How do our parishes help our neighbors?

It has been a common experience for me since I’ve served in parishes for the last 17 years that people in need come to our door. Growing up I heard stories about Fr. Jack McCaslin who would make sandwiches for those who would come to his door. The sandwich ministry continues today at Holy Family Church on 17th and Izard.  I later learned at his funeral that he sold a life insurance policy to make a down payment on a house for the homeless, which is now known as the Siena-Francis House. I have been very much inspired by Fr. Jack’s witness of serving the poor. Fr. Jack’s experience of priesthood was very different from the one I experience today, but the desire to make sure that those in need are able to find help in our parishes still tugs at my heart. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure there are others in our parishes who wish they could do more but aren’t quite sure to where to start.

At my previous parish, I found a way to help. All the churches in Creighton, NE would have a collection for the poor. As the young pastor in town, I was responsible for meeting with those in need and writing a check to help with a bill when needed. One of my regrets when I was the pastor there, was that I did not share this ministry with others in the parish.

Since I’ve been here in Omaha, I discovered that many of the parishes serve those in need through a St. Vincent de Paul Conference. When I lived at St. Cecilia, I recognized what a great ministry it was. There were people coming to the door and being helped regularly. Working in the chancery, I had the opportunity to interview different pastors and learn about all the great things their parishes were doing. Two parishes stood out. St. Peter’s and Holy Cross both have very active St. Vincent de Paul Conferences. Here’s a description of St. Peter’s SVDP Conference.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Peter Church is a group composed of all types of people, young and old, English- and Spanish-speaking, who desire to love Christ in the poor. Inspired by the life and spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul, the members, or Vincentians, extend care to the less fortunate who live in our parish boundaries.

Our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society oversees many charitable efforts, including but not limited to participation in neighborhood community meals for the hungry and homeless in the area, weekly assistance with utilities and material needs, hosting food and coat drives, providing the annual Thanksgiving Day Meal for those in need and missing family, managing the Angel Tree that provides gifts to the poor and aged at Christmas time, and stocking the St. Peter food pantry, and partnering with the Least of My Brethren and Bridges Out of Poverty organizations.

Here at St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More, both SVDP Conferences are in need of a reboot. To that end, we will have a guest preacher at our parishes for the weekend Masses. Deacon Marty Smith, who is the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society here in Omaha, will preach and do some recruiting at St. Thomas More on September 18/19 and St. Joan of Arc on October 3/4.

Fr. Jeff Lorig