Cardinal Blase Cupich appointed retired FBI agent Phil Andrew as director of violence prevention initiatives within the Archdiocese of Chicago this month.
Andrew spent more than 20 years as an FBI special agent, and his appointment comes after the Chicago Archdiocese announced last year that it would be launching an anti-violence campaign to stem gun violence on the city’s South and West sides.
Andrew, who is also a survivor of gun violence, joined WBEZ host Melba Lara to talk about his new position.
The role focuses on community-building
Phil Andrew: This is a new position with the Archdiocese, and what the cardinal is hoping to do is really fulfill the pope’s vision that the Catholic church become the field hospital, meaning that the faithful get close to the problem and help those in need.
Day-to-day, I think that this role is going to be focused on building coalitions with like-minded faith groups and civic organizations that really are already in the field doing this work: finding ways that we can expand programs that are already working, identifying the gaps that we can expand those programs to cover, and really building community around the idea that keeping children safe is our No. 1 priority.
Andrew experienced gun violence personally
Andrew: I am a survivor of gun violence myself. My family and I were taken hostage in 1988 in what has become known as one of the first school shootings, which took place in Winnetka, Illinois. Six elementary school students were shot; one was killed. I, myself, was shot in an attempt to disarm the perpetrator. That moment really coalesced into me understanding that there is nothing more that we want to do than prevent something like that from happening to others.
Andrew sees opportunity
Andrew: I think in the context of everything that has happened in the past few weeks with the shooting in Florida and the loss of one of our own police officers, Commander Paul Bauer, that there is a consciousness for this issue. And we have the opportunity to address root causes, like really getting upstream where decisions are made well before a gun is in someone’s hands and lives are being changed forever. I see this as a bit of a tipping point.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire segment.