The parish council at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse hosted its annual winter potluck last Sunday evening. A good crowd showed up to enjoy the varied bounty that filled the tables. As usual no one went away hungry.
Fr. Jim Bleackley OMI, pastor of the cathedral parish, called people to the front of the serving counter of the kitchen at the beginning of the communal celebration. He point everyone’s attention to a new wooden plaque hanging above it. It read, “Rose Byrne Kitchen.”
Michelle and Marie, Rose’s daughters, and their families were there to hear again along with the gathered parishoners a simple story. Rose saw a need in our community. She believed that there should be a place where a free hot meal was provided for anyone in need everyday. In the early ‘90s our hungry had no place to go on weekends.
Fifteen years ago Rose took her proposal with the support of the Social Justice Committee to the Sacred Heart Parish Council. She urged them to allow her to start a volunteer run, weekend soup kitchen in CYO Hall. A trial project soon rooted in a then very tiny kitchen. By the time of her death in the late summer of 1996 her idea had become a self-sustaining ecumenical effort.
Over a decade and a half now, hundreds of volunteers have served tens of thousands of meals from a greatly expanded kitchen to people in need. With dedication, determination and the growing support of others responding to her witness Rose launched this effort. Her personal acceptance of a challenge and act of taking responsibility was remembered and honored last Sunday.
President Barack H. Obama began his presidency with an inaugural address to his country on Tuesday in Washington, DC. He saw our current economic crisis as “a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
“Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less” President Obama continued. “It has not been the path for the faint-hearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things—some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”
We can look around our Yukon communities and see many other social needs. Will others arise like Rose Byrne did to meet those challenges? We can agree that “a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous” as Obama stated. “The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart—not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”
“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”
How will we here in the Yukon measure up when meeting our responsibilities in this critical era in world history?
For those interested in helping out at the Weekend Soup Kitchen give Philip Gibson a call at 667-4743. The Food Bank Society, I hear, still needs people to join their 500 Club and give a month in support of this community project. For information e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact email@example.com.
Sunday, January 25—Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark: 1: 14-20.
Monday, January 26—A 15-day New Year Festival for Chinese people of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist and secular beliefs begins. Traditional religious ceremonies welcome the gods of the heavens and earth. Family gatherings take place focusing on thanksgiving and remembrance of previous generations. Abstinence from meat is often practised today in the hope of ensuring long and happy lives.
Friday, January 30—61st anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi.