For The Catholic Moment, Diocese in Lafayette-in-Indiana
Feeding people and being fed are essential human experiences that can form our spiritual lives by being personally involved. As we begin to invite God to the table, miracles can start happening.
The act of feeding the poor is one of the fundamental truths that our faith teaches in the corporal works of mercy, feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty (Matthew 25:31-46).
There is a deep history behind the soup kitchen at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis that dates back to the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The need was prevalent and people started serving others by handing out peanut butter sandwiches. Today the need continues to grow byserving 3,200 meals and providing food pantry items to over1,080 clients each month.
Since 2009, Guerin Catholic High School students haveresponded favorably to the invitation to serve the homeless, the needy, the poor and the marginalized by offering food, respect, encouragement, prayers and goodwill at the Cathedral soup kitchen. The students aren’t just doing social justice for the sake of being kind, they do it because they see Christ in other people. We know that because of the overwhelming response fromalumni and current students that continuously reiterate having received far more than anything they have given. Typically a group of 10-20 students caravan to Indianapolis to share in the service opportunity on the fourth Saturday of each month.
By preparing a place at the table for God’s holy people, Senior, Carson Burton from Saint Maria Goretti parish conveyed “the ministry is a good and noble act. The smile on each face is enough to know that God is truly active in our life and in the lives of those around us.” Carson has been involved in the Cathedral Soup Kitchen since he was in fourth grade. His mom was a volunteer and she inspired him to get involved. Carson has loved being involved, he returns often because he enjoys the love that is expressed by the people they serve. Like most people, Carson is aware of how dire their circumstances are, yet the joy and gratitude in these people’s hearts is overwhelming. Carson noticed, “some of the most faithful people I know are the people we serve. They love God as if it is as easy as breathing. It is astounding every time I volunteer there.”
Carson Burton exclaimed, “I frequently have conversations with many of the guests. Most people are extremely friendly, and willing to share their stories. One of the guests, Sam, used to help in the kitchen. He was always very friendly and energetic. Some of the most genuine and beautiful prayers I have ever heard were spoken by Sam before a meal. I will never forget the stories and the amazing faith he shared with everyone he met.”
Cason Burton and his family of seven once arrived when no one else was there to help. It was a unifying experience that brought their family closer and exposed them to a culture that they have come to love. Carson noted, “serving at the kitchen has deeply affected my faith life. Many times, I struggle to see God’s light through the darkness of the surrounding culture. Whenever I visit the kitchen, I understand that God is truly present. He is listening and truly loves me, and the best way I can reciprocate that love is to serve those who are in need. However, it sometimes feels like the guests are doing a greater service to me by spreading the joy of God’s love to all.”
Sophomore, Sarah Dilley from Saint Luke United Methodist Church started serving her freshman year for what she thought would be the service hour obligation but she has continued to serve monthly ever since. Sarah looks forward to the fellowship of the people and enjoys the fact that it is a faith-based organization. “We pray before the meal and we pray for the people by name after the meal” she stated. Sarah invites others to serve at the soup kitchen because of the little things they do that that make such a big impact, like Saint Mother Theresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”
One gentleman told Sarah and her friend about a book that he was writing. He said, “the book is based on himself. The story centers on a man that was just released from jail who wanted to attend Ivy Tech Community College because he wanted to further his education in his favorite city of Indianapolis.”
That same gentleman also said how thankful he was for everyone who cleaned up after the meal. When all the guests were gone, just a few volunteers were still listening and he shared, “no one has ever really listened to my book idea and mydream of becoming an author.” Sarah mentioned, “I will never forget that moment, I felt so honored that he confided in us about his aspirations.”
Freshman, Caleb Jennings from Saint Louis de Montfort Church served at the Cathedral soup kitchen with his dad for the first time this year. Caleb noticed an overwhelming sense of gratitude when he was serving meals, he mentioned, “just being present made a difference in their day.”
The soup kitchen strives to be a bridge for those more fortunate so they may better understand the needs of the guests and provide time, help and assistance to the program directly or indirectly. The soup kitchen provides a welcoming site for students to serve the poor and instill in them a life long commitment to helping the poor. Donations are always needed, as are volunteers for shopping, cooking, serving and preparing food pantry bags on a daily basis.
Jesus taught that providing the basics to those most in need has a remedial effect on our own personal brokenness. Scripture reminds us, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:26).
For more information on the Cathedral Soup Kitchen:
Kerin Buntin is the author of an online blog titled Embrace Your Faith Journey; she is a blessed wife and mother; and the founder of Peace Love Pilgrimage.