By Susan Walker


We always celebrate the feast day of Mother Teresa at Catholic Charities. This diminutive saint, with a heart large enough to hold all who are in need, is a guide and inspiration to our staff and visitors. Her image hangs on the wall behind our receptionist in Kansas City, and her statue (that we believe is life-size) holds court where we store emergency food supplies in that office. Images of her in the streets of Kolkata, India, bringing food to starving people at the edge of their communities and often at the edge of their life, are displayed in our staff’s cubicles and on our hallway walls. She’s a strong presence in our agency.

Her example and words were influential as we designed our new food pantry in south Kansas City. She noted that “we need to realize that poverty doesn’t only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity.” A food pantry isn’t a bucket list destination for anyone. Desperation drives people there: coming to the realization that you don’t know where your next meal is coming from – or how you will feed your children tonight – is an awful, hard moment. While it doesn’t ever get easier, the first time to a pantry is particularly difficult. During the height of COVID, when we were offering boxes of food to families through drive-up distributions, we frequently heard men and women tell us, “I’ve never had to do this before.”

Each time that occurred, we thanked them for allowing us to assist them. It takes courage to ask for help – it can be embarrassing. We honored their bravery in sharing their need with us. And as they drove away, we implored Mother Teresa to say a quick prayer for them. Feeding body and soul: that’s what provides dignity to a difficult situation.

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