RALEIGH, N.C. — For many years, parish and school staff members of the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi have gathered as a group four times per year for formation and fellowship, and to enhance collaboration among our many ministries. One of these days traditionally revolves around Franciscan spirituality. Speakers and workshops are facilitated by visiting friars or others who seek to help our staff understand and appreciate the importance of our work in this Franciscan community.
As our pastor, Fr. Steven Patti, OFM, and the parish leadership team brainstormed what this fall’s gathering might look like, it was decided that this year we would, as Pope Francis has encouraged all of us to do, leave the comfortable confines of our offices and classrooms, and go out into our community to serve. In particular, we were driven by his remarks at World Youth Day in 2013:“I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, that is installation, that is comfortableness, that is clericalism, that is being shut-in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions exist to go out!”
And, on Nov. 3, we did go out, or work on campus to send goods out, to our many service partners throughout the area. Father Steve, David McBriar, OFM, and William McConville, OFM, along with the entire staff, divided up and went out. When the morning was over, we had:
- Harvested 75 pounds of vegetables from our community garden to be given to the local food pantry
- Moved, painted and merchandised 100 doors for Habit for Humanity
- Made, packaged and delivered 88 meals to a low-income residence facility
- Packed 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now
- Packaged food at a food bank for 160 needy families
- Gleaned more than 6,000 pounds of sweet potatoes from a local farm to be distributed to local agencies
- Written holiday cards of peace to 152 men and women on death row
- Made casseroles, salads and cookies to be delivered to parishioners going through difficult times
- Made welcome signs and packets for four homeless families who will be staying on our campus during part of the Christmas holidays
In early afternoon, we gathered back on campus for lunch and to discuss what the day meant to us. Without exception, the experience of service and the ability to incorporate many of the Corporal Works of Mercy into our “work day” was touted. Additionally, many of the teaching staff appreciated the opportunity to learn about our many ministries, and how they might incorporate what they had learned into their classrooms. The day ended with Mass.
— Marc Kielty is director of operations for St. Francis Church in Raleigh. Last year, he described how the friars have affected his life and attitude in an essay titled “Franciscan Influences: Value of ‘Taking it to the Streets.’”