Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Colbert parish’s ‘Just Faith’ program opens hearts and minds

by Sheila Rae Rahn, for the Inland Register

(From the May 22, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

On Sept. 19, 2002, 12 very different people from St. Joseph Parish in Colbert, Wash., embarked on a 30-week journey through the JustFaith program. We all came from different backgrounds. Some of us were married, some single, some divorced, others widowed. Some of us were men and some were women. Some of us knew hardship, while others knew contentment. Some of us had lived in poverty while others had lived with comfort or wealth. We all came searching for something which few of us could even really define: a feeling, a sense of purpose, a calling. Yet, all of us came with one thing in common: faith. We were beginning a journey down a path where the destination was only known by God: a journey of conversion.

We opened the first night with a meditation about authentic prayer, stepping into the fiery furnace where God forges us into pure fire, the fire of a burning love for all. Some of us could feel the tension rise. After all, we felt content to “kneel just outside the furnace door – close enough to keep warm, far enough to keep from getting consumed” (Opening Prayer, Week One, Adaptation from “Introduction,” Mary Lou Kownacki OSB, The Fire of Peace). We silently wondered what God was asking of us, where this path would lead.

We began to study the assigned reading on the life of St. Francis. Many of us thought that this was simpler than we expected: we could read books and share our ideas on a weekly basis. Maybe our anxiety and our unsure footing at the beginning of the path were misguided, for surely God wouldn’t ask us to give up everything. After all, we weren’t St. Francis.

Week after week we met, discussing topics such as justice, hunger, poverty, simplicity, compassion, legislation, and social and Christian responsibility. We watched eye-opening documentaries on the plights of people in foreign countries like Mexico, El Salvador, and Bangladesh. We addressed the power of the media and advertising, the link between American policy and foreign interests, and the role of Catholic social teaching in our own lives. Through hands-on experiences at St. Margaret Shelter, the Women’s Drop-In Center, and the House of Charity, and through the voices of many speakers who lived or worked on those edges of society that are often forgotten or overlooked, we saw our link to our own community. Slowly, we began to see small changes in many of our own lives: in our thoughts and convictions, in our living styles, and in our global vision. We were being asked to become like St. Francis, not in a literal sense, but figuratively.

We had been asked to strip away our preconceived notions of who was our neighbor. We realized that neighbor was not confined to the homes on either side of ours, or to the immediate community, but rather we began to see each and every person on this entire earth as our neighbor. We also saw our responsibility to the commandment “love your neighbor,” in the decisions we make daily, from the clothes we buy to the food we eat.

We had been asked to minister to the outcast. To listen, to truly hear, those by society and perhaps even ourselves. We were being asked to make room at the table for those who find their daily bread in garbage dumps, in ill working conditions, and in the illusions of drugs and alcohol.

We had been asked to leave our “family,” our sense of comfort and stability. We were being asked to step outside the familiar in order to walk with the poor: not in front to lead or behind to support, but alongside as a companion. We were being asked to open our eyes to the world around us and to see, perhaps for the first time, how the decisions we make affect others in far greater ways than we imagined.

Finally, we were being asked to let God lead us in our conversion and in our journey beyond. We were being asked to give ourselves to God and follow His will through faith and community with one another. This was the point where the paths diverged. Some of us were being called to work within our community while others found passion in the global sphere. Some of us were being asked to step forward, making large commitments while many were being asked to make smaller foundational steps. Regardless of the arena or the obligation, we were all being called to action.

We discovered that we had come to the end of our journey only to realize it was just beginning. Surprisingly, we found that we were leaving with the same thing we brought: faith. However, this faith was now deeply rooted in justice, persistence, and a burning love for others. We had, as St. Mechtild of Magdenburg said, begun to see “all things in God and God in all things.” We had come to the end of this program bound together by an experience so profound and powerful that it could only be truly understood by those who had been on the journey. As a community, steeped in a new kind of faith, each of us with our own talents and passions, we were being asked to become the living body of Christ, reaching out together, with God’s love, to make a difference in this world.

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