Fifty years ago we celebrated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Perhaps not coincidentally, this period of increased awareness of the finitude of Earth’s resources was around the same time astronauts were leaving our atmosphere and giving us the opportunity to see our home from afar, such as in the famous “Earthrise” photograph. At the sight of the blue planet rising above the horizon, Jim Lovell, one of the astronauts on that Apollo 8 mission, said “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” While most people will never have the chance to see our common home from this perspective, I hope you are able to catch a glimpse of that wonder today by contemplating life in all its uniqueness.
During these past few weeks I’ve become aware of an interesting juxtaposition. On one hand, our lives are anything but normal right now: humans across the globe must cope with school and business closures, empty store shelves, cancelled events and trips, and countless other disruptions to work and family life. Yet if we look around, there is a strange normalcy still present: bluebirds are making homes for their eggs, trees are flowering and showing their first leaves of the season, the days are gradually getting longer, and spring weeds are still emerging (unfortunately they seem to have missed the memo to stay home).
The Pandemic has not stopped the outreach efforts of many of our ministries, including the College of Our Lady of the Elms caRe vaN; the mobile health care van brainchild of Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. (DNP, ANP-BC), who serves as Associate Dean and Director of Undergrad Prog. of the School of Nursing. The caRe vaN has served the community surrounding Elms College since January 13, 2013. Developed as the Capstone for Friar Duffy’s DNP, the caRe vaN provides free healthcare to the homeless and under-served in the Chicopee (MA) area, while allowing pre-licensure students clinical experience. Services include blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks, foot care, first aide and minor wound care. For now, services have had to be adjusted, and are provided on the parking lot outside of the van, so that all can safely practice social distancing. Screenings, vitamins (C and zinc), acetaminophen, as well as the simple comforts of coffee and a snack are still being provided for the most vulneralbe.
“The poor you will have with you always. The last Sunday of each month is particularly hard on the homeless. In addition we have been getting Vitamin C, Zinc and acetaminophen out to our clients. Thank you all for your support.”
For more information or to make a donation to this effort, please email Brother Duffy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the evening of December 18, 2019, our friars participated in the Homeless Memorial Service at Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry (170 Pendexter Avenue, Chicopee, MA 01013), as part of the National Homeless Persons Memorial Day. This ANNUAL event is held on, or near, the longest night of the year (This year on December 21st). It affords a moment for all to remember those who have died in the past year – on the streets, as a result of life on the streets – secondary to homelessness. The event is usually scheduled to take place in the parking lot, but due to weather concerns (ice, temperature) this year’s event was held in the soup kitchen’s dining room. This year four deceased were specifically remembered at the memorial: Founder of the Soup Kitchen – +Lorraine Houle (1927-2018), as well as some of the visitors/patients of the caRe vaN – +Ricky, +Chris and +Sandy. The losses of +Ricky and +Chris were the results of the heroine epidemic, and loss of +Sandy was from respiratory arrest.
caRe vaN is a ministry founded by Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv., who serves the on the kitchen’s Board of Directors as Vice President, while also serving as Associate Dean, Director of Undergrad Program, for the Elms College School of Nursing, in addition to his assignment for our province as a Friary Guardian & Regent of Studies. Nursing Students from Elms College of Nursing were among the volunteers there to help serve a home-cooked meal (at right, with Br. Duffy).
The Nursing Students also serve the caRe vaN alongside Br. Duffy.
Another Our Lady of the Angels Province friar serves the Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry ministry, in the day to day operations. Fr. Nicholas Spano, OFM Conv. serves as Operations Manager (visible working in the kitchen in the news video link).
Also visible in the news video link is Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., our province JPIC (Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation) Chairman, presented a reflection on the great reversals, including these thoughts:
“At Christmas the reversal is that God becomes a human, one like us.
At Easter the great reversal is that Jesus rises from the dead with the promise that we will become one like God in the Resurrection.
Therefore Christmas points to Easter.
As we gather tonight for a Christmas meal, we also gather to remember +Lorraine, +Chris, +Sandy, and +Ricky, and all of the homeless who died this past year, who have now experienced the great reversal of Easter resurrection.
In our gathering for to celebrate these great reversals of God’s love for us, we also experience small reversals:
-We’ve come out of the cold into the warmth of a soup kitchen dining room
-With the meal our empty stomachs become full
-With our conversation our loneliness is transformed into friendship
As Christmas approaches, let us all consider a small change, a small reversal that we can make in our own personal lives. Just a little something that points to the love of God found in the great reversals of Christmas and Easter.”
Pictured at above is Fr. Joseph Bayne, OFM Conv. (Pastor/Rector of the Basilica of St. Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr, & Assistant Fire Chaplain for the Chicopee Fire Department). The Basilica’s Sandwich Ministry sponsored to the event, along with Elms College School of Nursing (Elms College President Harry Dumey pictured at center above).
One of the most unique, fruitful and rewarding ministries of our province ~ St. Clare Inn provides community, care, shelter & healing journey suport for homeless women (aged 30-60), with diagnosed mental health issues. This temporary (up to one year), non-denominational, home-like setting, located in Toronto, Ontario, focuses on re-building lives and self-esteem. When a woman is ready to move on from her time as a resident of St. Clare Inn, those serving in ministry there, including Our Lady of the Angels Province friar – Founder and Executive Director – Friar Tom Purcell, OFM Conv., help her to find permanent affordable housing, facilitating a smooth transition to a self-maintainable stable living environment. An essential part of recovery is finding a home.
Metamorphosis is the theme for the St. Clare Inn 2019 Annual Appeal.
“If we recall the image of the caterpillar transitioning into the butterfly, we might understand that each resident weaves her cocoon at St. Clare Inn. It’s her personal space where she can continue to address personal issues and become ‘comfortable’ with her reality that part of her life is coloured by mental health issues. As we say to the residents, these issues do not define who you are, but are part of who you are. Maybe, this time at the Inn is a time of comfort and acceptance for each woman. Hopefully, they emerge from the Inn as beautiful and comfortable in their new skin, much like the Monarch butterfly.”