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Little victories can turn Chicago’s image around

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Most of us have read about it and seen clips on the nightly news. Images of children dying because they just happen to be in the crossfire of feuding gangs are heartbreaking. And we can’t seem to hide from the violence. Our new president seems to tweet about Chicago’s shootings every other day.

Of course, we know Chicago has to come to grip with this endless violence. But it is also important to point out to critics--including the current president--that the majority of these shootings are in a few neighborhoods on the city’s South Side and West Side.

Of course, we know Chicago will be the focus of some jokes. On the Weekend Update segment on “Saturday Night Live” this past week, Colin Jost mentioned that Chicago has had no snow during the month of January and February. And then he added the zinger: “Because all the snowflakes were shot down before they reached the ground.”

But all kidding aside, the city has a lot to offer. Right now, Chicago has nine different TV shows being filmed in and around the downtown area. The stage production of “Hamilton” has also made it to Chicago. In sports, the Chicago Blackhawks are red hot and will compete for another Stanley Cup. The Hawks have already won three Stanley Cups during this decade. And unless you have been living under a rock, we all know the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions for the first time in 108 years.

The lakefront along the North Shore to the South Shore is a beautiful sight and perhaps a surprise to visitors who first witness it. The downtown area includes Cloudgate, or the “Bean,” Buckingham Fountain and the Magnificent Mile.

I was thinking about all that when I attended a St. Patrick’s Day party on Saturday night at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood. I graduated from the school at 9837 S. Throop St. and lived a couple a blocks away from there. I’ve been attending the event consistently over the past 10 years or so. I will meet one of my brothers and sister and attend Mass before the event. As the service concludes, members of the Chicago Stock Yard Kilty Band make their way up the aisles of the old church, playing their bagpipes and drums.

We follow them out the door and across the parking lot, entering the nearby gym. Since this is a pre-St. Patrick’s Day bash, there was corned beef, potatoes and as a surprise, lasagna. The Chicago Stock Yard Kilty Band performed again, along with a choir from Marist High School.

St. Margaret of Scotland School, like many Chicago-area Catholic schools, has had to endure lower enrollment issues and budget concerns. A lot has changed since when I went there in the 1960s in the midst of the baby boomer generation. We had 150 kids in our graduating class. The neighborhood in the 1960s was mainly Irish Catholic. Today the parish is almost exclusively African American.

But the annual St. Patrick’s Day party is a link to the parish’s past and a major fundraiser. The school has also received assistance from Big Shoulders, Catholic Charities and other organizations. The parish has also started an annual golf outing that draws many graduates and friends of St. Margaret’s. This is another way in which St. Margaret graduates can get together and have some fun while raising money for the school.

This appears to be working. Kevin Powers, the current principal at St. Margaret’s, said that a few years ago, the school had an enrollment of 150 students. Powers said that currently St. Margaret’s has an enrollment of 223. School officials are confident those enrollment figures will rise even further.

Powers and the organizers of events held at the school and for the parish deserve a lot of the credit. But it also got me thinking that with creative thinking and hard work, anything is possible. Chicago is a great city but sometimes we all need help.

I thought of the crime and the violence that is too prevalent. What needs to be done is to offer more opportunities for individuals in these neighborhoods. In the case of Trump, instead of tweeting about Chicago’s violence, sit down and meet with local public officials and developers and see what can be done. Trump said he wants to pour money into infrastructure to improve U.S. cities. Chicago would be a good start.

But it begins with little victories like what is going on at St. Margaret’s. That’s how it can begin.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Believing that divine hand led to payment of tenant's fee

  • Written by Claudia Parker

 

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A cheerful giver isn’t exactly what I’d call my husband, Don. I recall when the offering plate began its transfer down the pew at the Apostolic Church of God (ACOG) back in 2002, our first year of marriage.

He was comfortable tossing in a couple of Abraham Lincolns, but when I told him we needed to replace those ten dollars with a tenth of our income, he gazed at me like I’d lost my marbles. With one eyebrow raised he snarled, “You can give a tenth of your income, but not with mine!”  

