TRI-TAYLOR — Some residents of a Near West Police District CAPS group are pushing to move their meeting out of a chapel that they say holds sentimental "memories" for many Catholics who grew up on the block but now serves as a nondenominational worship space.
At Tuesday night's meeting, beat facilitator Cindy Silva said a handful of residents refused to come to the meeting at Chicago Hope Academy high school because the meeting was held in the chapel of the former Catholic school that many of them attended.
Juan Clas, the Near West District CAPS sergeant, said no one had contacted him regarding any concern about the meeting’s location in the chapel. But he agreed that there were other reasons to move the meeting, pointing to an instance over the summer when he was unable to access the chapel space at Chicago Hope for a meeting.
Clas said that beat meeting ended up being held at a hot dog stand along Roosevelt Road.
“So, that’s basically the reason why, we just want something that’s gonna be more reliable,” Clas said Tuesday.
Resident Rolando Ayala agreed with Clas, saying the meetings have frequently been mishandled.
“Meetings starting late and meetings having to be relocated as a result," said Ayala, 48. "It’s happened quite a lot actually.”
“It’s been there since we were kids, that was our Catholic church and we have all the memories there,” said Charlie Peters, 50, who lives down the street from Chicago Hope and who did not attend Tuesday night.
The church was St. Callistus, a longtime Catholic elementary school that was shuttered in the mid-'90s.
Hope Academy's president, Bob Muzikowski, helped buy the building from the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2004.
Without his intervention, he said, the building would not be standing today.
“Nine years ago, it was going to get knocked down and be condo units. If you think I give a flying rip about CAPS, I could care less. We’re just doing it to be nice,” said Muzikowski, who estimated the school has hosted the neighborhood police meetings on and off since it opened.
Former parishioners at St. Callistus come by on a regular basis and are grateful the building still stands, Muzikowski said.
About 20 people showed up for Tuesday night’s meeting. The room, still used as a chapel at the school, has stained glass windows and a large brown cross. A show of hands indicated that only four people present were interested in moving the meeting, but many more acknowledged that it didn’t matter to them where it was held and some said they knew others who wouldn't attend meetings as long as they were at the chapel.
Both Irving Elementary, 749 S. Oakley Blvd., and Hopewell Church, at 2308 W. Harrison St., were being considered as more centrally located alternatives, according to CAPS Officer Paris Edwards.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) attended Tuesday’s meeting and said it was up to the residents to decide whether they needed to take steps to move the meeting.
“For my two cents, it’s wherever you all feel the most comfortable,” Ervin said.
Several residents at the meeting were skeptical about the motivation to move, and were concerned that the same residents who weren’t showing up because of their reservations over the chapel might make excuses not to show up at the new location.
“They bring it up every year,” said Near West Side resident Jan Tomlinson, who attends CAPS meetings regularly and has lived in the neighborhood 23 years.
“It’s one or two [people] and it’s like, ‘Get over it,’” added her husband, Alan.