By Susan Walker

By Susan Walker

The 350 or more people we will see during Lent are fasting, weeping and mourning because of the harsh reality of the physical world. Together, we can make a difference for them

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This Lent, I pray our strength comes in our cooperation

In just a few days, we’ll mark the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. For Christians it’s a time of reflection and voluntary self-denial before celebrating Easter, with the goal of becoming a better person, more faithful, more compassionate, and closer to all that God would have us be.

Ash Wednesday Mass always includes a scripture from the prophet Joel containing a harsh, urgent, clarion call “…return to me with fasting, weeping and mourning; rend your hearts…”. I’m struck by the parallel of the idea of fasting, weeping and mourning in this scripture and the lived experience of the people who come to our Welcome Center every day. It’s not a spiritual practice for them to fast, it’s a physical reality. Nineteen percent of those who come for assistance tell us they have no food for tomorrow. Thirty percent say they have no idea where food will come from next week.

Weeping is such an act of despair and yet common occurrence among the 350+ men and women who sit with a Welcome Center specialist each month, sharing the pain of not being able to pay rent or utility bills thus finding themselves under the threat of cancellation of service, or worse, eviction.

Their tears are not in sorrow for wrongs they’ve committed, they simply spill out in desperation.

The overwhelming sadness in the eyes of mothers and fathers who comprised over 60% of the people who sought our help last month, is raw and impossible to ignore. They mourn the loss of an ability to provide for the lives placed in their care, but without a job, without resources, without some help, they simply can’t live up to that task. Their grief is palpable. For those of us blessed with jobs, housing and resources with which to nurture our families, the Ash Wednesday readings call us together as community. “Blow the trumpet…! Call an assembly! Gather the people!” Joel tells us we are in this together.

We’re in it with the individuals and families who are lacking the basic necessities of life because we are all God’s children, and those in need are the face of Christ among us. We’re in it with each other, because together we’re capable of summoning the resources and addressing their needs. Centuries after the prophet Joel wrote his words, Helen Keller took up the same call: “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” If those of us who have been blessed join together, we can use our Lenten observance to help lift our neighbors back to self-reliance. We don’t have to do it alone. Let’s combine our efforts of prayer and almsgiving this Lenten season.

Pray with me for my amazing colleagues here at Catholic Charities of Kansas City St. Joseph. Pray with me for the men, women, and children we meet and serve every day. I’m going to give to the Welcome Center. Donate with me. I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination so it won’t be a huge check, but I know that whatever I give will make life a little better for a single mom, unemployed dad, or tired, lonely, senior who will sit across the table from Kisha, Larry or Ronetta (our Welcome Center team) in the coming days, searching for a glimmer of hope.

Together, we can give that hope. Make your donation here.

Susan Walker Executive Director, Outreach and Engagement


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