I crinkled my forehead. “But, didn’t you hear Bishop Brazier? We’re supposed to tithe!”

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it,” would recite the late, Dr. Arthur M Brazier, former senior pastor of the ACOG. That was the extent of his petition during offering time. He didn’t plead, or engage in persuasive gimmickry. He would simply share that one passage from Malachi 3:10. As a result of his teaching, I began to give a tenth of my income on a consistent basis, which is also known as tithing.  

Since Don couldn’t quite ascertain why tithing was necessary, as the household finance manager, I refrained from giving his portion until he was ready. Somewhere between Bishop Brazier’s weekly reciting of Malachi 3:10, my routine compliance and our CPA making it known that an increase in charitable donations would reduce our bottom line, his position changed. We’ve been faithful givers ever since. Don’t confuse that with us loaning or just giving money to people randomly.

We don’t, so please don’t ask!

We give tithes and offering to the church, and to those where we feel led by God. Giving has increased our faith. I have a truckload of examples of what keeps us habitually giving, but allow me to share one.

It hadn’t been but a spell that new tenants had taken residence in one of our rental properties. I had yet to transfer one of the utilities out of my name, so when the bill would come to our address, I’d mail it to them -- usually the same day. Nevertheless, in this instance, that bill stared at me on a daily basis until the month had nearly escaped me. This was so unlike me; I was usually so prompt. Feeling as though I’d put the tenants at a disadvantage to pay the bill by its due date, I felt an internal leading to just pay it. It was as if God had distracted me from sending the bill to them because He intended me to pay it for them.

Are you buying that? Don wasn’t, at first.

I tend to have an open prayer dialog. “God, if you’re leading me to pay their bill, you’ll need to work on Don because I can already hear his resounding, ‘Oh, no we are not,” I prayed.

I began to imagine how Don might respond, “How do you figure that was the Lord speaking? What’d his voice sound like? How do you know it wasn’t the Devil that caused you not to mail their bill?”

Don was at work and I knew it’d be a long conversation so I decided to first deal with our television issue. I had several conversations with the warranty company over a part that was needed to repair the DVD player in our TV/DVD combo unit. Frustrated by the time it was taking for the matter to be resolved, I called yet one more time that morning to check the status.

“Sorry for the delay Mrs. Parker. I’ve verified your claim and a check in the amount of $850.43 has been mailed,” said the agent on the line.

Baffled, I questioned his accuracy. “Are you sure you’ve accessed the correct account? I’ve been waiting for a part, not a check!”

The agent replied. “The TV/DVD combo unit you purchased is now obsolete. You have a full replacement warranty, which obligates us to replace your entire unit if it can’t be fixed. We no longer carry the part, so we’ve issued you a check for the amount you paid.”  

I was still confused. “But sir, the TV works fine; it’s only the DVD that’s broken.”

He replied, “You’re free to do with the unit as you please. We aren’t retrieving it, continue using it if you’d like.”

“Whaaaat?” I thought, “Sure will keep using it!”

Now armed with ammo, I made the call to Don. “Babe, let me tell you what God just did,” I said excitedly. “So, He laid it on my heart to pay the tenant’s water bill. I figured you might not want me to do that so, I prayed, ‘God, please reveal a way for Don to know that this is your idea.’ And Babe, you won’t believe this!”

Don was listening, “Hmmm uh. Go on,” he nudged.    

With full theatrics, I explained how God had miraculously provided the money for us to bless our tenant. Their bill wasn’t but a third of that refund check, which happened to arrive in the mail that day. We paid their bill, kept the TV and just bought a separate DVD unit. We had $400 left to deposit in the bank. Experiences like this are so plentiful in our lives, I could pen another book on how to sow and reap God's blessings. But, I don't need to. Just believe what it says in Malachi 3:10.

Tithes are funds used to build up the church and further the work of the Lord throughout the world. It’s too overwhelming for me to determine where and to whom to allocate my tithes. God makes it simple: bring your tithes into the storehouse, which is the church. Let them determine where it goes. Don’t get caught up in whether or not they are appropriating the funds according to your preference.

