Monday, May 4, 2009

Archbishop Nienstedt: Two ways of helping people have better lives

"I wish to comment on two very important charitable works that are close to my heart.

First, I wish to draw attention to the outreach in downtown Minne­apolis, Sharing and Caring Hands and Mary’s Place, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The founder of these two oases of assistance for the poor is Mary Jo Copeland. In May, she will begin her 25th year of helping people in need — relying on God’s Providence to do so without a penny of governmental aid.

Shortly after arriving here as coadjutor archbishop, I had a three-hour tour of the programs at Sharing and Caring Hands. During that time, I realized Mary Jo does not look at the “facilities” side of these operations as much as she sees the faces of the homeless, the depressed, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the “down-on-my-luck” kind of a person in need of being fed, dressed, bathed, encouraged or otherwise made to feel valued by the services provided in these “facilities.”

More often than not, our tour was interrupted by a hug or an embrace from Mary Jo for one of the clients.

Sharing and Caring Hands opens to serve breakfast at 10 a.m. and then lunch at 12:15 p.m. and dinner at 4 p.m. Eight hundred to 1,000 men, women and children pass through her doors every day.

One level below the spotless dining room is an area where clothes, food and other household items are given away. There are also shower rooms and changing areas for those who wish to clean up, as well as a free dental and health clinic.

Mary’s Place, on the other hand, is transitional housing for 500 people designed especially for families who are homeless. The rooms provide ample space for a family of six to live together, cook their meals and sleep until they are able to get back on their feet — but they have to help Mary Jo keep the place clean.

Assistance for job and house hunting is also provided. In addition, there is a day care for little ones as well as a teen center for youth to gather together and stay out of trouble after school.

I was so impressed by what I saw. I was amazed at how one big-hearted person could make such a difference in the lives of so many! Yet, Mary Jo argues, “We are responsible for the efforts, not the outcome. The outcome is in God’s hands.”

This entire campus dedicated to the poor is right next to the Twins’ new stadium. This has brought about serious scrutiny on the part of the City of Minneapolis, but there is no reason why this program to feed the poor and the homeless cannot coexist with our prized new athletic facility. In fact, the two should be willing to share each other’s gifts and resources.

Please join me in congratulating Mary Jo Copeland on her 25th anniversary of service to Christ in the poor. Send a note and/or a contribution to:

Mary Jo Copeland
525 North 7th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55405

(Editor's note: click HERE to send an email or HERE to contribute)

The second concern I would like to address is the annual National Donate Life celebration, which takes place during the month of April.

Organ donation, as you know, is encouraged by the church, as long as it is not the cause of a person’s death. The donation of our bodily organs after death is considered a heroic act of giving others the chance for a better life.

My own father lost a kidney as a result of an old injury from playing football in college. The loss occurred five decades later, when I was a young seminarian. He lived another 30 years with that one kidney. Eventually, it gave out, becoming the cause of his death.

But I always appreciated the precarious condition that he lived with and thus appreciated better the position of those who require an organ transplant.

Becoming a living donor is a highly personal decision and certainly not one that everyone might choose. Yet, in the case of a sudden or unexpected death, having arranged to donate one or more organs proves to be one of the noblest gestures one can make for humanity.

I encourage our readership to consider the gift of life in the gift of an organ donation. For more information, go to where you will find a registration form. Your gift will have the power both to save and improve lives.

God bless you!
The Catholic Spirit

1 comment:

Terry Nelson said...

We are really blessed to have Archbishop Nienstedt, I'm so pleased he loves Mary Jo and her ministry.