Joe Staniszewski, St. Mary Catholic Church, Royal Oak
For whatever reason, when winter rolls around, the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” seems to take a more prominent place in my heart. And as I reflect on instances that I have experienced the corporal works of mercy, one memory in particular makes me smile. Every year, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Royal Oak participates in a local rotating “warming shelter” for the homeless who seek reprieve from the bitter Michigan winters. It lasts about a week at St. Mary’s and volunteers help to make up cots, provide warm food, engage in conversation and give mercy through the sheltering of the homeless. I took the opportunity to volunteer a couple of years back and the experience was transformative. Being able to touch the pain and suffering of another human being brings us back to the most basic sense of human dignity and human connection. God’s grace was given and received in abundance in St. Mary’s grade school gym as I sought to know and remember the names, details, struggles and stories of those I was serving.
It can, unfortunately, be all too easy to look through the man on the corner or pass the person under the bridge, but having the opportunity to make personal and real human connections with thirty-some homeless men and women gave me a unique opportunity to see as Christ sees and to love as Christ loves in away that I was not used to. As we approach Christmas, I encourage readers to take part in a tradition my wife and I enjoy every year. Around Christmas time we buy a few gift cards, write a few Christmas cards and seek out a few local homeless people to share Christ’s joy with. Matthew 25:40 “‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Stephen Moening, Seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Since the fifth grade, I have volunteered almost every Saturday morning feeding the hungry of the city of Detroit with PBJ Outreach. A significant time of grace for me from this ministry was when I was entering the seminary. I had officially been accepted into the seminary and was very nervous about the next steps in my discernment of the priesthood. God acted very deliberately to conquer the fears that were arising in me at that time, and he used the very people that I was helping to do just that. When I told a few of our guests that I was going to start studying to become a Catholic priest they were overjoyed. Many immediately grabbed my hands and told me how proud they were of me. They were proud because I was following the call of the Lord, I was trusting God, something that our guests do every single day. God used the community of PBJ Outreach, the guests and the volunteers together, to calm my fears and help me discover my vocation. Now I am in my sixth year of seminary studies and loving every minute of the journey!
Kim Houseman, Christian Service Coordinator, St. Anastasia, Troy
It is truly a gift from God to serve those in need of comfort. Some of our people simply need food, a basic necessity. Most are in need of comfort and healing. During Covid, I learned how to serve in so many new and unexpected ways. People were out of work and trying to feed large families.
We ran a food pantry with two people. We ran (literally, based on volume) food orders outside to cars so people could stay safe and warm. Seniors were isolating to stay safe, and were so lonely and sad. We visited porches in all seasons and dropped food and prayers off. We made phone calls and joyful cards (by parishioners of all ages), and we had a drive-thru gift drop-off celebration. We zoomed and provided fellowship to people who hadn’t seen anyone in months. There were many funerals and bereaved families, which prompted the need for grace, mercy and comfort. Your heart grows past capacity when people are hurting and you find a new way to show Jesus’ love to those trying to cope. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be called to grow and change to serve my brothers and sisters.
Katy Conners, St. Regis, Bloomfield Hills
My husband and I are blessed with a bunch of children; in fact, we spoke about wanting a large family on our first date. Fourteen years later, we have six beautiful kids, which has changed my understanding of the corporal works of mercy.
As a young person, I got to go to the inner city and build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Now, with our children, we provide a warm bed and loving arms to cuddle. I used to have a weekly dinner at a women’s shelter where we would make a meal for the crowd of women who would otherwise go hungry. Now, my feeding the hungry takes a different focus as I feed my children and many of their friends who happen to stop over when they hear pizza rolls are hot out of the oven. I give water to the thirsty as I fill the endless water bottles. I need to remind myself that it’s through these small acts of service to my family that I am doing God’s will and living out the corporal works of mercy. One day, I might be in a place where I can go back to the mission field and serve in the traditional way, but as for now, I will love my family and pray that they know God’s love through the fresh uniforms that wait for them in their clean clothes basket.
David Joyce, St. Mary Catholic Church, Royal Oak
I help my grandpa at the St. Mary Magdalen food pantry near our house. I help sort the food on the shelves and carry the heavy bags up and down the stairs. It’s important to me because I want to be helpful for people who need help getting food. That’s what Jesus would do.
Chantal Gros-Louis, Coordinator, Native American Catholics, Archdiocese of Detroit
Of existence, of creation, there are corporal needs. They are as sacred as our spiritual, emotional or intellectual needs. I can understand deeper what it is to be homeless and hungry after it happened to me. Now, when it happens to someone else, I am more conscious of what it really is. I also understand that despite efforts, it is a type of thing that can happen to anyone. There is somewhere in the heart of each one: divine love, compassion, understanding, mercy, and generosity, but it is not always activated and can be surprisingly and sadly rare. But I received the help of a friend who offered me a bed and donated items to me.
I received her mercy, instead of a harsh and false judgment for why I was in that situation or instead of feeling concerned or not trusting me. She understood me with grace. It made me safe when I was vulnerable. There are no words to describe the feeling of gratitude for a roof while being homeless. Having to ask is not easy. I appreciated that she was able to go out of her comfort zone and make extra efforts in her own life to help me. Be a blessing to others in need; those blessings are corporal mercy.