Assumption Catholic Church
  323 West Illinois Street - Chicago IL 60654
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Fr. Joseph Chamblain, O.S.M.


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6/24/2018 Fr. Joseph Chamblain, OSM    


About fifteen years ago there was a short-lived drama series on network television about three priests in a fictional parish. When the show was about to premier, someone asked me, “Do you think it will be realistic?” My response was, “I certainly hope not.” If it had been realistic, it would have been even shorter-lived. The truth is that I feel tremendously blessed and grateful for the privilege of serving as a priest for over 34 years. It has been anything but boring. Yet viewed from the outside, many of the things I do would look boring. That is true of any occupation. Lawyers on television are always arguing cases in court, not sitting in their office hammering out property settlements or reviewing patent applications. In real life we see cops standing around at public events and nothing unexpected happens. On television cops are always chasing killers and drug dealers. Even the actors themselves, whom we sometimes think of as living glamorous lives, spend much of their day sitting in a trailer waiting to be called to the set or reviewing their lines. Boring.

To get to the point:  After the Masses on Sunday a number of people asked me about our annual Servite Chapter or Annual Meeting that took place last week in Northbrook. When I told them what we did, I know it sounded really boring. On our last morning we had what was probably our most personal and stimulating conversation. It was about a topic that has taken on new relevance in recent years, multiculturalism. The Friar Servants of Mary (Servites), founded in Italy in the thirteenth century, established Assumption Parish in 1881 as a church for Italian Catholics. That was very typical of the Catholic Church at the time. In the 1800’s in Chicago and in many other large northern cities, most of the Bishops and most of the clergy were Irish. The Diocese was parceled out into parishes for the English speakers (that is, the Irish). In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, we had a massive migration of Catholics from other European countries to our big cities. The Catholic Church had to answer the question, “What do we do with all these ‘foreigners’ who do not speak English? In Chicago the answer was to invite religious orders from those countries to serve the ethnic congregations. In our area, Benedictines came to St. Joseph and Redemptorists to St Michael to serve the Germans; the Resurrectionists served the Poles at St. John Cantius, St. Stanislaus, St. Mary of the Angels, and St. Hyacinth; and the Servites came to Assumption to serve the Italians.    

Most of these churches (including Assumption) now serve a congregation far different from the one for which they were organized. We have people from all over the world living in our neighborhood. Vocations to these religious orders, too, have not flowed along ethnic lines.  Because Servites came to minister in many non-Italian parishes, most of our vocations in this country were Irish Americans. Now, as the Catholic Church in the United States and in the world becomes less European in its orientation, we as the United States Province of Servites need to reflect the growing presence of Latino, Asian, and African Catholics in our congregation and in our ministries—if we are to stay relevant. We now have two Servite priests from India ministering in our high school in California, a Servite from the Philippines at the National Shrine of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland, and two seminarians in Chicago from Indonesia who could be ordained to the priesthood next year. To actually welcome people from other cultures we have to do more than simply expect them to acclimate themselves to “our way” of doing things. We have to be willing to learn what is important to them and be influenced by them. We have to be able to name the cultural assumptions we carry and the privileges that we take for granted. At the Chapter, this was a presentation and conversation among Servites challenged to live community life in light of changing realities. In fact, it is a conversation that our whole country needs to have right now. How desperate must people be that they would continue to surge toward our southern border knowing that parents and children will be cruelly separated? Why does our class structure and our jail population continue to divide itself far too neatly along racial lines? I grew up lower middle class in the South, with attitudes that would now be clearly labeled racist. Does that stuff ever go away completely? Why not take some time this week to think about the attitudes that helped form you and the privileges that you may even now take for granted?  

                                                                                            Fr. Joe   


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