In Your Midst


Summer 2000

In This Issue:
We hear the words of St. Matthew so often we can probably recite them from memory. “… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me ….”

Week after week, year after year, we read scripture passages full of care, compassion and service, and are reminded that Christ is present in each of our neighbors. But when we encounter a homeless man asking for money on the church steps or a woman who is mentally ill pacing at the back of the Cathedral, do we want to welcome them in to worship with us?

At St. James, the answer is yes. And our welcome to strangers is led by the work of the Emmaus Companions and Solanus Companions. These two groups of volunteers spend weekend and weekday Masses ministering to those in our parish who are most in need: those who are homeless, mentally ill, newly released from detention, or in despair.

The Emmaus Companions (formerly Doorkeepers) were formed three years ago. The volunteers, who have grown from five to 15 since then, see their mission simply as extending a welcome to those who might not otherwise feel at home within our Cathedral. They strive to be hospitable to all, to listen carefully and compassionately to others’ stories, and, in doing so, to help people in need discover their strength.

When Christ walked along the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples, they did not recognize him. In the hope of recognizing Christ in all those they meet, the Emmaus Companions chose this name. When a woman who is disturbed begins talking during Mass, one of the Emmaus Companions will sit with her, and listen. When street people walk up our stairs, an Emmaus Companion will greet them and invite them to join us.

As the group’s volunteer coordinator, Ann Jackson, describes it, the job of the Emmaus Companions is to “get ourselves out of the way and sit and listen.” Each week, she says, “we pray not to be afraid,” but rather to serve all those who approach the Cathedral in need.

Volunteers are trained and mentored and they pray together regularly for the compassion to meet with a loving heart all who come to St. James.

The Emmaus Companions have been joined this summer by a new group of volunteers, the Solanus Companions, who seek to extend this ministry of hospitality during weekday Masses. This group is named for Father Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest and the great-uncle of Sr. Anne Herkenrath, who spent his life as a monastery porter, or doorkeeper, welcoming and praying with everyone who came to him. Father Solanus has been declared Venerable by the Church, and is on his way to canonization.

Do we succeed in seeing Christ in each person we meet? A difficult thing to do, of course, but as one homeless man said recently, “They’re not afraid of us at St. James.”

Mary Bourguignon is a parishioner and a religious education volunteer.

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