Page 191 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
P. 191

Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                 171
             one July evening: “The religious institution which remains aloof from
             its neighborhood and whose administrators do not involve themselves
             with the aspirations, causes, and organizations of the neighborhood, is,
             by virtue of its symbolic role, denying God in that neighborhood.”
                With those fighting words no one wants to quarrel, least of all the
             pastor of Woodlawn’s Holy Cross Parish, Father Martin Farrell. He it was
             who invited us to the South Side. He needed a large force to canvass his
             shifting parish population quickly. And he thought seminarians might
             jump at the chance to people the somewhat dry pages of their theology
             textbooks with real experience.
                So we set out, frankly frightened at first, to teach and to learn. Ulti-
             mately we were there for a spiritual reason, to bring souls to Christ in the
             Church. But we quickly found that is done in a very concrete way.
                The culture of many large northern cities has been largely shaped
             by Roman Catholics and their institutions. And Chicago is no excep-
             tion. (Woodlawn itself had been Irish Catholic.) Thus with a basically
             Catholic spirit somewhat dominant in the city’s social consciousness, one
             judges there can be little serious tackling of the still existing problems of
             segregation and discrimination if Catholics and Catholic parishes do not
             earnestly tackle them.
                That was our place to begin, or rather to enter what Father Farrell
             had long before begun. That was how we came to sit on the Mayor’s floor
             with four hundred Negro demonstrators, how we came to march in the
             NAACP’s July 4th parade to Grant Park. This we could understand hav-
             ing heard often that you can’t preach the gospel to an empty stomach.
                Father Farrell’s instrument for community improvement is the non-
             sectarian group, The Woodlawn Organization, in whose circle he has
             been a leader since its beginning. TWO has been called by sociologist
             advisor to Cardinal Montini (now Pope Paul VI), Saul Alinsky, “the most
             effective community organization of Negroes in America.”
                But besides TWO which pressures slum landlords, fights for neigh-
             borhood urban renewal on a local level, and crusades for all the justice
             lacking in everything from job discrimination to unequal education,
             Father  Farrell  has  thrown  his  own  parochial  resources  into  the  fray.
             In answer to the parents’ concern for their children’s education, he has
             opened his school to all area children, Catholic or not. And here our task
             took specific form: to flood the teeming neighborhood with literature
             about the “Sisters’ School”; to spread information about the adult instruc-
             tion classes; to awaken in the neighborhood conscience the fact that the
             Church is there, doing more than watching, actually caring what happens
             to their bodies and minds as well as their souls.

           ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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