By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When and why did you join Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph Parish?
Lisa: When I first moved to Chicago in 2008, I was working in a bakery and taking a class on Sunday evenings. On weekends when I had to close the bakery on Saturday evening, open it on Sunday morning, and go to my class Sunday evening, the 12:30 Mass at Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph was the only Mass in the city that I could make. I would get off work at noon, jump on the North Ave Bus, and get to Immaculate Conception just in time. The priests were wonderful, and there was something about that basement church that I really liked, so I’ve kept going all these years, even though I don’t live in the neighborhood.
Gordon: Could you comment on your experience with the Parish Transformation Program?
Lisa: I wasn’t involved in the committee, but the five initiatives they created for the parish certainly affect me as a parishioner. Canonically combining the two churches into one parish felt like a step that should have been taken long before, so that was great to see. I’ve also been grateful for the Spiritual Life Ministry created to help parishioners better engage with their faith, because as the mother of two small children (3 years and 10 months) I haven’t been able to be 100% focused on what’s being said at church in a while, and it’s nice to have extra opportunities for my faith to grow.
Gordon: You are a member of the SPRED Program at Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph Parish. Please provide with our readers what initially interested you in joining SPRED and your experience to date.
Lisa: Well, initially I signed up for SPRED because I was in line to sign up for something else at my parish’s ministry fair, but I was trapped near the SPRED table. Julia Hess started talking to me about the program, and eventually she had talked to me for so long that I felt obligated to sign her sheet for more information. When she emailed me more information, I said it sounded lovely, but I had a new-ish baby and wouldn’t be able to do anything like this for at least six months to a year. She said it would take about that long to get the program started at ICSJ, so I agreed to come see the SPRED space at Queen of Angels Parish and talk to her more about the program.
The more I learned about SPRED, the more I realized that this program sounded like something I would get a lot out of, and something that I could really use in my life. It’s the first thing I’ve ever volunteered for that I don’t think of as something I have to do, but something I get to do. With two small children, I have very little time to myself, and I guard my downtime fiercely. There are a lot of wonderful programs I’d like to be involved in, but at this stage of my life, I need to make time for myself, for my own sanity. SPRED is that unique program that I want to spend my “me time” doing.
Gordon: What have you learned about those with intellectual and developmental disabilities?
Lisa: Lisa: Since getting involved in SPRED, I’ve learned a lot about the ways that THEY learn - The ways they take in and process information, and why the SPRED program is set up the way it is. We are still in the formative stages of the SPRED program at our parish, and I am one of those people who learn things best through doing. Once we actually start having SPRED sessions, I’m sure I will learn new and surprising things each week.
Gordon: What importance does SPRED's catechesis program have on their lives?
Lisa: It helps them grasp the concept of a loving God in a tangible way and helps them recognize the holy moments in their own lives. It also does wonders for anyone’s self esteem to have a place where they feel they belong, and where they forge friendships. I know I’ll have a lot to add to this answer once the SPRED program at ICSJ is in full swing, and I am able to observe the effect of the program on all of our lives
Gordon: Your husband is a special ed teacher. How has your experience in SPRED reflected on some of the challenges that he has in special ed?
Lisa: There is a refrain repeated that people don’t expect much of people with disabilities, or look down on them. Both SPRED and my husband treat them with the dignity we all deserve, which helps to draw out confidence, self esteem, and a realization of their own gifts. When everyone treats you as “other,” eventually you will start to feel set apart yourself. Drawing them into a community in which they play an equal part helps them escape this feeling, to realize that they have much to contribute - and then we all benefit.
Gordon: You have a great background in theater. Could you share your experience in sketch comedy?
Lisa: I fell into sketch comedy after moving to Chicago. A friend told me that he and two other guys were putting together a sketch troupe and looking for a girl, and he asked me to audition. I am not an actress, so all my acting credits on the resume I had to bring were from class plays in elementary school, but they picked me anyway. So instead of writing plays, I started writing and performing sketch comedy with Buck LePard, Trevor Martin, and Conor Sullivan, who are among the funniest people you could ever meet.
Our group was called Oh Theodora, and we were together five and a half years, doing comedy in Chicago and at festivals around the country. We had our own monthly show at the Public House Theater on Clark, which we modeled off old variety shows, showcasing guest acts of music, dance, art, and various other artistic disciplines. Conor and Trevor moved to LA to pursue careers out there, so we disbanded in 2015. It was an unexpected, wonderful chapter in my life
Gordon: When your second child was born, you decided to be a stay-at-home mother. Raising children may be one of the most challenging responsibilities for many of us. What lessons have you learned as a stay-at-home mother?
Lisa: It is hard and constant and it can be surprisingly lonely - and many stay at home moms feel that way. Until my son, Ben, started taking classes through the Park District and I met other moms, I thought I was a terrible mother for feeling that way about spending my days alone with my kids, but it is actually pretty common. You love them, but you’d like to go to the bathroom by yourself. They’re fun to talk to, but sometimes you want to have a conversation about what’s going on in the world today. You would do anything for them, but sometimes you ache to do something for yourself. I have had to learn to be much more patient with my kids and with myself. I’ve also learned that even though it is a privilege to be able to stay at home with your kids, it’s okay not to love every moment of it. On the flip side of that, I’ve learned to keep a journal of fun things they do and say, because I know I won’t remember every adorable moment - and those are the ones you want to relive when you’re scrubbing poop off a train table.
Gordon: You don’t have as many opportunities to attend theater with two small children, What was the last play that you had the opportunity to attend and could you comment on the production?
Lisa: I actually got to see TWO plays in the last month! I can’t remember the last time I went to the theater before that. I moved to Chicago to write plays, and I’m currently finishing tinkering with one about Jesus’s brother. A friend was able to get me a comp ticket to “Jesus the Jew,” Greenhouse Theater’s one-man show on the same topic, written by William Spatz. At times it kind of felt like a lecture about Judaism and the early Church, but that topic is not uninteresting, and I enjoyed watching the performer, Steven Strafford, make the most he could out of the dry bits.
The other show I got to see was “PAW Patrol Live” at the Chicago Theater with my son. I had pretty low expectations, because PAW Patrol doesn’t slip in jokes for parents to enjoy like Pixar and the Muppets do, but it was actually fun. The actress who played Mayor Goodway was wonderful, and my son is still talking about the show. I really want to instill in my kids a love of the arts, and shows like this help make that happen.
Gordon: Thanks for a super interview and I will be attending the opening night of your play.