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Connecting Kinship with Community: The North Lawndale Kinship Initiative

October 21, 2016

The storied and iconic Old St. Patrick’s Church of Chicago’s West Loop is no stranger to creatively engaging the social issues of the city.  The parish’s North Lawndale Kinship Initiative represents the latest movement to reach the needs of the local community.

While discerning a way to expand their missions program, parishioners who could not invest time in a foreign country but nevertheless wanted to exercise a personal presence in building justice began looking for opportunities in their very own backyard.  Early inspiration came in the form of a parish mission delivered by Father Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries, a ministry in Los Angeles committed to helping former gang members and prison inmates create a new path in society.

Surveying the needs of their local community, Old St. Pat’s Social Ministry identified as a possible partnership a local high school of 900 students, where it was discovered that over 10% of students were currently undergoing some form of homelessness.

As a fruit of their community’s discernment, Old St. Pat’s established the North Lawndale Kinship Initiative (NLKI), which exists to be a “collaboration between the people of Old St. Patrick’s Church and those who live in and work on behalf of the North Lawndale Community of Chicago’s west side.”  Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, the NLKI is guided by a “Kinship Creed” focused on the value that “kinship is love in action,” which fosters relationships in community.

The NLKI operates in conjunction with a team of 13 local partner organizations, including other Christian churches in North Lawndale and professional services in the city.  Pastor of Old St. Pat’s, Father Tom Hurley, highlights the immense importance of partnership when it comes to large-scale community initiatives.  Two advisory boards comprised of representatives of the local partners and an Executive Director hired by St. Pat’s meet monthly to manage the initiative.

Out of the partner organizations, participants are subdivided into nine “Working Groups,” 3 – 9 person teams of North Lawndale and Old St. Pat’s volunteers who work to “vision and lead all collaborations, networking, sharing of expertise and gathering of support and resources.”  A coordinator who liaises with one of the partner organization directs each working group.  These groups fall under categories:  Facilities, Business and Employment, Finance, Education, Housing, Legal, Messaging, Faith-Family-Culture, Health and Safety.

Parishioners of Old St. Pat’s agreed to dedicate a quarter of its capital campaign to fund the ministry of creating a home to serve the homeless student population, in addition to other efforts through the NLKI.  They hope to further develop and possibly even make plans to build in 2017.

The church and local community is kept up to speed through communications and annual “Reboots.”  The 2016 Fall Reboot followed the theme, “Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed.”  Additionally, the Kinship webpage features videos exploring the different facets of the initiative including information on partnering organizations.



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