Yesterday we hosted our annual dinner to recognize the contributions of those who volunteer at Prince of Peace Center.
It has been nearly 32 years since Sr. Benita Repasky, SSJ, founded our agency after coming to Farrell from Erie– and the Center’s operation has been heavily dependent upon volunteers since.
Our main speaker for the evening was Sr. Margaret Pellerite, SSJ, a friend and admirer of Sr. Benita with whom she shared nearly 20 years in close company. She also resided a similar period of time with our Center’s second director, Sr. Clare Marie Beichner, SSJ. Suffice it to say she has been a friend and proponent of our mission and work since inception.
Sr. Margaret has legitimately earned the title of “local institution” throughout the Shenango Valley. She has humbly touched the lives of so many to whom she has taught math during her 48 years of assignment at Kennedy Catholic High School, where she had also founded and facilitated the KCHS Action Club – a group which exists solely to teach students the inherent value of service.
She related to those gathered that a charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph is to promote the unity of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God, without distinction.
That sounds so simple and uncomplicated on the surface – after all, Jesus advised us all to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbor as ourselves. How hard can that be, really?
But we do live in such a complicated world…
To begin with, we have so much. In fact, the more we get, the harder it seems we must work to protect our material gains. From a talking lizard, we have learned that “to insure everything as cheaply as we can” is the best policy.
It does not take a great deal of effort to look around to see that our neighbors may not work as hard as ourselves, and they correspondingly do not have as large a pile of possessions. We all have learned you reap what you have sown.
And certainly the media works hard to divide us – between the haves and the have-nots, the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged, the employed and those existing with the welfare state. Bad news sells, and division breeds bad news.
Further, politics teaches us to avoid trusting anyone, as the promises they recite are simply rhetorical exercises, meant to be explained away in the immediate days following the end of the current election cycle.
Collectively, we are becoming calloused to the concerns of one another.
And yet the church teaches us to love despite our differences, observations, and/or lack of trust. Curiously, Jesus did not qualify what our “neighbor” might look or act like – or where he lived, or even the size of his possession pile.
One general understanding is that communities comprise people with like minds and values and belief systems. But can we really love God with all of our hearts when our communities and institutions might also exclude others – whether judgmentally intentional or otherwise?
It can be easy to love someone who might love and respect you back. While reciprocation may be a polite thing – it is not a necessary component of the directive from Jesus. He told me to love my neighbor as myself. Period.
So, when I start to define myself, do I look to the size of my pile, or do I look to my actions? In the end, I really am what I actually do – and not what I might wear or drive or own.
Our Prince of Peace Center volunteers come forward after responding to a gentle nudge or a loud cry for help. They offer the best of themselves: their time and their talents. They present these gifts in a manner that anticipates neither recognition of nor respect for their effort. They simply offer their gifts, similar to the way they would desire to be treated if they would find themselves to also be down and out.
They serve – hoping to create a harmony among people that promotes community and God’s present, persistent love. Their contributions supersede influences from the media, negativity, political party positions, prejudice, and so on.
They simply serve in good faith.
So it was very apropos that Prince of Peace Center again dedicated an evening to honor our volunteers’ collective commitment to community, their neighbors, and their love of God.
Our Center exists to strengthen families, build community, and undermine poverty. Our mission falls within the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph: to promote the unity of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God, without distinction. We hope and strive to demonstrate both love of God and neighbor during our daily efforts.
Maybe this is your gentle nudge, meant to encourage you to join our volunteer contingency, and also become a servant to the poor and marginalized. All sorts of opportunities are available – just check this out.
What do you have to lose?
What do you have to gain?
We hope to see you next year at our annual dinner!