By Chinta Strausberg
While the nationâ€™s economy is slowly coming off its fiscal life support and some people are returning to work, Saint Sabina has been performing miracles on 79th Street in providing food, clothing, shelter, spiritual and family counseling and restoring utility services all year round.
In just the last two-weeks, Saint Sabina has helped thousands of people many of whom reside well beyond the borders of the Auburn Gresham community. Father Michael L. Pfleger has been able to literally beg for food to keep the shelves of the Saint Sabina Catholic Charities shelves stocked while some food pantries have closed.
In just over two-weeks, Pfleger, his staff and an army of volunteers passed out 836 turkeys, thousands of toys, 2,050 hot dinners to the community and fed hundreds of homeless people, seniors and their families on Christmas Day.
But, the giving spirit doesnâ€™t start and end on holidays. Saint Sabina continues to service thousands of people throughout 2011 including getting their lights and gas turned on, finding homes, distributing food and clothing, Father Michael L. Pfleger said, â€œWe are doing what the church is supposed to doâ€ meet the needs of the people and being church beyond the doors of Saint Sabina.
During the Christmas Day Feast where hundreds of homeless people, seniors, children and their families ate a full course, home cooked meal in the Bethune Hall, Father Pfleger blessed the food and told them: â€œWhen Jesus left Heaven to come to earth to find you and me, He was so in love with us He said, â€˜I gotta go and find them.â€™
â€œI donâ€™t know about you, but Iâ€™m glad He found me,â€ said Pfleger. â€œAnd, the great news of it is that He not only came but it would be nice if we just celebrated Christmas but itâ€™s not just that He came. When He came He said â€˜Iâ€™m with you forever. Iâ€™m never going to leave you.â€™
â€œWe all go through different stuff,â€ he told the crowd. â€œAll of us are in different situations. Iâ€™ve been in my situation. I got suspended this year; so I know about situations,â€ he said with the crowd applauding and laughing. Pfleger was referring to Cardinal George who suspended him for a month.
â€œBut, guess what? No matter what situation we face, first of all, situations are temporary,â€ Pfleger explained. â€œSo, what ever situation youâ€™re in right now, if youâ€™re in a shelter right now, a half-way house, itâ€™s temporary.â€
Pfleger asked each one to face someone in the audience and repeat after him: â€œNeighbor, donâ€™t you worry about where I am. You ought to be excited about where Iâ€™m on my way to,â€ he told a cheering crowd.
And, while Pfleger is preparing to close the chapter on 2011 at Saint Sabina in what has been a fruitful year that has enabled him to be a beacon in the community, city and nation, he has once again prepared a special Black History Month program starting with his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration and â€œA CALL TO NONVIOLENCEâ€ featuring guest speaker Elder Bernice King, the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King, on Sunday, January 8, 2012, 11:15 a.m. at Saint Sabina Church, 1210 W. 78th Place, (78th Place and Throop Streets) in Chicago.
But, Father Pfleger doesnâ€™t stop at February, which will once again include the African/African American Marketplace that allows blacks to sell their wares in the church; he has greater plans for Saint Sabina all throughout 2012 and beyond.
Police officials recently told this writer â€œI donâ€™t know what we would do without Father Pflegerâ€ in helping them stem the violence not only in the community but the city of Chicago as well.
Pflegerâ€™s in-your-face stance against illegal guns has gotten him in hot water with the Archdiocese when the NRA put out a false press release accusing him of saying he would â€œoffâ€ the owner of a south suburban gun shop.
Pfleger has certainly lived up to the title of the book, â€œRadical Disciple,â€ written his friend, Robert McClory. He continues to take on the NRA, which has targeted him with hate mail including e-mails and phone calls, but Pfleger, who is not for sale, remains consistent and uncompromising in his opposition to the flow of illegal guns that have taken the lives of so many innocent children and young adults.
Every time a child is shot, it reopens the wounds of losing his son, Jarvis Franklin, who was fatally shot just a few blocks from Saint Sabina on May 30, 1998. Jarvis had turned his life around and had accepted Christ as his Savior. The pain of losing his son never goes away but it strengthens him in his fight to help rid illegal guns in Chicago.
Saint Sabinaâ€™s staff, volunteers and supporters are ready to once again follow their shepherd into 2012 armed with their marching boots and a social justice agenda that includes continued opposition of the death penalty for the New Yearâ€™s problems and never ending issues.