By Gordon Nary
Gordon: Congratulations on your appointment by Archbishop Cupich to St. James Parish. What are you new responsibilities?
Deacon Coleman: Thank You, Gordon. This is my first reassignment after being ordained in May 2003, Deacons under retirement age are asked move after ten years to another parish that to do not have a deacon.
My new responsibilities are;
1. Deacon five masses a month, Preach once a month, Benediction, Support the Pastor with the parish Liturgical needs.
2. Marriage Minister.
3. Outreach/Evangelization. 4. Attend Staff meetings, and Parish Council and Evangelization meetings.
Gordon: What are some of the areas of Chicago in which your parishioners reside?
Deacon Coleman: St. James is a very diverse and multicultural community located in the Lake Meadows, South Commons and Prairie Shores but the over all area is called Douglas. The parish community celebrates liturgy in the Parish Hall on Sundays and holy days. On weekdays, Mass is celebrated in the Father Tolton Chapel in the rectory. The parish offices and food pantry are located at 2907 S. Wabash thanks to the generosity of Catholic Charities.
Gordon: You have an extraordinary background in special ministries and spent several years as director at Zacchaeus House Could you comment on some of your more memorable experiences at Zacchaeus House?
Deacon Coleman: When a man that had nothing and now has hope and believes in himself again, and is making positive plans for the future. it is a sign of God’s grace. Zacchaeus House is a non-for profit, non-treatment residential facility, providing a faith to work home for homeless and needy men in transition. As a place of Mercy and Grace where Catholic ordained and laity, black and white, rich and poor live out the church teachings. Zacchaeus House calls the church to extend a helping hand to the needy and the recognition of the fundamental dignity of all persons. Homelessness is not a sin but the way people often treat and view the homeless is. We are all created by God and he loves us all deeply John 3:16.
Gordon: You also served at Emmaus Ministries How did this experience strengthen your faith?
Deacon Coleman: Ministering at Emmaus walking side by side with men that are hurting, tangled in worldly sin and needing God’s mercy kept me humble and prayerful. Walking along side a man at his lowest, breaking bread with him and sharing how much God cares for him are times when the church is alive. Baptisms, weddings and anniversaries are not the only time our faith show up to show out, it is at its greatest in our darkest hours.
Gordon: You also served at the Back of the Yards Port Ministries that provides critical services to the community. I understand that St Francis was the inspiration for organizing this organization, Could you comment on this?
Deacon Coleman: Founded in 1985 by Friar Augustin Milon “Father Gus”, the Port Ministries is a Catholic ministry living out the Franciscan charism, serving and showing God’s love to the poor and all in need. The poor are our brothers and sister it is our life to care for each other and honor and respect all life.Preferential option for the poor was our focus with a life of prayer and trusting in God for everything was how we lived.
Gordon: When and why did you join the Knights of Columbus? If there are some of our male readers who are not members, could you provide some of the more important reasons that they should consider joining?
Deacon Coleman: I became a Knight of Columbus in 1985, I was touched seeing and hearing strong Catholic men being active in their faith. At the Newman center near the campus of SIU-C, they are a great public witness of faith and that moved me to join. To anyone considering joining the Knights of Columbus, they are a group of strong, faithful Catholic men that are committed to serving the Church and love our Pope. They love family life, support our priests, encourage our youth and care for the needy. So you will never go wrong being a Knight.
Gordon: You are also a member of The National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order How have they enhanced you daily life?
Deacon Coleman: When I became a Secular Franciscan on Pentecost Sunday 1990. it was the start of a long journey that began when I was in Basic Training at Fort Jackson SC. Before St. Francis became the beloved Saint, he was a Knight and was in a war, changed his life and began to serve God. The first Mass that attended was a field Mass, under a tree and on top of a jeep and the Mass was beautiful and life changing for me. My life changed from being a member of two gun ranges and a member of the NRA to being Baptized Easter Sunday 1984 and living a life of non- violence a life focus on Preferential option for the poor.
Gordon: We have been evolving into a culture of violence - domestic violence, , gang violence, the murder of more and more people in Chicago, racial violence, and terrorism, What, in your opinion, are some of the factors that have lead to such a devaluation of human life, and what can our parishes and each of us to help to increase our respect for each other and for all human life?
Deacon Coleman: Lack of respect for human life. Humanity is preying on itself. We as a people are losing self empathy. Whatever it is called, it not good history shows we have been here before Ecclesiastes 1:4-11
Humanity has a history of evil = Slavery, Holocaust, Genocide and Colonization, We the people of faith must stay faithful and give witness even more.
Gordon: Chicago has been and is continued to be blessed with your service and your commitment to those in need. Thank you for an inspiring interview.