As Catholics we are called to be neighbors to each other, taking our example from the parable of the Good Samaritan. We know that we should be like the man that stopped to help the other in need, but we are also called to be like the innkeeper in the story, with whom the Samaritan leaves the injured man until he returns.
“When I hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, I think we’re being invited to be like the Good Samaritan himself. And we are, but in our theological reflection we focus on another of the characters in that parable. We are meant to identify with people on the wayside and empathize with the innkeeper,” said Scott Hurd, vice president for leadership development at Catholic Charities USA.
Hurd was the keynote speaker at the fall Parish Social Ministry Gathering Oct. 14 at St. Louis Church in Paynesville. The event was sponsored by the office of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud to train and empower those interested in social ministry, particularly those serving on a parish social ministry committee.
“Social concerns is the way that Catholic Charities collaborates with the diocese, interfaith community and advocacy groups, to educate and promote action on behalf of Catholic Social Teaching,” said Kateri Mancini, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities.
Hurd talked about the importance of encounter, caring for the people we encounter at the margins of society. But there’s another aspect of social ministry that he called equally as important.
“That’s accompaniment,” he said. “We encounter people in their hurts, we encounter people on the roadside and we are invited to accompany them on their journey toward healing and wholeness.”
The theme of the event was “Propelled Forth to Transform the World: Eucharistic Love Lived Out,” and Hurd connected the call to accompany those on the margins to the Eucharist and encouraged participants to think about how the Eucharist renews them and gives them the energy to do their work.
“We understand that in the presentation of the gifts of bread and wine, we’re offering our work, we’re offering our service during those prayers of preparation,” he said. “When Father celebrates Mass for us the bread is what human hands have made. The wine is the work of human hands. We are offering our work and our service through these gifts. And their return to us is the body and blood of Jesus that feeds us and nourishes us to go forth, it propels us forward to do that work.”
“Scott unpacked parables from the Scriptures in which we see Eucharistic themes of companioning, the roots of which mean ‘with bread,’” Mancini said. “This idea of bread, Christ’s body broken for us, and companioning with one another, especially those broken by situations and struggles in this world, is an important reminder that every parish community can use.”
The daylong event included Mass and an afternoon session about seeing and responding to the needs in our communities presented by JoAnn Braegelman, one of Catholic Charities’ rural life coordinators. Several organizations had tables of information available, including the Saint Cloud Mission Office, the Diocese of St. Cloud Office of Marriage and Family, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, the Salvation Army and others.
“We heard from many of the folks at the gathering that this tie between the Eucharist and service and social justice work was very affirming, as well as motivating and hopeful, as they strive to continue with this important, but often challenging, work,” Mancini said.
“The fact that today’s content intentionally connected the Eucharist with our work, was important to me,” said Peg Martin, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Little Falls who attended the event.
Greg Spofford, also from Little Falls, said he appreciated the work that went into planning the event and he values the opportunity to come together and brainstorm with others from around the diocese about what some of the needs of the people are.
“That coming together allowed for a reinvigoration and re-energizing to go forth and serve the body of Christ,” he said.
Hurd encouraged participants, as they go back to their parishes, to keep thinking about their collaboration with Catholic Charities.
“Think about how your parishes and Catholic Charities can work together to really be an effective innkeeper for all the persons found along the wayside in your community,” he said.
“We don’t just see as people of a community,” Hurd said. “We see as members of a particular faith community and we see the world and we see human beings in a very particular way, … created in the image and likeness of God with a very particular dignity that flows from that.”
Pictured above: Scott Hurd gives the keynote talk. (Photos by Dianne Towalski)