Last Friday our staff had its annual Staff Service day. Our office was closed; we began at 9:00am with Mass and from there we acted upon the words “go in peace” and went out into the wider community. Afterwards we met back at the church and talked about what we saw and experienced: going to Umstead Park; writing letters to prisoners; preparing meals for people in need. A few of us went to an organization called the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) that helps settle migrants and refugees. We heard there from a young woman named Therese. She is from Congo; left that country after her family was attacked by soldiers with machetes and settled into a refugee camp in Kenya. She spent years there until she finally migrated to the United States, where she is now settled. Therese spoke with gratitude for the opportunity to build a life in this country. She talked about getting used to the food here (Little Caesars is her favorite pizza place), what it was like to learn English and get a high school education here, learning how to drive, being invited to Los Angeles to give a presentation on kindness. She described, haltingly, what it was like in the Congo when soldiers arrived, the terror of that experience, the hopes of finding a new life in a new country. Therese now works for USCRI, and is hoping to one day become a nurse.
We learn, on this day of service, that the world around us is filled with stories, personal stories, and it’s so often through hearing stories that the gospel comes alive. We were able, on this day, to get beyond the grand generalizations we hear around us, and meet actual people, and hear stories of grace. We were able to “go in peace” as the closing words of mass say, to go beyond the physical walls of the church and, as Fr. Steve K. often likes to say “be kind to one another in the parking lot” which is another way of
saying, take the gospel out to the streets.
Blessings on your week!