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Picture of Chicago's Tolton Spirituality Center becomes clearer

The nascent Tolton Center will apparently have a unique relationship with both Ven. Fr Augustus' sainthood cause and Chicago's parish reorganization plans.

New details have emerged concerning the forthcoming Tolton Spirituality Center in Chicago, giving a fuller picture of the new outlet’s connection both to the cause of Venerable Fr Augustus, and to the local archdiocese’s “Renew My Church” initiative.

The cause, headed by Chicago auxiliary bishop Joseph Perry, is in fact “separate and apart” from the Center, according to Fr A. Gerard Jordan, O. Praem., who serves as both special assistant on the cause and executive director pro tem of the Center.

“It is designed for parishes and community institutions to share their insights and practices that encourage living with the values and virtues that defined Tolton’s life and ministry,” he tells BCM.

According to Jordan, this integration of Tolton’s spirituality will be overseen by Perry, who succeeds the late Fr Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., as the “leading expert” on the topic and serves as the Center’s episcopal moderator.

“[The Center] will serve to complement the efforts of the Cause.”

Jordan, who is currently stationed in Louisiana, wrote the successful $1M grant proposal St Thomas the Apostle parish submitted to the Lily Foundation to fund the Center.

However, he corrected an archdiocesan report implying the Center will actually be housed in a parish. Also, the same report indicates all events will be virtual "for the foreseeable future".

On the diocesan end, a report in December from Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper made an explicit connection between the Center and the archdiocese’s “Renew My Church” program, which includes closing and combining various parishes.

Indeed, one source tells BCM that St Ambrose, a Black parish joining St. Thomas as one of the two inaugural members of the Center’s programming, “might be dwindling”.

As reported in our previous story on the center, the two parishes are in a group of 6 South Side churches that may soon be reconfigured (including possible closures, mergers, and other changes).

Even so, Jordan says the Center is independent of RMC and “much more than parish renewal”.

“All parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be invited [and] can decide if they want to participate in the Center’s programs and projects as cohort members.”

Jordan also noted that the Center’s board includes representatives from most of the Black parishes on the South and West Sides of the city, with some seats remaining open “to ensure diversity”.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder of Black Catholic Messenger, a priesthood applicant with the Josephites, and a ThM student w/ the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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