Praying Is a Start
A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project
January, 2015Praying Is a Start “That the homeless and needy experience God’s love by our care, love and concern for all of them.” This was a petition heard at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Washington, DC recently. Not only does the power of prayer go out to the homeless, it also raises awareness among parishioners about the plight of those living on the streets. But it is not enough. Care, love and concern have to be carried into action as well. The Jungle Situated along the Coyote Creek in San Jose was a shanty town called the “Jungle.” It is now past tense because the police evacuated the 300 residents last month, posting guards so that people would not return. The city did provide housing for about half of the residents; the others were on their own. But the homeless are creative in simply moving elsewhere to seek shelter. Two Catholic parishes, Most Holy Trinity and St. Francis Assisi, had been providing food to the Jungle site. After its demise, they simply moved their distribution centers to where the homeless had relocated. The Distribution Process Most Holy Trinity has a Food Pantry that receives shipments of food each week from both Second Harvest and local stores. Volunteers divide the food into some 65 boxes, each of which feeds two or three people for a week, as well as making up 70 bags for individuals. They also prepare hot meals, fruit and beverages for distribution. Because the parish is multi-cultural, some weeks the meals are Mexican, some are Filipino and others are Vietnamese. On Wednesday morning, pick-up trucks and SUV’s back up to the pantry and load up boxes, bags, hot meals and beverages. The caravan of vehicles drive to sites along the banks of the local creek and elsewhere. By the time they arrive people are already standing in line waiting for their hot meal and boxes of food for the week. St. Francis of Assisi also takes part in the distribution, while a Vietnamese couple distributes food on Sunday mornings. This has been going on for the last four to five years, making this outreach ministry well known in the area. Another Response Another example is Good Shepherd Parish in Beverly Hills, CA. Although situated in a wealthy area, many homeless were sleeping in and around the parish buildings. One of the deacons came up with the idea of starting a “Martha’s Kitchen” to serve the homeless a substantial breakfast every Friday morning between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 am. Between 100 to 130 are served every week by 25 volunteers out of a pool of some 75 who serve when available, including 7th and 8th graders from the parish school. A Third Example San Francisco is the home of Most Holy Redeemer Parish, but it is also the town where many homeless come to escape colder climates. For more than 14 years, the parish has sponsored a special banquet on Wednesday nights. Because space is limited, a list is kept for regular attendees and others who are on standby are allowed in as space permits. The average weekly attendance is 100, although at Christmastime, room is made for up to 136 guests. A professional chef does the cooking, while parishioners and neighbors volunteer to serve. They make sure everyone is welcomed and served a 5 course meal, equal to what would be offered at a fancy restaurant. Each one who comes is honored and valued; those providing the meal consider it a great privilege to serve their guests. The gap between rich and poor has grown wider in this country, but not at those places where prayer and action come together to serve those in need of shelter, food, clothing, medicine and loving interaction.