CHICAGO — Residents and religious of a small Chicago suburb rallied to celebrate their so far successful campaign against the opening of a multi-million dollar “adult entertainment” club across from a convent.
“We came together as a community, as people of faith and stood together fighting for family values against what some thought was an unbreakable giant,” Sister Noemia Silva of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinian said at an April 22 press conference.
“It’s not only for the sisters, but for the community itself,” she told CNA in a later interview.
Outrage has erupted locally over the building of the establishment, particularly because of its location next to the missionary sisters’ convent and retirement home. Proprietors of the business have been accused of breaking state law, which requires a 1,000-foot “buffer zone” between places of worship and such businesses.
“They haven’t respected state law and so we’re going to tell them, ‘You need to respect that,” Sister Noemia Silva said. “This should not have even happened so close to a worship area.”
Although the $3 million establishment, “Get It,” was slated to open during Holy Week of 2012, it has yet to open its doors to the public largely due to community protest and a legal battle between the landowner and building owner.
Sister Noemia said the sisters, who are spread throughout 18 countries, have been praying for the intercession of St. Michael. “All of our communities are praying for this; it’s just constant, constant prayer.”
She likened their fight against the club’s opening to that of David and Goliath. “David won the battle because he trusted in the Good Lord,” she explained. “He’ll fight this battle for us.”
Many locals are worried about what kind of community such an establishment would foster, especially in an area where many young families as well as long-time residents live.
“I raised my children in this community,” Pat Zito, who has lived in the area for 45 years, said. “My children were concerned for my safety if this place opened, for what it would bring.”
Opposition to the club has been steadily growing since last year as other community leaders have joined the sisters in their fight against the business.
Recently with the help of West Suburban Action Project the community gathered in its largest-ever public demonstration as some 500 people assembled for a prayer vigil. Additionally, more than 3,000 people have signed petitions against the club.
The community has called on Mayor Beniamino Mazzulla of neighboring Stone Park — which borders Melrose Park and is home to the massive “adult entertainment” club — to enforce the “buffer-zone” law or to support the case when they take it to court.
If it opens, this would be the sixth strip club in the community.
The Thomas More Society has offered free legal support to the sisters should they choose to take legal action, which they most likely will.
“If the Village of Stone Park does not heed the call of the Sisters to enforce the buffer law,” executive director, Peter Breen, said, “we are ready with a diverse coalition of individuals and organizations to seek relief from the courts.”