KANSAS CITY —The 2016 Life & Justice Campaign Grant Reception honoring and assisting organizations in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph that reach out to assist the poor, the vulnerable and the struggling, was held May 9 at the Catholic Center. Bill Francis, Diocesan Director of the Human Rights and Respect Life offices, said about 70 individuals representing the organizations, attended.
To illustrate the evening’s themes of “Christ-centered humility” and “sacrificial service,” Bill shared a story of his toddler’s query when attending the funeral of a dear friend’s family member. Bill had explained to Joshua that they were going to a different church than usual so when the curious toddler started looking around upon entering the church, it was not unexpected. However, after having attracted attention as Bill’s family walked to their pew, Joshua then interrupted the silence by asking, “Where’s Jesus!?” His dad quickly looked around for a cross, a stained glass window or anything that would prevent a repeat question and found a stained glass window that satisfied his innocently persistent son.
Bill said sharing the story set the evening’s tone — “as pastoral care ministry leaders we need to find Christ in every person and every situation, as Joshua did, and we need to be a faithful witness to Christ’s love and sacrifice even when it is uncomfortable for us.”
After his opening prayer and blessing over the meal, Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. thanked everyone for their selfless work and offered some remarks.
“I had a conversation,” he began, “with a man who had been reading The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis … it dawned on him how much he defined himself by his politics. He said his political mindset was the predominant thing that shaped his attitudes, thinking, and often his way of living. In a flash of insight, he realized that it ought to be Jesus and His Gospel that defined him instead. I think this is the case with many, if not most, people. Even in the Church, people tend to gravitate toward those social justice issues that align with their political affiliations, and ignore or neglect the others. We are called to be consistent, to be shaped by the entire Gospel … As I look around this room, I see a broad and rich representation. We must all must be aware of the on-going need to be converted.”
The bishop added, “We often hear that in addition to our individual sins, there exists so-called “structures of sin,” which tend to perpetuate injustice. It is incumbent upon us to try to build up the opposite; what might be called “structures of good” or “structures of virtue” so that we build up a culture where it is easier for individuals to tend toward justice.“
The humility and service themes were also shared in the meal — box lunches from a local deli and desserts prepared by Laurie Jo Holmes, program coordinator for the Human Rights Office, and Teresa Hoeppner, program coordinator for the Respect Life Office.
Francis said the Life & Justice Campaign has grown in just three years from a single parish second collection to now including a Life & Justice Campaign website (www.lifeandjusticekcsj.org), on-line donations, parish promotional materials and the referral of volunteers to assist local service organizations who have received grants. Since the first Life & Justice Campaign parish collection in 2013 and the first grant reception in May 2014, the annual amount raised through donations, distributed to local organizations, has already doubled: totaling just over $150,000. So that 100 percent of the proceeds go to grant recipients, all expenses for the Life & Justice program, including the reception each May, are covered by the Human Rights and Respect Life offices and through the work of volunteers.
This year’s grant recipients:
A Simple House, Clark Massey, Founder/Director. The grant will help the volunteers expand the program of direct outreach to the poor.
Amethyst Place, Kim Davis, Executive Director. Since its founding in 2000, Amethyst Place has provided services to poor, homeless, recovering women and their children. The grant will help Amethyst Place with its Family Self-Sufficiency project that includes supported employment, mentoring, educational assistance and assistance with income supports.
Community Missions Corporation, Dave Howery, Executive Director. Community Missions in St. Joseph, dedicated to offering hope and a home in the community to chronically homeless men with disabilities at Haven and Juda houses. A new cold weather shelter, My Brother’s House, also provides needed human interaction to create hope, opportunities to reconnect with family and community, and begin addressing barriers to stability. The grant will help expand the reach of My Brother’s House.
Faith in Action, St. Joseph area Christian congregations and Catholic parishes, Nadine Hoffman, Director. Primarily serving the elderly who have little financial ability, little or no family support and who may not meet the standards established for common social services. The grant will help with all community assistance projects currently planned.
Family United Transportation Service, Audra McLeod, Founder/Owner. Provides transportation services to families with loved ones incarcerated in Missouri and Kansas prisons, and to senior citizens, veterans, and persons with disabilities. The grant will extend the reach of its Project Ride program, through the purchase of another van.
Holy Rosary Credit Union, Carole Wight, President. A low-income designated CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution), committed to raising people out of poverty through personal financial training. The grant will help the credit union continue its services through its Project Uplift.
Jerusalem Farm, Jessie Schiele, Executive Director. Strives to transform the lives of its members and the lives of those around them through four cornerstones: Prayer, Community, Service and Simplicity. The grant will help them reach more people in need through the Jerusalem Farm Home Repair project.
Mother’s Refuge, Robert Zornes, Executive Director. The grant will help Mother’s Refuge provide life-changing and life-saving services to more homeless, pregnant young women through its Launch to Independence project.
North Central Missouri Business Facilitation, Doug Schmitz, board member. Volunteer group committed to championing the sustainable success of small businesses in rural Harrison, Grundy, DeKalb, Davies, Caldwell and Clinton counties. With one paid facilitator working closely with community-based volunteers, NCMBF provides coaching to local entrepreneurs and small business owners to ensure stability and economic growth in an area facing reduced population, loss of jobs and in which five of the six counties are currently in the bottom 10 percent of median family income in Missouri. The grant will help provide necessary training for the facilitator and volunteer board members.
Platte City Police Chaplain Emergency Fund, Deacon Rick Boyle, Platte City Police Dept. Chaplain. The Fund was created in 2014 so that police chaplains could help stranded motorists and distressed citizens. The grant will enable the chaplains to continue to provide this emergency assistance.
Redemptorist Social Services Center, Diana Kennedy, Executive Director. Since 1986, its mission is to prevent a temporary crisis from becoming a permanent tragedy through comprehensive assistance programs providing more than 1,900 critical assists monthly. The grant will help provide critical emergency support to low income populations in the metropolitan Kansas City area through the Emergency Client Assistance program.
Sisters of St. Francis/NWMEF, Sister Christine Martin, Provincial superior, Sisters of St. Francis of Savannah. The Sisters have been instrumental in assisting more than 600 entrepreneurs and family businesses in Andrew, Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties through Northwest Missouri Enterprise Facilitation. They provided office space and a paid administrative assistant, as well as promotional materials and a location for committee meetings and annual events. The grant will allow the Sisters to continue providing primary administrative, promotional and pastoral support to this group of volunteers dedicated to assisting additional rural businesses in the area.
The Life and Justice Campaign second collection will be occur Aug. 20 and 21.
As the reception ended, the closing prayer reminded everyone that whatever they did for the least brothers of Christ they did for him. (Matthew 25: 31-40.)
To learn more about the diocesan Life and Justice campaign, visit www.lifeandjusticekcsj.org.