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Care for the Poor

When I first came to the US many years ago, my friends warned me about many things. They kept insisting that I should always resist the temptation to pick up hitchhikers on the highway. More than twenty years ago, one winter morning I was driving on an undivided highway south of Champaign, IL, and did not listen to their wise counsel and my better judgment. As I was driving back to the university after celebrating Sunday Mass at a little country church, I saw someone walking by the side of the road. It was cold. I kept telling myself that it would take the guy at least four hours of walking to get him to Champaign. I slowed down hesitantly because I wanted to help the person. The voices of my friends in my head urged me to speed up and escape... The young hitchhiker had already taken a look at me and he had seen my white collar. At that point, I had no choice but to stop.

 

After I picked up the young man, we sat there in silence for a few moments. Then he spoke up, "Thank you for picking me up. I have been wandering around the last couple of days. I just got out of prison last week and I have nowhere to go." I felt as if someone had punched me in the pit of my stomach. Then he continued, "I was put in prison for some minor crime and stayed there for almost three years. All that time, no one in my family ever came to visit me." My heart went out to him. He went on, "They gave me a couple of hundred dollars as I left the prison. The money was all gone in a few days. I can't get an apartment because I don't have enough money. No one wants to hire me because of my background. The jobs that I can get don't pay me enough to be able to afford a place to live." I was shocked by the face of poverty that I had encountered. Growing up in India I always had imagined that the streets in America were paved with gold. Here was a young man, white and in his twenties, and he was poor and alone.

The previous two nights he had slept near the railroad tracks. It must have been very cold out there. I asked him whether he had eaten anything. He was hungry. I stopped by a McDonald's and gave him some money. He accepted my small gift gratefully but asked me to drive him to the bus station. He had some friends in Chicago who would help him. I dropped him off at the bus station. That was the last time I saw him. Often I wonder where he is right now. To this day I feel regret that I should have done more.

I hope when I come to the doors of heaven the Lord won't chide me for not welcoming that young man enough. Maybe I should have gone more out of my way to help him. As Jesus said, "Whatever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do for Me." Almost daily we receive individuals who knock at the doors of the rectory asking for help. It is our policy not to give out money but we do help them in tangible ways. We direct them to our Social Services Ministry that will assist them to the maximum extent. Under the leadership of Adrienne Timm we do a lot for the poor. Our food pantry provides food for almost a hundred families each month. Fr Lombardo at St Mary of the Angels Mission has publicly said, "Without the help of St Paul of the Cross Parish, we could not exist." I feel so good about all the service done by the Servants of St Francis and the way the group engages the whole parish in putting the Gospel into practice. While we all should feel good about our generosity to the poor, we need to do even more.

St Vincent de Paul whose feast we celebrate next week (September 27) dedicated his life to the poor in Paris. He reached out to his rich friends and with their help took care of numerous needy people. He always insisted that our love must be "effective." In other words, if we do not love the neighbor we can see, we cannot claim to love the God we cannot see. He wrote, "We must love God ... but let it be in the work of our bodies, in the sweat of our brows. For very often many acts oflove for God, of kindness, of good will, and other similar inclinations and interior practices of a tender heart, although good and very desirable, are yet very suspect when they do not lead to the practice of effective love." He summarized his own life thus: "I am for God and the poor."

As we listen to the teachings of Pope Francis, we will encounter St Vincent's message over and over again. We are challenged to take care of the poor and the needy, the stranger and the refugee, the sick and the homeless. May we continue to assist the stranger who comes to our door! As Mother Teresa once said, "Christ comes to us in distressing disguises." Let our love for God be effective!

God bless you! 

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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Contact Information

St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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Phone: (847) 825-7605
Fax: (847) 825-5186

Mass Schedule

Sunday

7:30 a.m. - Upper Church
9 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
10:30 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
12 p.m. - Upper Church
5:30 p.m. - Upper Church

Monday - Friday

6:25 a.m. - Upper Church
8:30 a.m. - Upper Church

Saturday

8 a.m. - Upper Church
4:30 p.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel