Tuesday, April 28, 2009
A Faith Filled Juxtaposition
A Faith-Filled Juxtaposition
My son John and I recently had the great honor of volunteering to help at the St. Francis de Sales Seminary Open House. Whenever we have the chance to spend time at the Seminary, we always come away feeling greatly blessed by the opportunity to spend time in this historic, beautiful, prayer-filled building and the Open House was no exception. Although the weather was dreary with rain pouring down all day, the spirit at the Seminary was loving and bright. The people who toured the Seminary all wore smiles on their faces as they spoke words of gratitude for the opportunity to see this beautiful building. The staff, volunteers and visitors were all well dressed and well mannered. It was the kind of experience that made us feel a quiet sense of peace and holiness. It gave us a great feeling of pride and joy to be able to serve our beloved Archdiocese by promoting vocations to the Priesthood in this way.
After enjoying this quiet afternoon, we raced home to change into comfortable clothes, picked up my daughter Mary, and hurried to the St. Vincent de Paul Meal Program to help serve the Sunday evening dinner with the St. Matthias Parish youth group. The difference between the Seminary and the Meal Program was like the difference between day and night.
When we arrived at the meal site, the rain was still pouring down. There was a crowd of people waiting in line for dinner to begin, as well as a crowd of volunteers waiting for directions from the meal site staff. The atmosphere was loud and chaotic. I noticed that the kitchen bulletin board was covered with pictures of past dinners, and one picture in particular stood out to me. It was a picture of Archbishop Dolan holding a small child. I felt honored to be following in his footsteps here.
Shorty, an energetic skateboarder who wore trendy gage earrings, greeted us. He asked us to fill out nametags with our first name or “street” name only. He gave us our directions and asked if anyone would like to wear a button. Everyone in our group shook their heads, so I offered to wear the button. The button said, “Jesus Christ is Lord”. Our assignment was to pour milk, water and coffee for the guests. Smiley, the site manager called everyone to prayer. We all gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. Then the food lines opened and the work began.
As this was Mary’s first time helping at a meal program, she was most comfortable staying behind the table refilling the pitchers with milk and water as they were emptied. John and I ventured out among the tables to refill milk glasses as needed.
No sooner had everyone sat down to eat, than a near fight ensued. A young mother was seated with small children all around her and she was obviously agitated by another young mother at the other end of her table. Loud shouting and swearing could be heard above the noise of the other diners. The mother who was so agitated got up out of her chair and headed towards the other woman as if she were ready to physically attack her. The meal site staff quickly headed over to control the situation and bring peace to the meal program. Both mothers sat down and continued their meal. There didn’t appear to be any hard feelings, as they both had smiles on their faces for the rest of their dinner. As I headed towards their table to see if they had a need for milk, one of them called my name. I turned to her and saw that she was one of my clients from the WIC clinic. She told me that she was surprised and happy to see me, and re-introduced me to her daughter, Tatyanna. I was surprised and happy to see them as well. I felt more at home and at ease seeing a familiar face and was more grateful than ever that she wasn’t hurt in the near altercation.
As I resumed my milk pouring duties, I received just as many smiles as I found earlier in the day at the Seminary, as well as several compliments on Shorty’s button that I proudly wore. All in all, it was a very satisfying day to serve the Lord in two very unique yet very different ways. I thank God for the Seminary of St. Francis de Sales and the wonderful work that is done there preparing priests to serve the many people in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and I thank God for the St. Vincent de Paul meal program and the wonderful work that is done there feeding hungry souls with healthy food and prayerful service. What a tremendous blessing it is to be able to find, serve and love the same God in two such varied and beautiful places!