Friday, June 19, 2015

Pilgrimage for the Handicapped

Parish communities have personalities that some can read rather quickly. Writing in the pastoral bulletin  a priest shortly after arrival at his new parish assignment noticed the large number of  persons using electric wheelchairs. At the  Sunday Mass he noticed about 10 wheelchairs and in the community he saw many who were using these electric wheelchairs to move around.

Majority of the community were living in only for rent  apartments, a good indication of the poverty of the neighborhood. He made up his mind to prepare a pilgrimage to a shrine Pope Francis visited while  in Korea. He wanted to treat  the handicapped in the best possible way and  made plans to bring the handicapped to the shrine by taxis.

The reason for these thoughts come from the words of Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel: "This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the center of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them" #198.

He got in touch with the  welfare center run by the diocese, and worked with them. There were 19  parishioners and 13 from the community. 32 all together with 35 volunteers to take care of the handicapped. The taxi drivers  came from the Taxi Drivers Pastoral Association  of Seoul  who donated their time and 35 taxis for the pilgrimage.  

One of the participants said it was like looking at a scene from Lourdes. After arriving at the shrine there was a garden feast for all the pilgrims. Dinner was  not just a  meal but a sacramental feast of love. It was  a time  for all to feel a bond solidarity.  
More than the  handicapped, the priest observed, it was the  volunteers who seemed to be the happiest. He concludes his article with the words from  the same exhortation:                                        

"No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas. This is an excuse commonly heard in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial circles. While it is quite true that the essential vocation and mission of the lay faithful is to strive that earthly realities and all human activity may be transformed by the Gospel, none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice" #201.

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