(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)
Many present organizations and service agencies in our Old Town community were founded by various Roman Catholic communities. For example, Blanchet House began serving food from the faith of former University of Portland students and clergy. Transition Projects and Sisters of the Road had their origins in the social teachings of the Church and several other non-profit organizations created models of hospitality for people in our neighborhood.
For many years, our parish community hosted Loaves and Fishes and the MacDonald Center. Both agencies found new homes prior to 2002. Now the MacDonald Center, founded by Rev. Richard Berg, CSC, which opened in 2000 continues just a block away.
Since 2001, our parish has sponsored a hospitality center in our building. The mission of welcoming the stranger is rooted in the message of the Gospel and the living out of the Eucharist. Hospitality is a radical acceptance of people. We cannot fix people’s longterm suffering or take away the violence people deal with every day. We can offer the basics of life, call people by name and create a safe environment for a few hours a day.
Hospitality is the message of Saint Andre’s life as well. He served as the Porter at Notre Dame College in Montreal, opening the door to people, listening to people’s stories. The grace that Andre was given was that he also was an agent of healing for many people. In our day, we believe that hospitality is also a grace and model of healing. We accept the stranger, provide a serving of food and offer a place of rest. Andre’s life continues in our community as we learn the complexities of people’s stories and pray through the suffering so many people experience.
Saint Andre, pray for us.