Cupich: Church will do everything it can 'to end scourge of violence'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) — Chicago Cardinal
Blase J. Cupich April 4 announced a new initiative to increase the work of
current anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy
Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese’s
jail ministry.

The Chicago Archdiocese also
will seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle
of violence.

The cardinal announced
the initiatives on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr.

With a $250,000 personal
donation, Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese will create the Instruments of
Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and
existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from
donations he’s received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

In 2018, the archdiocese also
will hold the first U.S. meeting of Scholas Occurrentes, a program active in
100 countries that brings young people together to meet and problem-solve. The
gathering will involve young people from Cook and Lake counties.

The announcements came during a news
conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center, which serves young people in
Chicago’s violence-prone Austin neighborhood. As of April 5, 773 people were
shot in Chicago in 2017 and there were 151 homicides, according to the Chicago

Cardinal Cupich also
invited people to join him on a Walk for Peace through the city’s Englewood
neighborhood on Good Friday, April 14. Like Austin, Englewood is a neighborhood
that sees frequent shootings and crime. During the walk, participants will take
part in the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who
died by violence. Along the route, participants will read the names of those
killed in Chicago since January.

The cardinal said he
shared these plans with Pope Francis when he met him in Rome recently. Pope
Francis was moved by the news and drafted a letter to the people of Chicago,
which the cardinal read at the news conference.

“I assure you of my
support for the commitment you and many other local leaders are making to
promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to people in Chicago,” the
letter stated.

The pope said he will be
praying for those who will participate in the Good Friday walk.

“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,” the letter

Cardinal Cupich’s
announcement of new initiatives follows a yearlong process he initiated to
learn about the scope of anti-violence programs already going on in the

While no program will
completely eradicate violence from the city, the cardinal said, “just because
we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something. It’s going to
take one person at a time.”

During his process of
learning about the efforts in the archdiocese, Cardinal Cupich said he heard of
many ways parishes and groups want to respond but lack the funding to do more.
The Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund is for them.

“I see this as seed money
for these local initiatives,” he said. “There really is no niche fund to
support their efforts.”

He stressed the need for
partnerships in these efforts.

“I can’t do it alone. I
need the help of others,” Cardinal Cupich said.

Father Scott Donahue,
executive director of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, also addressed reporters
at the news conference and announced another new initiative. For 130 years,
Mercy Home has cared for abused and neglected children.

Mercy Home uses the Becoming A
Man and Working on Womanhood programs run by Chicago’s Youth Guidance that help
at-risk youth overcome obstacles and succeed in school and life. Donahue
announced that the archdiocese will work with Youth Guidance to develop similar
parish-based programs for youth.

“The only way to break this
cycle of violence is by reaching out and saving one life at a time,” Father Donahue
said. “They (the youth) cannot reject violence if that is the only thing they know.”

Cardinal Cupich agreed.

“These kids are not born bad,”
he said. “They are kids who didn’t see another path forward.”

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Duriga is editor of the Chicago
Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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