No barriers: Nun directs Dominican literacy program to help women assimilate


CHICAGO — “There are two kinds of people — battery chargers and battery drainers,” said Amy Manion of Sugar Grove, Ill. “Sister Kathleen (Ryan) is a battery charger. She inspires the students and tutors.”

Ryan, 68, is director of the Dominican Literacy Center (, a nonprofit organization in suburban Aurora, Ill., that teaches women, most of them immigrants, to learn to read, write and speak English. The center currently has a staff of seven. Manion is past president of its board.

A former schoolteacher and principal, Ryan founded the center in 1993. It’s currently housed in a former convent, and the students are female, said Ryan, because “the men learn English at work and the children learn it at school.” Students have 90-minute, weekly lessons during the school year to learn how to read, write and speak English, and graduate after three years. Tutors receive 16 hours of training and use books purchased by the students.

Laundry Love


Every month, Mitchell would trek to a local laundromat and take advantage of Laundry Love, a growing faith-driven movement that helps those who are homeless or financially struggling by washing their dirty clothes for free.

Amid the comforting routine of fluffing and folding, volunteers befriend their patrons and often find ways to help that go beyond free soap and quarters.

The Maker’s Place


PITTSBURGH — The triplex of row houses in the city was notorious for its active crack scene before the Rev. John Wallace’s church bought it in 2005 and renovated it.

Today, the triplex is, among other things, The Maker’s Place, a hub of production for middle and high school students in the Oasis Project.

Spotlight on Christ the King Church in Kenosha


Church name: Christ the King Church

Carrying on for the Community


After the death of a pastor Bradford Community Church had for 12 years, the Board of Trustees for the church selected the Rev. Lillie Mae Henley to fill in as interim minister for two years. Former pastor the Rev. Georgette Wonders died April 11.

Growing up, Henley knew she wanted to be a minister but didn’t see any female ministers to look up to. However, she did see a lot of female missionaries, so she decided she would pursue that instead.

Celebrating the parish family


Volunteers stood side by side this week at St. Peter Catholic Church. With heads bowed, they rolled up their sleeves to grate potatoes for kugelis, a Lithuanian potato pudding, and prepare Kielbasa, chicken and side dishes for the annual St. Peter Parish Family Festival.

With strong Lithuanian roots, members desired to emphasize their proud heritage by showcasing their culture and customs with a festival in 1953. It began simply, a fundraiser with carnival rides and games for the children. Later, they added ethnic food and for a while, a Polka Mass rounded out the growing popularity of the summer celebration

Spotlight on Strait-Way Ministries in Pleasant Prairie


Church name: Strait-Way Ministries

Raising a toast to God


AUSTIN, Texas — It’s a Sunday afternoon at the Opal Divine’s in South Austin, and the Rev. Steve Kinney is about to convene a meeting of spiritually minded souls in what Carrie Nation would have called a den of iniquity.

Kinney, an Episcopal priest at All Saints in Central Austin, has held monthly meetings — typically the third Sunday of each month — of what some followers informally call “pub church” at Opal Divine’s. There’s music, but not from an organ and a choir. Bread and wine are offered, but it’s not a Eucharist in the formal sense. There’s no kneeling, but there’s food and beer and cocktails for those inclined to partake of spirits to get into the spirit of things.

Bradford Community Church names interim minister


The Rev. Lillie Mae Henley has been selected as Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist’s new interim minister. She begins her ministry on Tuesday and will serve for a two-year period.

Henley graduated from Meadville Lombard Theological School in 1998 and served as a minister in Washington, D.C., as well as in Fort Worth in her native state of Texas. She also completed three interim assignments in Stafford, Texas; Toledo, Ohio, and Winston-Salem, N.C.

Higher power diet


When Jim Black leads people on a robust walk three times a week on the grounds of the 120-acre Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., he’s got powerful company: God.

The several dozen people who join him have shown up with the same hopes that anyone brings to an exercise plan: They mean to lose weight, ditch inhalers, get stronger.

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