Images of hope

Father David Kelly, CPPS, executive director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, once wrote:

“We must create communities of hope where we recognize that our lives are intertwined with one other and that what affects one, affects us all. This ethos — the interconnectedness of all — is at the heart of our spirituality that calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation.”

As you know, our Front Porch Community Healing Center opened this past November, and it has brought many curious neighbors inside to see how the old community grocery and liquor store has been transformed. [See the Spring 2023 issue of Sharing & Caring for an article about The Front Porch.]

The first few months were wonderful welcoming new friends inside, but something was missing. The space is beautiful, but those white cinder block walls were stark and colorless! So we called on our artist instructor, Alberto Alaniz, and a youth artist, Kathleen Ilarraza (the “granddaughter” of Father Kelly), and creative energies emerged!

A mural team of youth and staff gathered, sharing ideas and sketches and began designing the layout. Alberto reflected on the initial brainstorming process: “Love, hospitality, hope, healing and a strong sense of community were important expressions of what the team felt PBMR stood for in this community and what our mural should give voice and challenge to in these dire times,” he said.

So the design incorporates both the pain of loss and the hope of a new day, of woundedness and hands open to forgiveness and healing, of the tree of life and the balloons flying high, remembering loved ones lost to violence!

Alberto added: “The skyline became a source of light, represented by candles, shining core values into a city in need of healing.” The little children in the mural embrace one another, knowing darkness and death yet looking with hope at the light for a new city as they move into their future.

As I spoke with some of the youth artists after they completed this amazing mural, you could feel the impact this had on them as they splashed paint, shared stories and watched their work tell of the PBMR mission of LOVE!

Kathleen reflected: “Art is a way for me to heal, and I hope this mural can help others in the community feel similarly. I feel so happy and blessed to have had this opportunity to work on this collaborative project.”

And Janell Gosa, PBMR youth, wrote: “Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.” She was there at the beginning, saw the value of keeping together with the project and can now celebrate the success of the masterpiece!

Yesterday a group of visitors stood stunned as they opened the door and immediately saw on the once-blank wall an amazing inspirational piece of art. They began to tell stories, and emotions were evoked as they spoke of their wounds, their hopes, their awe at the creation!

Several mothers gathered last night and stood before the mural, reflecting on their lives and the lives of their children, weeping because they saw the pain, smiling because they also saw the open hands of healing, and they said, “We want to be a part of bringing this healing to our community and our families. This is a powerful statement and needs to be on our outside walls.”

Another mother said how she loved the big heart in the mural, for she sees LOVE as the only answer to the darkness, the violence, the disunity, the “broken-heartedness of our people.”

Another neighbor caught one of the hidden words — EMBRACE — and she said, “That says it all for me — I see the children in an embrace, and I believe if we followed these children and embraced one another, life would be so different.”

So we invite you to come visit our Front Porch and find your hidden words, reflect on this masterpiece and share your stories of pain, forgiveness, connectedness, love, healing and hope. Carry the message of this mural into your spaces, creating communities of hope and healing wherever you are.

PBMR has taken HEALING as the theme of 2023, and as Kathleen so beautifully expressed, “Art is a way for me to heal.” It is our hope that our mural will bring healing to this community and to yours and beyond.

So just as Father Kelly wrote, we are working together to create a community of hope and healing! Our lives are intricately intertwined with one another — in all of our joy, sorrow, love, heartbreak and healing. We are all interconnected, restored and united through the Precious Blood.

— Story by Sister Donna Liette, Family Forward program coordinator at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. This article originally appeared at Used with permission.

Top, youth artists paint the mural; Holly O’Hara photo. Bottom, the finished mural; Janell Gosa photo.

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