The Field Hospital: Covering parish life

This story appears in the The Field Hospital feature series. View the full series.
 The Dennis and Rachael Gichana Family from Kenya pose with the Mark and Patti Armstrong family at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Parish in Bismarck, N.D. (Photo courtesy Dennis Gichana)
The Dennis and Rachael Gichana Family from Kenya pose with the Mark and Patti Armstrong family at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Parish in Bismarck, N.D. (Photo courtesy Dennis Gichana)

by Dan Morris-Young

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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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Hundreds of students in parish religious education programs and Catholic schools in the San Francisco archdiocese will send handmade Mother's Day and Father's Day cards and messages to nearly 1,150 inmates of San Quentin State Prison and another 600 at San Francisco County Jail. The Jubilee Year of Mercy project, the Pen Paul Jr. program, is being promoted by the archdiocese's Restorative Justice Office Students and prisoners will be anonymous, but correspondence is possible through the archdiocese.

A Syrian refugee family praises how they have been welcomed and supported by parishioners of St. Matthew Parish in Surrey, British Columbia. The parish is no stranger to the church as a global entity, offering Masses in English, Vietnamese, and some African dialects.

Patti and Mark Armstrong of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Parish in Bismarck, N.D., have also reached out to a family which found itself far from their homeland. In a recent essay in the Bismarck Diocese's Dakota Catholic Action monthly, Patti describes the challenges and joys of a Kenyan family making a new home in North Dakota. The family resided with the Armstrongs for three months.

Members of Pax Christi of Orange, Calif. were among several groups to sponsor a "Meet a Muslim" event Feb. 12 in Long Beach, Calif., in an effort to combat Islamophobia. The Pax Christi group will also sponsor an interfaith dialogue Sept. 18 at Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino, Calif.

The Field Hospital report on the Paterson Diocese's extensive ministry to the developmentally disabled generated significant feedback, much of it praising Paterson's outreach and much of it pointing to additional efforts on behalf of the special needs community. For example, the diocese of Fort Worth's Office of Faith Formation and Children's Catechesis has scheduled an April 30 workshop to enhance ministry to the disabled population. Patty Knap, whose son has autism, offers a reflection on the uplifting impact of Masses for persons with disabilities. The U.S. bishops' website has a primer for parishes on the topic: "Opening Doors of Welcome and Justice to Parishioners with Disabilities: A Parish Resource Guide."

Parishioners of St. Mary Parish in Mt. Angel, Ore. are key supporters and volunteers at Mission Benedict, a program which provides emergency aid to families in need. Mount Angel Abbey and the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel are also mainstays of the program which operates out of the same building as St. Joseph Shelter. The shelter was established in 1988 by the Benedictine Sisters "as a ministry of hospitality in response to the Gospel message of caring for those in need. …" states the sisters' website. The shelter provides meals, housing, clothing, advocacy, referrals and emergency assistance to homeless families and migrant workers. Last calendar year the shelter provided 24,321 meals and 49,721 shelter nights to 36 families including 81 children and 65 migrant workers. A fundraising dinner will be held to support the shelter on the Feast of St. Joseph, May 1, at the St. Mary Parish Center.

Reported earlier this week in The Field Hospital: There's hope for Catholics seeking newly-ordained priests galvanized by Pope Francis. It just might take a while, says Franciscan Sr. Katarina Schuth.​

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

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