As we see another year coming to a close, it is natural to retrospect back over the year and see where one has gone, done, and experienced. Here at St Pascal's, 2022 was a good year as a parish, with a continued return to more normal worship, ministry, social gatherings, and faith offerings. Of considerable excitement to me is the continued expansion of outreach in serving our East Side neighbors and the ecumenical nature of these ministries. For me personally, among many highlights during 2022 at St Pascal's, the one that has provided me with considerable personal growth in my faith life has been Just Faith.
This December I finished my third Just Faith program with our study of “Faith and Poverty: A Biblical Response Through Catholic Social Teaching” joined by a group of 14 other St Pascal’s parishioners. I have found the Just Faith programs to be challenging, in a good way and very perspective altering. Much in the same way that Jesus challenged and changed the worldviews of his original disciples. While each program has been a detailed study, the work I have put into the reading, watching videos, and participation in our discussions have been greatly multiplied by God in expanding my faith and understanding of the complex issues surrounding poverty, our justice system, and especially racism. It has required me to let go of many preconceived notions and question teachings about many historical events and social systems.
During our last study we read two books;
The Joy of The Gospel, an apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium)
Poverty: Responding Like Jesus
Along with the reading, there was a spiritual practice to do between our weekly sessions. Each of these spiritual practices had a reflection coupled with videos to watch and an activity to do during the week. I have put one of the reflections concerning judging others that spoke to me at the end of this blog. The videos we watch between our sessions and those we watch together during our sessions always provide good discussion within the group. Here are a few of the powerful videos we watched during our study.
4.1 Miles | An Oscar-Nominated Op-Doc
Moving Beyond Basic Needs to Break the Cycle of Poverty | Kristen Miale | TEDxSMCC
"A Good Day" With Brother David Steindl-Rast
As parishioner Ann Karner so wonderfully stated after our Masses in September, my involvement in Just Faith has pushed me to be more active in living my faith, especially in supporting and championing for our sisters and brothers that need our assistance in the fight against racism and poverty. I have seen how our parish involvement in Just Faith has had an effect on our parish through those that have participated in all or some of the sessions that have been offered at St Pascal’s. I would encourage you to consider joining one of the Just Faith programs offered in the future.
I would like to thank the St Pascal’s parishioners that have been part of the Just Faith programs I have been involved in, especially for their honest and thought provoking input as we discussed each subject. Also, a special thank you to Ann Karner and Mary Huettl for their commitment to Just Faith and their leadership in facilitating the Just Faith sessions.
Peace, Love, and Blessings
Spiritual Practice Between Sessions 3&4
Wonder vs. Judgement Scripture – Matthew 7:1-5
From 2006-2011, I worked for Catholic Charities in Des Moines, Iowa, and served as the site manager for their outreach (family) center. The outreach center served 200-400 families a day in need of assistance with basic human needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.). While I learned to have a deep sense of respect for those who visited the outreach center, there were a couple of clients that always seemed to raise the hair on the back of my neck. They were clients that I had sized up as manipulators, people I thought were “scamming the system. When I was working at the pantry, one of these clients I had sized up pulled in the driveway. I’ll call her “Mary.” One of the reasons I was overly irritated by Mary when she came into the outreach center, was because she always pulled up in a beautiful, somewhat pricy vehicle. I was sure she was one of the handful of people who came to the center that was taking advantage of our generosity. On this particular day, I happened to be monitoring our free clothing closet and tracking the number of clothing items people left with. Mary proceeded to sign into the clothing closet. As she was looking through the clothing, I heard her strike up a conversation with someone else who was looking for clothes for their family. The clothing “closet” was actually half of a large room that was arranged in such a way that I greeted people as they came in, but had my back to those looking at clothes. So, I began to ease-drop on her conversation. The two women exchanged niceties and then began sharing their stories of need. In the middle of the conversation, the other woman mentioned how difficult it was for her to make it to the family center, how transportation was an issue for her and she had a hard time getting to the center during our open hours. To which Mary responded, “Tell me about it. Every time I come here I have to borrow my neighbor’s car.” In that moment, not only did all my judgements about Mary dissipate, but my judgements about other clients did to. While I was certain Mary was “working the system” it turned out she wasn’t. I’ve never been so grateful to be wrong about a person, as I was suddenly pressed to take my own advise - advice I’d given to all the volunteers: Believe the story those in need are telling you and 95% of the time you’ll know the truth. After years of direct service with those who are poor, what I’ve learned is that our judgements about people in poverty are not only largely off-base, but dangerous. When we size people up as lazy, ungrateful, and manipulative, our judgements actually affect policies and laws that provide people with access to things they need to live. Today, I’ve realized that people in poverty actually have more grit and determination than I’ll ever have. And, I stand in awe of what they have to carry.
Mary HuettlPosted on 1/02/23
Great article, Deacon Rich. Thank you so much for "telling it like it is: about Just Faith. You are such a great deacon, and I thank you for all you do and show as an example of walking in Jesus footsteps.