Just give cheerfully!

God’s got all kinds of ways to prosper his people, even the ones with a spouse that has one eyebrow raised!  

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Bizarre Oscars moment captured on live TV

  • Written by Joe Boyle

And the winner is…

I guess next year the Oscars will make sure those envelopes have the right winners. Either that or if the presenters think something is not right, they should speak up. Steve Harvey must be breathing a sigh of relief. He was nowhere near the Oscars. You can’t blame this one on him. If you missed it, a somewhat confused Warren Beatty, joined by Faye Dunaway, announced that “La La Land” was the Best Picture.

Since “La La Land” had won a lot of major awards, it was not surprising that they would also win Best Picture. As the producers and the writers of the movie droned on about the honor, someone was scurrying around in the background.

Suddenly, someone from La La Land said there has been a mistake. In the next instance, he said “Moonlight” won the Best Picture award.

I was just ready to use my remote to change the channel. I’m glad I waited a couple of minutes. This was live and strange television. Beatty kept stammering about what happened. He opened the letter and he saw Emma Stone’s name on it, one of the stars of “La La Land.”

So then you kind of have this surreal image in which someone presents the Oscar to the stunned crew of “Moonlight.” It was quite crowded on the stage. Finally, members of La La Land drifted off stage to make way for the technical crew and performers from “Moonlight.”

That had to be the weirdest thing I have ever seen at the Oscars. What a strange way to end the evening that again went on too long. Host Jimmy Kimmel did a good job of making jokes that did not really offend anyone. But he was also stunned at the end of the night. He did his best to use some humor to conclude the evening, blaming himself and stating that he won’t be asked back again.

Actually, Kimmel could be back. But I doubt if they will have Beatty present the Best Picture award. This was not his fault, but the Academy probably does not want to be reminded about this blunder.

That’s the great aspect of live television, even if they have a 15-second delay. The Grammy Awards has its moments of melodrama as well, like Adele cursing when the arrangement was slightly off when performing a tribute to the late George Michael last month. “Saturday Night Live” has had its outrageous moments going back to Sinead O’Connor ripping up a picture of the pope and Richard Pryor’s obscenities.

To think everybody was making a big deal about the expected references to President Trump’s immigration ban and his executive action orders since his inauguration. But is that any different than any other year? Every year an award winner will speak out on some cause or criticize political leaders for their inaction on the environment and so on. So taking verbal shots at the current president was expected and not all that surprising.

The Academy Awards has had a number of strange events over the years. The one that stands out in my mind was Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist, who slowly walked to the podium on behalf of Marlon Brando, who was supposed to receive the Best Actor award for “The Godfather” in 1973. Littlefeather pushed away the Oscar and said that Brando would not accept the award due to the negative treatment of American Indians by the film industry. Littlefeather, who was dressed in Native American attire, was met with a series of cheers and boos after her statement.

The 1974 Academy Awards stand out in my mind because the streaking phase was in full swing. Co-host David Niven was at the podium waiting for presenter Elizabeth Taylor. Suddenly, a naked man streaked across the stage giving the peace sign.

Niven was briefly startled but remained composed. The longtime actor then replied, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”

The quip received some laughs. We didn’t see most of the streaking man but noticed some bare legs racing by and could figure out what was going on. Niven proved to be an old pro capable of an ad lib on live TV. It was harmless and funny moment.

But Sunday night’s gaffe was unique. Beatty probably wanted to crawl off the stage. The only thing you can do after this is just laugh it off. But that’s the great thing about live television. It was the most memorable moment of the Academy Awards.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Fate of Catholic schools is in hands of community

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

If there is one thing that is certain, a private school education can no longer be taken for granted. And for residents who have grown up in Chicago and the southwest suburbs, I can specifically point to Catholic schools.

I had worked for a Chicago paper for many years and reported on numerous closings. Since 2000, many schools have closed their doors due to low enrollment. In Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood, both St. Clare of Montefalco and St. Simon have closed. St. Rita Grade School at 62nd and Fairfield in the city closed a few years before that.

