Since we got to in the United States of America, all our confreres or lay people kept asking us if we intended to visit the Rock Church, implying that we could not skip it. The truth is that we had already planned to visit Rock Church and so we did. The Rock Church is a very beautiful and old church in the city of Saint Louis. It is north of the city centre, with the famous Gateway Arch, and south of the poorer neighbourhood with high crime rates. The Rock Church and our Redemptorist community are right in the middle of these two worlds.
We were there for almost three days and during these three days we got to know three good news that we’d like to share.
The first good news was the “Christmas Giveaway”. What we witnessed was a packed sports hall full of groceries and gifts to offer to neighbouring families who, for one reason or another, are struggling financially. It all comes from the sharing of the people of Rock Church and other neighbouring parishes, who have been in the care of Redemptorists, and which have remained united, determined to make this initiative work. We saw a lot of joy inside and outside that sports hall. Beginning with Father Rodney Olive, who walked around smiling and photographing other smiles, and ending with Father Steve Bendan, who steered us when we mingled with the dozens of people who made sure everything was going according to plan and, of course, when we passed by the nearly 200 families who left with loaded shopping carts. We later learned that this is not just a sporadic initiative. Throughout the year, twice a week, there is a small distribution of food for these same families. To us, it was quite clear to see that people, in this community, live with their eyes and their hands wide open.
The second good news was the Partnership in Mission meeting in the Redemptorist community. There were 8 of us: Redemptorist confreres and lay people. The main topic of the meeting was to share our views on the Partnership in Mission workshop that took place in Tucson. In particular, we discussed what might be the most effective steps to take in order to renew the Redemptorist Lay Associates circle in Saint Louis. The conversation took place in a rather spontaneous and fraternal way. And the truth is that in the end of the meeting we felt reassured that there was great willingness on the part of all to strengthen the bonds between Redemptorist laity and religious. We agreed that this partnership must be disseminated not only to those who live or meet in the Rock Church, but also to those who live or work in Liguori or even those who celebrate in former Redemptorist parishes that have kept alive the desire to grow in this charism. A first meeting has been scheduled. And this is how the way is made.
The third good news was the celebration we participated in on Sunday morning! The whole tone was a festive one. A real first day of the week celebration.
At the entrance of the church there were people prepared to welcome those who were arriving. They soon noticed that we were new! And they asked us if it was our first time there! Two different people approached us with this question, and then they smiled and said: “Welcome!”. It’s beautiful when members of a community know each other so well, that they quickly spot someone new and try to make them feel at home.
The whole community celebrated together. One proof of this is what happened when the confrere who was preparing himself for the proclamation of the Gospel didn’t realize he was mistaken on the page. In fact, before he even had time to realize it, people had already noticed that it was the wrong page and began to say it loud. It is beautiful when each and every member of a community celebrates the Eucharist, attentive to every sign and “on the same page” of the proclaimed Word… In tune with what is being lived!
In this celebration there was music, dance, beauty. At the centre, the table. When the time came to prepare it… what a care and tenderness they displayed! It was a beautiful table! And around it we praised and prayed hand in hand. And we didn’t leave before hugging one by one. Like brothers and sisters.
We’ll see you around,
Zé ku Teresa