Page 2: Volunteer efforts continuing in new parish

As the season of giving got under way, the parish of St. John Neumann in Homewood, created from three neighboring parishes, has not missed a beat when it comes to charity projects, in spite of the transition period to the new parish.

On Nov. 4, St. John Neumann PADS organization teamed up with East Hazel Crest American Legion Post 1139 to conduct a drive for clothing, snacks and personal care items for veterans at the state Veterans’ Home in Manteno.

Marine veteran Abe Wilson, left, listens as Erin Roeper explains the sorting process during the American Legion/St. John
Neumann PADS drive on Nov. 4. (Eric Crump photos/H-F Chronicle)

Volunteers and veterans spent the morning meeting vehicles of people making donations then hustling the items into the parish building for sorting and packaging for delivery.

Erin Roeper of St. John’s PADS said the collaboration with the American Legion post was a new addition to the PADS chapter’s work. She credited Post 1139 Commander John Kearns with the idea.

Kearns recently joined PADS, she said, and he asked whether PADS would be interested in helping with the post’s drive. The partnership seemed like a natural, she said.

“We do this three times a year,” Kearns said. “This is the first time we’ve joined with somebody else.”
Then on Nov. 19, the combined Society of St. Vincent De Paul chapter held a turkey dinner giveaway, the first project for the group since the parishes of St. Emeric, St. Anne and St. Joseph merged to form St. John Neumann.

From left, Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers Dan Moore, Tom Lazuka, June Fidanza, Mike Fischer and Elizabeth Wakefield.
Not pictured: Theresa Funke.

Volunteer June Fidanza of Homewood said the group had full turkey dinners to give away to larger families and turkey breasts with gift cards for purchasing the trimmings for smaller families.
Project coordinator Elizabeth Wakefield said 45 families had signed up to receive the dinners, and 129 people would be fed.

Volunteer Dan Moore said the food was donated by the Chicagoland Italian American Charitable Organization.

Wakefield said the society’s regular food pantry currrently was on hold because of the parish transition, but she hopes it will resume at St. John at some point.

In the mean time, St. John Neumann volunteers are gearing up for the quarterly food drive benefitting the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Park Forest. Non perishable items will be accepted from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, in the church parking lot.

Antiracism library
I have a friend who shares a report on what she’s reading whenever we get together for coffee, and I share what I’m reading. She leans toward true crime/criminal justice books. I am an old white guy from Iowa engaged in the long process of becoming an antiracist. Our book lists sometimes overlap.

A few months ago, she suggested I ought to share my reading list in the Chronicle and invite others to contribute theirs. We could build our own annotated antiracism card catalog.

My first contribution is “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla Saad.

Last month in this column, I recalled an encounter with a guy who declared, “We have to give up white privilege,” and my reaction was, “How?”

When you have a destination in mind but don’t know how to get there, it helps to have a guide. That’s where Saad’s book comes in.

She doesn’t promise an easy 10-step program to magically cure yourself of racism. She promises hard work and discomfort for anyone who seriously engages in the process she describes.

The book’s structure is a 28-day focused journaling exercise that Saad describes as “part education, part activation.”

“This work is hard. There is no way to sugarcoat it,” she writes. “White supremacy is an evil. It is a system of oppression that has been designed to give you benefits at the expense of the lives of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), and it is living inside you as unconscious thoughts and beliefs. The process of examining it and dismantling it will necessarily be painful.”

I found her forthrightness compelling. If defeating racism was easy, it would have been done long ago. History shows that every step forward has been difficult, painful and required sacrifice.

At the same time, Saad is a compassionate guide in this work. She is not trying to scare us off but make sure we go in with eyes and hearts open.

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