Other elementary schools that have closed over the past 16 years in areas I covered include St. Denis, St. Thomas More, St. Turibius and St. Rene. All-girls Catholic high schools have closed in recent years. Lourdes High School was the first, followed by Immaculate Heart of Mary, Maria and Mount Assisi Academy.

And this year, the Chicago Archdiocese made an announcement last month that St. Louis de Montfort Elementary School, 8840 S. Ridgeland Ave., Oak Lawn, will close its doors in June. The reason given was low enrollment and that belief that the school could not sustain itself in the coming years.

Then we heard the crushing news about Queen of Peace High School at 7659 S. Linder Ave., Burbank. I had heard rumors the past few years that the school could be in trouble. Low enrollment was the main culprit. Queen of Peace was established in 1962 and could house as many as 1,400 students. The school now had less than 300 students.

At least there is some good news for underclassmen who attended Queen of Peace. The administration at St. Laurence High School, the all-boys Catholic high school that is located next door to Queen of Peace, will begin accepting students from that school beginning this fall. The logistics of how that will be done is still being worked out, but at least Queen of Peace students have another option. The only difference is that they will be attending St. Laurence High School.

A lot has changed since the 1960s when many Catholic schools had large enrollments during the height of the baby boomers. But many families began to move in the 1960s and 1970s to suburban communities. Many neighborhoods were in transition, changing from a majority white population to African-American. However, many of these black residents were not Catholic and did not attend these schools.

Another factor is that we have less nuns and priests. I recall being taught by a majority of nuns at St. Margaret of Scotland and St. John de La Salle, two Chicago grade schools I attended. But by the time my younger siblings were about to graduate from their Catholic grade schools, there were few nuns. Lay teachers who receive a salary replaced them. Catholic schools in the past did not have to worry about payment for the nuns. This became a growing expense for the archdiocese over the years, especially as enrollments began to dwindle because of higher tuition.

For some families, the higher tuition became too difficult to pay for. Consequently, that’s why so many of these schools have had to close. From 1984 through 2004, 130 elementary schools closed, according to the Chicago Archdiocese.

That is why I pull for schools like Our Lady of the Ridge, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge. This is never been a large school but teachers and staff who work there say the students are the first priority. Sr. Stephanie Kondik, the principal at Our Lady of Ridge who has served 23 years at the school, said she knows all the students by name. These youngsters, Sr. Stephanie said, are more than just a number. She said she cares for them all.

Other teachers have said that the school has a feeling of community and warmth. Sr. Stephanie said the students receive a great education and they are cared for.

But sometimes residents and even people who no longer have a close connection to old Catholic schools begin to take them for granted. Sometimes residents need to be shaken a little to realize what is at stake. A neighborhood could drastically change after a Catholic school closes. It could deter younger families who have children from moving into the neighborhood. Some businesses may decide to move elsewhere.

So I was happy to see 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park jammed with people Sunday for a fundraiser with alumni, business and community leaders ready to do what is necessary to keep Our Lady of the Ridge open. Everyone was having a great time while collecting much needed cash.

The lesson learned here is to not take Our Lady of the Ridge for granted. I think that message is gotten through loud and clear.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Leg amputation doesn't keep Oak Lawn native down

  • Written by Claudia Parker

 

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Submitted photo

Oak Lawn native Laura Heneghan enjoys herself on a vacation trip to Las Vegas.

 

 

Refusing to let go can be deadly!

For Laura Heneghan, of Lombard, it was holding on to a limb that nearly cost her life. The Oak Lawn native and 1987 Richards High School graduate said, “My legs were my best attribute. I received more compliments about my legs than anything else.”

Beyond the vanity of the matter, Laura had much deeper concerns about having her leg amputated. She was a mom of two elementary-aged children, her daughter, Courtney, 8, and her son, Jordan, 7.

“Will my kids love me without having a lap to sit in? Will I lose my friends? Will I feel like less of a person with only one leg?”

