Cardinal Cupich visits with migrants at Oak Park parish

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Cardinal Cupich visits with migrants at Oak Park parish

Cardinal Cupich visits migrants and volunteers at the St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Migrant Ministry outreach site of St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy and St. Giles Parish in Oak Park offering his support and blessing on Dec. 19, 2023. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich prays with migrants and volunteers on Dec. 19, 2023 at the St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Migrant Ministry outreach site. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich greets migrants. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
The cardinal talks with Dr. Amy Blair who, in partnership with Loyola Medical Center, provides health screenings to the migrants. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich talks with migrants at St. Catherine of Siena Church before they visit the outreach ministry in the former parish rectory to shower, collect clothing and supplies and eat breakfast. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
A migrant examines a pair of shoes. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich listens to the concerns of volunteer Margee Rudnik as Father Carl Morello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena - St. Lucy, St. Giles, Ascension and St. Edmund Parishes looks on. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
A migrant family examines blankets and other bedding items. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich meets with migrants from Venezuela, Ecuador and Guatemala while volunteer Jack Crowe listens. (Deacon Randy Belice/Chicago Catholic)

The number of migrants coming to the St. Catherine-St. Lucy campus in Oak Park for help with basic needs has swelled so much that it has outgrown the former rectory on the site and will move to the first floor of St. Edmund School starting this month.

Cardinal Cupich received a first-hand look of the work Dec. 19, when he visited the campus, touring the former rectory where volunteers assemble breakfast and sort clothes and a physician from Loyola Medicine sees people in need of medical help; and the church, where more than 100 people sat in the pews waiting for assistance.

Volunteers come from both St. Catherine-St. Lucy and St. Giles Parish and Ascension-St. Edmund Parish, both in Oak Park, as well as other Oak Park faith communities.

Cardinal Cupich greeted the waiting people in Spanish, telling them he was honored to be with them and asking where they were from. Many said they came to the United States from Venezuela, and others were from Colombia, Ecuador and Haiti.

Parishioners started welcoming migrants who were staying at the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District station to the former rectory at St. Catherine-St. Lucy in June. Two days a week, people came to the rectory for showers, breakfast and an opportunity to receive new clothing and other items.

“I asked whether we could bring a couple of people for showers,” Celine Woznica told Cardinal Cupich before he blessed volunteers assembling platters of food to serve to their guests. “And now it’s turned into all this.”

“That reminds me about the mustard seed,” Cardinal Cupich responded. “It starts very small, and grows into something very big. It’s faith — faith is alive, and it’s contagious.”

The migrants staying at the police station were moved into shelters around the time the weather turned cold at the end of October, said Father Carl Morello, pastor of both Oak Park parishes, and the need for showers is not as great.

But word spread out about the migrant ministry, and instead of a couple of dozen migrants, the parish receives between 400 and 500 people in need each week. They come from all over the city and from suburbs as far away as Calumet City, said Matt Brophy, the parish’s operations director.

The number of people seeking help, as well as the number of volunteers needed to serve them and the sheer volume of donations, has made the St. Catherine-St. Lucy site less than ideal, Morello said. The donations come from individuals as well as parishes and other groups.

“It’s on three levels in two buildings,” he said, with clothing sorted in the former pastor’s suite, toiletries in bins in a bedroom, shoes distributed from the baptistry and coats and blankets from the sacristy.

The first floor of St. Edmund School, at the corner of Oak Park and Pleasant avenues, will be able to house everything on one level, with more room for donations, making it easier for volunteers and migrants alike. It is also closer to the CTA Green Line, and has more parking, which could be helpful for people making the trek from other neighborhoods.

In addition to a meal and clothing, the parish is working to help migrants receive temporary work permits, according to volunteer Margie Rudnik. It also is working with Catholic Charities to find more permanent housing and has helped five families move into apartments.

Ascension-St. Edmund parishioner Amy Blair, a physician at with Loyola Medicine, first came to St. Catherine-St. Lucy to join other volunteers, but soon realized that Loyola could help with medical care.

“We did it at the police station for a little while, but soon discovered we needed a room,” Blair said, standing in the first-floor room at the rectory. Privacy screens separate exam areas, and volunteers can leave supplies there, she said.

Anywhere from 10 to 40 patients have been seen each day the migrant ministry is open, with patients suffering from common ailments like coughs and colds, chronic diseases like hypertension, and sometimes injuries they have suffered on their long trek to Chicago.

Blair said she and the other medical volunteers also will move to St. Edmund this month.

The St. Catherine-St. Lucy campus will continue to be a community anchor, Morello said, with St. Catherine-St. Lucy School and Mass on Sundays and once during the week for the school’s students. Other non-profits run a shelter for homeless people that operates in the former rectory every night of the year, and a home for women in recovery from substance abuse.

Donations of needed items will be accepted at St. Edmund School on Mondays, and the migrant ministry will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays. To learn more about the ministry, visit


  • migrants
  • parishes
  • cardinal blase j. cupich

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