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June 2024 - Special message from Bishop Bob & Mission OLA!

Summer 2024

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings from Chicago! We have had another wonderful season of caring for the poor and sharing the treasures of our Catholic faith here at Mission OLA. This past spring, our retreat work reached an all-time high. We hosted many overnight retreats for parishes and young adults including groups from University of Wisconsin-Madison, St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish in Chicago, St. John the Evangelist Parish (IN), young adults from the Diocese of Kalamazoo (MI), the Catholic Lawyers Guild, University of Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State University Medical School, Northern State University (South Dakota), and Midwestern State University of Texas, among others! We also hosted additional groups for day retreats and traveled off-site to offer retreats and talks for local schools and parishes.

In other evangelization news, our community has been very involved with the National Eucharistic Revival and the upcoming Eucharistic Congress. I have served on the bishop’s committee for the Revival and many of our sisters are helping “behind the scenes” with national and local aspects of the Eucharistic Revival. Sr. Alicia has been the managing editor of “Heart of the Revival,” the official weekly newsletter of the National Eucharistic Revival. She has dedicated much of her time to creating and promoting content for the Revival. As Franciscans of the Eucharist, it has been especially meaningful for us to offer our services to the Church during these special years of Eucharistic Revival.  We look forward to seeing many of you at the National Eucharistic Congress in July!


Our regular apostolate at Mission OLA continues to flourish. This spring we hosted community lunches for our neighbors, continued our weekly senior citizens’ program, and expanded our weekly grocery delivery program for homebound seniors and people with disabilities. We have also significantly improved our referral system and social support network for neighbors who have needs that we are not equipped to meet on our own. Our weekly food pantry hit yet another all-time high this past February, when just under 800 families came for food on one of the coldest days of the year. We are now consistently providing food for over 4,000 families a month and moving about 50,000 pounds of food in and out of the Mission every week!


Early 2023 saw a huge influx of migrant families coming to the pantry. Their anxiety, fear, and desperation were palpable. Now that we have provided a consistent, reliable source of food and built relationships with our neighbors for over a year, the atmosphere of the pantry has shifted from one of high stress and anxiety to one of peace. In the words of one of our pantry regulars, “When I come to the pantry, I don’t just get food, I get love.” Many of these new families have been integrated into our regular neighborhood programming, including community meals and block parties. We recently celebrated a wonderful milestone in helping these families acclimate to life in Chicago. On May 25, we partnered with our local parish, San Jose Sanchez del Rio, to offer a special class and Baptisms for migrant families. In total, 5 families participated and were connected with the local Catholic parish. We hope to host many more of these events in the years to come! Including the students taught by our sisters, we were directly responsible for over 20 children receiving Baptism this Easter season.

In community news, I am grateful to share that our 3 postulants entered the novitiate on May 5, 2024, and are now Sr. Maggie, Sr. Jen, and Sr. Mia. At this time, we also have three young women who have applied to join our community this coming fall, which would bring the total number of Franciscans to 16! As our new novices begin life as sisters and we prepare for those entering postulancy in the fall, it is becoming more important than ever to establish a second location for receiving and forming new members of our community.

As you may know, we are renovating the convent at St. Hyacinth Basilica to be our new formation house. Postulancy and novitiate, the first 2 stages of formation in religious life, require serious reflection, study, and prayer, as new members continue to discern the call of God in their lives. As any of you who have visited us at the Mission know, life on Iowa Street comes with a great deal of hustle-and-bustle as we receive donations, care for neighbors who stop by our door, and maintain large neighborhood outreach programs. The quiet, contemplative atmosphere that our newest members need can be best provided by renovating a nearby convent - close enough to easily drive to the Mission to help serve, but far enough to allow the space and silence needed to build the foundation of a happy and holy religious life. Once St. Hyacinth convent is renovated, all our sisters in initial formation, plus some of our sister formators, will live at St. Hyacinth. The Archdiocese of Chicago needs well-formed religious, and we need to make sure our young sisters have the time and space set apart for the formation they need to face the intense challenges of our Church and world, now and in the future. This new convent is essential to give our newest members that time and space.


Right now, the upper floors of the convent have no heat, no electricity, no plumbing, very few usable floors, no walls, and no finishes or furnishings. Additionally, the basement continually floods and needs some serious TLC. The first bid for the project at St. Hyacinth rolled in at $1.5 million. We need your help to renovate the convent at St. Hyacinth and support our young sisters in formation. Please consider making a donation to support this project. You can support us by making a check out to the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago (send to 3808 W. Iowa St, Chicago, IL 60651) or donating online at https://secure.qgiv.com/for/tfoteoc/.

 
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Please pray that the City of Chicago moves our permit through their system quickly so we can start work on the project in the fall of 2024. More importantly, please continue to pray for vocations to the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago and for the work of Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Please know of our prayers for you and please feel welcome to send us any prayer requests at olamission@gmail.com.

 

Thank you and God bless,

 


Bishop Bob Lombardo CFR and the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago

P.S.- If you would like to donate directly to our work with the poor or retreat work instead of to the renovation project, please visit https://secure.qgiv.com/for/tfoteoc/ or make a check out to Mission of Our Lady of the Angels and enclose it in the attached envelope. THANK YOU for your support!

 

 

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