In recent years the west side of Joliet, Ill., has undergone many changes.
The old Sears and Roebuck store is now a government office building. The Rialto movie palace and vaudeville theater is now the Rialto Square Theatre complex, and Silver Cross hospital, a 33-bed facility when it opened its doors in 1895, is now a major trauma center.
Change has also had an impact on the spiritual life of Joliet as six neighborhood churches have closed their doors permanently.
Beginning in the 1840s and lasting well into the 20th century, significant numbers of German immigrants came to Joliet, bringing their Lutheran heritage with them.
Every neighborhood in the fast-growing community had at least one Lutheran congregation, and the catechism their children studied was written in both English and German.
In the 21st century, reflecting a new wave of immigration, children and adults at ELCA Santa Cruz Lutheran Church study El Catecismo Menor de Lutero/Luther’s Small Catechism in Spanish and English.
Keith Forni, pastor at Canta Cruz, is at the crossroads where languages and cultures meet. He is the director of Iglesia Luterana Bilingual Resource Center.
The center is housed in the same building as the two congregations Keith serves: Santa Cruz Lutheran Church, where he is the called pastor of this Spanish-speaking congregation, and First Lutheran Church, where he is the interim pastor. Keith explains, “We are under one roof and under one cross.”
When membership numbers began to drop at First Lutheran, the congregation didn’t close their church doors. Instead they opened them wider.
In 2006 they invited their Spanish-speaking neighbors to share their facility and gave the bilingual resource center a new home. Now the resource center is opening its doors to all Lutheran congregations and has a threefold purpose, namely, to be:
A repository for a large collection of Spanish language resources available for reference or loan;
A place for consultation and networking, where pastors as well as members from other congregations can come to experience a multicultural urban ministry; and
A partnership that gathers congregational leaders in an association.
Whenever you are in northern Illinois, you are invited to worship with the congregations of Santa Cruz and First Lutheran churches. You can also pay a visit to the bilingual resource center. Contact Keith at 815-722-4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.