On the first day of Advent, we are beginning a three part series that will take us to Columbus, Ohio, back to Seton and then, so to speak, Seton will go to Columbus. I think our three stops might help us focus on the three acts of a penitential season: prayers, penance and alms.
In Columbus there is a parish called Holy Family. What its parishioners do, led by their amazing pastor Father Lutz, is unbelievable.
In an old high school, Holy Family operates its two apostolates. In the upstairs is their Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center. In the downstairs is a soup kitchen.
Here are some quotes from articles in newsletters the parish publishes about the museum, kitchen and outreach to the poor.
“The Jubilee Museum began as a modest effort to prepare for the Jubilee Year 2000, as well as to display a few tokens of the history of the diocese of Columbus. The four rooms at that time were thinly decorated with a few vestments, photos, books and statues. Now thirteen years and twenty rooms later, we are filled with Church treasures.”
“With acquisitions from closed churches, schools, and convents, as well as from private benefactors, the Jubilee Museum has become the largest collection of diversified Catholic artwork in the United States….[The] religious items serve as a powerful catechesis for the thousands of visitors who have enjoyed a tour of the collection.”
“In an age when the tallest and most prestigious buildings are secular and not for God’s glory; where art is designed to offend rather than inspire; where God is (at best) a mere afterthought rather than the focus of our lives – we need the Jubilee Museum.”
“I’m motivated to preserve art because of a great loss in a place that was a part of my life. I was 19 when on May 8, 1970, the demolition of Columbus’ old St. Peter’s commenced. Msgr. Anthony, who had built this church in 1928, now watched as it was torn down. He stood there quietly and prayed his rosary. A newspaper article from the time noted that the squirrels that inhabited the trees around the church gathered around Monsignor’s cassock, as much as even their world came crashing down. One photo shows the crane looming over the half destroyed school. Who would guess many years later that I would meet that crane? It was now an abandoned piece of machinery in the back lot of the Angelo Wrecking Co. I went there one day just to see if there were any fragments or salvaged church items in their inventory. The old man assured me nothing was left, but pointed out the old crane used to tear down the church. [I asked for some of the crane so that I could make a cross out of it and told him that] if God lets me, I will rebuild the church and that would be the cross on the top of it. [Father didn’t get any of the crane that day, but years later he saw that it was being cut up and explained his interest to the workers who generously told him to help himself.] Soon I had my own workers and we loaded up the parish truck with a fairly good amount of salvage metal from this great crane.” [From it a beautiful 8 foot cross was made and stands ready for St. Peter’s to be rebuilt one day.]
[The Museum helps many churches throughout the world by donating altars, pews, fonts and other items that they have rescued. One such donation was made to the diocese in Kazakhstan. Half way around the globe were shipped 14 stations of the cross, each 8 feet tall, 3 feet wide and weighing 100 pounds. The stations are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, yet they might have been destroyed if Holy Family hadn’t rescued them.]
[The work of the parish among the poor is even more amazing.]
“When I started as the music director at Holy Family six weeks ago, I knew that I would be playing the organ as well as directing both English and Latin choirs. I had no idea I would be directing a homeless choir. After about a week here, a gentleman named Marty showed up at the parish center door. [I found out he was a fallen away Catholic and living in a shelter.] I invited him to come to Mass the following Sunday. I didn’t expect him to show up [given that it is a several mile walk from shelter to church. But he did come.] When he got upstairs to the choir loft, I told him since he hadn’t been in church in a while that he could sit up with the choir until he felt comfortable to sit downstairs. [It was the Latin Mass he came for, and after a doughnut and some coffee, he stayed for the English Mass as well. He told me in answer to my question of why he had come] ‘When you have nothing and someone invites you to be a part of something, it means more than you will ever know.’ I knew that I had a part to play in Holy Family’s mission to help the homeless. What better way for a musician to evangelize than to get the homeless together to talk and praise God in song. So each week I hold a separate choir rehearsal for anyone on the streets who is interested. Many weeks have gone by and I am still recruiting at the soup kitchen. Some have joined Marty and have been coming to the choir loft each week, singing in both the English and Latin choirs. The choir now practices in the soup kitchen every Thursday.”
“Many times a year a soup kitchen has helpers from the various Catholic, private and public schools. Some groups make a day of it, such as Confirmation classes. Not only do they work in the soup kitchen, but thy take a tour of the neighborhood – even as late at 9 p.m. I walk at the front of the group (my cassock is a familiar sight on the streets), and I occasionally interrupt the rosary to tell the young folks stories about the homeless. The streets have their own mysteries – mainly the sorrowful ones to be sure….The 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Old Lady Alone. This mystery is prayed at the boarded up house of a sweet old lady who spent her widowhood alone and largely forgotten. Her life had many interesting turns, but old age was a very long and lonely event. Her departure was seen only by God. I talk about the reverence we owe to the elderly. The advice includes the following: if you go to a nursing home to visit a relative or family friend, take a little time as you walk down the hall. Don’t walk past people without at least the nod of the head, a wave or a greeting. You might end up talking for a few minutes. Don’t miss this chance to meet someone who may have been a WWII soldier, a war widow, a retired nurse or a generous but exhausted soul. I was once mistaken by a lady who was sure I was her son. So for a few minutes, as I sat with her, I was her son. I held her hand and told her I was doing fine. The 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Mattress Village Under the Bridge. Bridges are often the only shelter from the rain where discarded mattresses are dragged for one final use for a night or two. Once I was walking with twenty 8th graders, and we sang a song for the few souls huddled there for the night. At the end I asked, ‘How many of you eat at the Holy Family Soup Kitchen?’ All the hands went up. I told them that these young people would be serving the meal the next day and I asked if they had any advice. There was a barrage of thoughts: Stay in school; Don’t drink or smoke; Obey your parents. A man who offered most of the advice looked up and said, ‘I am not a bum.’ I looked back and said, ‘All I see is the Divine image.’ He looked at me with a smile that I quickly returned, and I sensed that we both knew that this moment was inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
[There is much more to tell, but I’ll just add a couple things briefly. The parishioners with the help of the homeless took on the Lenten project of beautifying the church of a poor parish on the east side of Columbus even to the point of installing a new pipe organ. And to give you an idea of the scope of the soup kitchen, the parish prepares over 5000 hot meals each week. Five thousand a week! How do they have time for anything else? If we need a model parish of the New Evangelization Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called for, I think Holy Family is it.]
Jezu, ufam Tobie.