Laura said those thoughts plagued her. She prolonged the decision to have surgery until the infected tumor in her leg encapsulated her blood vessels causing the tumor to rupture. When that occurred, the infection penetrated her bone.

It was either her leg or her life.

“One of the most surprising revelations I had after my surgery was how much easier things became,” recalled Laura. “I felt a tremendous sense of relief. I wish I’d done it much sooner.”

Five years previous to the amputation, Laura was diagnosed with cancer. “Initially, I was misdiagnosed,” said Laura. “Doctors thought I had an adductor strain.”

An adductor muscle strain is an acute injury to the groin muscles on the medial aspect (inside) of the thigh. Her assumed injury was treated with physical therapy that included an ultrasound, heat and electrical muscle stimulation with hopes to bring blood back to the tissue for healing. However, Laura in fact had a malignant blood tumor. The therapy fed the tumor and it grew -- to the size of a softball.

An aggressive radiation regimen was administered by the well-respected Fermilab, known for treating advanced tumors difficult to reach or that have been slow to respond to other forms of treatment. Laura said the treatment was so potent it killed the cancer more rapidly than her lymph nodes could handle. Lymph nodes filter lymph of harmful pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The nodes also filter out cellular waste, dead cells, and cancerous cells.

Laura’s dead cells were lying dormant in her leg wreaking havoc.

“My leg was enormously swollen, didn’t function and it left me in chronic pain,” said Laura. “I was on the strongest pain killers prescribed and I still felt pain.”

Laura said being on medication habitually left her groggy, emotional and isolated.

“My husband would have to take the kids to birthday parties and social outings without me because I was always too tired or in too much pain to go anywhere,” explained Laura.

Her best attribute had become her biggest adversary.

“I had to use crutches because my leg didn’t bend,” recollected Laura. “Even with crutches I was challenged because the weight of my leg was so heavy I’d have to drag it.”

The reality of waking from surgery to one less limb might have left most devastated, but Laura said that isn’t what she noticed was missing. “The pain was gone,” said Laura. “I actually felt relief.”

That wasn’t the only surprise Laura experienced.

Laura found she could propel forward on crutches much easier without hauling around dead weight. She also discovered that her children she worried wouldn’t be able to accept her enjoyed her much more after surgery.

“They loved seeing me happy and enjoying life again instead of laying around stagnant, in pain and sleeping all the time.”    

Laura added that, “God brought me through it. He put people in my life that gave me love, support and encouragement. From my mom sitting by my hospital bedside, my kids helping change bandages, and my church family and friends getting me out of the house. God sent help.”

Laura said surviving cancer and getting through her amputation gave her a renewed sense of passion and purpose. After having been a stay-at-home mom she went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Trinity Christian College. She started working in school District 124 in 2001. She first taught English Language Learners and now she is an ELL coach.

“Never underestimate the power of what you can do with God’s help,” said Laura. “Don’t ever give up on yourself.”

This December, Laura’s slated to walk across the stage to receive a master’s in Educational Leadership with a Principal endorsement. She’s spoken at a half dozen conferences on a national and state level, teaching educators how to gain a deeper understanding of students where English is a second language.

Laura learned that losing her leg didn’t cripple her, it was holding on to it that was. Now she has a life she didn’t know she could experience.

The first time I saw Laura I was getting out of my car with my purse, laptop and camera bag. It was heavy and difficult to carry and I felt bogged down by the load until I looked up. Laura was walking across the parking lot with a purse, workbag, stack of papers, and a coffee. She was walking on one leg, on crutches. Did I mention she was in a stylish dress wearing a matching sandal that had the nerve to have a high heel?

How dare I complain about what I had to carry. I was walking on two legs with a pair of flat shoes.

I wanted to share Laura’s story because it’s such a great example for anyone refusing to let go of dead weight. Maybe for you it’s a relationship, business, profession or job title. Maybe at one point the attachment was an attribute, but now it’s your nemesis. It’s time to detach from that which is dead so you can live again.

You can learn more about Laura following her blog at http://sohereiam.weebly.com/

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .