By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Since 1980, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, with the help of parish-based ministry grants from the Annual Catholic Appeal, has provided food, emergency assistance and hope to those in need.
The Cathedral’s Morning Glory Ministries is more than an emergency assistance and food provider. It is a beacon of hope in downtown, feeding the homeless and working poor breakfast, providing sack lunches, bus passes and emergency assistance to those who need it. But, in order to keep on providing hope and help, the agency must raise funds.
A Beacon of Hope in the Heart of the City, a gala fundraiser for Morning Glory Ministries was held Nov. 3 at the cathedral’s Donnelly Hall, in the Morning Glory Cafe space where the homeless are fed Tuesday-Friday mornings. Karen Miller, Director of Morning Glory Ministries said 208 tickets were sold to the event and about 150 attended.
In the past several years, the gala had been held at the Catholic Center a short distance away. “We came home tonight,” Miller said.
Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., who, the following day, would celebrate his first anniversary as bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, opened the event. “Being poor is all of us,” he said. “We are built for love and we need others.” He looked around the room. “This is a place that makes it happen.”
He clasped his hands in prayer. “We gather tonight in thanksgiving and praise to celebrate your love and life. We thank you for the material blessings and wealth you have given us as stewards. We thank you for Morning Glory Ministries and especially for the clients because, in them, we see your face every day!”
Miller recalled that one year ago that day, the soon to be installed bishop arrived at Morning Glory Café before it opened at 7:15 a.m., and prepared to serve the guests. She told of his friendliness and warmth as he spoke with each guest he served orange juice.
Guests sampled food, enjoyed wine and other beverages and, of course, spent a lot of time at the silent auction tables, discussing, day-dreaming and bidding on the items they wanted. There were gift baskets, jewelry, event tickets and original artwork in the auction. Raffle tickets for “Feast with the Priests,” prepared and served by the priests at the Cathedral, were hawked around the room.
A video presentation highlighted some of the ways Morning Glory Ministries serves the poor, the homeless and hopeless. “The homeless have hopes and dreams and that is often forgotten,” the narrator said. In the video, Miller stated that, “We are not just a food and emergency assistance provider.” A number of programs are offered, including clothing, transportation assistance and one called Job Empowerment. That particular program has assisted 258 people since its inception. Emergency Services met more than 13,000 client needs in the past year, she said.
Miller and ministry partner Louise Tritt excitedly took many of the guests to the second floor, which for a long time had been unused except as excess storage. Now, thanks to volunteers from Christmas in October, Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan., and Jude Huntz of Visitation Parish, Steve Bruns, Morning Glory Café director, and others, the area has been transformed. Sparkling clean and repainted, the second floor now houses a meeting area, a sitting room and bath, and storage and sorting areas for clothing donations.
Miller also thanked the Curry family, one of the ministry’s partners, for upgrading the Morning Glory Cafe kitchen. “We are making a connection with the poor through food,” Miller said. “Last year we served 85,000 meals. We have about 300 volunteers serving around 2,000 guests each month.”
Msgr. Robert Gregory, Cathedral parochial administrator, spoke to the crowd, commenting, “The good we do here is greater than that of all the politicians in Washington. They talk. We actually bring the Word of God to the poor!”
Other priests attending the gala included Father Charles Rowe, Vicar General, Father Joseph Powers, pastor, St. Mark’s Parish and Father Ken Riley, Chancellor.
Miller said, “We see them the homeless, the working poor, the desperate, six days a week. We get to know them and grow to love one another.” She reminded the guests that Kansas City winters are cold. Donations of hats, gloves, boots, mittens and scarves are needed and would be welcomed.
As guests paid for their new treasures from the auction and trickled out to their cars, a couple approached a young man, congratulating him on the beauty of the artwork they had purchased. The young man, Michael Brown, was the creator of the piece, a realistic portrait of Miles Davis. Rebecca Magruder and Bill Reed could not wait to get home and hang the portrait.
Michael Brown grew up in St. Louis, and took commercial art classes in high school. After his mother died, he worked minimum wage jobs for a while then moved to Kansas City to try and get started as an artist. Over the next six years, he couch-surfed for a while, had roommates off and on, and finally found himself sleeping in abandoned buildings or under trees. But he never lost hope and one day discovered Morning Glory Ministries.
“Being homeless makes you ashamed,” he said. “They help give you back your dignity, some pride. If you want to tell your story, that’s fine, they’ll listen. But what they really do is encourage you, feed you and get you clothes so you’re not raggedy. They’ll get you bus passes so you can go to job interviews or the doctor. It’s the little things, things that most people take for granted, that mean a lot. When your stomach isn’t empty and the clothes on your back are decent, you feel courage and want to pull yourself up. That’s what they did for me. I’m still struggling some, but I have an apartment, I’m working full-time as an artist and I have to thank Morning Glory. They gave me back to me.”
Steve Bruns and his wife came up to Brown, toting two of his works, one of John Coltrane and the other of Charlie Parker. They too were eager to hang the portraits on the wall at home.
A quote from Pope Francis stayed on the video screen as the room cleared out: “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”
Miller said later that the gala netted $49,781.99; $4,940 was made on the silent auction. It will be put to good use as Morning Glory Ministries continues to be a beacon of hope in the city.
To learn more about Morning Glory Ministries and how you can help the homeless, the working poor and the hopeless, visit www.morningglorycares.com.