The Field Hospital: Covering parish life

Thomas Awiapo (center) poses with members of St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish in Santa Clara, Calif. after sharing how the Operation Rice Bowl program of Catholic Relief Services* changed his life. (Diocese of San Jose)

Editor's note: "The Field Hospital" blog series covers life in U.S. and Canadian Catholic parishes. The title comes from Pope Francis' words: "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. …"

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Parishioners of St. Philip Neri and other parishes in Portland, Ore., are among groups closely monitoring air, soil and water quality after learning heavy metal "hot spots" have been discovered at nearby glass manufacturing plants. Catholic Charities officials are also keeping close tabs on the situation; the agency has offices and low-income housing units in those neighborhoods.

The annually ubiquitous Catholic Relief Services* Rice Bowl cardboard collection boxes seen in parishes and homes throughout the U.S. during Lent will take on deeper future meaning to the more than 3,700 parishioners and Catholic students of the San Jose Diocese who reportedly heard Thomas Awiapo speak there recently. The native Ghanan shared how two brothers died of starvation -- one in his arms -- and another left their village never to be seen again. CRS "built a school in his village and offered a small meal each day for the students. As a result of that little meal, Thomas survived and received an education, which eventually included scholarships to attend college. He says that little meal changed his life," reports Judy Swazey in The Valley Catholic. St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish, Santa Clara, and St. John Vianney Parish, San Jose, were among hosts for Awiapo who talks about his life in a YouTube video.

Sponsored and supported by Our Lady of Peace Parish and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School in Innisfail, Alberta, Canada, the Kahwate family has ended a two-year ordeal after selling all their possessions and fleeing Syria. They have been embraced by the central Alberta community of 8,000 since arriving in February, writes journalist Kristine Jean for the Innisfail Province newspaper; report shared on the Western Catholic Reporter website.

Western Catholic Reporter also carries an informative essay on the growing, grassroots empowerment of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, Mexico, by retired Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie. The archbishop-emeritus of Keewatin-Le Pas, Manitoba, was part a 13-member delegation making a "10-day solidarity visit" to Chiapas. He represented the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs of the western (Canadian) bishops. He is also the local chair of the Oblate Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation committee. His involvement with First Nations people also includes those of Canada, the subject of his book, Drumming From Within: Tales of Hope and Faith from Canada's North.

Chiapas is also featured in a recent Global Sisters Report story on the work of Society of Sacred Heart Sr. Carlota Duarte and The Chiapas Photography Project she launched in 1992.

St. Philip Parish in Franklin, Tenn., "represents the new face of cultural diversity" in the Nashville diocese, according to a story in the Tennessee Register. Priests from India, Kenya and Mexico serve the parish. The Nashville diocese itself is experiencing dramatic new numbers of Latino and Hispanic parishioners, good examples being Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Nashville and the Sagrado Corazon Hispanic Ministry Center. More than 20 of the diocese's 56 parishes and missions have regular Masses in Spanish. Cultural diversity was the theme of a March 8 priests' assembly which included presentations and discussions with a team of four from the Los Angeles Archdiocese including Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar, Vicar of Ethnic Ministry.

*An earlier version of this blog incorrectly referred to the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl as the Catholic Charities Rice Bowl.

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR's West Coast correspondent. His email is]

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