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Who is my neighbor?

You know well about the weekly help that the Outreach Center provides our Ward 8 neighbors with food and clothing. But, Assumption is now considerably helping many in need of financial assistance in coordination with Catholic Charities. The CC representative has been coming here for months, meeting individually with people who have called our office for emergency help with paying their bills. The financial outreach has grown so much (surprise, surprise) that the rep is maxing out regularly on the CC funds he has to offer. Weeks ago, I offered to cover as much of the difference as we can in each case, trusting that God would provide through friends or other donors who would very much like to help. He is doing exactly that, and we can figure on minimal amounts only coming from the parish budget. I don’t want to say “no” completely to anyone who comes to our door when it’s possible to say “yes” in some way. Wouldn’t we all want this to be the policy of a church office if we went there in an emergency?

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”

It has now gotten to the point that we can only offer help with utilities. We are no longer able to assist with rental payments. The CC rep is meeting with five or six people on average every month which has been an increase of about 100% from months ago. I jokingly wrote “surprise, surprise” above that the requests have increased because it’s obvious that the word has spread on the street that Assumption (with Catholic Charities) can help them. Please be assured that we employ a thorough process to determine if each request is legitimate. It is heartbreaking when people call us just after their heat, water or electricity has been suddenly turned off. That is exactly when we want to help our neighbors, just like we would want people to help us if we were in that dreadful situation. In today’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus names this the second commandment, and says it is like the first:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”

You have been living the second commandment for so long here, and it has flowed from living the first. Our love of God flows from His love for us. It’s “not that we have loved God, but that God first loved us” (1 John 4). So, God’s love is first, love of God is second, and love of neighbor is third. Clearly you know and show that God loves you. God’s love is demonstrable and visible in your spirit and joy. You know deep down what Isaiah 43:1-5 says – that He loves you! And, then you show your love for Him in your passionate commitment to worship and serve Him. You really do get all your heart, soul, and mind into it! So, you love God and you love your neighbor, but…

Do you love yourself? I truly hope that you love the person that God created in you. He created you like no one else ever! You are unique and in your uniqueness, you reflect the Divine Image like no one ever has. Trusting that you love yourself, I ask you to consider that there are qualities or habits in yourself that you don’t love. With the help of Confession (ahem), these are mainly things of the past, I hope. Nonetheless, you have been able to look past these things to love yourself overall. So, can you do the same with your neighbor?

“Who is my neighbor?” you might ask. Think of the person in your life that is the hardest person to love right now. That is your neighbor. It’s said about teams that they are as good as their weakest link. Well, we can say that our love is as good as it is toward our worst enemy. Can you overlook their worst qualities and habits to love them overall? Can you love them as you love yourself?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

How to Start a Conversation of Faith

Last week, I had dinner with several priests who are pastors in D.C. They asked how things are going in our parish, and I told them about our new street evangelization program which begins this weekend. They were intrigued, and wanted to know all about it! It was obviously good and reaffirming to see the interest of my fellow pastors, but we also saw this from our own congregation. When we had our street evangelization training a few weeks ago, twice as many Assumption parishioners attended the 3-hour session as we had expected. This already has the feel as if it’s from the Holy Spirit. Please, Jesus!

The twelve of us at the training truly enjoyed it, and benefited from the presenter’s insights, experiences and stories. We went there wondering how to start a conversation with strangers about Christ and the faith, and what is the best way to answer questions about what we believe. And, we came away feeling equipped with answers. With the hope that this will be illuminating and helpful for your own evangelization, the following are some of the things we learned:

Use one of these icebreakers to start a conversation about faith with someone:

1) The Rosary – Hi, would you like a free rosary? Yes? Great! Did you know that the Rosary is a prayer? Yes, it is a meditation on the life of Jesus. Here is a pamphlet on how to pray it. Do you go to church?

