“Two Irish soda breads please, and four pizzas.” Francesca’s Food is up and running – alongside the AIC Food Bank! An online recipe swop, lack of bread and favorite food spawned my idea to raise funds for Vincentian charities.
Here in the UK, we have an annual London Marathon which has become one of the main fundraising opportunities for all UK charities. This year, the 26th of April came and went with no 26 mile Marathon and millions of missing £pounds! Globally, in the shutdown, fundraising has dwindled, and many charities are in crisis – including those of our Vincentian Family. So, the 2.6 challenge emerged to help save the UK’s charities.
Our “Vincentian Fun” (VF) What’s App Group, what I call “distant socializing,” 100s of miles apart, greet, pray and connect each day. Like you, we find ways to daily encourage each other in this time of crisis, continuing to work and volunteer within the Vincentian Family. Zoom work meetings continue amid plans for a post-pandemic world.
St. Vincent’s advice is within us; “Everyone says that the missionary spirit is one of humility and simplicity – take hold of it!” VINCENT – 1:518. We would take hold of the 2.6 challenge!
In the first weeks of the pandemic, our stores were stripped with panic buying. People’s normal goodness was quickly overtaken by the “me-first” norms of mainstream culture. However, the next stage evolved into something deeper. People, sought connection with others, and stories of generosity, courage, compassion and sacrifice for the sake of “others” became news. By osmosis, people realized that without a love of justice, we are just serving ourselves – and it feels hollow inside!
My inventive VF Group friends, wife and husband, Moira and Kevin taking on a daily 2.6 mile walk while composing poetry and song raising over £1200 for SVP.
Siobhan writes of SVP local conferences daily with food parcels as well as keeping the mentally ill safe and well – with restricted health services available. All eyes, and resources, are on virus victims – much of other health treatment is suspended. Fr. Ged says solitary Mass for us daily – as well as tormenting us with brain-teasers! Sr. Maria continues with faith formation design and Teresa’s SVP Youth 18-33 micro-site is developing.
Katherine’s challenge of reading 26 children and adult books from her collection has been completed. Bromsgrove Mini-Vinnies grow fresh vegetables and take groceries to grateful housebound.
St. Vincent himself said “the poor are our teachers,” and yes, we learn about ourselves when we walk with others in their shoes.
The “mutuality” of service teaches us that we are healed by committing ourselves to others, particularly those on the margins of society. Connect with others – Connect with ourselves.
In the past, this type of service was considered solely an act of faith.
Faith and science now concur with evidence that serving others is a healing balm to our own souls. Alcoholics Anonymous, and other addiction support groups, recognize this in their 12 step programs that consideration of others creates a Oneness – wholeness – a completeness. Hindu belief is that we seek the Divine in each other, echoed by the African Ubuntu – I AM because WE ARE.
SERVICE – SOOTHES – SOULS. The generous gaze is returned in kind. Both are givers and receivers.
Next steps? I’ll continue caring, praying, connecting, writing, reading, singing, dancing, baking and cooking – “my imprint.”
I turn my “gaze” on the 13 Houses Campaign; a little goes far – join me in donating the cost of a cuppa and a cake!
Dee Mansi is a lay member of AIC, Vincentian Collaboration Commission & Depaul Assembly; a retired School Principal, Schools Inspector and Leadership in Education Lecturer. Dee is Irish, living in London with her husband and son, she travels in Europe and beyond.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views.