As you enter our parish office, one of the first things that catches your eye is a wood etching of St. Francis with a quotation below: “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words only if necessary!” At St. Camillus we try to live out that call by being people who not only speak the Word of God, but also put it into practice in all aspects of parish life, especially through our Outreach Ministry.
We believe that we are citizens of the world, part of a global community in which we share responsibility for the care for our earth, for one another, and especially for the poor and the marginalized. It is this commitment to living the Gospel through concrete communal efforts that has motivated hundreds of people to travel overseas to build houses for the poor and to support Fair Trade Ministry that enables famers in the developing world to earn a decent wage for their crops. The same Franciscan approach to living the Gospel has motivated our parish to reach out to the orphans and civil war victims in Congo through an Alternative Christmas Fair, and to participate in a two peacemaking delegations from this parish to the Holy Land.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that the fullness of Christian life is experienced when we take care of the hungry and those in need of shelter, when we visit the sick and feed the hungry. Here at home, we strive to assure that all people can find a shelter and safety through our partnership with Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity. Likewise, we work to end homelessness by partnering with the Silver Spring Interfaith Housing Coalition. For those struggling to pay their rent, our St. Vincent DePaul Society stands ready to lend a helping hand.
We reach out to the immigrants, here at our parish campus and in our mission in Langley Park, providing them with a host of services including English classes and legal service. To make sure that nobody goes hungry, we partner with SHARE, Meals on Wheels and Manna food. Our own two food pantries served almost 5,000 needy families last year. Finally, in regard to our ministry of caring for the ill and infirmed, a group of dedicated volunteers regularly visit the sick and elderly in their homes and in three different senior living facilities.
A critical part of our outreach is to ensure that as we respond to the material necessities of the people we serve, we also attend to their spiritual needs. Each year, through our evangelization program, hundreds of families that are not connected to any faith community are visited in their homes. Many of these people later joined small faith communities and have become some of our most involved members.
In the Prayer of St. Francis, one of the key lines reads: “It is in giving that we receive.” Those of us involved in the outreach can witness to how true this phrase rings to us, especially when we reach out to those in need together as a parish family.