Robert, a 45-year-old inmate at Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility, regrets that he won’t be home for Christmas this year. He misses his kids and said he feels terrible about putting himself “in this situation.” He participates in every Bible study and church service he can to prepare for reentry into society and to be a better role model to his kids. Last week, Robert attended Mass at the correctional center and exchanged the sign of peace with Bishop Thomas Zinkula, who presided.
“Mary,” whose name has been changed at her request for anonymity, reached out to the Stephen Ministry program at St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville following a traumatic event in her life. The Stephen Minister’s “kindness and dedication, along with her prayers for me helped to lift me from despair,” Mary said.
In a video created by a ServeHAITI volunteer, the father of a toddler-aged daughter describes how the medical clinic helped her recover from malnourishment. She is thriving, due to a program the clinic offers to help parents struggling to feed their children in the impoverished country. “If there was an election, I would vote for the hospital,” the father says.
After a screening of the brief video at a ServeHAITI fundraising event in the Quad Cities, the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Leopold Florent Bourgouin, asked guests to leave the world in a better place for future generations.
That is precisely what Pope Francis calls us to do in “The Joy of the Gospel.” “An authentic faith,” he said, “always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it (No. 183).”
Parishes in our Davenport Diocese have begun listening sessions for Vision 20/20, a two-year initiative to revitalize our faith and inspire a fresh encounter with Jesus Christ and his church through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Zinkula told parish corporate board leaders last week that now is the time to get out of the sacristy and into the street, reaching out more and more.
Robert, Mary and the Haitians in the video are among our sisters and brothers living outside of the sacristy, on the peripheries, in need of encounter, in need of the joy of the Gospel. They aren’t the only ones. The person in need of encounter may be someone sitting next to you in the doctor’s office, at church, at home, at the grocery store. It may be an individual living in a nursing home or assisted living complex. The person in need of encounter may be a single parent, someone who is divorced or widowed, someone struggling with an addiction or other mental health issues.
Whatever our gifts and talents, limitations and challenges, each of us has the ability to reach out to another person who is in need of an encounter, someone with whom we can share the light of Christ. For starters, consider the following questions and suggestions that Vision 20/20 Steering Committee Co-chair Michael Havercamp poses in a study guide on The Joy of the Gospel:
• Who in your life could use your caring heart?
• Who can you reach out to this week?
• Who in your midst is in need of a dose of joy?
• Pray about this “who” in your life.
• Do something kind for this person.
Branch out from this starting point. Maybe you have an interest in prison ministry. Check with your parish or with the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Department. Send an email to Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and Catholic Charities at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (563) 888-4211.
Visit the website of ServeHAITI at www.servehaiti.org for more information about the many ways to serve this nonprofit working in solidarity with the people of Grand-Bois to achieve a better quality of life. Parishes in our diocese offer a variety of volunteer opportunities to serve people living in impoverished countries in addition to Haiti. Make an inquiry.
When we reach out to someone in need of encounter with God’s love, we are meeting face to face with Christ.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor