Hot Lunch, Help for Immigrants at Trinity, Aurora
January 24, 2018
Trinity Episcopal Church, Aurora, is a small congregation with a big ministry. Most Sunday mornings about 25 to 30 people gather to worship in the stone church. But during the week, more than a hundred find comfort and support in the ministries offered there.
In recognition for Trinity’s work, the Episcopal Church’s Jubilee Ministries recently awarded the parish a $750 grant. The award was part of $67,000 distributed through 54 grants that support mission and ministry in 35 dioceses.
“It was unexpected. I was very surprised,” said Linda Barber, Trinity’s Jubilee minister.
Trinity is one of more than 600 Jubilee Ministry Centers in the Episcopal Church’s Jubilee network. Jubilee Centers provide food, shelter and healthcare to people in need and advocate for human rights.
Trinity’s Jubilee ministries include hosting the Holy Eucharist and a hot lunch every Thursday, assisting eligible people in becoming citizens, and serving as a worksite for court-ordered Community Service Workers, who help clean and maintain the church building.
The Thursday lunch program, called the Sandwich Board, started during Lent in 1985 when five peanut butter sandwiches were served. The program now combines a service of Holy Communion with a hot, nutritious meal and serves about 120 people a week. The ministry is a collaboration of eight Episcopal churches that take turns hosting the meal at Trinity. Other participating churches are St. David’s, Aurora; St. John’s, Naperville; St. Andrew’s, Downers Grove; St. Mark’s, Geneva; Grace, Hinsdale; and St. Charles, St. Charles. During 2016 some 5,900 meals were served.
“For 32 years we’ve never missed a Thursday, even on Thanksgiving and even when Christmas falls on a Thursday,” says Barber, who was baptized at Trinity and was a long-time parish administrator.
As part of the lunch ministry, Trinity welcomes four or five volunteers each week from the Association for Individual Development, a program whose mission is to “empower people with physical, developmental, intellectual and mental health challenges to enjoy lives of dignity and purpose.”
Trinity Amnesty Center, which works with immigrants, began in 1987 when a man visited the church’s rector and asked for help in becoming a United States citizen. Barber remembers that day, and now leads the ministry where she helps people get fingerprints, update work permits and obtain permanent resident cards.
Nearly 43 percent of Aurora’s residents are Hispanic or Latino, and Barber, who took classes to learn how to do the necessary paperwork, has helped more than 1,000 of the congregation’s neighbors become U. S. citizens. Her effort has been acknowledged by an award from the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“The immigration office in Chicago approached us and asked if we wanted to have a citizenship ceremony here and we said, well, yeah!” she said. “We’ve had six or seven naturalization ceremonies in facilities in Aurora,” including high schools, Aurora University, and a building in downtown Aurora.
“To have the services in Aurora, we had to have at least 100 people who were to become citizens. Immigration officials would come out here and do the interview. We’re 35 to 40 miles from Chicago, so having those services here meant our people didn’t have to travel into Chicago.”
Working with people seeking citizenship has been a great joy, Barber said, but “it’s a sad thing when you can’t help someone.”
For more information about Trinity and its ministries, go to http://trinityaurora.org/.