By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY —Did you step outside to get your paper this morning? Brrrrr! The temperature as this is being written is 20 degrees and the wind is blowing at 14 miles per hour. Makes it feel like it’s -1 degree. Imagine being homeless, living on the streets, perhaps sleeping under a bridge. Homelessness has many causes — illness, injury, addictions, loss of a job to name a few —and its victims are many.
Since October 2010, Morning Glory Ministries of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has offered a hand to the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and poor downtown, and in the hand is a cup of coffee and a hot breakfast at the Morning Glory Café in the cathedral’s Donnelly Hall. Thirty six people were served the morning the café opened.
Morning Glory Ministries is the expansion and updating of Cathedral Social Services which began feeding the hungry in 1980. From 36 people, the Café now provides breakfast Tuesdays through Fridays to around 500 vulnerable people a week in the downtown area. But it’s more than just breakfast and a sack lunch. The ministry also assists with many other needs, including clothing, transportation assistance and emergency services, because as Director Karen Miller said, for many clients, there is just too much month left at the end of the money.
With the help of volunteers, Morning Glory Ministries attempts to focus on its mission and ease the burden of the marginalized individuals in society through its three ministries, Morning Glory Café, Hospitality House and Emergency Services.
In order to better serve the homeless and the working poor, Morning Glory Ministries holds an annual gala to raise funds for the upcoming year. The third annual “A Heart for the Hungry,” at the Catholic Center Nov. 13, gathered volunteers, partners and friends to celebrate the ministry’s clients and successes. Miller said net proceeds will benefit Morning Glory’s programs.
The 19th century lobby at the Catholic Center quickly filled with conversation, laughter, and music. A 3-piece band sat on the marble steps leading to the second floor playing softly. Teenagers from Rockhurst High School and St. Teresa’s Academy wove in and around the guests carrying signs announcing raffle items: “Feast with Priests;” “Original Art” by local artist Michael Brown; “Photography Art” by Father Joseph Powers, and “Restaurants and Wine.” One of the photographs showed a sunrise over downtown Kansas City, the inspiration for the name, Morning Glory Ministries, evidencing God’s compassion and caring.
In the Cardinal Baum Room, tables were scattered around serving tables of food, beverages and desserts. Morning Glory Ministries reaches out to folks without permanent homes, the working poor, taking their ministry to the streets. In keeping with that theme, the tables were decorated with arrangements of old bricks and silk leaves.
The food was provided by 20/20 Catering, and the fragrant steam wafting from the serving trays attracted everyone in the room. Several priests were in attendance, as friends of Morning Glory Ministries as well as promoting the “Feast with Priests” raffle item. Among them were Fathers Powers, rector of the Cathedral; Steve Cook, pastor of St. Peter and St. Therese Little Flower parishes; retired Msgr. Robert Gregory, former rector of the Cathedral, and Father Ken Riley, diocesan chancellor, who was wearing a red chef’s jacket and matching toque (the hat worn by chefs). Father Mike Hawken, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, Kansas, “a good friend of Morning Glory Ministries” also came.
The teenagers, Elaine Kerr, Caroline Crockett, Maddie Adam, Siobhan Miller, Annie Nulton and Hannah Steen, all from St. Teresa’s and Luke and Liam Ryan with several other Rockhurst students, joined the crowd in the Baum Room, chatting with guests, raising the signs high and selling raffle tickets.
A recent quote by Pope Francis, “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets…” prefaced Morning Glory Ministries 2014, a video produced by St. Teresa’s Academy senior Elaine Kerr, featuring interviews of Morning Glory clients. The volume was muted as Karen Miller approached the podium to address the gathering.
“It’s an honor to help our clients,” she said. “I’m proud every day to go to work because people leave feeling empowered and helped.”
She highlighted several clients, including a man who had lost all confidence in himself due to his dentures being broken. Working with Seton Center Dental Clinic, Morning Glory Ministries was able to help the man get new dentures. “His self-confidence was in the toilet,” Miller said. “Today he has a part-time job, a house, his self-confidence and, his smile.”
Returning to the video, volume back on, she advanced through short interviews with several people.
“You guys really helped me…” “I first heard about the golden dome (a nickname for the Cathedral) when I met a man at a bus stop who asked me if I wanted a really good breakfast…They also helped me get scrubs for my new job. I can’t thank them enough…” “They’ve helped me immensely, fed me properly, got me the help I needed and treated me with respect…” “It would have been tough to get through this without them…” “They’ve given me so much. Clothes, tennis shoes for my feet, emergency assistance, food and breakfast every morning. I’ve gotten help with prescriptions…”
Wayne sits alone, smiling and then bursts into “Amazing Grace,” singing the whole first verse with a big smile on his face. Wayne has been a client of Morning Glory Ministries for a while.
Miller said, “He sings to us and thanks us every time he’s served. If you’re having a bad day, give me a call. I can make you smile” with stories of clients like Wayne.
A renewable grant from the McGowan Charitable Trust enables Morning Glory Ministries to assist working people with job-related items, including food handling trainingclasses, commercial driving license training classes, scrubs and uniforms. The ministry also helps clients with clothing, personal hygiene items; prescriptions; rent and utility assistance; breakfast and lunch and transportation in the form of monthly bus passes. “The grant gives us more flexibility in how we can help,” Miller said.
During the course of the year 2012, Morning Glory Cafe served 40,000 guests for breakfast. The following year, 44,000 breakfasts as well as 4,000 other needs were met, such as emergency services like rent or utility assistance. In fact there has been a 60 percent increase in emergency services since 2013. The number of clients and services continue to rise.
Services are coordinated by Steve Bruns for Morning Glory Café, which provides daily breakfast to downtown neighbors who are homeless, disabled, elderly and poor. The café, open 7:15 to 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, offers a warm, serene place to congregate and a nutritious breakfast — fresh orange juice, coffee, bagels with butter or jelly, cereal and oatmeal and often homemade breakfast treats — to start their day.
At Hospitality House, on weekends, guests are served a lovingly prepared lunch and are provided a “to go” meal.
Lisa Dunbar coordinates the Emergency Assistance Center where clients receive a variety of emergency aid such as food, assistance in paying for prescriptions, rent, and bus transportation, clothing and hygiene items.
More than 300 volunteers share time and work to assist the ministries.
The night grew darker and colder outside as guests lingered talking and enjoying meeting new friends. As they left, one by one, a line from the video seemed to be in all minds: “Give me a heart for the ones forgotten, give me eyes so I can see.”
For information about Morning Glory Ministries, contact Karen Miller, director, (816) 842-0416 ext. 111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit www.morningglorycares.com .