“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me and in prison and you visited me.” (Matt 25:35-42) This is the scripture passage which I feel best describes the helpful individuals I have encountered throughout the city of Waconia at my new job.
It all began in November of 2012, when I started a part-time position as Pastoral Care Coordinator at St. Joseph Catholic Community. Since then, I have come to appreciate the good works taking place in the city of Waconia and at St. Joseph’s, as I have witnessed the daily activities at such places as the Waconia United Food Shelf, the Once Again Thrift Store, the three nursing homes and assisted living residences in town, as well as on my visits to people in the hospital and in their homes.
In one of my first experiences, I went to help deliver Meals on Wheels throughout Waconia and the surrounding area. The woman in charge of preparing the meals was very welcoming in seeing me come to help, and the people that received the food were also very thankful of the community for offering this service. It was uplifting to see the welcoming and warm interaction taking place at the Waconia United Food Shelf. There were many volunteers present to assist individuals who came in to receive food for their family in need. The positive attitude of the helpers made me aware that they are being Christ-like to all God’s people.
The pastoral connection that I have been able to make the past six months has been through visiting and praying with the ill, either in the hospital or in homes. For me, it is a matter of organizing time and being present to the people. Over the past 30 years, a group of St. Joseph parishioners have been able to alternate Sundays and bring Holy Communion to parishioners who are not able to go to Mass due to illness or physical limitation.
Ruth Louis was my mentor, and she introduced me to individuals who received a Sunday visit. There again, although I was new, a “stranger,” Ruth whole-heartedly welcomed me into the St. Joseph Catholic Community. The joy of the people Ruth and I went on to visit reaffirmed in me that all of us as “People of God,” are called to connect and to visit those who are homebound, so we may be able to witness Christ’s joy in them.
When making my first monthly visits at the nursing homes, I was welcomed with joyful faces.
The residents in these homes resemble the imprisoned, for they are not free to go where their heart desires. In watching the nurses and attendants care for them, I saw Jesus’ message in action. This interaction of God’s love is present at all the nursing homes and assisted-living homes in Waconia.
In February, I was able to train individuals from St. Joseph’s Community on how to make a prayerful visit to Catholic patients in the hospital. I shared with them the reflections I had made before my first hospital visit, on the Gospel of Matthew 25:35-36, and of my experience receiving God’s grace from those I have encountered since.
The Once Again Shop is a place bustling with activity. I went out of curiosity to see what goes on there, and saw six volunteers busily working with pricing articles, putting items on the shelves, sorting and organizing clothes, and a checkout clerk. I was impressed with the joyful spirit of the volunteers and peaceful atmosphere. I had no intention of purchasing anything, but when I heard it was only $6 for a full bag of items, I did manage to find a few things I could make good use of.
The people in the city of Waconia are showing me how easy it is to live the Gospel of the Lord through feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the ill and visiting the imprisoned. Keep up all your good works of God, Waconia!
By Annette Hritz, the Pastoral Care Coordinator at St. Joseph Catholic Church & School in Waconia.