, but also because of the Claretians’ long-standing relationship with the community. Claretians at Holy Cross have served the neighborhood for over 30 years and have built a deep trust with its residents. Nationally, many Latinos in urban areas are more likely to seek help from religious orders like the Claretians because they are familiar, safe, trusted allies.