OR

2) The Miraculous Medal – Hi, would you like a free Miraculous Medal? Great, here is a holy card that explains the medal. Basically, in 1830, Jesus’ mom Mary appeared to St. Catherine and promised whoever wears this medal will receive great grace from God. Many miracles have occurred through it and it is commonly known as the miraculous medal. It’s on a chain here so you can put it on right now. Do you go to church?

OR

3) Pope Money – Hi, have you seen this million dollar bill yet? Yeah, it’s got Pope Francis on the front and explains the Gospel on the back. Do you go to church?

OR

4) Holy Card – Would you like one of these free Holy Cards of Jesus? Great! Do you go to church?

Do you go to church?

That simple question with a young man we (St. Paul’s Street Evangelization) never met before led to the start of a conversation that would bring him back to the Catholic faith. After just two minutes, the young man was in tears. Less than ten minutes later, we were waiting in line with him for confession.

Some basic parts of the story of salvation:

  • God created you in His image and likeness.
  • Due to sin we have a broken relationship with God. The bad news is hell.
  • Jesus Christ became man, died on the cross, and rose for our salvation.
  • We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Through the Church we have access to the grace of baptism and are nourished by the Eucharist.
  • The Holy Spirit changes us, his grace perfects our nature and he fulfills our every true desire.

Personal Testimony

  • Share with those you meet!
  • Your conversion story was written by God
  • Removes barriers
  • Nothing more powerful
  • Can’t be refuted

More to come…

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Young Adults Group

Young adults ages 18-35 are invited to join the Assumption DC YA group. We meet regularly for bible study, fellowship and prayer. Street evangelization and outreach are an integral part of our faith sharing, but we also encourage small group networking and friendship.  For more information, check out the ADC Young Adult Facebook page.

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TEST Volunteers and staff of the Pope Francis Outreach Center in Southeast Washington say they hope the upcoming visit to Washington of its namesake will help the faithful better know and love the poor.

“Pope Francis said that the poor are not to be pitied because Jesus is present among them. In their suffering, they know Christ in a special way,” said Ryan Hehman, director of Assumption Parish’s Pope Francis Outreach Center. “We hope our efforts reach out to those who hurt the most and are in need the most, especially those in need not just of material help, but of love and friendship.”

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We Are Called to Serve the Poor

From today’s second reading: “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?” – Jas 2:5

How blessed are we as a parish to serve those who are heirs of the kingdom? How blessed are we to serve the poor in the world through the Pope Francis Outreach Center? The Catholic Standard has documented the work that the Lord does through our helping hands and hearts in a way that will please you immensely. It has published an excellent online article that will be in the main print edition soon of Pope Francis’s visit to Washington. Below are some excerpts from the online article. Praise God for the Center and for the beautiful depiction of it through the Catholic Standard!

Volunteers and staff of the Pope Francis Outreach Center in Southeast Washington say they hope the upcoming visit to Washington of its namesake will help the faithful better know and love the poor.

“Pope Francis said that the poor are not to be pitied because Jesus is present among them. In their suffering, they know Christ in a special way,” said Ryan Hehman, director of Assumption Parish’s Pope Francis Outreach Center. “We hope our efforts reach out to those who hurt the most and are in need the most, especially those in need not just of material help, but of love and friendship.”

“Pope Francis lives as poor a life as he can to be like Christ who was poor, and to be in solidarity with the poor… “We want to represent the generosity of God. In the Gospels we learn ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first,’” (Fr. Shaffer) said. “In this world, the people we serve are last, but in the Kingdom of God they are first. That is an anomaly that God taps into that the people can identify with.”

Volunteer Richard Miller said he has served at the center “for 20-some years now, and as long as God gives me the strength, I’ll keep on doing it.” “My work here has taught me what it means to give to others,” the 74-year-old member of Assumption Parish said. “The most important thing is to care about those we serve. If you don’t care, then you can’t be a volunteer.”

Jeannette Thomas, a 40-year member of the parish, volunteers with the outreach center’s clothing distribution. “We give people the best. Everything we give is clean and sorted and ready to wear,” she said. “That is because we are working for the Father in His house, and these are His clothes we give.”

–Sincerely in Christ, Fr Greg