e-mail us


Serving in Guatemala for a week over spring break was a “totally humbling experience” for Shenika Tanner, 21, a junior at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.

In a trip organized by the Jesuit university, Tanner joined about a dozen students who stayed in the village of El Carrizal and helped with renovation of a church and a school. “We helped them out building things,” Tanner said, but she said that what the students learned from the Guatemalans was a greater gift. “The people were so open, nonmaterialistic and nonjudgmental,” said Tanner, a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe-Sacred Heart Parish.

When Sally Mews returned to the Catholic church in 1980 after a long estrangement, she felt “nobody knew I was gone and nobody knew I was back -- and I realized that a lot of others were in the same situation.”

So she developed a program called “Catholics Returning Home.” Whether someone has left because of divorce and remarriage, anger at God or the church or never connecting in the first place, her outreach offers “nonjudgmental invitation, compassion and acceptance” to inactive Catholics, said Mews, who is a member of St. Patrick Parish in Wadsworth, Ill.

The six-week series offers both support group discussion and educational “updates” on the Catholic faith. Mews, 52, who runs the program as a volunteer, has brought it to dioceses all over the Midwest, as well as to Los Angeles and New Zealand.

Three days a week, Margaret Collins, 78, seeks out the homeless of the Palm Beach, Fla., area to offer them “soap, soup and soul.”

Through the program “Love Works,” which she founded in 1988, she and other volunteers go to the streets and to the parks to bring meals, clothing, toiletries and prayers to over a thousand people a week. The food is prepared at Collins’ house. She turned her two-car garage into a storage facility.

Most of the program’s dozens of volunteers are retired as well. “I don’t do all the giving,” said Collins, a parishioner at St. Paul of the Cross Church. “Many people are just as generous as God has blessed me to be.”

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

National Catholic Reporter, June 2, 2000