The Arms of God: Local Faith Communities Embrace Viator House Mission As Their Own

In addition to Viator House’s efforts to create its own interfaith sense of community, it has arranged for churches, mosques and synagogues to make commitments as Faith Community Partners to support the house’s mission.

It was the idea of staff case manager Marianne Dilsner to create these partnerships, said Fr. Corey, realizing that attending to young immigrants is the same priority for all major faith traditions, and that they would want to help create a safe environment for education and healing.

Marianne had worked for St. James Catholic Church in Arlington Heights and represented it on the Arlington Heights Ministerial Association, comprising most of the Christian churches in that village. One purpose was to identify and take on various community projects, and one successful initiative it started was Faith Community Homes, which helps families on the cusp of poverty to improve their situation through mentoring, education and financial assistance.

A participant leads prayer at a gathering of Muslim leaders who support Viator House.

United in Mission

When she started at Viator House and saw the connections to churches, mosques and synagogues among the people getting behind it, she suggested that if Fr. Corey and other leaders reached out to these faith communities, they would see the good work and want to lend their support.

“We say we can be an extension of your faith community mission in the world, to welcome immigrants, and for community members to have a way to be involved in that priority,” Fr. Corey explained. In return, the Faith Community Partners, which now number 18, allow Viator House to refer to them as formal partners, pray for the program regularly and provide some type of donation annually, either financial or items needed for daily life at the house.

For Viator House, the enlistment of faith communities “broadens our base of support, our opportunities to help these guys of different faiths,” said Marianne. 

St. James, an Early Partner

One early and active faith partner has been St. James, which already had supported immigrant aid efforts for several years through its peace and justice committee. Sarah Tipperreiter, who co-leads the committee, said it is “always thinking about how Catholic social teaching calls us to put our faith into action.”

A group of 15 had gone to Nogales, Mexico, across the Arizona border, in conjunction with the Kino Border Initiative ( in 2015 and 2016. While there, clergy involved in the initiative challenged them as parishioners to take what they learned and had moved them, and put it into action back home, Tipperreiter said. It seemed a tall order—they were so far from the border, with no specific legal or other skill sets to apply—when “Viator House came about at the right time.”

A scheduled presentation by Fr. Corey to the parish in spring 2017 drew about 75 people with little advance promotion. Many were affected by it and came forward, some to the committee and others deciding to volunteer intensively on their own, she said.

The activities since then, such as organizing toiletry drives, giving Christmas gifts and publicizing Viator House’s good works, help live out the seven principles of Catholic social teaching, including “a couple that specifically relate to immigration and asylum issues.” One is solidarity with people struggling with social issues who may be far away but can be affected for good or ill by what people do right here. The other is about options of the poor and vulnerable, and “what we can do to support all the people who don’t have the resources and privilege we have,” Tipperreiter explained.

The possible issues of concern can be overwhelming, she said, but concerned people should focus on “the little things that we can plug into and make a little bit of difference. And if we each picked something, so much would get done.”

“The more small things we do, the more they’re snowballing. And I feel that’s what we’re seeing with Viator House. The more we do, the more that becomes available.”


Thanks to Our Faith and Civic Community Partners