This weekend, as we consider the work of our hands and labors of love, I invite you to consider some opportunities to transform faith into life-enriching work through acts that improve our city while uniting us closer to God and one another. Labor Day occurs as the academic year revs us up for busier months ahead; it might also be the appropriate time to renew our commitment to the work of the Lord.
In my own work at Rockhurst University and surrounding parish communities, I see numerous options for professional and nonprofessional assistance to God’s people. For example, Saint Francis Xavier Parish houses a neighborhood legal center where lawyers offer pro bono service to area residents. The nature of cases varies but they revolve around barriers that keep a person down, hold him back, or prevent her from fully participating in society. An active or retired lawyer commits to one or two cases per year; though it may not seem like a big deal, the circumstance could change the subject’s life and get him or her on a good path for the future. Professionals in the finance world might, similarly, help a person, couple, or family gain skills to manage their fiscal situation, imitating a model set up through the Rockhurst Prosperity Center or other expertise that individual professionals offer. The University also has programs for alumni or businesses in Kansas City to mentor students in their chosen field, for their company, or simply as men and women for others.
But you don’t have to possess professional skills to participate. Many of us can pitch in by teaming with family members or a group of friends to adopt a block in the Blue Hills neighborhood surrounding Saint Therese Little Flower Church. It might involve a monthly clean-up or periodic workday in which we assist struggling homeowners improve their property by painting, mowing, or doing minor repairs. It is also my hope that we will acquire funds to renovate the parish buildings and grounds in the year ahead, performing some on-site rehab as well.
Around Saint James Parish (39th and Troost), there is much activity that renews area retail, resurrects restaurants, and renovates real estate. Among the bright spots is the Troost-39 resale shop, a former Saint Vincent DePaul Society salvage store, that is sponsored by the parish; it accepts donated furniture and household goods to assist urban residents afford nice items for their home. The parish sponsors numerous programs, like “Through the Cracks,” to assist people in little and big ways, e.g., providing water at bus stops in warm weather and winter wear in cold times. They also join with other programs around town—there are hundreds of them—that help those who have a rougher life than ours. There is so much of which I am unaware, but if you’d like me to help match you to a particular task that can help someone who struggles or suffers, I would be glad to do so.
In addition, there are lots of justice initiatives that seek to bring greater awareness of systemic roadblocks, e.g., one group leads an effort to bring more local voice and local management to local policing. If you have an interest in working to solve inherent challenges or move them in positive directions, I can help connect you to groups like this. There are social justice coalitions at many Catholic parishes and diocesan centers that could labor together for more collaborative outcomes.
You may think that I’m just brainstorming concepts or spit-balling ideas, but my hope is directed, even if not yet clear. And it is twofold: 1) to encourage anyone who is looking for a way to put faith into action through charitable labor to do so, and 2) to connect those with similar interests which dovetail with social justice works of the church to come together and make a greater impact. I hope to assist. The goal is to help our city better reflect the City of God image through the work of our collective hands.
If you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to contact me at Donald.Farnan@rockhurst.edu.