The Alexian Brothers are working with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to provide ministry staffing for an urban ministry center that will offer a variety of services to low-income families and individuals on the city’s North Side.
The center will be the first of its kind in the archdiocese, functioning as a hub through which local residents can access services provided by multiple organizations.
“The Brothers are getting in on the ground floor of what we hope is some great growth in urban ministry for Milwaukee,” said Lydia LoCoco, Director of Community Relations in the Office of the Archbishop of Milwaukee. “It’s a new concept for us, bringing together a religious order, parish workers, volunteers and secular and religious organizations to work together for the common good.”
The archdiocese is grateful to the Alexian Brothers, who will serve as the face of the new ministry, LoCoco said. The Brothers will bring a pastoral presence to the center, providing spiritual care, connecting people with various services, and helping with other needs that the center and its clients might have, said Brother Tom Klein, C.F.A., director of ministry development for the Immaculate Conception Province of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. “We are excited to be part of this new ministry, and we are looking forward to serving together in Christ,” he said.
The proposed location for the center is a building adjacent to All Saints parish that currently houses the parish’s food pantry. The building includes additional unused space, and the archdiocese in January was exploring ideas for renovating the building to accommodate the new ministry.
Services envisioned for the center include:
- Addiction and substance abuse counseling and trauma response and counseling.
- Legal services for eviction, immigration and other issues.
- Healthcare ministries, such as senior care and wellness clinics.
- Laundry services, including washers and dryers.
- Job preparation assistance, including interview coaching, a computer lab for completing job applications, and an assortment of donated business attire.
- A ministry for single mothers that would provide pregnancy help resources, nutrition programs and access to formula and diapers.
- Support services for former inmates re-entering society.
- Immediate-need response services to address transportation issues and crisis situations.
- Literacy programs.
- Access to All Saints’ food pantry and meal programs.
“We also have talked about being very visible in the community by sponsoring social events such as dinners or cookouts – anything we can do that provides a presence in the community,” Brother Tom said. “That’s where the Brothers shine.”
Plans call for the center to include multiple offices from which various organizations can operate. The archdiocese also hopes to include a kitchen, group spaces for support groups and other gatherings, and possibly a nursery to provide care for children while their parents access ministries at the site.
This is the second new ministry to result from a concerted effort by the Brothers to explore new ministry opportunities. Last July, the Brothers, in partnership with the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, launched a food delivery ministry that provides food for more than 200 low-income seniors and homebound people each week on Chicago’s West Side.
Brother Tom said he initially contacted the archdiocese about potential opportunities at a time when it was eager to establish the urban ministry center but needed ministry staff who could provide a Catholic religious presence while facilitating day-to-day operations.
LoCoco called the serendipitous timing a “gift from God” and “almost a miracle.” The Brothers, she added, can provide men for the ministry who are “seasoned, experienced and mission-driven, including some with 25 years of experience in exactly the areas we need.”
That made the Brothers an especially good fit for the archdiocese, which is blessed with many young priests and older priests but lacks middle-aged clerics, LoCoco said. “The really hard age for us is the place the Brothers are, where you’re very experienced, you’re mature and you can lead. That’s the golden spot for us,” she said. “They literally said, `How can we serve? We don’t want to make the decisions. We just want to help in any way we can in a pastoral way with the poorest of the poor.’ Can you imagine what that sounded like?”
The idea was cemented with one meeting, and the Brothers since have participated in planning sessions for the center. On Jan. 2, they started attending Sunday Mass at All Saints to get to know the parish and its people better.
“The archdiocese wants to move forward quickly, and it is the right opportunity for the Brothers to come in and provide assistance,” Brother Tom said.
Working with the Brothers will give the archdiocese “a spiritual powerhouse team” at the center, LoCoco said. In addition to their experience in casework, triaging services and other areas, the Brothers will bring to the center an innate sense of caring and intangible spiritual qualities that are hard to find, she said.
“You can’t hire the love of Jesus Christ in your heart and the caring in the corporal works of mercy,” LoCoco said. “All the nonprofits in the world can’t give you what the Alexian Brothers can give you. That’s why the world still needs them.”