By Br. Michael Inovero, CRM
February 9, 2017 – Poverty remained present despite of the high rising buildings around the metropolitan district of Manhattan in the city of New York. The presence of the poor shows the face of suffering, hunger and social injustice and other reasons why poverty exist. I remember what Jesus said to Judas “The poor you will always have with you” Mathew 26:11. Human poverty does exist even in the first world countries around the world.
The picture of economic power mirrored in the high rising buildings of a vibrant city cannot hide the existence of the poor begging in the streets just to survive the day. I myself have witnessed this reality when I did an urban poor pastoral immersion in Manhattan, district of New York at the Joseph Catholic Worker institution founded by Dorothy Day as recommended by my school.
Working at this institution was really a catalyst for me to be more aware of the current situation on the worldwide problem of poverty. St. Joseph Catholic Worker caters to all poor people in Manhattan. It provides food and water for the poor.
In this immersion I was tasked to prepare and distribute food packs together with the other volunteers. I also had some opportunities to spend time with them and to listen to their stories. This experience made me realize that God has blessed me in so many ways. My task at the institution may not change them or may not have an impact in their lives but it did to me. It inspired me to pursue and persevere with my vocation.
I will never forget about a short conversation I had with a homeless lady while she was waiting for her food pack. Most of the time she spends the night on sidewalks and subway stations in Manhattan. She said that she goes to different soup kitchens everyday to fall in line for food and water.
Her story really broke my heart. I never knew that this situation is possible in a first world country. Why hunger even exist or homeless people in world graced with God’s bountiful creation? Why? These are the questions that will surely remain unanswered. However, in the midst of this social problem I could say that there are good people and charitable institutions that are ready to help and provide the needs of the poor in our midst. There are still brave people who stand and fight the battle against poverty around the world. St. Joseph Catholic Worker is one of them, an institution that is not deaf nor blind to the needs of the poor.
It was really a fruitful weeklong immersion for me. It made me realize that even a smallest act of goodness toward others especially the poor and the vulnerable can make a difference. The poor will always be in our midst. We ask ourselves, what can we do for them? Jesus says in the Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” Matthew 25:40. I guess the question now is, what can we do for Jesus?