We have just crossed over into the season of Lent; a familiar territory for us all. We have returned, as we do each year, to this period of fasting and abstinence, to the tracing of ashes on our foreheads. With this we are reminded of our mortality and the need for repentance. It’s a time of self-denial, of penitential rites and practices, of examining our interior darkness. But it is also a time for looking beyond ourselves and our own concerns, for reaching out to others. In his epistle, read at Mass a few weeks ago, St. James reminded us that charitable activity must always be a priority for Christians: “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (Jas 2:15-16). Going a step further, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops uses a broader definition of almsgiving on its website to include charitable actions as well as charitable giving.
How might these Lenten ideals of giving and serving converge? This Sunday, March 6, following the 8 and 10 a.m. Masses, you are invited to the North Church to attend a presentation by members of the Riverwest Food Pantry. Since 1979, Riverwest Food Pantry has been located at 924 E. Clarke St. in Milwaukee and aims to bring volunteers and residents together to combat hunger, isolation, and poverty in East Side Milwaukee neighborhoods. Riverwest also addresses the issue of hunger, starting with one meal at a time and goes further to help build and sustain a community. Among its accomplishments, Riverwest partners with local entities to maintain an urban greenhouse farm on Port Washington Road, north of Messmer High School in Milwaukee. The farm is successful in growing thousands of pounds of produce to be shared with the nearby neighborhoods and its residents. Along with its gardens, Riverwest also relies on donations to keep its pantries full and for volunteers to help sort and distribute food and to work at its greenhouse farm. Many opportunities are present for those of all ages to volunteer, even the youth in our community, with morning and evening hours available. All are invited and we hope to see you there!