Father LeRoy invited me to write his column this week, to share news with you about some of the social ministries in our twinned parishes. Social ministries generally include those activities in which we “reach out” beyond our parishioners to our community, both locally and globally – “to be God’s visible life to the world” as our mission prayer states.
Our social ministries include home delivered meals, volunteer work at Catholic Charities, prison outreach, legislative advocacy, 40 Days for Life, and our Sister Parish partnership, which Father addressed in a recent column on Global Solidarity. Our parishes have many other ministries that involve outreach to the community, and some of them will be highlighted in future messages.
The foundation of our social ministries are the principles of Catholic social teaching, which I will also address in a later message. I’m going to focus today on two ministries – one that we are involved in this summer, and another that will occur in October. Both are example of direct service, or charity, which are directed at the symptoms of injustice. In both examples, we should also be working for justice in the form of social changes that can address the root causes of hunger and homelessness.
The YES program: Volunteers from our twinned parishes are working in three-person teams each weekday this summer to serve meals to children at Timberland Apartments, located north of St. Paul’s on 12th Avenue and 13th Streets. The meal program, which provides both breakfast and lunch to children up through age 18, is government funded and serves children who are eligible for free or reduced meals at school. Food is prepared at St. Cloud State University kitchens, delivered by truck to over 20 sites in the St. Cloud area, and served by volunteers at each site.
Our volunteer teams arrive at Timberland at noon, and work out of a single car size garage which has a refrigerator, fan, 3 tables, a dozen folding chairs, and some shelving for supplies.
Lunch features a hot entrée for protein, a carbohydrate, fruit, vegetable and dairy for a balanced meal. Lunch is served from 12:30 to 1 p.m., or until every child has been fed! During July, an average of 60 meals were served each day; with the tally for July nearly 1,300 lunches. In addition to the meals, outdoor activities are supervised by VISTA volunteers daily; and art instructors provide a weekly creative art experience for the children.
Church of the Week: Our next major outreach effort will be our annual ministry of hospitality to persons experiencing homelessness in our community. Known as Church of the Week, we will provide a warm, safe space at St. Peter’s from Monday, October 1 to Monday, October 16 for our overnight guests.
Our planning committee will be soliciting your support for this ministry. We will need evening greeters, overnight hosts, bus drivers, and morning wake up/clean up teams. As resources are available, we will also provide an evening meal at Place of Hope as well as light evening and morning snacks.
All of these ministries offer us an opportunity to build relationships with persons who can otherwise be marginalized in our society because of their material poverty, mental illness, vulnerability, age, or other factors. We are called to see Christ in these, our brothers and sisters; and to be the face of Christ to them.
Please contact me if you are interested in joining the Social Ministry Committee or volunteering for any of our many social ministries.