Stone Park, Ill. – Residents turned out in droves Thursday night to pray over the opening of another strip club in the tiny, suburban community - this one just feet away from a convent.
About 300 members of the mostly Latino town came together with the nuns of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borreomeo – Scalabrinians, for a prayer vigil and march through the neighborhood. They carried white candles, signs that read “Close the devils workshop” and recited the Our Father as they passed the small, modest homes that surround the church and strip club.
News of the strip club opening sparked a public outcry, as its building backs up to the convent where the nuns live.
Community members have also grown outraged because the large number of strip clubs in the town, which stretches a few blocks, is beginning to outnumber residents.
"Our community wants to have their voices heard. Enough is enough and we can't stay quiet over this and let them open this strip club in our neighborhood," said Alicia Montano, a resident of Stone Park. "It's dangerous for our children to grow up around that."
According to Sister Alma Rosa Huerta, the sisters never received a notice that the proposed club, tentatively named "Get It," was opening and were therefore not able to voice their opinion sooner. A lawyer for "Get It" said the notice intended for the sisters was mistakenly sent to another address.
Montano and other residents are concerned that if the club opens, the area could see an increase in drunk driving or other illegal activity.
The club, which will feature partially nude performers, is set to open April 1.
Residents hope their prayers and protests will lead the village to pull the club's permits or otherwise cause the club not to open.
"It’s a lack of respect by everyone involved to think of opening a place like this here, so close to this church and right in the middle of a residential area like this where these people and these children have been subjected to so many of these types of places already," said Pastor Jesus Molina of Out of the Box Ministry, United Methodist Church.
Stone Park Village spans about three city blocks by three city blocks and is home to about 5,000 residents, most of them Latino, and four other businesses that feature adult entertainment.
"Imagine that here we are praying and at our backs, they’re sinning. It’s like they’re laughing at us," said José Antonio Rodríguez, a youth leader at the neighborhood Monte Carmelo Church. "The devil corrupts men and at the root of their wrongdoings is the love of money. That’s why they’re opening this place, money."
Idalmy Carrera is a freelance reporter based out of Chicago.