Making Room at the Table
by Maureen Kennedy Barney, IVC Volunteer
One of the most integral aspects of Jesus’ public ministry was that he welcomed all at the table. Sharing a meal together in Jesus’ culture held a unique weight; it reflected RESPECT, ACCEPTANCE and FULL INCLUSION. Jesus expected his disciples to promote a community that welcomes and honors all.
For the past four years as an IVC volunteer, I have been blessed to be at Old St Pat’s with the members of the Trinity Volunteer Corps, people with disabilities volunteering together, providing each person with an outlet to express their unique talents and gifts. Inclusion through volunteerism guides TVC. Gathered together at our table, the mail room table on the third floor of the Jack Wall Mission Center, our tasks are many and varied.
Preparing the 5000 cut outs for the Giving Tree, assembling Valentine Cheer bags for shut ins, sharing liturgy at the Special Friends Mass, participating in the Mass with the IVC members, assisting at all of the Ronald Mc Donald Houses to serve a meal for those on a journey with a seriously ill child, bringing the light at the Easter Vigil, assisting with any task for the many ministries supported by the wonderful folks who make Old St Pat’s a place where one experiences the God who loves us all, greeting at the Block Party or welcoming guests to Deck the Halls, we work together in a spirit of inclusion and companionship as we are JOY to each other on our journey.
Perhaps our greatest efforts consist in our preparation of weekly food bags that OSP provides for the homeless: a bottle of water, a package of crackers and cheese, raisins, canned sausages, and a protein bar…some hundred people a week find their daily nourishment in the food bags. As we walked together one Wednesday to the noon Mass, we passed a young man holding a very small child. Seated on the curb which was their table, they were sharing their lunch…the bag they had just received from Old St Pat’s. We stopped and spoke with the pair learning of the hardship they were enduring and of the gratitude they felt for this daily meal.
And as we moved on to church, one of my buddies said quite simply what God wants from all of us:
TO SEE HIM IN ALL WHO CROSS OUR PATHS AND TO WELCOME HIM….TO LIVE THE BEATITUDES.
God meets us wherever we are…caring for each of us and also challenging each to prepare to welcome HIM… for it is Jesus who is in those he sends into our lives, those who cross our paths. Witnessing that with each person who is part of the Trinity Volunteer Corps allows me to understand the message of HOPE…and HOPE is the door that opens onto a future where all are welcome at the table!! As Jesus tells us:
“Here I am knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door I will enter his house and have supper with him and he with me.”
As we take our places at the table we are blessed to have the support of those who share our vision. Fr Tom Hurley, Beth Marek, Bea Cunningham and the staff at OSP are examples of the inclusion that makes each member of Trinity Volunteer Corps feel welcome….and valued.
Actions not Words
by Dick Pabst, IVC Volunteer
One of the things I always kept with me during my career in health care was a quote from St. Ignatius Loyola that stated ” Actions not Words “. I adopted that as my philosophy and it has influenced my search for spirituality and for finding God and the meaning of my life.
My current IVC site, Beds Plus in La Grange, is an agency for the homeless that offers shelter, programs, and support. It has opened my eyes to the issues of homelessness and the people who experience it. I can see their struggles with depression, loneliness, lack of self- image, and hopelessness. I experienced these same difficulties when my wife passed. I can identify with their struggles and their search for hope and, in my own small way, do what I can to assist. I see the residents and guests of Beds Plus as images of Christ and follow the words of St. Matthew’s Gospel:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25)
Across the Table
by Janet DeRaleau, IVC Volunteer
As an IVC volunteer at the Lake County Catholic Charities Food Pantry, I meet many people who need help. We don’t just pass out food. We sit down with the clients, listen to their needs and try to offer some encouragement with referrals to other food pantries, clothes pantries, and agencies that can assist. I encounter many people with multiple problems but yesterday, I met a woman who was a refugee from Africa. Accompanying her was the pastor of a local church that is her sponsor.
Across the table from me sat a woman, who only months ago lived in an exceedingly hot and humid climate, bundled in a puffer coat, with her one-month-old baby snuggled in a carrier. She looked exhausted and yet was polite and patient as I worked to pronounce her name. The pastor explained that the woman’s husband was involved in an uprising in Africa and she didn’t know if he was dead or alive. In addition, the woman, pregnant at the time, had escaped with her three year old, but her two sons were still in Africa living with family members. The pastor’s church was trying to get them out.
The trio had spent the day making the rounds of Lake County social service agencies registering for services. After leaving Catholic Charities, they planned to stop at one more. Despite their apparent weariness, their day was not over.
I’ve seen the news about immigrants and refugees as I watch TV in my cozy family room, but yesterday, I met someone who is living that horror. I saw her fear, confusion and exhaustion. I saw the love in her eyes as she showed off her newborn. I also saw the embodiment of Christ in that pastor, who tirelessly led the woman through the maze of social services and red tape. As I celebrated Thanksgiving, I carried that woman with me. I prayed for her and her family and will continue do so, hoping that they will all be together by next Thanksgiving.
See the archives for more reflections.