On May 24, Catholic Charities was honored to have Cardinal Cupich bless our newest service location, the Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center and the beautiful peace garden in the community of Austin. Catholic Charities was thrilled to be offered this space, which was a generous gift from Austin Bank of Chicago and enables us to bring a host of new programs and the promise of hope to an area challenged by violence, poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Catholic Charities has been serving Austin for decades, with more than 30,000 residents served annually. But as violence has increased over the past several years, we have redoubled our efforts to address deep-seated needs in the community. With our new location at the Tolton Center, Catholic Charities is able to have an even greater impact on the community. Several specialized counseling programs address violence-related trauma, including the Anti-Violence Bereavement Program, which offers counseling and support groups for those who have lost loved ones to violence or are experiencing the loss of loved ones who are incarcerated. (See story.) Violence Prevention Counseling works with youth and young adults who are at heightened risk for violent behavior and Peace Circles is a restorative justice program that helps participants build trust and learn conflict resolution and nonviolent communication skills. We also have specialized programing for victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic violence; and counseling to address depression, anxiety and other mental health or relational struggles. Also at the Tolton Center is a drop-in center for seniors, and a clothing room that specializes in career and professional clothing and provides guidance on resume writing and job interviewing. We have partnered with Maryville so it can use the space to provide parenting classes and a variety of behavioral health, therapeutic and recreational services. In addition, Catholic Charities offers short-term case management; help with housing, food, and child care; and linkage to any available resources that might be needed. In essence, the Tolton Center is a “one-stop shop” in the neighborhood so that we can provide help in any way we can. Another important way Catholic Charities serves Austin is through the Peace Corner Youth Center. Originated by the Comboni Fathers, Catholic Charities welcomed the Peace Corner into its family of programs in 2016. The Peace Corner provides youths with experiences that can be truly life-changing: athletic programs and activities give youth an alternative to street play where they are vulnerable to crime and gang activity; one-on-one tutoring helps them achieve success in school; mentoring gives them positive relationships with caring adults; paid work experiences teach the importance of education; civic engagement activities demonstrate the value of getting involved to solve community problems; and field trips to Chicago’s attractions like the lakefront or museums expose them to the beautiful parts of our city that most have never seen. Amazing things can happen when our youth see possibilities, are exposed to new opportunities and are taught positive coping strategies. Catholic Charities is fortunate to have many strong partnerships that deepen our roots in the community including those with Austin Bank of Chicago, Maryville, Chicago Jesuit Academy, Christ the King High School and St. Martin de Porres Parish. We also work with other local businesses, community groups, hospitals, law enforcement, schools and churches who are deeply committed to the success of Austin and work hard to see it thrive. Catholic Charities is truly blessed to be a part of the Austin community and to work with Austin residents who daily demonstrate their profound resilience and fortitude in battling violence and poverty. We pray that the brilliant light of Christ will enlighten this community with lasting peace and hope for the future.