Speaking for the Poor

Sunday’s Mass at Nativity of Our Savior took me somewhere I’d never been before: to the lectern, to speak to my fellow parishioners.

I was tasked with speaking as a representative of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the group I joined last year. At each of our three Masses, one of us was asked to address the parish about St. Vincent de Paul and the upcoming Walk for the Poor on Sept. 28. Unfortunately, only two of us got to deliver our remarks, as the visiting priest for Saturday’s Mass got his signals crossed and didn’t call up my SVDP colleague Michelle to speak.

It was a nice opportunity, and my remarks seemed to be well received. I hope my strong belief in the mission of SVDP was conveyed to the Nativity parishioners, and what a wonderful opportunity it is to serve in this ministry. I know I speak for my fellow members that we’d love to see a few more participants.

I also encourage anyone reading this to consider getting involved in your parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Or, consider starting one if you belong to one of the many parishes that don’t currently have one. It can be a life-changing experience, for you and the community members you serve.

Until then, please consider supporting your local Friends of the Poor Walk, scheduled nationwide on Sept. 28.

Here are my remarks to the parish:

Hello. My name is Dan Markham. I’m a parishioner here at Nativity. I come to you today as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a group whose purpose is to serve the poor.

I joined St. Vincent de Paul a little more than a year ago, and it has been one of the most transformative events of my life. I serve as one of the members of the Home Visit team, sitting down with our clients to discuss their situations, and how we can help them.

Serving with St. Vincent de Paul quickly quashes any misconceptions one has about poverty. The people we help are not lazy individuals just looking to live off the hard work of others. These are people who have been hit with a health crisis that knocks them out of work. Or someone whose life is turned upside down by a death that eliminates a care provider or employer. Or a single mom whose paycheck is mostly consumed by child-care costs. These are the working poor. They are our neighbors. And they are in need.

And we are helping them. Our annual giving ranks second among all parishes in Northwest Indiana, and no parish provides more rental assistance than we do.

These numbers are a testament to two things: first, the support of you, the parishioners of Nativity, as well as the tremendous commitment from Father Kevin. He truly believes in our mission and our ministry, and will keep it front and center. Sadly, it also tells of the tremendous need in our community.

There are many ways you can help. You can contribute financially, whenever possible, through the envelopes you receive each month, or at our table in the foyer. Our capacity to help our neighbors is entirely dependent on how much we have available at a given moment. And those of us on the Home Visit team like nothing more than to see our balance at the highest level, knowing we can provide the maximum assistance to our clients.

Second, we would love you to join our ranks at SVDP. We’re a small group that meets the first and third Mondays of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Cana room. We can absolutely use more volunteers, and I can promise it’s a fulfilling experience. Sitting down with a client in need is not the easiest thing you can do, but helping a family stay in its home, or keep the lights on, or ensure a child does not go hungry, is absolutely one of the most rewarding.

Finally, we invite you to participate, in some way, in the national Friends of the Poor Walk, scheduled from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Sept. 28 at Gabbis Arboretum, formerly Taltree. More information is at our table.

There are few things clearer in the Bible than Christ’s commitment to the poor, the hungry, the infirm:

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’”  

We don’t ask you sell everything you own. But we implore you to look into your hearts and give what you can to aid us in our mission.

Thank you.

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