By Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC

My parish community has witnessed a difficult yet strangely grace-filled Lent at our Saint Vincent de Paul Church in St. Louis, a haven for the homeless and forgotten brothers and sisters of Jesus the Christ.

Three weeks ago, Gary, one of the guests at our meals program, died of a heart attack at the entrance to the church.

Last week, Ben, another regular guest at evening meals, who also receives free clothing and bagged lunches, died of prolonged and acute alcoholism.

Although the local news did not report their deaths, the parish staff, volunteers, and guests who knew them mourned their passing and told stories of caring for and talking to them.

One of the parish Ladies of Charity who distributes clothing to the needy who show up at our parish cried when she heard that Ben had died and lamented that she had not been able to save him from himself.

She saw beyond his alcoholism and found a gentle, respectful and kind person who was always polite and grateful.

She also realized that we are not here to save anyone.  We are here to serve.

I have witnessed quiet, unsung, and unheralded acts of compassion, care, and tough love among our staff, volunteers, and parishioners who daily call guests by their names and listen to disjointed and agonized tales of woe. We also hear words of gratitude and blessing as the guests leave meals and depart from the window where they pick up bag lunches.

And we share our mutual grief and mourning when someone we have known as Ben and Gary leaves us.

So as Lent winds its way through a too-early spring and a late Easter, we ponder the grace of the season in the lives of our brothers and sisters who embody the passion of the Christ and who lead us to resurrection.

You may not serve the homeless, but there are people in your life who beckon you to grace, compassion, and new life.

  • Name them.
  • Call them into a circle of prayer and concern.
  • Wish them blessings and joy in times that might need such care.