Chicagoland

Catholic Charities opens Tolton Peace Center in Austin

By Joyce Duirga | Editor
June 6, 2018

Catholic Charities opens Tolton Peace Center in Austin

Catholic Charities recently opened a center in the city’s Austin neighborhood to be a hub for social services and violence prevention efforts along with offering families and individuals trauma therapy. The Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center at 5645 W. Corcoran Place opened in December 2017 and was dedicated and blessed by Cardinal Cupich on May 24.
Christie Richardson addresses participants as Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, joined Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities, to bless and dedicate Catholic CharitiesÕ new Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center on May 24. The Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center and Peace Garden in ChicagoÕs Austin neighborhood is a community resource center and Òpeace hubÓ for violence prevention and trauma therapy programs.(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities, addresses participants at the dedication of the Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center on May 24, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Joseph Perry addresses participants at the dedication of Catholic Charities' Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center on May 24, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich addresses particpants in the May 24, 2018, dedication of the Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich joined Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities, to bless and dedicate Catholic Charities’ new Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center on May 24. The center and neighboring peace garden is a community resource center and “peace hub” for violence prevention and trauma therapy programs. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Phil Andrew, director of violence-prevention initiatives for the Archdiocese of Chicago, talks with people in the Austin community during the May 24, 2018, dedication of the Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sgt. Jermaine Harris gives one of the prayer intentions during the dedication of Catholic Charities' new Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center on May 24, 2018.(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich blesses a statue of Jesus weeping over a gunshot victim at Catholic Charities' new Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center on May 24, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Catholic Charities recently opened a center in the city’s Austin neighborhood to be a hub for social services and violence prevention efforts along with offering families and individuals trauma therapy. 

The Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center at 5645 W. Corcoran Place opened in December 2017 and was dedicated and blessed by Cardinal Cupich on May 24. 

The cardinal also blessed a peace garden located next to the center. The garden  features a bronze sculpture by artist Timothy Schmalz titled “Thou Shall Not Kill” that depicts Jesus weeping over a gunshot victim. The garden was a gift to the community from Catholic Charities. 
Austin is the second largest neighborhood in the city in terms of population and regularly sees gun violence and crime.

“There is fresh evidence every day that our city and our nation desperately need the comprehensive family support services Catholic Charities provides here,” Cardinal Cupich said during a press conference prior to the blessing and dedication. “Without employment help, social services, day care, mental health and substance abuse care, there is no way the grip of violence — that starts in the home — can be broken. Hurt people go on to hurt people.”  

The cardinal also invited businesses, civic groups and government leaders to join with the agency to help get to the root causes of violence and poverty. Working to end violence has to be a personal issue for people, he said.

“We can’t make this just a head issue, an intellectual issue. It has to hit our hearts if we’re really going to bring about transformative change in our society,” Cardinal Cupich said. “We all have skin in the game here. This is something that everyone in Chicago should care about.”

The Austin Bank Corporation donated the 46,000-square-foot building to the agency. More than 30,000 Austin residents are served through Catholic Charities. Maryville Academy also has an outreach at the site.

The new center is named for Father Tolton, the first recognized black priest ordained for the United States. He ministered in Chicago and died here in 1897. Cardinal Francis George opened his cause for canonization in 2011.

“This peace center stands in tribute to the great work of Catholic Charities over the last 100 years, reaching back to the ministry of Father Tolton on the South Side of Chicago where the city’s poor, mostly blacks and poor Irish, were living in tenement slums around St. Monica Church at 36th and Dearborn streets where he was pastor,” Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, vice postulator of Tolton’s cause, said during the press conference. 

“I believe the work of Catholic Charities punctuates the legacy of Tolton working with the down and out, with food, clothing, counseling, men struggling with alcohol and other kinds of assistance, that Tolton was able to help with. Father Tolton was, in respect, Catholic Charities, if not the face of the church in the South Side’s black corridors back then. Social assistance programs didn’t exist.”

The center is a hub for many of Catholic Charities services and also offers specialized counseling programs to address violence-related trauma including the Anti-Violence Bereavement Program, which offers counseling and support groups for those who have lost a loved one to violence or are experiencing the loss of a loved one who is incarcerated. 

Counselors also work with youth and young adults who are at heightened risk for violent behavior and conduct peace circles, a restorative justice program that helps participants build trust and learn conflict resolution and nonviolent communication skills. (For more on the services, see Monsignor Michael Boland's column.)

Intergenerational trauma is an important focus at the center, since families living in impoverished or violent situations are often victims of some type of abuse or neglect.

“We take an approach working with our counselors as well as our case managers to really assess holistically what’s happening in a person’s experience in relation to their family, in relation to community,” said Frederica Malone, clinical manager at the Tolton Center. 

They evaluate what is working for the client and what is not working, helping them develop coping mechanisms and strategies to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced. All of the counselors are trained in trauma-specific areas.

“We look at is as a way to stop the cycle. Many of our clients come from intergenerational experiences of violence, whether that be within the community or within the family,” Malone said. “We’ve seen quite a lot of children who have been affected by repeated domestic violence within their families.”

Often there are stressors in their environments that keep them from having things like regular meals or shelter that in turn impact the children’s ability to perform well in school and grow, she said. 

“We look at our interventions as a way to slow down the process of that cycle and to reverse it so that we can bring healing. Then the child or the youth is able to walk from here with strengths to deal with whatever is happening and get above that so they aren’t repeating the same patterns.” 

Topics:

  • catholic charities
  • nonviolence

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