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This July another group of adults and youths from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lebanon, Ohio, will make our fifth consecutive Hand in Hand Ministries Appalachian Immersion experience. I look forward again to seeing how the first-timers and veterans apply what we call the Corporal Works of Mercy, those actions in Matthew 25:35-40 about which Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Sheltering the Homeless is the most visible sign of our efforts. Although those whom we help are not actually homeless, they cannot afford to maintain their homes. By repairing their homes, we, in a sense, are possibly keeping them from becoming homeless.

We Feed the Hungry by preparing lunches for those at whose houses we will be working. Lunch may only be a couple sandwiches, chips, an apple, and a few cookies, but it might be their best meal of the week. I love to watch the kids fight each morning over who is going to make the lunch for the family and the put their love into making it.

We’ve given Drink to the Thirsty, by repairing plumbing, or, in once instance, connecting plumbing to a house which previously only had access to dirty well water.

We have Clothed the Naked by donating gently used clothing to be made available at Hand in Hand’s Auxier Center.

By building wheelchair ramps for homeowners, we have liberated them from the confines of their homes, thus Comforting the Sick by reaching out and relieving their isolation and loneliness.

We don’t stop by the local jailhouse to Visit the Imprisoned, rather, we offer those who may have no family or friends a way out of seclusion and loneliness, and the imprisonment of poverty.

We’ve Buried the Dead. Well, not literally, but I recall witnessing our youths show amazing compassion to a widower whose wife had just died a few days before.

We’ve also had the opportunity to offer Spiritual Works of Mercy by being witnesses to Jesus and spreading the knowledge of His love; by quenching the thirst and satisfying the hunger of those who need affirmation and compassion; by restoring the dignity of men and women who’ve forgotten what it means; by being present and relieving the suffering of those who yearn to feel as though they matter; and by praying for each other and those whom we are serving.

I also look forward to the many other positive revelations that come from within our own group, especially the growth in spirit and maturity among our youths, e.g.: High-schoolers who haven’t cleaned their rooms in months treating homeowner’s personal belongings with care and respect; volunteers, young and old, making it their “job” for that day to be a caring friend to the homeowner yearning for company; experienced craftsmen watching out for the safety of the less skilled and helping them learn; and kids volunteering to take a dirty job so that another can rest and get a cold drink of water. They make me proud to associate with them!

And, as we go around the room on our last morning reflecting on the highs and lows of the week, I’ve seen humility that would make Jesus proud!

As I anticipate this upcoming trip, I think about these words from a sermon by St. Augustine, “Fill your empty neighbor from your fullness, so that your emptiness may be filled from God’s fullness.”

The cost for an individual to attend an Appalachian Immersion Mission trip is $250.00. The ability for many in our group to go, especially the youths, is dependent on financial assistance from benevolent donors. Won’t you please consider helping to “fill your empty neighbor” and help others in need by making a generous donation? You can make an on-line donation at this link St. Francis de Sales Mission Trip Donations.

Thank you and God Bless!

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace that You bestow on all those who give of their time, talent, and treasure to make these mission trips to help the least of Your brothers truly missions of mercy. You give us the opportunity to make a difference in this world, a difference that is desperately needed. Please open our hearts and fill us with compassion. Amen.”

(A Mission of Mercy was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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