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Keeping Faith

Joe Gutierrez, 70, has carried his work ethic to the Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen nearly every day for over eight years.

When he retired after 48 years as a machine operator, a foreman, a member of the Marine Corps and an agricultural worker, he asked God to help him stay busy. He came to the soup kitchen, where he works from opening until closing. He cooks, washes dishes, cleans and lends an ear to the clients.

“My father raised me to work every day, so I like to come here,” said Gutierrez, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Pueblo, Colo. “God gives me the power to be in good health and help feed the poor people and young kids who need something to eat.”

In 23 years of service at the House of Charity in Spokane, Wash., Carolu Condon has contributed to the growth in the services the homeless shelter provides. Since 1976, Condon has served as a cook at the shelter, conducted fundraising and helped start the shelter’s medical clinic.

However, the foundation of the shelter building is eroding. Condon serves on the Catholic Charities’ committee for the Shelter 2000 Project to relocate the House of Charity. “We’d like to have more room for sleeping in the winter and help the kitchen out with more space,” she said. The new building will be “larger but nothing fancy -- just more serviceable.”

When a member of Holy Cross Church in Covington, Ky., committed suicide in 1983, Mary Lou Gastright thought, “The priest is going to pick out readings and he didn’t even know him.” Gastright went to the family and asked if there was anything special they wanted. That was the genesis of Holy Cross’ bereavement committee, which was the first in the diocese.

Committee members contact the family, find out about the deceased and help the family pick out songs and readings they want in the liturgy. “We try to give the family as much as they want because this is the last thing they will do for their loved one,” said Gastright, who said the death of her own husband in 1985 helped her give more to the program, “because I’ve been in the situation they’re in.”

Gastright, 65 and the mother of eight, is also chairperson of the parish council and has worked in AIDS programs. She brought part of the AIDS quilt to the Covington diocesan center in 1991.

Send suggestions for Keeping Faith to Teresa Malcolm at NCR. Her E-mail address is tmalcolm@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, May 7, 1999