Karen Skalitzky is a church member and a spiritual director at Old St. Pat’s. A few years ago, she published a book titled, A Recipe for Hope: Stories of Transformation by People Struggling with Homelessness. The book is a collection of stories from men and women Karen met while volunteering at the Inspiration Cafe. If you are not familiar with the Inspiration Cafe, it is a cafe in Uptown offering “restaurant-style meals, case management, employment services, cultural events and subsidized housing units as a means for guests… to overcome homelessness and rebuild their lives.”
Beyond the much needed support services that are made available; the genius, beauty, and compassion behind the Inspiration Cafe is that people who often have no recourse other than to stand in line at a food pantry or soup kitchen are able to enjoy a meal in a sit down restaurant. They talk about it as dining with dignity.
While working as a volunteer cook and server, meals soon became meals and conversations for Karen. She began to ask the guests and other volunteers if they wanted to tell their stories. From those stories came this remarkable book.
Among all the poignant and inspiring stories, there is one passage that continues to stay with me. Karen is listening to a guest named Michael. At the end of their time, she is disappointed. The story was not really about Michael. Instead Michael spent all his time talking about a woman with whom he is in love. Karen invites Michael to talk more about himself. But always, the stories turn to the woman he loves. Karen is not sure this story will fit in the format for her book.
Karen concludes her reflections on this encounter with this passage.
“I take a break. Go for a walk. And it hits me, stops me cold. When have I ever looked at a man or woman on the street and thought about who they loved? Never. Michael’s story opened my eyes. We are all human. And we all love.”
If you have been around Old St. Pat’s for the last fifteen months or so, you have probably heard some of the talk about our North Lawndale Kinship Initiative. “We’re building connections with our neighbors to the west… This isn’t another service project… It’s about the way we want to do church… This is more like doing things with rather than for our neighbors…. We’ll build new relationships… We’ll better recognize the kinship we all share… Out of these new relationships may come a new vision… Together we can be a better city… It will be mutually transforming…” It’s all exciting stuff!
I found both inspiration and something of a gauntlet thrown down at one of our first Kinship Initiative events. My colleague on the staff of Old St. Pat’s, Keara Ette, was leading the group in a reflection on the meaning of kinship. In the course of her reflections she referenced the theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez. We Christians have a serious challenge, Gutierrez suggests. We say we care about the poor, but do we know their names? We say we love them, but can you tell me their names?
In her book, The Holy Intimacy of Strangers, Sarah York relates a story she heard from another author, David Rankin. It is about a time when he stopped at a restaurant for a quick meal.
It was one of those places that catered to what he calls “confused tourists and local residents who had pawned their taste buds.” I have been in many similar greasy spoon eateries, and I can imagine the scene that Rankin observed when a server took orders for a table where the customers appeared to be a mother, a father, and a young son. She wrote the orders for the parents and then turned to the child:
“What will you have?” she asked the boy.
“I want a hot dog! …” the boy began.
“No hot dog!” the mother interrupted. “Give him what we ordered!”
The waitress ignored her.
“Do you want anything on your hot dog?” she asked.
“Ketchup!” the boy replied with a happy smile.
“Coming up!” she said, as she walked to the kitchen.
There was silence at the table.
Then the youngster said to his mother: “Mom, she thinks I’m real!”
Catholic wisdom tells us our dignity as human persons comes from the fact we are made in the imago Dei. Imago Dei is Latin for the image of God.
The dignity of the human person is just Catholic Social Teaching “speak” for: I am real, I have a name, I am capable of loving. Maybe we begin to honor that dignity in ourselves and others when we believe that the other is a real person; when we take time to learn a name; and when we trust in the other’s capacity for love.
Bob Kolatorowicz serves on the staff of Old St. Patrick’s Church.
“Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #357
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The Justice Initiative was created to facilitate the efforts of Old St. Patrick’s Church to promote the work of social justice. We welcome new projects and your involvement! For more information about The Justice Initiative, please contact The Justice Initiative staff liaison, Bob Kolatorowicz, at email@example.com, or 312.831.9379.
Season for Social Justice
… a time to provoke thought,
dialogue, and action …
As we begin the 2012-13 program year at Old St. Patrick’s, The Justice Initiative invites your participation in our seventh annual Season for Social Justice. While we know that our vocation to work for justice never goes out of season, we also know the benefits of time dedicated to a purpose. The seasons of Advent and Lent, experiences like retreats and sabbaticals, even the sacred time we give ourselves at Sunday Mass; can all serve as tools for deepening our understanding of who we are and what we are called to do. Dedicated time can renew and “re-source” us for our work in the world.
This September, we invite you to join us in creating a dedicated time for deepening our understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and our vocation to create a more just and peaceful world. Our hopes are that the Season for Social Justice will:
- affirm and celebrate your good work on behalf of the social justice,
- invite you to intentionally anchor this good work in your Catholic identity,
- draw your attention to the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and specifically to this year’s theme, the principle of the Dignity of the Human Person,
- support your efforts of building a better and more just world.
The Dignity of the Human Person
“The dignity of the human person originates from God and is of God because we are made in God’s own image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27).
Human beings have transcendent worth and value that comes from God; this dignity is not based on any human quality, legal mandate, or individual merit or accomplishment.
Human dignity is inalienable — it is an essential part of every human being and is an intrinsic quality that can never be separated from other essential aspects of the human person.
The principle of human dignity is the foundation of all the Catholic Social Teaching principles.”
Source: Education for Justice, The Center of Concern