Vol. 4    No. 11
May 28, 2009 Archives

2009 Production Schedule

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The Capital City Hues
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Claire G. Mendoza

Jonathan Gramling
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   I have always thought of the Catholic Multicultural Center and its predecessor the St. Martin House to be a vital part
of life in South Madison. When I lived on Beld Street in the early 1980s, St. Martin House hosted a food pantry and a
free meal program. The United Farm Workers and many other community causes, especially those dealing with Latin
America, held dinners and meetings there. Some of the earliest members of Madison’s Latino community were helped
in getting a foothold in Madison through the St. Martin House.
   That tradition continued with the new Catholic Multicultural Center when it was built on the land that had once
housed the St. Martin House. Centro Guadalupe provided services to countless Latino families and the spirit of the St.
Martin House lived on with the free meals that were offered and the countless community meetings that were held there.
It has been one of the few places in Madison that has been truly multicultural since its inception. Latinos, African
Americans and many others equally felt at home in the center.
   I hadn’t heard that the Catholic Multicultural Center was on the chopping block or was in trouble because it was used
by so many groups and individuals in the community of South Madison and beyond. In my view, it was a fully-
functioning center with a lot of foot traffic. So it came as a complete shock just this past Wednesday when I learned
from the LaSup listserve that the Catholic Church was closing the Catholic Multicultural Center effective last Friday.
There was a two-day period between notice and closure.
   The reasons that were cited were economic. Perhaps the Catholic Church’s investments are down or maybe Sunday
offerings aren’t like they used to be. It appeared that the decision to close the center was an economic one and that the
church felt it wasn’t a diocese-wide service that was open to all of the faithful.
   Now I can understand the need to make hard economic choices in today’s troubled economy. The Capital City Hues
is facing difficult economic pressures and I can appreciate the need for the church to retrench and consolidate. It
makes perfect business sense.
   But the Church is more than a business concern. I can’t argue the choices that the Church has made, especially
since I am not privy to their financial records. But it is the way that this has been done which concerns me.
   There are hundreds — if not thousands — of people who depend upon the services that are applied at the Catholic
Multicultural Center. Many of these people are poor with meager resources. It will be devastating to some of these
individuals if these resources are suddenly closed off to them. The Church has a responsibility here.
   The way the closing of the Catholic Multicultural Center has been handled reminds me of the way that many layoffs
and plant closings are conducted. The business announces the layoff and escorts the laid-off employees off the
premises after they have collected their belongings. While this may make business sense, the Catholic Church is a
spiritual organization with a responsibility to its flock.
   It should have warned the community about the possibility that the center would close and give the community time
to come up with an alternative plan for the services and the people who need those services if a method of funding
could not be found to keep the Catholic Multicultural Center operating under the auspices of the Catholic Church. They
had a responsibility to this part of their flock.
   While the closing of the center may make perfect business sense and a two-day closing notice may be the best and
easiest way to make the transition — no muss, no fuss — I can’t help but feel that it was the most un-Christian way to do
the closing. It may have made it easier for the church hierarchy and decision-makers, but it created an unneeded
hardship for a voiceless portion of the church’s flock.
   And one thing I have a hard time understanding is why the church did this in this way. The Latino community is the
fastest-growing segment of the Catholic Church. The children of those who use Centro Guadalupe now will be the
leaders and workers of tomorrow. Some day, they will make up one of the potentially largest revenue streams for the
Catholic Church. Is the Church looking at a short-term gain at the expense of creating a long-term liability?
   The Catholic Multicultural Center and Centro Guadalupe should remain open for 30 days so that community leaders
and activists can explore possibilities of keeping the center open and/or transitioning the families and individuals to
alternative services. That would be the Christian thing to do.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                         Centro Guadalupe