The Field Hospital: Covering parish life throughout America

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by Peter Feuerherd

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Editor's note: "The Field Hospital" is NCRonline's newest blog series, covering life in Catholic parishes across the United States. The title comes from the words of Pope Francis: "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. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up."

"The Field Hospital" blog will run twice weekly on along with feature stories and news reports about parish life in the U.S. If you have a story suggestion, send it to Dan Morris Young ( or Peter Feuerherd ( Please note that we welcome story suggestions from Canada as well.

Football fans know it was cold in Minnesota this past weekend.

If sub-zero temperatures were tough on the fans and players watching the Vikings lose to the Seahawks, imagine what it’s like for the homeless.

Minnesotans have a reputation for doing the right thing and the people of Guardian Angels Church in the Twin Cities’ suburb of Oakdale are no exception.

The parish has an active outreach to the homeless, among an array of social justice projects.

Cheryl Peterson, parish coordinator of justice and outreach, notes that the parish is part of an ambitious year-round effort to house homeless families. It began after women from the parish, who prayed regularly to Dorothy Day as they developed their project, learned that the motel the neighboring Lutheran church was using to put up homeless families was going to be unavailable.

They immediately saw a solution. The parish house on the property of Guardian Angels, an eight-bedroom home, was converted to an overnight shelter for families. Seven bedrooms are used by the families, and the eighth bedroom is used by the overnight volunteers. Thirty area churches of a variety of denominations are now a part of this ministry that opened in September 2012. Volunteers serve either an afternoon shift, a dinner shift or an overnight shift, providing hospitality to families who receive safe, overnight shelter and meals. And, in the middle of Minnesota winters, warmth.

The project, says Peterson, “is not only about creating shelter but is about creating a heart for the poor on the margins.”

Elsewhere, in Florida, the good work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society continues to make an impact.

Want to pack heat at Mass? Texas law may allow it, but the Diocese of El Paso has another view.

A vibrant, multi-ethnic parish church in Lindenwold, N.J., in the Diocese of Camden, is vandalized in the middle of the afternoon. Police are investigating. No motives yet determined.

Matthew Kelly, an author and popular consultant to parishes, quantifies what many of us already suspected: Almost every ministry and outreach in a typical Catholic parish is done by the most active seven percent.

[Regular Catholic press contributor Peter Feuerherd writes from Queens, N.Y.] 

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