There’s a small firestorm brewing on the Southwest side of Chicago in a quiet neighborhood known as Beverly and in the center of it all is an adult faith formation event. The parish—St. Barnabas—is hosting a panel discussion on violence in Chicago on Saturday, February 27, and among the invited panel guests is Fr. Michael Pfleger, an outspoken Chicago priest who is known for his activism against violence and racism.
The pastor of St. Barnabas Parish, Fr. Bill Malloy, although soft-spoken, has strong convictions about the relationship between social justice and our Catholic faith, and no doubt sees this panel discussion as an opportunity to invite his congregation and the community to face up to the inconvenient truth of the reality of violence in Chicago neighborhoods. Although the Beverly area itself tends to be insulated from the brunt of most of the violence in the city, it is adjacent to neighborhoods that are not as privileged.
As it turns out, apparently a small number of shrill voices are getting a lot of attention, demanding that Fr. Malloy “dis-invite” Fr. Pfleger from the panel because they don’t like his views and consider him too polarizing. And while Fr. Pfleger can be outspoken, he does speak some very inconvenient truths about the Gospel’s non-negotiable stances on racism and violence.
While I will avoid getting into the politics of the situation, I wanted to bring this story to your attention to show that, in adult faith formation, we sometimes need to face some inconvenient truths. Not every topic in adult faith formation can or should be warm and fuzzy. We sometimes need to address issues that are the cause of conflict in our communities. I applaud Fr. Bill Malloy and the staff of St. Barnabas Parish for taking a prophetic and courageous stand in their adult faith formation efforts.
The other reason I bring this story to your attention is to shine the light on the positive efforts of Fr. Malloy and his staff rather than allowing the few loud voices to get all of the attention. As disciples of Christ, it is our responsibility to light candles rather than curse the darkness. Kudos to Fr. Malloy for standing strong in the face of criticism and for challenging his parish community to address real human concerns as part of their faith formation.