The hidden places of hunger

This week, 18 families living in LeClaire or Princeton will pick up Thanksgiving food baskets at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire. Five other churches will also distribute food baskets to similar numbers of families living in the two northeast Scott County communities. “I’ve been surprised by the fact that we live in a community that is putting up new homes right and left and we have needs in our community and that need never goes away,” said Teresa Anderson. She is part of the Social Action Commission that leads the food basket project at Our Lady of the River. Her husband, Jim, is also part of this effort. Hunger hides in the midst of affluence.

Parishes throughout the Diocese of Davenport have been or are in the midst of distributing food baskets to people experiencing hunger as Thanksgiving approaches. Doing so is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as extended families sitting down at tables groaning from plates loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, rolls, cranberry sauce and pies.

For the moment, our gratitude for a bountiful meal reminds us to share with people less fortunate than ourselves. Then we move on to whatever else occupies our attention. We know that the hungry need to be fed. We think of them in the abstract and not as persons who sit in the pew behind us, in the classroom, waiting tables or greeting us at the check-out counter. Hunger hides in the midst of affluence.

If we’ve never interacted with someone who is hungry, we lose sight of the ramifications of hunger — not only for the individual and family — but for society as a whole. During a discussion about evangelization at the Nov. 10 Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting, Lu Anne Farrell of Clinton suggested that we need to reintroduce Catholics to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. We should embrace her suggestion.

Loyolapress.com describes the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy as “actions we can perform that extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need.” The Corporal Works of Mercy consist of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, burying the dead and giving alms to the poor. The Spiritual Works of Mercy consist of instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.

Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy on a regular basis could lead to a better understanding of why people are hungry, homeless, lacking adequate clothing, in prison or impoverished. That knowledge would help us to advocate for systemic change to alleviate the problems.

This week we observe National Hunger & Homelessness Week, a nationwide call to action. In response, the Franciscan Peace Center in Clinton is part of a wide consortium sponsoring educational, community service, fundraising and advocacy events. Among the events is a free screening of the movie “Storied Streets” at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Canticle in Clinton. Cheryl McCulloh of United Way will speak afterwards.
In addition, the River Bend Mobile Food Pantry will be parked at the Central Catholic Auditorium, 515 8th Ave. S., Clinton, on Nov. 18 starting at 10:30 a.m. Children in Clinton elementary schools and afterschool programs will be reading age-appropriate books on the topic of hunger and homelessness. Visit www.clintonfranciscans.com or call Lori Freudenberg at (563) 242-7611 for details about the week’s activities. Check out Hunger and Homelessness Awareness activities in other cities at http://hhweek.org.

Continue to stock your community’s food pantries or provide financial donations. Consider participating as a family, group or a parish — in “Fill the Bowl,” an event at River Bend Foodbank in Davenport on Dec. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. During the open-house-style event, participants will share a meal, participate in a volunteer activity and learn more about hunger and have fun at the same time. Purchase tickets at riverbendfoodbank.org/fill-the-bowl.

Teresa and Jim Anderson experience joy distributing Thanksgiving food baskets at Our Lady of The River. “We get hugs from everybody … we get thank you cards, we get tears. Yes, everybody is very grateful.” She expresses gratitude for the generosity of parishioners, who make the food basket distribution possible. This isn’t the solution to solving the hunger problem, but it’s a necessary first step. Remember, hunger hides in the midst of affluence.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor
(arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org)

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