RIVERSIDE – Earlier this year, St. Mary Parish of Riverside started an initiative to help refugee families resettling in Chicago become self-sufficient in three months by providing housing, job opportunities, financial support and a medium to develop relationships with the church’s parishioners.
St. Mary Parish began its Refugee Sponsorship Committee in March in collaboration with the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program and plans to help resettle two families by the end of this year.
It needs to raise $1,600 per family to be able to supply services, including a welcome pack, subsidized rent for 90 days, an apartment in Rodgers Park, financial help and assistance in finding a job.
The church has raised $1,556 so far and has furniture in storage for the potential apartment.
“The goal is to ease [them] in,” Dalia Rocotello, a member of the Refugee Sponsorship Committee said.
The church has provided welcome packs for refugees in the past, which include items necessary for an apartment, such as towels, food items and pots and pans.
St. Mary plans to have events throughout the year to support potential families, as well as offer support for its current 300 refugee sponsors who benefit from the church’s services.
The parish will host a Girl Scout picnic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 24 in Mary Park, near Herrick and Longcommon roads. The Girl Scouts will host activities for refugee children and give them backpacks and school supplies.
“What’s beautiful about [the program] is it will really engage the parish as a whole,” Rocotello said.
She said the seed for the idea was planted after hosting a baby shower for a refugee family in November, 2012. After the nice interaction with the family she asked herself, “How can we spin this off as its own ministry in our parish?”
“We are now broadening our support with the formation of our St. Mary Refugee Sponsorship Committee,” the church said in a recent newsletter. “Together with Catholic Charities, the committees’ goals are heightening awareness of refugees’ plight, developing relationships between refugee families and parishioners and providing financial and in-kind support to facilitate their self-sufficiency.”
St. Mary will have a parish action day Nov. 2.