Last month (in December) I had the privilege of joining Bishop Donald Kettler, the local Muslim Imam, and several other Catholic priests along with other volunteers and laborers from Habitat for Humanity to bless a new home we have built for a new Muslim family, here in St. Cloud. This house has been called “Pope Francis House” in honor of what our pope stands for as we try to build bridges (and a home!) to help our local immigrant populations find a secure means of living and to create new avenues of communication, understanding, and peace between our different cultures and religions. “Pope Francis House” was built with the help of generous volunteers and donors from all the local Catholic Churches, including St. Peter and St. Paul. I, myself, with several others from our two parishes also put in some work in helping frame the house and build the supporting structure. It was a rewarding experience as I got to know other people and even meet some of the new Muslim family members who would eventually move into their new home. Contrary to popular belief Habitat for Humanity does not provide free homes. Each family who moves into their new home must qualify financially to support a low interest 30 year loan to pay for the house as well as put some real “sweat equity” (so many hours per person) into helping build the house! The money they pay for their new home will in turn help finance the next house! At our blessing, in which some 100 people showed, I was struck by the humility and gratitude of the new family and by a comment one of the daughters of the family of six made. In her short speech she said, “This will be the first time our whole family will be able to live under one roof. Thank you!”
Pope Francis has constantly reminded us that the path to peace and reconciliation is by doing good. In this “Year of Mercy” he especially encourages to engage in “Corporal Works of Mercy” i.e. Shelter the homeless, Clothe the naked and Give drink to the thirsty. There are many other things we can do to bring hope to our wounded world. As we enter into Ordinary Time this week, what ways can you be the hands of mercy to others? Think about it.
Finally, this weekend we recently had our “Hands Across America” gathering at St. Paul. For the past month people from both our parishes were asked to pick up a card with a local immigrant family’s name on it and then pray for that person(s). On Saturday, January 9th, some of you got to meet the person(s) you were praying at St. Paul and were able to share a small meal and conversation. It was nice to see people talk and share their stories. It’s all about creating new bonds and ties that can help everyone! With Immigration Sunday (Feast of Epiphany) earlier this month and the Baptism of our Lord last weekend, it’s important for us to know we are all Children of God, called to live in the peace of God’s Light! May we all live in the cooperation and harmony of God’s love! God Bless!