Healing the Contemporary Five Wounds: Conclusion
So how would I summarize my thoughts to Father Adrian Poletti, C.P.? First, explaining St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish of today means always being ready to think and talk about the worship and outreach groups of the parish as one entity. Honestly, this would be a new way of understanding the parish, as the traditional Catholic way has been to count those who come on the weekends. With confidence, I suggest that the outreach taking place in 2007 shows that the time has emerged to expand our understanding of parish to name the present-day realities. This means one can say St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish serves 500 people per week. This is the new parish statistic that should start every conversation. Taken together, we are able to see how the five wounds of the parish and Irvington are healed.
Second, Father Poletti lived in a face-to-face Irvington neighborhood world of the 1950s. All indications are that much remains the same in 2007. While there is the temptation to think about computers and web sites as the tool to increase the Gospel life of the parish, we have to admit that a good number of the St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish members do not use the computer. These members-the elderly and the marginal poor-still must rely on face-to-face conversation, phone contact, and home visits. That is the strength of their world. St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish should continue to embrace this style of interaction even as it continues to bring the Gospel message via email or the internet.
Third, the above accounts of local parish outreach in 2007 serve as an obvious reminder that Irvington is not the predominantly working class white neighborhood of the 1950s. It is now a predominantly African-American neighborhood struggling to overcome urban Baltimore poverty. For this reason, the staff and members of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish should make a priority the development of sustained and creative ways to cooperate with My Brothers Keeper. Most valuable would be to develop a long term plan of ministerial action whereby part of the strategy might be both groups increasing their respective face-to-face participation of local people in their events.
Truly, I believe Father Poletti might have had the same response to this information as I first did in gathering it, or maybe as you have had while reading this. After documenting the five wounds of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish I had to stop and take a long pause. On the one hand I was proud of the outreach. On the other hand I felt sorrow and even anger and wanted to do more to heal the wounds. After I caught my breath of faith, I found myself seeking to increase my understanding. I wanted to take small steps to walk the Gospel road as it passed through Irvington.
Concretely, this means that every time I worship in the Monastery church I pray for those outside the church in a conscious way. To assist me I keep before me the road to Emmaus story of Luke 24: 13-35. Creative reflection on this Scripture story reminds me that the road to Emmaus travels through the present-day Irvington neighborhood. Like the characters in this post-Resurrection story from Luke we need to share stories of sorrow and hope.
Catholic tradition tells us that what we learn from these stories can be included in our prayers and we can bring them to the Eucharist. After all we must put our faith into action as a community of believers. This faith in action will lead to healing the five wounds of Irvington. How will we know this? We will rejoice more in mutual understanding. We will see more people participate in the parish resurrection story as it takes place inside St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish Church and on the neighborhood streets at the same time. To remind and inspire ourselves, we must tell all we meet that St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish in Irvington serves 500 people each week. Of those, 300 pray in the church, so 200 more may hear the good news of the Gospel.
Furthermore we can recall that we are a parish in the Passionist tradition in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This tradition goes back to the last half of the 1800s. Members of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish must always draw the energy and vision from the redemptive meaning of the cross of Jesus by building on a sound and historic Passionist ministry tradition of spirituality and prayer. Much in the same way that the last decade of Passionist leadership and individuals have given a greater voice to the abundant faith and action of Province-wide domestic and international volunteer programs, Spanish-speaking ministries, and overseas missions. Even closer to home has been the Passionist Mission Fulfillment Program. It encourages people from the greater Baltimore area to learn more about the spirituality of the Passionist founder, St. Paul of the Cross, and how they to can live this spirituality out in their lives. They have done this through regular prayer and social and educational meetings held at the parish. Taken together, this wisdom helps lead to the healing of the contemporary five wounds of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish into an experience that gives life to the parish resurrection story.
The historian in me suggests that all the above parties should consider ways to combine their efforts, and continue to heal the wounds of large number of African-Americans in the Irvington area. Oftentimes, successful outreach means organizations must be able to name their talents while at the same time be able to bring them to life by letting go of their prearranged agendas and create a common and shared agenda. This is especially the case when it comes to developing an ecumenical experience of prayer and service in unison with other local Christian churches and those who practice Islam or other world religions.
Fortunately, we know we are able to draw upon some of the existing graces that assist St. Joseph Monastery Parish to live this baptismal call to mission and faith. First, all of our parishioners might ask themselves how they might become a parish volunteer in existing parish programs such as religious education so as contribute time to the parish once a month. Why? Because parish programs become fragmented, less effective, and may eventually come to an end without new members. Many people sharing time is better than a few people in charge. Furthermore, this means that those in long-term service might have to be willing to share power and authority with new members. For their part, new members have to learn from the collective wisdom of veterans. This combined knowledge will create a resurrected parish and Irvington.
Second, parishioners might consider giving the SvdP poor box any loose change found at home during the week. This would increase their ability to do outreach. Others may wish to develop a plan of action to create an endowment fund for specific parish outreach operations. This would mean continued support for and building upon efforts now in place by the Fun and Fund-Raising Committee. They have sponsored events such as the Bull and Oyster Roast often in a joint effort with the Knights of Columbus, Patapsco Unit in Catonsville.
Third, social outreach does not diminish the importance and need of the Gospel message for those who actually come to church. Every effort should be made to nourish their faith. In turn their aim might be to make a conscious effort to invite new members to a weekend or weekday church service or participation in one of the many existing programs. For instance, participation in the St. Joseph’s Monastery Prayer Chain Ministry may be an option for people who may not be in the situation where they can to volunteer time or increase their financial contribution. Margo Shank who now resides at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville started this ministry about 12 years ago. Requests come from parishioners, neighbors, and strangers who have heard about the Prayer Chain. In January 2007 there were 110 names and intentions raised in prayer. This is an Outreach that offers healing and hope to all. At present there are eight members. Others are welcome to join by contacting the parish office. Here is how it works. People in the Prayer Chain offer prayers for specific intentions. Requests can be called into the parish office or made directly to African-American parishioner Blanche Howze. She in turn passes them on to the Prayer Chain participants. While some of these Prayer Chain members are homebound or chronically ill themselves, they have made the decision to join with others to remember the parish intentions each day when they say their personal daily prayers. Usually these members receive regular updates and every several months typed lists are updated and distributed. With faith we know that continued prayer will inspire continued action and provide the healing peace of consolation in the face of sorrow, suffering and even joy.
Fourth, others may wish to bring healing to life by sharing more about how their knowledge of Catholic spirituality, Ignatian, Carmelite, Franciscan, Benedictine, contemplative, or charismatic to name a few, might become part of everyday parish conversation and life.
Of course, these existing graces join with an average of ten people each day who come to pray at the 8:00 a.m. daily Eucharist as well as the eight people who come every Monday at 7:30 p.m. for the Novena to St. Joseph. Both celebrations take place at the parish rectory on 251 S. Morley St.
All these efforts encourage us to admit, strengthen, and add to the known gifts of parish life so faith and action move out and take root in this Irvington neighborhood. With such faith, attention to heal the contemporary five wounds of St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish so as to bring to life the resurrection story in St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish and Irvington, Maryland.
St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish
251 S. Morley St. Baltimore, MD. 21229
Phone:410-566-0877; Fax: 410-233-4974