Putting the Other First: True Greatness in Humble Service
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” -Mark 9:35
Do I believe it? Do we live as if this were true? Are we willing to take up our Lord on His word and on His call to serve the least of our brothers and sisters in His name? Am I regularly engaged in one or more of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? As I reflect this week on the scriptures and the next steps that we are called to take in the midst of the sustained moment of crisis in the life of the Church, I believe that a recovery of a sense of service and outreach is at least one imperative for us.
During our NE Holy Name Society Steak Fry this last Friday evening I received a text message from a friend who was helping a family in difficulty who had received an eviction notice from their home but did not have the physical strength or support of friends to move their furniture. As the dinner wrapped up, I made a spur of the moment invitation to the men who were present to join me to go assist this family in need and a few men responded immediately. The opportunity to do something practical and specific to help a family in need was a tremendous encouragement to me and the others. It was an occasion that reminds us of the practical nature of charity. When someone is in need, charity asks the question, ‘what am I going to do about it?’
One way this past summer that we cooperated as a parish with the call to serve was in response to the preaching of Fr. Bienvenu Ondoa Edang as part of the annual Missionary Cooperation Plan organized through the Center for Mission. You may recall that Fr. Bienvenu was around for a few weeks during the month of July and helped a great deal with daily Masses and weekend Masses throughout that time. The mission collections from the two weekends he preached around our parish campuses totaled $5,582.62 that will go to serve his important work in the Catholic Diocese of Obala in Cameroon. We were also able to send him back home with some much needed liturgical supplies and vestments. He was truly grateful for the hospitality he received and the generosity of spirit he encountered in all of you. He wrote to me recently sharing heartfelt words addressed to all of you:
Dear parishioners of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Greetings from Cameroon. I travelled safely and I will ever thank God for everything lived and received from you. May God bless you all. I will surely send you pictures with my Christians. –Fr. Bienvenu
I commend one of our parishioners, Ruth Bueckers who has a real passion for doing what she can to serve those who have no place to call home. She is relaunching an exciting activity at St. Clement that repurposes plastic shopping bags into woven sleeping mats for the homeless. Working in conjunction with Weaving Love Incorporated the mats that are created will be distributed to those most in need. See the notice on p. 7 of this bulletin for more information on how to get involved and lend a hand to help.
Coletta Club is another parish based ministry that traces its roots back to 1976 at St. Clement when some parishioners came together to organize a regular group gathering of physically and mentally handicapped adults in our community. The group is under the patronage of St. Coletta, patron saint of handicapped people. Coletta Club begins its regular season of monthly “Happy Days” social in Kolbe Hall this Monday, September 24th featuring bingo. Free activities throughout the year include holiday parties, field trips, crafts, games and entertainment. There is a committed core group of parishioners who help to organize the events and provide a welcoming presence for individuals (age 14 to 99) with disabilities. The times I have stopped by through the past year, I have very much appreciated the opportunity to encounter such childlikeness and joy at being together. If you would like to get involved as a helper, call Mary-Clare Bates at 612-788-4526 for more information.
One group we must not forget is our homebound parishioners who are not able to be physically present with us at Mass because of their limited mobility or chronic illness. Some of these are in their own home or apartment while others are residents of area eldercare facilities. Currently our clergy, our seminarian interns (during the summer) and a few individuals strive to make periodic visits to our parish homebound. This is a start, but we hope to be able to offer more systematic and frequent visits for prayer and conversation. If you are interested in getting involved with this apostolate to bring Holy Communion to those who cannot be present at Mass, please contact me or Diane in the parish office to express your interest. There is some specialized training and commissioning, but we hope to build up a more vital ministry of ministers to the homebound.
Speaking of service, hats are off in a very specific way to some of our newer parishioners, the Hobbs family and their Chef Lucas non-profit that seeks to ‘do good with food’. You can find out more about their remarkable work at www.cheflucasfood.org. They showed up in a colorful school bus that has been refashioned into a commercial kitchen-on-wheels to help us celebrate with gusto the 90th anniversary of the dedication of the current Holy Cross church. Along with help from the Women’s Rosary Guild and some other helpers, including a number from the Polish Community, the Hobbs’ generously served the hungry crowds. All who were present enjoyed delicious food and delightful fellowship, lingering on a hot and sunny Sunday in the courtyard area behind Holy Cross church.
I have given just a handful of examples of ways that we already take seriously our commitment to the least of Christ’s brethren. A Catholic disciple who is engaged and seeking to live their faith must express some active commitment to humble service. If, as you look at your own life, you find that this expression of charitable service is missing, perhaps the Lord is inviting you now to step forward to serve. Going forward, I hope we can find additional ways to show our commitment to charity in little and in big ways. Our Lord invites us to put the other first as the path to true greatness.
So may it be! ~ Fr. Howe