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August 2022 - Special message from Bishop Bob & Mission OLA!

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Chicago! We hope you have been able to stay cool during the record-breaking heat of recent weeks. Here on Iowa Street, even amidst the heat wave, we set our own record-high numbers by serving the most families in one week since our food pantry moved back indoors last summer. Just a few Tuesdays ago, over 362 families came in person. Due to large household sizes, this accounted for over 2,000 individuals! In the same week, we delivered groceries to 287 senior citizens, bringing us to a grand total of 649 households in one week! As inflation continues to rock the economy, the number of people we are serving at the pantry is steadily increasing. Over the course of 2021, we provided over 35,000 households with well over 2 million pounds of food, and so far it looks like our 2022 impact will be even greater.

 

 


In other exciting news, the former Our Lady of the Angels school building renovation project is essentially complete! Our new Outreach Center hosts a Eucharistic Adoration chapel, dining room, industrial kitchen, office space, donation storage, and, of course, the grocery-store-style food pantry on the 1st floor. The 2nd floor has flexible, multi-purpose spaces that will be used for retreats, meetings, Bible camp, and other social services over time. Finally, the 3rd floor is now home to a beautiful 57-bedroom retreat floor for overnight volunteers and retreat groups. We are so close to being completely finished with this massive renovation effort. After the finishing touches of this summer, we are looking forward to hosting the official rededication ceremony on October 2, exactly 62 years after the dedication of the “new” school building on October 2, 1960. Click on the link for more info if you'd like to attend! 

School Rededication info


 

 

In April, we hosted our first major event using the entire new Outreach Center. We were blessed to host the formation retreat for the National Eucharistic Preachers - the priests from around the country who have been specially commissioned to be preachers for the USCCB's National Eucharistic Revival. Thanks to our beautiful new space, we were able to host nearly 50 priests, 3 bishops, and a number of volunteers to help run this incredible retreat. As Franciscans of the Eucharist, we are humbled and grateful that our very first large-scale event was one dedicated to sharing the great truth of Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. This was the first of MANY retreats that we will host, and we are excited to see how God will continue to use and bless our new retreat center in the years to come!


After all of the incredible construction work of the spring, we were also finally able to welcome the Our Lady of the Angels fire memorial statue back to her home on the Feast of the Visitation (May 31st) of this year. This statue of Mary was in the “new” (1960) school building as the on-site memorial for the victims of the 1958 school fire. For various reasons, the statue was moved to the Church of the Holy Family on Roosevelt Road when the school became a public school in 1999. Mary’s move was a point of deep sadness and disappointment for many survivors of the fire. In a fitting tribute to her importance and the valiant efforts of our Chicago firefighters to save lives on that fateful day, the statue returned with great solemnity and celebration. Carried out of Holy Family amidst an honor guard formed by the Chicago Fire Department, she was then mounted in a specially-crafted carrier on the front of a fire truck and slowly paraded through the city until she arrived back at Our Lady of the Angels. 

Once back on site, she was received by Cardinal Cupich, many survivors, firefighters, several Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the sisters who taught at the school at the time of the fire), and many others. It was a very blessed day. The entire event was live streamed and can be viewed here:  Highlights from Mary's return to OLA


Thanks to the generosity of so many of you, we have continued to be able to provide for all those in need of food, never closing our doors or running out of food since the need first skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic. We are receiving and distributing so much food, in fact, that the building itself cannot keep up with the wear and tear of the high number of heavy pallets of food that we must receive to keep everything running. Portions of the floor are literally crumbling beneath pallet jacks as we move food around the 1st floor to prepare for distribution. It will cost upwards of $30,000 to install a new floor that is able to handle such a constant stream of heavy pallets. Due to the intensity of use, we also need to upgrade some of our pantry shelving and other pantry equipment to make sure that we are still able to receive and process this high volume of food now and into the future. We are grateful for any support you are able to offer to help us with these upgrades. With the installation of this new floor, the school renovation project will be 100% finished! If you are able to help us make either of these upgrades possible to help us to continue to provide for the needs of the poor on Chicago’s Westside, please consider donating: 

 

Donate
 
Thank you to those who have already donated and have been so generous throughout the school renovation project! 

 

Please continue to pray for us and for vocations to our community! We were very blessed to have had two vows ceremonies this spring, with Sr. Laura professing her Final Vows in April and Sr. Emily and Sr. Macey professing their First Vows in May. It was a great gift to host families and friends to celebrate these milestones. We now have 6 members in final vows in the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago and we hope for many more in the years to come.

Know of our prayers for you! Please feel welcome to send your prayer requests to us at olamission@gmail.com.

Thanks and God bless,

 


Bishop Bob Lombardo and the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago