Informed by the Gospel of St. Matthew 25: 31-46 — “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,” — the parishioners at St. Aloysius Church in Springfield have been reaching out to those most in need.
“We heard Bishop Paprocki’s challenge to become intentional disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Paula Petrilli, a life-long parishioner, “and we decided that we had to make some sort of response.”
We share herein our response to the bishop. Not so much to bring us noteriety but as a way to encourage other parishes in our joint efforts to realize an intentional discipleship in our local churches. So, here is what we’ve been doing. What have you been doing?
Over a year ago St. Aloysius developed a Stewardship and Discipleship Committee (S&DC) which studied the bishop’s writings on discipleship and put together a plan for action. This plan included an introductory plan for tithing, a more intentional social justice outreach program, an adult education program and a new emphasis on welcoming people. The results have been amazing!
In dialogue with the parish’s Finance Council, the S&DC proposed that the parish begin to tithe 2 percent of it’s weekly offertory collection to the needy of our parish, city, state and world. So, beginning in July with the new fiscal year, the parish has sent parts of its tithe to the victims of hurricanes, local youth ministry programs, the local pro-life group and medical research organizations, to name a few.
It quickly became evident that our call to feed the hungry was going to out-grow the purview of the S&DC, so about six months ago we established a Social Justice Committee under the direction of Deacon Mick Palazzolo. Our Social Justice Committee oversees our outreach to Helping Hands Shelter and our Street Ministry. Twice each month, volunteers from the parish prepare, deliver and serve a meal to Helping Hands in Springfield. Most recently our visits there have included students from our junior high school as well. Our Street Ministry makes sack lunches twice a month and they are delivered to the various “tent towns” around the city where the homeless spend most of their time. As these volunteers return home for the day, they often come to the Saturday vigil Mass where Deacon Palazzolo shares with the parish at large the stories from that day’s visits. The Social Justice Committee also oversees and encourages our hospital, homebound and hospice visits as well as the various activities of our Pro-Life Club.
“When we visit the homeless in the tent towns,” Deacon Palazzolo pointed out, “the food is just an excuse to get together with the dehumanized of our society and through prayer and conversation bring a bit of dignity back into their lives. Of course they are hungry; but hungrier still to hear their name mentioned in love, and their hearts filled with words from the Gospel. Aren’t we all called to love in this way? Isn’t this what Jesus did?”
Intentional discipleship is becoming our way of life at St. Aloysius Parish. And while we have made long strides to realize this Gospel call on the north end, we realize that this is just the beginning for us. Through prayer, study and continued reflection we are discerning our future as called by God to meet the needs of others; we are discerning our call to be a Catholic Church on the north end of Springfield. We have begun to call ourselves “St. Aloysius Church: A discipleship parish.” It is our great hope that others will join us as we respond to God’s gracious call to be disciples of Christ.