Every year the year the Review picks what it considers to be the 10 most important religion stories in Forest Park during the past twelve months. The Following are our picks for 2017.

Crop Walk raises $85,000

On May 17 approximately 300 walkers raised a record $85K during the CROP Hunger Walk, officially known as Hunger Walkathon West, reported Joanne Despotes, a Forest Park resident and co-chair of the annual fundraiser.  She said that 25 percent of the money raised remained in this area. Forest Park groups who participated were Hope Tabernacle, the Community Center, St. Bernardine Catholic Church and St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church.

25 Years of hosting Pads Homeless Shelter at St. John

Housing Forward director Lynda Schueler told the Review that St. John Lutheran Church, one of the agency’s founding shelter sites, has hosted the PADS shelter for 25 years.

Martin Luther speaks Thai

The film Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World, which was funded by Thrivent Financial, aired back in September on PBS stations.  The Rev. Dr. Pongsak Limthongviratn, the pastor of St. Paul Thai Lutheran Church, wanted people in Thailand to learn about Luther, so he translated the entire script of the film into Thai, hired Thai actors to re-voice the movie and then dubbed in the new language.

The film was created to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The Y and St. John partner to
provide child care

St. John Lutheran Church and the West Cook YMCA signed a five year agreement which allows the Y to use space in St. John’s school for their before and after school program.  The space has been empty for three years.  Rev. Leonard Payton, St. John’s pastor, said that the newly formed partnership will enable the Y to use the entire second and third floors of their building including classrooms, the gym, office space and the kitchen for the 90 children already registered for what is being called the Y-Kids program.  Next June, the Y plans to also utilize the former science room for programing.

ST. Bernardine placed in a Grouping

As part of an initiative called “Renew My Church” being implemented by the Archdiocese of Chicago, St. Bernardine Catholic Church here in Forest Park was placed in what the archdiocese is calling a “Grouping” together with the two Catholic parishes in River Forest and the four parishes in Oak Park.  St. Bernardine’s pastor, Fr. Sanislaw Kuca, explained that the archdiocesan-wide strategy has been designed to give parishes in each Grouping an opportunity to 1) build relationships, 2) support each other and 3) collaborate on already scheduled programing.

Hope Tabernacle active in P.T. Man

The members of Hope Tabernacle are certainly not living in a bubble. Pastor Bill Teague is a board member of Proviso Township Ministers Association Network and along with six of his members is active in the township ministerium.  Rev. Teague is also active in Interfaith of Illinois. Hope Tabernacle remained an independent Baptist church, while being involved in community events like the CROP Hunger Walk.

Manuel Gutierrez

Manuel “Manny” Gutierrez’ story is a good example of how it takes a village to not only raise a child but also to support people with disabilities.  Gutierrez was in a coma for two years following a car accident in 2003, which left him with short term memory loss, subject to seizures and with the loss of peripheral vision in one eye. He recalled, “When I was going through recovery from my accident I felt completely useless.”  One nonprofit and another business in town hired Gutierrez to give him sources of income in addition to his disability check. Gutierrez credits God with helping him get through his recovery and sustain him. He said his accident didn’t make him bitter or angry. “It didn’t change the way I feel about God,” he said. “I’m a big believer.”

Fire escape ministry here for 38 years

Six years after being hit and dragged by a car, an accident which put him permanently in a wheelchair, the Rev. Dr. Charles Cairo and his wife Jane are still doing Bible based psycho-therapy at their location on Jackson Blvd. “I use the word of G-d, prayer and therapy in my practice,” said Cairo. “My life coaching is effective for men and couples.”

Living Word Christian Center

Living Word Christian Center on Roosevelt Road continues to attract more than 10 times as many worshippers on any given Sunday than all the other churches in Forest Park combined.  Last year the congregation bought the last property connected to the mall where they are located.

Rising awareness of neighbors west of the desplaines river

There seems to be an increasing awareness by religious organizations in Forest Park of the needs of people immediately to the west. In addition to Pastor Teague’s involvement in P.T. MANN, the Hunger Walkathon West leadership team gave the following grants in 2017:

  • St. Eulalia/Quinn Center in Maywood $1745.00
  • First Baptist Melrose Park $2908.00
  • Housing Forward in Maywood $1234.00
  • Proviso Food Pantry in Melrose Park  $2341.00
  • Vision of Restoration in Maywood $1052.00
  • Total distribution in Maywood and Melrose Park $9280.00