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Monday, November 19, 2007

Fr. Joe story is online

The gospel of hope is available online. Yesterday I attended the Deo Gratias mass and reception at Parmadale. It's the annual muckety-muck brunch for big-time diocesan donors, but it also was the official recognition of Father Joseph McNulty, who received the Archbishop Hoban Award for Distinguished Service (and MY reason for being there).

Father Joe is the pastor at St. Augustine Parish on West 14th Street in Tremont. Many people know of St. Augustine's for its Hunger Center and ministries to the poor and homeless, but it also is home to thriving deaf and blind communities.

If you're looking for a spiritually enriching mass then I would recommend the 10 a.m. Sunday mass for the deaf. As you can see from the photo (left, by William Rieter), Father Joe signs the whole mass.

This is a big week for St. Augustine's as it serves thousands of meals at its Hunger Center, surrounding sites and to the homebound this Thanksgiving. Ironically, Father Joe told me that he resisted the idea of a Hunger Center nearly 30 years ago.

At Thanksgiving, the parish usually made up 300 to 400 turkey baskets to distribute to the community. “We were figuring on the same size crowd when we decided to serve the meal. However, that first meal we served 1,500 people. We weren’t prepared. I went to Kenny Kings and bought enough chicken to finish serving the day. Fortunately, the manager donated some of the food,” he says.

Volunteers have been cooking, slicing and freezing turkeys for weeks in preparation of Thursday's meal. Anyone can serve a plate of food at a hunger center, but if you want to make a difference in someone's life, consider sitting down and talking to them. It can change a life.

Sister Corita Ambro, who runs the Hunger Center, shared this story yesterday: One volunteer didn’t have much work to do so she suggested he sit and talk to a man having a meal in the Hunger Center. They talked and talked even after the meal ended. When they were finished, the man handed the volunteer a gun and said he had been so depressed that he was going to kill himself that day. But the volunteer, by taking the time to talk with him, convinced him that life was still worth living.

“God wanted that volunteer here,” says Father McNulty. “The real purpose for our work is the contact with people. We need the poor to meet others. It’s hard to have hope when the only people you see around you are those like you.”

On another but somewhat related noted: When I worked at Sun Newspapers in the early '90s, I often received lovely handwritten notes from the people about whom I wrote (along with my share of hate mail). This continued when I worked at Avenues magazine. But I've noticed that rarely do people bother to write a handwritten note these days. Heck, you're lucky to get an e-mail acknowledgment.

That's why I was so thankful to have received such a lovely thank you on Saturday from Sister Megan Dull for this story I wrote about her and her art. She wrote:
"Thank you for the article, But even more, thank you for the conversation that was the seed bed for what you wrote. The ideas & experiences flowed easily & opened up avenues to even wider thoughts. It's not often that that happens so richly! Then within the article you distilled so well the heart of all we bantered about for—what, 2 hours?!?"
Of course someone called to complain that Sister Megan was fostering goddess worship, pagan rituals and an image of St. Francis that is counter to the church. Her response to the criticism? Laughter. ("I've arrived! I'm controversial!) More evidence of the filters we bring to our consumption of the written word.


Michelle O'Neil said...

Love that sister Megan laughed at the criticism, rather than being defensive. What grace.

Wendy Hoke said...

Grace is one of those elusive qualities for which I always strive. I love to highlight when I see it so strongly in others.

You write about your daughter with such grace.