On Thursday, Father Larry Dowling talked about what he observed in the North Lawndale area since he became a resident.
Father Larry has lived in Chicago for 40 years, and more specifically, the North Lawndale area for 11 years. He became a priest at St. Agatha’s Church when he was asked by the parishioners.
He felt this would be a good way to work in his community. Father Dowling conveyed his love for the “African-American community and African-American spirituality.” He believes the church “is the right place to use [his] gifts.”
Having lived in the North Lawndale for slightly over a decade, Father Larry has noticed changes in the neighborhood. He notes there are positive transformations and an overall turnaround in the area. However, he also states that there are negative changes resulting from increasing violence.
While he believes that violence is a large issue in the community, he stated, “The most negative thing going on right now is the negativity.” He adds that many people have lost hope and it is evident in the language people use with one another.
Father Dowling believes that when people talk negatively, the violence increases. He pointed out how 80 percent of the language from lower-income residents seems to be negative, the other 20 percent is positive. Contrarily, he observed that the opposite seems to be true in higher income neighborhoods.
According to him, the despair within the community comes from a lack of education, job opportunities, healthcare, and housing. Father Larry points out that there are organizations to help with these issues.
The main organization in the neighborhood is the North Lawndale Restorative Justice Program. St. Agatha Catholic Church helped design this program specifically to keep residents out of trouble with the law.
The Restorative Justice Program started in August. It is an alternative to the traditional American court. In this program, whenever possible, the offender meets with their victim. If they can reach an agreement for the restitution the offense will not go on their criminal record. If no agreement can be reached, then they will have to face the traditional court system.
Father Dowling feels that this is one of the most positive changes in the North Lawndale community. However, it is not the most helpful action that can be done to help the neighborhood. He thinks that people’s overall attitudes toward each other, and the ability to come together to make a change in their own community will have the best outcome.
By Trinity Oglesby
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Featured and Top Image by Staff Photographer Dwyane Mcclain