Holy Asides
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May 7, 2015, 2:38 PM

Reflections from the Spotlight

It has been my long-standing belief, in regard to the topic of “Church-Politics”, that the parish is the only level where true discussion occurs. This is partly because there are not just a series of one-sided speeches, as there are at Diocesan and National conventions, and partly because there is no vote that will occur at the end of a “discussion”.  However, I believe it’s primarily because we continue to come to the altar together week after week. It’s easier to disagree and engage in real conversation when you are part of a diverse but committed community. This is the exact point that Marc Dunkelman addresses in his book, The Vanishing Neighbor. The author establishes how, throughout much of the nation, we are now missing “middle-ring relationships.” We have intensified our “inner-ring relationships” with our immediate family and close friends, as well as our “outer-ring relationships” of social media “friends”.  Yet our common everyday interactions with neighbors and acquaintances continue to diminish. These are the very relationships that make us thoughtful and compassionate. Moreover, they are the relationships that emphasize the village, township, and melting pot mentality that we, as a nation, have historically been so proud of.


The fall-out of the diminishment of these relationships is that we are becoming more and more isolated as a nation. Likewise, many have fallen through the societal cracks, as the government cannot keep up with meeting the needs that neighbors used to provide: from borrowing tools or a cup of sugar, to bringing meals to those less fortunate, to driving elderly neighbors to doctor appointments, to just checking in and dropping by regularly to make sure everything is OK.  This is not only why the Church, and specifically the parish, is so important, but also why our outreach to the community is vitally important. 


This morning, alongside the Lion’s Club, Chick-fil-A, and other local businesses and individuals, St. Joseph’s received the Spotlight Award from the Henry County Schools and Chamber of Commerce for our Partnership in Education with Walnut Creek Elementary School. It was a privilege and honor to be recognized for our ministry and passion that impacts the lives of children in our community through our parish volunteers, mentors, and Friday Friends. Presently, Friday Friends provides 41 underprivileged students, who rely upon the school meal program during the week, to have food over the weekend. Their backpacks are stuffed with food that our volunteers gather and collate during the week, including homemade treats. Additionally, they are given handwritten notes of encouragement that tell them they are loved and cared for. 


Next year McDonough Elementary is closing, and Walnut Creek will have 200-300 more kids enrolling. Already I have been asked by the school if we could handle 100 bags—more than double what we are doing presently. This is an interesting question. One that I do not know the answer to. At the moment my heart is bursting with pride for what Julie O’Neill and her team have accomplished, that I think we can do that and more. Because, I believe the question for us is not how many children can we feed over the weekend, but how else can we make an impact? Through tutoring and mentoring as several already are doing? Through an after-school ministry? Through reaching out to those who have been displaced from their homes? I think that these are questions we should prayerfully begin seeking answers to.


There are no easy answers to restoring the “middle-ring” relationships that once defined us, or how we are to meet the needs of everyone in our community. But it was wonderful to be surrounded by a myriad of businesses, churches, and individuals seeking to find creative and practical ways to do just that. And, I am honored that St. Joseph’s was recognized as one of them. May we continue to live out the call to reach out and be a light to the world around us.


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