The UH Newman Center and Chaminade University Campus Ministry gathered on the evening of Feb. 16 at the Newman Center for a discussion and response to Bishop Larry Silva’s request for Hawaii Catholics to discuss questions for the upcoming worldwide synod. (Photo: Dann Ebina)
OFFICE FOR SOCIAL MINISTRY
“We must personally reach out to the peripheries, to those who have left the Church, those who rarely or never practice their faith, those who experience poverty or marginalization, the excluded, the voiceless, etc.” (Vatican Synod Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches)
Catholics around the world, including Hawaii, are answering Pope Francis’s call to listen, learn and journey together toward a more inclusive faith community. This two-year global synod effort involves more than “speaking to the choir” and hearing from “people in the pews.” According to the Vatican Handbook for the Synod, each diocese is asked to reach out to those beyond our comfort zones and to make genuine efforts to include those at the margins and people who may feel excluded.
One way to do this is to ask who is not at the table and whose voice is being left out or not being heard. Some examples of those on the peripheries of society include persons with disabilities, homebound parishioners, elderly in nursing homes, the incarcerated, migrants and refugees, homeless individuals and families. The synod process suggests going to the margins of society and meeting people where they are so that their experiences and reflections are included.
One suggestion proposes going to food pantries, or shelters, where people in need are already gathered, and engage them in conversation. Another idea is to collaborate with parish partners already in contact with persons on the margins on a regular basis such as Catholic Charities Hawaii and HOPE Services Hawaii. These partners can help reach those who otherwise might be absent, allowing a more expansive listening process that reflects a wide cross-section of voices.
During the last few months, the Office for Social Ministry has been hosting Zoom synod listening sessions with vicariates throughout the diocese. We have heard many inspiring stories about parishioners working through social ministries with persons addressing hunger and homelessness. For example, on Oahu, St. John Apostle and Evangelist Parish in Mililani manages a food pantry in partnership with the homeless service provider, Aleia Bridge, and Aloha Harvest, which supplements the pantry with fresh produce. Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Wahiawa offers food distributions on the last Saturday of the month, including keiki backpacks full of kid-friendly food and senior food boxes for kupuna.
St. Rita Parish in Nanakuli hosts potlucks for homeless persons, providing food and supplies to kupuna, and collaborating with partner agencies such as Helping Hands Hawaii and Domestic Violence or Drug Treatment Centers. Immaculate Conception’s parish pantry in Ewa has been feeding more than 200 people a week. St. Jude Parish in Kapolei also distributes Ohana Produce at their food pantry every Thursday, along with bread and pastry donated by the nearby Safeway.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Ewa Beach passes out about 200 bags of food at its drive-thru distribution once a month, as well as 120 “keiki bags” for families with children, plus 60 bags to seniors living at West Loch. St. Elizabeth parish in Aiea delivers food from Aloha Harvest to the homes of families in need. Twice a month, its pantry delivers 50 kid-friendly backpacks to Aiea Elementary School for food-insecure children.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Pearl City has a parish food ministry managed primarily by retired seniors who say what they do is a ministry, not a service. Their parish pantry receives food support from a nearby preschool and from Holy Family Catholic Academy. Resurrection of the Lord Parish in Waipio helps host drive-by events where parishioners drop off non-perishables for food pantries.
St. Ann Parish in Kaneohe has a homeless outreach ministry in the community called “City of Peace” where around 15 volunteers prepare and serve meals to homeless persons three days a week. St. George in Waimanalo is a support parish with the Family Promise homeless program helping prepare dinner for the families.
Participants in these and all diocesan social ministries are some of the vital voices that need to be heard in this synod process.
Also among those often overlooked are persons with disabilities and their families. So the Office for Social Ministry has scheduled a virtual synod listening session specifically for folks living with long-term physical, mental or intellectual barriers. The synod process is an opportunity to share their needs, hopes and concerns for what may be preventing full and meaningful participation in the church.
The synod process aims to inspire all to dream about the church and what we are all called to be. Let us open our hearts and ears so we can listen and learn from the Holy Spirit through one another about how to build a better future together.
For more on these and other synod listening sessions, please visit the Office for Social Ministry website www.officeforsocialministry.org.