Belleville doesn’t seem like a particularly Fertile place to meet folks from rural Washington County, Missouri. But it happens.
Happened this morning, in fact, while I was having breakfast during a weeklong retreat at King’s House.
One of my table mates, Monica, mentioned that she’s here with a group of friends–all part of a Rural Parish Workers group in Washington County.
My ears perked up when I heard that. You see, for the past 20 years or so, my home Parish has had a “virtual” relationship with these Workers. They help deepen our generosity, by finding people with whom we can share our bounty there in Washington County.
The Workers organize a sophisticated gift-giving program, identifying and contacting local families and individuals who are in need. They then share the basics with us — names, wish-list items (including shirt / clothing sizes etc.)
We take the info — and go shopping, typically around Thanksgiving time. A key ingredient: we pray for each recipient by name, in addition to providing a little something for their temporal needs. Hundreds of people are helped each year…and it’s quite a sight to see all the gifts lined up in our Parish Center, awaiting transport to Fertile, MO.
It’s a beautiful tradition…one of the best things about St.Joe’s…to see this annual outpouring of generosity and solidarity.
And today, it produced yet another blessing: the chance to break bread with Monica and her friends. We are strangers no more, laboring in our virtual vineyards.
Rather, we are siblings–grateful to be yoked to each other, through Jesus.
He is, it turns out, the Christmas gift Who just keeps on giving. Even in July.
Let us remember that we are in the presence of the Holy and Merciful One.