What is it like when you have to depend on someone else to move forward in life? Pat Mertz, Pastoral Director and Confirmation coordinator at St. Patrick’s in Sidney, Nebraska has asked this question when her parish does the CRS Helping Hands program. To show what it’s like to need someone’s help she has done an exercise where kids had to walk carrying their shoes on their heads; when they dropped a shoe they had to stop progress until someone noticed they needed help. Such a simple yet profound way to show that we don’t always notice who needs us and that when people can’t get going without a hand, programs like CRS Helping Hands really DO make a huge difference.
Pat has been helping run the event at her parish for the past five years and feels the blessing of it at St. Patricks. Five years ago, she explained, the Diocese of Grand Island asked if three parishes would host CRS Helping Hands events and hers jumped at the chance and has been jumping ever since. The churches pastor, Mike McDermott is a CRS Global Fellow who has traveled with CRS to Burkina Faso. In an article in the North Plate Telegraph Father McDermott discussed the trip saying, “I’ve seen poverty, but I’ve never seen poverty like that.” Each year St. Patrick parish donates half of the funds for the event and the parishioners raise the rest, a testament to Father McDermott’s experience and commitment to our brothers and sisters overseas.
At Helping Hands, we speak to a lot of people about their experience meal packaging and we always hear one thing which Pat reiterated, “prepare to be surprised by the energy, the passion, the FUN at a CRS Helping Hands event.” She also shared another surprise. One of Pat’s parishioners, Jolene Deer, wrote the church a long letter after her first packaging event. Ms. Deer began with expressing how difficult it was to get her long hair into the hair net and moved into one of the most beautiful witnesses of the service of meal packaging that we have ever heard. “We tend to live in our backyards not our front porches” Ms. Deer said, “this event put us on the front porch.” What Jolene meant, Pat explained, was that for the first time people were not just nodding and smiling at each other as they came and left church, they were working together, talking to each other getting to KNOW their community. Ms. Deer said that she felt she was coming to serve others, do something good and leave. She had no idea she would end up feeling filled and served herself and that doing good for others could bring her to such a deeper sense of community.
Pat’s church focuses on sharing the long-term development programs that CRS Helping Hands funds with the meals you send which she thinks are “amazing” in their goal to allow people to become self sufficient. She said her hope for our brothers and sisters in Burkina is that the CRS Helping Hands program will one day get them to a place where they no longer need this event as their hand up.
Please keep the community of St. Patrick in your prayers. Recently, the communities largest industry has pulled out of their area creating an exodus of jobs, security and parishioners. While they know they will eventually rebound, the movement of so many people in such a short time and the loss of income for many has created a definite hardship. We couldn’t be more grateful, that even in the midst of uncertainty, the parish community of St. Patrick continues to share their generosity and hope! Thank you for your witness and example St. Patrick, thank you for Celebrating the 7 with us!