By Dorothy Balser
Father Odel Medina and one of the parish volunteers, Edgar speak about how St. Anne’s Carthage parishioners live out the calling of their faith on behalf of the “least of these.” (Matthew 25)
- What does it mean to you personally to put your Faith into Action?
Edgar: First, I thank God for everything I have received from him. We are happy because many people are helping us. What we have is faith to help others. Thanks be to God that we are members of the church and the church is teaching us how we can help others.
Until four years ago, I was not very close to the church. After I began to come to church more regularly, I was invited to be in a group. We have something like a parish council in our church called Directiva. Every year they have an election. When the election came, the people chose me as the president. I was very surprised and at the beginning I was afraid. “Why did they choose me?” But I give thanks for that experience. I have grown in a deeply spiritual way.
- In general, how does St. Anne’s show faith in action?
Father Odel: I believe we are in a moment to be aware of God. You think that you believe, you have to show how you live your life. People are already aware that your faith must be in action. If somebody is in need, they know everybody. They try to help each other. If they can do it by themselves, they will do it. But if it is something bigger, the community will coordinate more in response. We have many different cases and the biggest experience was last year with the ICE raids. It was not only the Hispanic people but also the English-speaking parishioners that responded and asked me how they can help and contribute. They put their faith in action. And now, during this pandemic, we are all trying to assist people who got the virus. People at our parish have not only helped members in the parish, but their faith moved them to help anyone that was sick by bringing things to their door. I also suffered from the coronavirus and it was amazing how much they showed care for me by bringing things to my door. I witnessed how they cared, not just for me but for many others.
- Describe one or two of the ministries at St. Anne’s where faith in action is seen.
Edgar: The Hispanic Relief Ministry started with the ICE raids. Father Odel called me to be part of the team. We did not have the experience to be a committee or to distribute the help we were receiving. But, thanks to Father Odel we were able to get organized to use the aid we were receiving to provide this help. In the beginning, we thought that nobody from outside wanted to help us. But I have come to realize – thanks be to God – there are many people that care about what we are doing at St. Anne’s. Although we are migrants, people are helping us and we are able to help people with rent, utility bills and food for their table. In my case, I could not say no. I myself am a migrant and I do not know what will happen tomorrow, so I was able to help right away.
- What impact has this faith in action ministry had on the people served and on those involved in the ministry?
Father Odel: The people that serve have become more aware of how to put their faith in action. The ICE raid crisis made them more aware, more active, and more generous with their lives. The first person that responded to help the people affected by the raids was himself affected by the raid. He came to me and said even though we were affected, we need to do something. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they reached out to help others.
The people who have been served feel less isolated. The church has been like an oasis for them. They know the church is supportive. Helping the people has made the church more credible.
- What challenges have you faced in developing this ministry and what kept you going in spite of the challenges?
Father Odel: The ministry began in the midst of a crisis, a migration raid, and this brought a lot of fear, pain and sadness, so the challenge was to respond in times of crisis, for people the church was the only refuge where they could feel safe. Thanks to the help of many people around the country and Catholic Extension, families could be assisted.
What has kept us in spite of the challenges is the word of God that tells us that he will always be with us. Besides, the support could be said at the national level for this ministry, in economic terms.
- What suggestions do you have for people (or parishes) that aren’t sure how to put their faith in action?
Father Odel: First, as St. James says, faith without deeds is a dead faith. (James 2:14-26) Having faith, praying, talking with God will lead you to an action, the fruit of prayer. So, listen to what God is saying to you and asking for. And don’t be afraid he will give you the gifts.
(Witnesses of Faith in Action ministries in the Diocese of Jackson are featured each month. If you’d like to see your parish, school or group featured, contact email@example.com.)